MEMORY LANE: Longtime golfer pitches in to help at West Van course

The nine hole course at Gleneagles golf club in West Vancouver is 5,000 yards in length. At about 4.5 kilometres, that’s a lot of walking. Just ask Don Smith. 

Don has golfed at least three rounds every week at “the eagles,” since he joined the club 49 years ago.

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Don golfs with the Gleneagles Men’s Club, celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. Their season, like the Women’s Club, runs April through October. Don, and many other members, golf all-year round, weather permitting (which they define broadly).

Don took up the sport because his son was interested. With a set of clubs for himself and another set, cut down to boy-size, they golfed at the Stanley Park pitch and putt, and at Gleneagles on weekends. Over time, the boy’s interest shifted, inexplicably, to fishing, but by then Don was hooked on golf.

As a boy, fellow member Geoff Jopson learned the game from club professional Ron Fitch, who met Geoff’s father while they were serving in England during the Second World War. Terry Atkinson and his pals hitchhiked to Gleneagles to search for golf balls in the rough for re-sale to players.

Terry, current president of the Men’s Club, is the great-grandson of Peter Larson, without whom there would be no golf course at Gleneagles.

Larson acquired the property, some 225 acres, via a crown grant pre-emption in 1902. On a piece of land above Larson Bay, bisected by Larson Creek, he planted a hay field, a vegetable garden and an orchard, the bounty intended presumably to supply other Larson holdings, the North Vancouver and the Canyon View Hotels.

He built a home near the orchard about where Number 6 hole is today, marked by a few remaining apple trees. When Don joined Gleneagles, there were still some pear trees on the course. They are gone, but the apple trees, rare varieties today, live on thanks to a partnership with UBC.

In 1926, the year Marine Drive was extended to Horseshoe Bay, Larson sold the property to a pair of real estate developers. General Robert Clark and Frank Merrick promoted their Gleneagles subdivision as a new concept in seaside living, complete with the golf course, which opened on July 1, 1927.

The 46-acre site was fairly flat, an anomaly in the hilly terrain at the western end of the community and an ideal setting for a golf course. Inspired by Gleneagles in Scotland, course architect A.V. Macan factored in the local terrain and climate in his design. The lies are varied and the greens, though they have been extended slightly, are small.

Like its Scottish namesake, Gleneagles West Vancouver is more than verdant fairways and spectacular water and mountain views. Thanks to Macan’s original design and exemplary maintenance by the grounds crew, the CPGA named Gleneagles one of Canada’s 10 best nine-hole courses.

The great thing is, Gleneagles has belonged to the community since 1958, when West Vancouver ratepayers authorized its acquisition by a large margin. Community-based programs are part of Gleneagles’ agreement with the municipality. 

Both the Men’s and the Women’s clubs at Gleneagles value member participation. Players act as tournament leads and weekly starters during the season. They pitch in to pull weeds and trim ivy. They also participate in a variety of community programs, including those intended to introduce young people to the game.

These include two annual Junior Tournaments, one at Gleneagles and the other at Ambleside, and a program with Gleneagles Ch’axáý Elementary, next to the golf course.  Several times a year, Gleneagles hosts members of the North Shore Special Olympics at rounds of golf, accompanied by members of the Men’s and Women’s clubs.

Don Smith talks about repairing the greens during a round of golf.  “You have the time,” say Geoff and Terry, “you’ve putted out while we’re still trying to get on the green.”

“My short game was good, 50 yards in,” Don says, “but I’m old now, and … .”

So says one who has scored six aces, or holes in one, during his career on the links, three of them at Gleneagles, including the most recent, in 2018.  Imagine what he will accomplish in 2020, during his 50th year as a member of Gleneagles.

Laura Anderson works with and for seniors on the North Shore. Contact her by phone at 778-279-2275 or email her at

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