The Quadra Island Golf Course was built by a group of dedicated community members who have a passion for the game of golf.
This is a story of devotion, opposition, frustration and determination; a tale of patience and perseverance, love and labour — in short, the saga of how humble Quadra Island came to be home of the west coast‘s newest golf course, Quadra Island Golf Club.
"Someone pinch me — is this really Quadra?!" There was a lot of pinching, backslapping, whooping and goofy grinning that took place on June 29 of this year during the inaugural round of golf on this nine hole gem. The eleven years' gestation of the event made it deliriously surreal. Professionally designed and shaped, the 3,219 yards are all one could hope for - serene, challenging, possessing intriguing elevation changes, with a dash of mystery and humor. The story of its development is almost cinematic in scope.
Over the past 30 years, there have been several serious attempts to create a golf course on this island across from Campbell River on Vancouver Island's inside passage. None of the proposals got very far before facing insurmountable roadblocks, until the late Walker Addison approached a core group of interested golfers in 2001. He had a little under 200 acres of land on Quadra's east side, with views of the water, Cortes Island, and the Mainland Mountains. He also had a soft spot for the game of golf.
After negotiations were held and an agreement reached, the most difﬁcult of the hard work began. For the next ﬁve years, the group struggled through the hellish process known as rezoning. While most residents were enthusiastically in support of the project, there were a few detractors that were hard to convince. The efforts required to ease those doubtful minds and come into compliance with regional and provincial regulations began. A hydro-geotechnical study was done, work was done to satisfy provincial pest management standards and surface water management plans were drawn up. Environmental impact studies that tested water levels in the golf course wells, water levels in the neighboring wells, and water levels in the neighbouring wells WHILE the golf course wells were running were all done. A covenant was agreed upon and pledged to protect the wetlands on the golf course property. These are only a small portion of the many tests, studies, plans, and hundred and one other things that were done in order to clear hurdles and reduce opposition.
This was the time that the project almost faltered and died. The board of directors underwent several incarnations during this challenging time. Five years of slogging through paperwork and bureaucracy is an arduous task. Gradually every question was answered and if each doubt was not completely quelled, at least it was reduced.
Finally, in 2006 rezoning was granted and the joy of manual labor could begin. Finances were limited and work would have to proceed slowly to accommodate the budget. However, it was decided at an early stage to not bargain away quality for the sake of speed. A professional golf course architect with an admirable reputation was brought in. He walked the land over and over until he had visualized a layout that took glorious advantage of the slopes and hills of the topography. Once a basic plan had been made, the group had to find a way to make it happen. It was at this point that they decided to focus on the first nine holes, saving the rest for a more capital-friendly future.
Trees were felled and fairways were cleared by volunteers and individuals who agreed to take shares in the impending golf course. The 240 yard driving range was hand—raked and rocks were picked and hauled in wheelbarrows by volunteers over many fun— and laughter-filled Saturdays. An individual was found who possessed an unusual combination of skills — a professional photographer with a rare eye for beauty and composition, who also happened to be a large equipment operator. Besides digging out stumps and moving earth, he decided to utilize the bounty that gives Quadra its affectionate nickname, “The Rock". He began to stack the large stones here and there along the fairways in curiously balanced formations, a west coast mini—answer to Stonehenge. The dream of the golf course was starting to become fact, largely through a community labor of love.
Golf course construction requires a great deal of sand. Not just any old sand, but sand with grains of particular size and characteristics. As serendipity would have it, the only sand and gravel business on the island possessed sand of just such particularity. This eliminated what would have been a financially crippling requirement to bring in material by ferry or barge.
Through the next five years, the core group reformed into a solid block of determined visionaries. Ofthe original board of directors, only two remained with the project from beginning to end. One of these was Keith Remfert, a retired engineer, who helmed the project as president — or as he put it, "our fearful leader". Even on the darkest winter days, Keith's dilapidated pickup truck, Ol' Blue, could be seen parked at the entrance to the course. He always found something to do that would inch the project forward, no matter that it was raining sideways. Keith's faith in the golf course was an inspiration to the rest of the directors, as well as the community at large.
