“An instant golf course”
The March influence in the Cowichan Valley began around 1887. Prior to 1900 only a handful of English farmers lived there. By 1949 the March family estate totaled 600 acres. Son Charles recounted how the name “Honeymoon Bay” resulted. “The name came after my mother Alice was teasing this homesteader, who was returning to England to find a wife. She encouraged her neighbour to tell his future wife the couple would be spending their honeymoon at the bay on Lake Cowichan.”
The Marchs slowly felled the large Douglas Firs and Cedars, burned the brush and cleared the land for their future dairy farm operation. The couple had two sons Charlie and John. John died in a logging accident in 1924. The enterprising March family slowly established several operations in the Honeymoon Bay area. They cleared the land along Cowichan Lake for future summer rental cabins. To serve thirty neighbours and themselves with a stable domestic water supply, Henry and Charlie developed the Honeymoon Bay Water Works. The pair continued to fell the giant trees selling them to local sawmills for additional income.
In 1949 Henry passed away leaving the entire 600 acre family homestead to Charlie. He immediately foresaw larger profits with less work could be gained by transforming the cleared property from a dairy farm to a beef cattle ranch. Herefords roamed the fields until the fall of 1970.
In 1968 Charlie began to wind down his operation. He sold 360 acres of prime forestland to Western Forest Industries. In 1970 he sold an additional 150 acres of grazing cleared land to Honeymoon Bay Enterprises headed by Jim Peterson and the Vance brothers, Alan and Bud. The company enticed Norn Boden to leave the Cowichan G&CC to fulfill his dream. Norm served Cowichan as its greens keeper and assistant professional. The Honeymoon Bay project gave him the opportunity to create a golf course out of the flat fields of the old March cattle ranch.
Harry Young, the sportswriter, for the Victoria Times described the transformation as “the creation of an instant golf course”. In October 1970 the white-faced Herford’s roamed the grasslands. Even though three months of snow during the winter hampered the course development, in July 1971 the course opened for play. “With fine undulating grassland and Sutton Creek running through the property. Boden did not find it too difficult to create an interesting layout. Norm explained: ‘Less than half a dozen of the stately trees surrounding the course had been removed. He showed how the natural undulations in land created the location for the bunkers.”
While working at the Macan designed Cowichan G&CC, Boden probably learned how Vernon Macan used the natural features there to create his interesting and challenging designs.
“I (Harry Young) was most impressed with the design of the last hole. It is a dogleg to the left of about 450 yards (par 5). The player must hit a very long drive to get a chance for an open shot to the green, which lies on the other side of Sutton Creek. At the 150 yard marker the fairway turns abruptly downhill to reveal a narrow opening between the trees to the green that is tightly guarded by trees. After a good drive the player must choose: layup short of the creek with the second shot and pitch onto the green OR go for broke by hitting over the trees hoping to land on the up slope in front of the green. It is a true par five despite its moderate length.
After a series of renovations in 1987 and 1988 Alan Dawe played the course. In his description of the course for his book “Golf Courses of British Columbia” Dawe believed the 2nd hole could be one of the scariest holes in BC. “The player is introduced to Sutton Creek on the second hole. Driving over it is not too challenging. But there’s a walk across what might be the longest and the ‘swingest’ suspension bridge on any golf course in BC. The suspension bridge swings low over the creek. The average length 370 yard par 4 hole doglegs abruptly to the right.”
At the opening ceremony, Charlie cut the ribbon with a pair of garden shears. “There’s no better use to which the land could put to as far as I am concerned.” Attached to the course, the golf club had over 100 members when it opened.
The little nine-hole golf course under the leadership of Norn Boden produced one of Canada’s preeminent woman professional golfers – Dawn Coe Jones. Growing up in Honeymoon Bay, she worked at March Meadows doing many tasks. ” I drove an old Ford tractor cutting the grass and raked the bunkers by hand. Norm taught her the fundamentals of the game. He became known on the Island as Dawn’s coach.
In late 2010, the majority owners, Carol and Jim Peterson, placed the course on the market. . On March 1, 2012 Gabrielle Wilenden and Corey Shewchuk assumed the day-to-day operation of the course.
Congratulations to March Meadows Golf Course on it’s 50th anniversary.