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Manitoba History: Review: J. Alan Hackett, Manitoba Links: A Kaleidoscopic History of Golf

by Morris Mott

Number 41, Spring / Summer 2001

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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J. Alan Hackett, Manitoba Links: A Kaleidoscopic History of Golf, Winnipeg: Gold Quill Publishing, 1998, xiv + 281 pp. ISBN: 0-9683678-0-1, $65.00

This handsome book represents years of research by J. Alan Hackett, whose love for golf is evident on every page. Hackett begins his volume with a brief overview of the history of golf from the sixteenth to twentieth centuries, concentrating in particular on improvements in equipment over the years. Then he summarizes the origins of the sport in Manitoba, appropriately emphasizing the roles of Col. S. L. Bedson, first Warden of the Stony Mountain Penitentiary, who in 1889 laid out the first golf course in Manitoba, and of Mr. C. J. Thomson, loans agent, who established the first golf clubs in both rural Manitoba (in Virden in 1892) and Winnipeg (the Winnipeg Club in 1894). The information contained in these early pages is extremely interesting.

The meat of the volume is the six chapters that provide histories of various Manitoba golf clubs. The normal approach is to begin with a brief discussion of the origins of a club, emphasizing the financial arrangements made for the property on which the golf course was to be built. Then there might be profiles of prominent club members, especially Presidents, and there may be a description of different clubhouses used over the years. Sometimes there is a story that reveals something unique about the club (for example the story on page 78 of the Assiniboine Club’s annual match between left-handers and right-handers). Finally, there may be an indication of the present condition of the club, or a brief discussion of how and why the organization disappeared.

The remaining chapters (there are eleven in total, plus an Introduction and a Conclusion) provide histories of municipal golf courses, profiles of prominent Manitoba professionals (usually “club” pros, not “touring” pros), and histories of Manitoba’s golf associations (men’s, women’s, seniors’). Here and there also are descriptions of golfing visits to Manitoba made by famous “outsiders,” sometimes by renowned golfers such as Gene Sarazen and Walter Hagen, perhaps by outstanding athletes from other sports like Gordie Howe, or by prominent entertainers like Bob Hope.

As a thorough history of golf in Manitoba, this book has shortcomings that must be acknowledged. It is primarily about Winnipeg; most of the approximately 100 clubs and courses in rural Manitoba receive no mention. There is very little statistical information and hardly any analysis of just who played golf in different eras or in different communities. Nevertheless, all of us who are interested in the history of sports in general or golf in particular owe Mr. Hackett a debt of gratitude for organizing so much useful and interesting information. Moreover, the photographs are terrific, and there are some 250 of them.

Page revised: 4 December 2011

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