Now it was not just the directors and die-hard golfers who were interested. The rest of the community started to take notice of what was happening when they drove past the site. Downed trees were offered to the island residents as free firewood. Large machines were moving earth and rocks. Dump trucks of sand and gravel were delivering their many loads over many days. Once the cart paths had been roughed in and it was no longer dangerous to be on the property, the local residents, many with their dogs, began to make a habit of walking the property and taking note of the slow but gradual progress. They saw what had once been a small pond created by run—off, dredged to create a 20 foot deep basin. This would help irrigate the future course and reduce the use of the wells. The directors also put in a pipeline from the basin to the edge of the property and installed a fire hydrant for use by the local volunteer fire department should the need ever arise.
It was a lucky break that the installer of the top of the line irrigation system was a young man named Murry Haukeness. Murry had literally grown up on a small golf course that his family managed and had worked on such notable courses as Victoria Golf Club and Bear Mountain. His personable demeanor, hard work ethic and degree in turf management made him the best choice for course superintendent. Murry jumped at the chance and quickly moved to Quadra.
By the summer of 2011, a squint could detect the goal on the horizon. It was determined that opening day would take place in the spring of 2012. While all the trees and brush had been cleared at least a year before, the ﬁnal shaping and sloping of the fairways, tees and greens had to be done before seeding could take place. The race was on to get all nine holes ready for seeding by the ﬁrst of September. Local lore and golf course superintendents said that if the seed was not on the ground by the third week of September, it would be too cold and wet for it to germinate. Some of the contouring was accomplished by a professional land shaper, but much of it was done by the photographer-cum-excavator driver. As the months flew by, it was obvious that not all the holes would be completed in time. It was decided that holes two and three would be shaped and seeded the following spring. By the time the hydro-seeding company was booked, they couldn't be on-site until late September. Nails were bitten and fingers were crossed.
On the money and publicity side of things, that summer hosted a drive to sign up 100 founding members. The founding members would have the opportunity to buy a life-time membership at the lowest rate that would ever be available, plus have their names engraved on a future plaque to be housed in the far-future clubhouse. Quadra Island has sometimes had a reputation as being populated by "hippies and rednecks", a view that was not far wrong in the past. Of the approximately 3000 people in the general population, the golf course group could come up with maybe 60 people who were known golfers. While there are lots of loggers and ﬁsher folk, teachers and social workers, these days Quadra is also home to many displaced Americans (particularly the California variety) and a number of people from Alberta. A campaign was mounted to convince even non-golfers that a membership would change their lives (and the community) for the better. Articles about how a golf course is constructed, what a green fee is and the difference between a putter and a driver were published in the usual Quadra venues. Numerous phone calls and hours of persuasion took place. A set of three free beginner lessons were held in November (one was rained out). Over the summer and fall of 2011, a heartening total of 110 memberships were sold for a golf course that did not yet exist.
Then one of the wettest winters in recent history ensued. in fact, the day after the hydro seeders did their deed, Quadra was hit by one of the heavy rains that are so common in the winter, but unusual for September. Precious, not to mention expensive, grass seed was washed away and the steeper slopes started eroding. By spring, some of the rivulets would have developed into trenches that were more than a foot deep in places. While it was disheartening, all was not lost. Surely the sun and warmth of early spring would allow repairs and reseeding of those fairways at the same time holes two and three were seeded. Late spring would see the opening day.
Spring of 2012 was notable for being unusually cold and wet. The grass shivered along with the residents. There was no point in seeding the repaired fairways or the last two holes until the night time temperatures could stay consistently above six or seven degrees Celsius. By the time the weather and the hydro seeder’s availability coincided, it was the second week of May. So much for a spring time opening. Sights were now set on July 1 to open with seven playable holes and a grand opening of all nine holes to be held on September 1.
