Local legend has it that the vision of the Talbot Trail Golf Club was founded over a golf match at a nearby course and a bottle of cherry whiskey. Talbot Trail Golf Club, was originally named Rolling Acres Golf Club at its incorporation in 1964 until the name was changed in 1981.
Sometime in 1963, three area men went to Erie Shores Golf Course in nearby Leamington for a round of golf. After the game the men returned to Doc McLean’s home in Wheatley, sat on the back porch with a bottle of cherry whiskey and began talking about the local golf situation. Their talk consisted of many questions, such as “Why waste time traveling to Leamington to play golf?” and “How many people would be interested in playing on a golf course in Wheatley?” The idea of the Rolling Acres Golf Club was born.
Making the Dream a Reality
The three men decided to compile a list of people they thought would be interested in enjoying a golf course in the community without having to drive a long distance to play. Once the list was finished, there were around 90 people listed from the town with a population of about 1500. The men then went out and contacted the 90 people to create an actual assessment of the amount of interest in Wheatley. When the men met again to revise their original list, instead of having a reduced number of local residents, the second list consisted of over 100 people. The wheels were now in motion.
Although many community members displayed a keen interest in establishing a golf course in Wheatley, those with the unique vision were not certain of where the money to build it would come from. The small group decided to campaign their idea to other community residents who would like to donate to their idea or who had the disposable income available to support the vision. In the end, there was 13 men would agreed to donate, as a gift and not a loan, $1000 each. Some were reluctant to do so, saying that they felt they were throwing their money away because there would never be a golf course in Wheatley, but they donated anyways.
Once the ball began rolling closer to their goal, the incorporated course, not yet built, offered memberships to the public, priced at $200 each, in order to finance the project. Bonds were also available and ranged from $50 to any desired amount at a rate of 6% interest, payable yearly. At the time of the course opening in the summer of 1964 (the course was not officially completed and opened until 1966), close to $16,000 in memberships and bonds were sold.
Now the group had grown to include more residents who were becoming more and more determined to build a golf course. This group of men will now be regarded as the ‘founding members’ of the Rolling Acres Golf Club. Monetary supply was growing for a course that did not even have land yet.
The group now needed to find a big enough piece of land in the area that they could use to build their idea on. An area north of the town’s core was scouted and considered until an area farmer, Jack McIntosh, volunteered his parcel of pasture and farmland just east of town on Highway Three, now named Talbot Trail. Two other parcels of land, much smaller than the McIntosh farm but adjacent to it, were acquired from men who were, from the beginning, very active members of the course. McIntosh also donated $1000 to the creation of the course. Seventy-two acres of land, valued at $21,000, was now available to house the Rolling Acres Golf Club and a payment schedule was drawn up in 1964. Land payments to two out of the three previous owners were completed in 1970. The land now had to grow into a golf course.
The land, which later would become a beautiful golf course, had to be transformed. In an excellent example of community participation, the founding members did all the manual labour required to get the land ready. Trees and grass were cut; materials were brought in; the men volunteered whatever time they could without any form of financial subsidization. The layout of the course itself was designed by Jack Stein, a founding member and previous owner of one of the parcels of land. Murray Whalley was sent to Guelph for a course on the creation and maintenance of golf greens, which would later come in handy as he became the first greenskeeper of Rolling Acres. Most of the remaining men in the group built the greens and manicured the land into a golf course that could be enjoyed by everyone. The only money that exchanged hands for the construction of the course was used to purchase machinery and material, as well as Whalley’s course in Guelph, but not for the manual labour which was volunteered by the founding members. After three years of campaigning and hard work, the Rolling Acres Golf Club officially opened in 1966.
Issues and Conflicts
It may seem hard to believe but there were no hitches or disagreements during the golf course’s path from dream to reality. No permit was needed and zoning by-laws were not enforced at the time. The only problem which stood out in Doc McLean’s memory was a long conflict between the president of the club and a member of the Department of Highways. The two Englishmen butted heads often on the issue of the entrance to the course and it was not resolved until the golf course changed its parking lot entrance seven years after the opening of the course.
The founding members and area residents were working towards a common goal which created a powerful camaraderie that could not be broken by petty disagreements. The entire community was extremely supportive of the actions of the founding members because the golf course was going to be an important asset to the town.
The author of an unofficial history of Rolling Acres Golf Club wrote: “For the original 14 founders, this was their dream come true. Unfortunately, some of them are not here to see the facility today, but to those who are, one can only imagine how proud they must feel to see what their dream has become. To all those who have been around from the beginning, to those who have taken on this game over the years, to the active 275 members we have at the present time, be proud of our accomplishments, but especially be thankful to 14 men with a vision”.