A BRIEF HISTORY OF GOLF IN THE BAHAMAS
by Jame Gomez,
President of the Bahamas Golf Federation
There is little documentation of the early days of golf in The Bahamas. However, it has been determined and generally agreed that the first golf course was built in 1922. This was a nine-hole course with sand greens laid out among the northern slopes of Fort Charlotte. Jack Hutchinson from Scotland was the professional and his assistant was Johnny Brush. The top amateur was Mr. Wheatley Turtle who won many events in Florida.
In 1924, Mr. Munson, owner of the British Colonial Hotel, built an 18-hole course on the present site of Goodman’s Bay, the Ambassador Beach Golf Course.
Jack Hutchinson continued as a professional. Four of the holes were located on the sea front. The course was opened with a four-ball match, consisting of Hutchinson, the Governor, Sir Harry Cordeau, Mr. Munson and Devereaux Emmet, the golf course architect. In later years Mr. George Murphy and Sir Harold Christie, real estate developers, took over from Mr. Munson and two of the sea holes were subdivided as home sites, and some of the ridge property was sold for residential construction.
In 1939 Sir Harry Oakes took over the Murphy-Christie interests and built the original Nassau Country Club. The architect for this famous club was Mr. William Castle. It was managed by Mr. Newell Kelly Prom 1941. Mr. Helmut Kaetini was the last manager when the structure was demolished in 1964.
The next golf course to be built was at Paradise Island. This 18-hole championship course was designed by Dick Wilson and was opened in 1958. The Blue Hills Golf Course, a nine-hole par three facility, was opened in 1964 and was the only course illuminated for night play. This complex which was closed is now being developed again by the Bahamas Golf Federation. In 1956, Coral Harbour Golf Course was opened. This was the venue of the first hosting of the Hoerman Cup in The Bahamas in 1967. Designed by George Fazio, this delightful, but difficult course was laid out amongst pine trees and lakes.
In 1969, while the game was still played by whites only, a black movement began with the expressed aim to allow non-whites to play the game on all courses. Names like E. J. Rolle, George McKinney, Errol Leach, Roy Bowe, Kenneth Francis, Basil Nichols, “Big Jim” McPherson, Hiram Lloyd and Walter Hutchinson paved the way for the change that was to inevitably follow. The records show that Clifton Borer and Helmut Kaetini were instrumental in assisting the group to achieve their goal.
In 1964, a group of golfers from The Bahamas, while on a goodwill tour of Jamaica, made arrangements for The Bahamas to participate in the Hoerman Cup competition the following year. The goodwill ambassadors were Dr. Jan Steele-Perkins, James McPherson, Errol Leach, Fred Higgs, Jack Moree and Basil Nichols. The first Bahamas Hoerman Cup Team consisted of Roy Bowe, Seppi du Plessis, Francis Francis, Kenneth Francis, Dr. Jan Steele-Perkins and Donald Butler.
The Bahamas Golf Association (later to become the Bahamas Golf Federation) was formed in 1964. The Charter Officers were:
- President: Dr. Jan Steele-Perkins
- Vice President: Donald Butler
- Secretary Errol Leach
- Treasurer: Paul Potter
In 1971, the Federation moved into Grand Bahama and was formally divisionalized with the formation of the Northern and Southern Divisions. Dr. Jan Steele-Perkins served as President until 1970 and was followed in turn by Dr. Cleveland Eneas, Calvin Cooper, Fred Higgs (2 terms), Reg Smith, Dr. Cyril Vanderpool, Kenneth Francis, Ambrose Gouthro, K. Neville Adderley, Agatha Delancy, Glenn Archer and currently James B. Gomez. Currently, the BGF has over three hundred registered members.
In 2008, the Government of The Bahamas granted the Bahamas Golf Federation thirty acres of land situated in the Baillou Hill Sporting Complex for the purpose of developing a Driving Range and a Nine Hole, Par 3, Golf Course. At present, the driving range is completed, however, the golf course is under construction with a number greens fully constructed. In spite of the success to date, Bahamas Golf Federation finds it financially challenging to complete a project of this magnitude from its traditional revenue resources. As a result, the BGF is actively pursuing external funding.
In July 2011, the Junior National Team finished fourth in this year’s Caribbean Amateur Junior Golf Championships in Barbados behind Trinidad and Tobago, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. Even though a third place finish was expected, the performance of the team was nonetheless outstanding.
The Senior National Team is expected to participate in August 2011 in the Caribbean Amateur Golf Championships in Trinidad. Improved performances over last year’s are expected from the Mid-Amateur Team comprising Chris Harris and Peter McIntosh. In the other categories the stakes are high. The Hoerman team will be led by Oren Butler and Devaughn Robinson, while Vernon Wells and Oswald Moore will play super seniors and George Swann and Paul Bowe will play seniors
On November 6, 2011, the BGF will host its annual Fred Higgs\Kerzner Corporate Challenge at the Ocean Club Golf Course. As always, the Federation is expected to raise significant funds for the development of junior golf in the country and for scholarships.