The wait for opening day was ﬁlled with activity. Volunteers kicked into overdrive, working on everything from building bathrooms (the initial budget had only allowed for port—a-potties) to primping the parking area. The generosity of the local residents was moving, in terms of both time and money. Quadra is blessed with a variety of seriously talented, big hearted individuals. The website was designed and built, the reception area landscaped, buildings erected and painted, netting strung along the driving range, and even the area around the greens and tees weeded by magnanimous residents. More free lessons were held, this time including golf etiquette. The maintenance building, itself a donation, began to fill with golf carts, signage and other equipment.
One more blessing fell upon the venture when the search for a manager turned up pro Steve Phillips. Responding to a job description through PGA of Canada, Steve had over 30 years of experience in the golfing industry. His knowledge of all facets of the golf business was an obvious plus, but his excitement at being part of this infant enterprise made him one of the team.
Although the skies were mostly cloudy, the thermometer began to rise at last. The grass gratefully responded and Murry and his crew set about getting the tees, greens and fairways down to playable lengths. The repaired areas filled in nicely and were not noticeable to the casual observer. The newly seeded holes two and three grew thick and lush, promising to be fit for play well before their September first deadline.
The years of planning, work and worry resulted in a very special nine holes of challenging golf in exceptional surroundings. The course offers something for everyone. The ﬁrst hole is a downhill par four where a golfer can follow the flight of a well—struck ball through the air. The third hole begins wide off the tee, then dense forest narrows the fairway as the tiered green is approached. The 494 yard par ﬁve ﬁfth hole has a 40 meter gain in elevation from tee to green. The center of the eighth fairway is highlighted by a large snag habitat ﬁr tree. The ﬁnal hole is a 180 yard par three over a deep pond. With a pair of par fives and two par threes, this course has lots of personality.
The board of directors, in gratitude, decided to offer the first day of golf to all the people who had worked so hard on the course. While many of those people were members, some were merely part of the supportive non-golfing community. More than 80 fancy invitations were mailed out, asking the recipients to a round of golf followed by a salmon barbecue potluck. On Friday, June 29, over 50 people showed up with golf clubs in hand. At 1 pm Keith Remfert hit the first ball off the ﬁrst tee and was rewarded with jubilant cheers. The beginners (who were keenly aware of the importance of pace of play, thanks to the etiquette lessons) hit a ball here or there, but mainly just wanted to walk the course on this historic day. By ﬁve o'clock more than 80 beaming faces gathered around picnic tables to share grilled sockeye and one of Quadra's renowned potlucks. The course was pronounced “beyond anyone's expectations”, “more beautiful and challenging than I thought it would be”, and “can hold its head up against any other course!”
The next day's play was limited to members and shareholders, those brave souls who had shown their faith in the enterprise by purchasing memberships or investing money. It was felt that these folk deserved the opportunity to play the course before the general public. The success of the previous day was repeated, this time followed by an appetizer potluck and drinks. The general consensus was that the "already superb" course would only improve with maturity.
Canada Day was the ﬁrst day the Quadra Island Golf Club was open to the general public. Since a number of Vancouver Island residents had shown up in the previous weeks hoping to play, it was no surprise that almost half of the day's clientele came from places like Vancouver, Victoria, Nanaimo, and even Alberta. Probably the favorite customer review of the day was "Shock and awe!"
This tale is still ongoing, with the story getting better as the months by. The grand opening is slated for September ﬁrst, with all nine holes playable, This year, the Rod Clark Memorial Golf Tournament, which for 30 years has been played on other courses, will finally be played on home turf. To make the course as accessible as possible to off-island golfers, a free shuttle will transport ferry walk-ons to and from the course (arranged when making a tee time). Come play the course, see for yourself and become a part of the adventure.