The Leith Golf Course

The Leith Golf Course has provided many families with great memories. The history of this golf course starts, and ends, with the generosity of one family.

When I was a youngster the arrival of spring signalled the beginning of a new sports season. The warm sun melted the ice rinks in our back yards and raised the temperatures to heights that allowed us to shed our scarves and toques. We put our hockey equipment into storage in the basement and brought out our baseball bats, balls and gloves. But the spring of 1962 marked the beginning of a new sports ritual in our home, cleaning golf clubs.

In the 1960s our family joined the Leith Golf Course. For the next decade pilgrimages along the shore road to Leith were almost a daily occurrence in our family. If my father couldn’t drive me to the course, I slung my golf bag over my shoulder and rode my bicycle to Leith and after the long ride I would often play as many as 36 holes of golf before I pedaled home.

The Founding of the Leith Golf Course

The Leith Golf Course had a rich and unique history. On March 30, 1923 a group of area sportsmen gathered for a meeting at the offices of T.I. Thomson. The object of this gathering was to formulate the establishment of a golf course. The result of this meeting was the creation of the Leith Golf Club. T.I. Thomson was named president and C.A. Fleming held the position of vice-president.  Others selected to club’s first executive were J.R. Dier, Rixon Broderick, W.P. Telford, Fred Harris, Percy Lee, Howard Fleming and Charles Lee.

The course was built on land owned by two sisters, Eleanor and Laura Rixon. The Rixon’s were avid golfers and they leased their property to the club for the minimal amount of $20 per year and the members were responsible for the maintenance of fences and the grounds.  

The Leith Golf course never aspired to be a corporate entity. Instead it was a communal project. Members helped cut the greens, put the bridges up in the spring and take them down in the autumn. The Rixon ladies wanted the course to be accessible to families and required the club to keep its memberships affordable. When my family first joined a single membership for the season was $10.00 and a family could play for $15.00.

The Leith Golf course did not have long and wide-open fairways. Instead, it was a tight, short course nestled among trees with a river meandering beside and across many of the holes. It was the perfect course to develop a golfer’s “short iron” game. The third hole was an example of the accuracy required to play the course. The tee-off was located on the river’s edge. The player was required to hit a ball across the river, past a high sand bank to a narrow fairway.  If you hit the ball too hard, you would end up in the bush. There was a “dog-leg” to the left, and down a hill to a green which was hidden behind a giant tree. The river flowed to the left of the green and the woods were on the right. This hole was definitely not designed for a big hitter with little accuracy!

The course was hidden from view with a thick forest separating it from the road. There was no grand sign in front of the club announcing to passers-by its very existence. Instead, a small sign on a post at the gate to the entrance told golfers to pick up their score cards and pay their fees at the general store across the road.    

True to the wishes of the Rixon family the Leith Golf Course had a strong family atmosphere. Everyone pitched in to make the course a viable entity. Most Saturday evenings a two-ball foursome tournament was played, and although competition was keen the point of the evening was a good time.

In 1973 Eleanor Rixon passed away. Her sister, Laura, had predeceased her by almost two decades. Her passing marked the end of the golf course.   

Although the Leith Golf Course has faded from the landscape of sports and recreation in the Grey and Bruce area. Its memory lives on, with those of us who were lucky enough to have been members but also with golfers who visited the area and tested their skills on the tight fairways and tricky greens.  

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