90 years later, White Point Golf Course still ‘knocks your socks off’
When you’re admiring the lush green fairways of White Point Golf Course, it’s hard to imagine that it was constructed at a time when King George V was our monarch, William Lyon Mackenzie King was our Prime Minister and Canada was heading for the stock market crash of 1929.
The 90-year-old course was fully finished by 1932 — a nine-hole, par 35 links-style course that manager David Kemshead describes as “challenging.”
“Sometimes people think a nine-hole course isn’t going to be hard — but if you can play good golf here, you can play good golf anywhere,” says Kemshead.
The land had been nothing more than a farmer’s field until it was redesigned by world-class golf course designer Donald J. Ross.
Ross was born in Scotland and apprenticed at St. Andrews — widely known as the “home of golf” — before immigrating to the U.S. with just $2 in his pocket. He went on to design roughly 400 courses all over North America, including two in Nova Scotia: White Point Golf Course, as well as Brightwood Golf and Country Club in Dartmouth.
Kemshead says not much has changed since White Point Golf Course was finished, other than putting the roadway through to get to White Point Beach Resort. In fact, just off the second tee is the old well that belonged to the farmhouse that once stood by the sixth fairway.
“Touring pros, especially, love that it’s an old course,” says Kemshead. “We always hear ‘It’s just breathtaking’ — and it is. On a nice sunny day, there’s no other place in the world you’d want to be.”
Rick Pottie has been golfing on the course since he was just seven years old, accompanying his father back in the ’50s. He remembers when the Cat Spruce trees were planted, when the sand traps were filled with sand from Shelburne’s beaches and a membership cost just $25 ($5 for juniors).
“They didn’t have ride-on mowers for the grass, so on the days they weren’t using the hand-mowers, they would use long bamboo swishers to get the dew off the greens,” says Pottie. “You don’t see that anymore!”
Ross’s courses are known for their attention to detail and “naturalness,” with very little disturbed earth. He preferred to “let the lay of the land dictate what each and every hole should be.”
Ross’s most famous course is often thought to be the 1902-constructed Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina. Kemshead says when they held the U.S. Open there, White Point Golf Course’s pin flag was on display for two full weeks.
There’s a Donald Ross Society based in Concord, Mass., and Kemshead says its members travel all over the world to play his courses. The club’s president, Bradford Becken, flew up to Nova Scotia two years ago from Chapel Hill, N.C. just so he could play the course he’d heard so much about. A young architect from Boston, Mass. recently visited White Point Golf Course because he wanted to study Ross’s work up close.
“He spend two hours just admiring every inch of the course,” says Kemshead. “Before he left, he said ‘If you ever need any help, I’d be happy to do the work for nothing.’ He was so impressed.”
Members come from as far as Ontario and the eastern U.S. states and even Germany. While most stay at neighbouring White Point Beach Resort and other hotels and cottages in the area, some have been known to arrive to play by helicopter — hopping out with their clubs.
Kemshead himself is also celebrating an anniversary: he’s been at the helm of the beautiful oceanside golf course for 25 years, and says he can’t imagine himself anywhere else.
“Twenty-five years ago, I nicknamed it Pebble Beach North,” says Kemshead. “We have people from all over the world come to play it, and they’re totally enthralled with its beauty and the views. It just knocks your socks off.”
Pottie has been golfing at White Point Golf Course since childhood and agrees it’s still as beautiful as ever. He’s looked out at the ocean and seen whales, seals, porpoises, osprey and eagles — the only difference is that now he also sees quite a few surfers.
“You still hear the roar of the waves, and you can still smell the salt of the ocean — none of that’s changed,” says Pottie. “The sea sparkles like diamonds in the sun, just like it always has. It really is a special place.”
Pottie says he and his fellow golfers appreciate the cool, comfortable sea breezes that “feel like air-conditioning,” and he has just one complaint about the course.
“The older I get, the longer the course gets,” he laughs. “They must go in every winter and lengthen it on me.”
Opening annually around Easter, members and green fee players alike play rounds well into fall at the end of October.
An onsite pro shop, clubhouse, tournaments and an active Junior Golf program make the golf course a focal point within the community and along Nova Scotia’s South Shore.
Managed by White Point Beach Resort, the Liverpool Golf Club members continue to be actively involved in hosting events and partnering to enhance the course and golf experience.
Book a tee time and make plans to enjoy a round this summer, walking in the footsteps of so many others, including Donald J Ross.