"COUCHICHING GOLF COURSE IS BORN"
In 1914, vacant land bounded by Peter Street, North Street, Muskoka Road, Laurie (Laclie) Street and Fitton’s Road was purchased by the Couchiching Country Club Limited from the Lawrence Heyden estate. In addition, a house and lot on the east side of Peter Street and Champlain Street was purchased from a Mrs. Switzer.
On June 3rd 1915, the Couchiching County Club held a formal opening of the renovated house and grounds. Over $15,000.00 had been spent on the club house including a large veranda, golf links, bowling greens, and tennis courts.
The nine hole course was laid out by Mr. George Cummings, the professional of the Toronto club. It was reported in the “Weekly Times” that visitors were surprised and delighted at the excellence of Orillia’s golf grounds and fine club house.
In 1921, a Ladies golf division was organized at the club and the Orillia ladies joined with Barrie and Midland to form the Simcoe County Ladies Golf league. From the minute books of the Ladies Division, it is recorded that not only golf but bridge and tennis were played at the club in the twenties. It is uncertain when the bowling greens and tennis courts were removed but it appears to have been before WW II. Another interesting notation in the Ladies Division minute books was the recording of the purchase of wicker furniture for the club house in 1930. The ladies were given two hundred dollars to purchase said furniture and were to see Mr. Lloyd regarding the purchase. They were able to purchase two green wicker chesterfields, six chairs, two round wicker tables and still had some money left to purchase some linens for the kitchen. Some of the surviving wicker furniture with the Lloyd label attached was sold when the old club house was torn down.
In 1922, the golf course had to undergo modifications with the northern extension of Highway Eleven from the end of Laclie Street (Laurie) to meet with Muskoka Road at Fitton’s Corner. This destroyed part of the third fairway and green. By 1923, the golf course fairway alterations were completed and the course was again the approved standard length. (From the Archival and Special Collections, Library, University of Guelph, Ontario dated June 4, 2009: "In 1923, he (Stanley Thompson) remodeled the existing nine holes. The following annotation is taken from "Canadian Golfer" magazine, April 1924 issue: "With the length of the course increased by six hundred yards, greens reconstructed and fairways improved...the Couchiching Country Club will open the season of 1924 under promising conditions [having] obtained the services of Mr. Stanley Thompson. The reconstructed course will measure 2,960 yards.")
Bev. Hewitt played as a junior golfer at “Cooch” during the thirties and remembered a farmer coming with his horses and mower to cut the long grass along the fairways. This was done a couple times a season. He also talked about the start of mixed golf in about 1958. This developed into the very popular Friday Mixed Night of golf and it still retains its popularity.
He also recounted the story about a group of younger golfers who wished to see improvement in the golf course and they offered to back a purchase of the course from the CCC. Much to their surprise, their offer was accepted and in 1956 “Cooch” underwent a name change.
In April 20th 1956, the Couchiching Golf and Country Club Limited formed by a group of interested golfers purchased the golf course from the Couchiching Country Club. This new corporation issued shares and made further improvements to the course.
Over the years the club house required many repairs. In the late 1980’s there were discussions concerning the amalgamation of the local curling club and the golf club but agreement could not be reached. As time past, more repairs were necessary. Around 1998, an initiation fee of $100 was instituted for all non shareholder members. This one time payment went into a reserve fund for a new club house.
On September 13th 2001, the shareholders of the Couchiching Golf and Country Club approved the building of a new club house at a cost of approximately $500,000.00. By October 2001, the old club house was razed and building of the new facility commenced.
In May 2002, the new club house was available for occupancy, with two floors and a total of 5,200 square feet. The two balconies have a seating capacity of 70 retaining the great view of golf course and Lake Couchiching. With final grading and landscaping in the completion stage and an open house was held June 6th 2002.
This year, 2023, marks the 108th Anniversary of “Cooch” as an operating golf course and club house. The original club house held many memories for a lot of golfers but the new air conditioned club house has been an extra blessing for golfers this season. The cart paths are gradually being asphalted, new trees planted and the greens and fairways are in great shape.
“Cooch” may be surrounded by larger courses but this nine hole course can still provide some great challenges to even the best of golfers.
Thanks to M.K. for this engaging look back at the 108 year history of Couchiching Golf Club!