September 7th – September 27th 2018
On a fine Friday evening our initial party of 20 (Newtons, Cunises, Clarkes, Careys, Bonsalls, Pettmans, Dumases, Richards and Morrishes) assembled at a charming boutique hotel in the Old Town of Quebec. For the next four days we were favoured with almost unbroken sunshine, displaying this beautiful and historic town at its very best. Apart from the easy pleasures of walking everywhere, or taking the hop-on hop-off bus, we were treated to a very special and exclusive conducted tour of the huge central citadel, getting at the same time a comprehensive lesson on the history of the city and its capture by General Wolfe in 1759.
Our golf was confined to the two beautiful courses at the Royal Quebec Club, where we were very hospitably entertained by the members, particularly Jacques Gregoire and Michel Berthelot, concluding with an excellent dinner.
After an initial wobble on our day of leaving (the tour bus going to the wrong hotel), we managed to catch our train to the next destination – La Malbaie, a small town where our hotel was impressively set on a cliff high above the St Lawrence river. We broke the journey for lunch at Baie St Paul, an attractive village largely dominated by artists’ workshops and galleries, again very ‘walkable’.
The hotel golf course at La Malbaie was a tour highlight, beautifully set high on the hillside, with views in all directions. It also became a popular venue for breakfast (the hotel food being a tour lowlight!). We next played at Murray Bay, one of the oldest courses in Canada and a good challenge, but not in the best of condition and nowadays rather too surrounded by housing. A day’s whale-watching provided great alternative entertainment, with five separate species spotted.
Back on a bus again we headed for Montreal, stopping for lunch at an idiosyncratic family-run restaurant in the historic town of Trois-Rivieres. On arrival at the Sofitel (very good hotel) we were joined by the Captain, the Hamblins, Mitchells, Alan Arscott and (eventually) Jeff Turner, bringing our total to 27.
Straight into golf on day one, we taxi’d out to the very special Mount Bruno Golf and Country Club, the only club on the North American continent where long socks must be worn with shorts, which has been celebrating its centenary this year. We played a morning round with members, followed by an informal lunch. By good fortune we had managed to secure tickets for an ice hockey game that evening, where the local ‘Canadiens’ recovered to win their match in the final quarter, to great local celebration. The following day we returned to Mount Bruno for lunch and more golf with members, played once again in glorious sunshine, followed by a formal dinner with speeches. Next came a well-earned day off, providing an opportunity to explore the city, or just to ‘chill out’ before dinner at an excellent Italian restaurant, Il Cortile.
We now made contact with Ted Clarke, our Canadian Lucifer, who introduced us to Kanawaki golf club, beautifully landscaped and a real challenge. To complete this leg of our trip we were warmly welcomed at the most impressive Royal Montreal GC, but sadly this was the only wet day of the tour, and we were taken off the course after nine holes, as lightning threatened.
At this point the ‘two weekers’ departed, Courages, Morrishes, Richards, Alan Arscott and Jenny Newton, leaving us with nineteen for the Niagara section. A long coach journey had to be broken with a night at a Marriott hotel in Kingston, Ontario, where the party struck an unusual note in the adjacent pizza parlour. However, the change from more exclusive fare seemed generally very well received! The following day we pressed on to Niagara-on-the -Lake, a very pretty town not to be confused with the Falls conurbation which is all high rise and horrible. There we were warmly greeted by Richard Halinda, familiar to many Lucifers through his appearances at the Commonwealth Tournament. That evening we bussed out to Peter Wilkie’s beautiful farm, where he and his co-Strikers hosted an excellent barbecue in his newly-restored barn, a great opportunity for general mingling. Next day was a real treat, with lunch at Richard’s beautiful house and golf nearby at his club, Cherry Hill, then supper at an interesting mini-brewery, the Garrison House.
Hamilton Golf Club was our next venue, by general agreement among the best courses that we played during the tour. Again we were hosted by a contact of Ted’s, Sean McDonagh, and had an unforgettable day in a beautiful natural landscape setting.
Our day off involved a tour to the Niagara Falls and environs with Richard – you just had to be impressed by the volume of water descending, seen up close on a very damp boat ride. Lunch was at a local vineyard where we tried a different wine with each course. There is no doubt that Canadian wines will eventually begin to appear on lists worldwide, once their levels of production reach appropriate levels. As in the UK however, their wine is very expensive to buy locally, being very highly taxed (like everything else in Canada). That evening we went to the theatre, seeing a version of Henry V set in the Canadian first world war trenches – well acted but perhaps a bit adventurous for our group!
Lookout Point was our penultimate golfing experience, Ted’s new club on his move from Toronto to Niagara. The club house is set on high with great views, and again Strikers were much in evidence and most generous hosts. A lively closing dinner was held at Fonthill, where sincere thanks were offered by our Captain and there was much talk of reunions in the UK in due course. Some of those with later flights were able to play a final round the following day at Weston (Toronto), Ted’s old club, before heading for the airport.
In conclusion, I am very happy to report that everyone seemed to enjoy their trip, not least the non-golfing ladies who found plenty of interest to occupy their time – positive feedback has been much appreciated. Eastern Canada was a new experience for most of us, and those who visited Quebec will I am sure not forget that beautiful city, with its historic French connection giving it a very special ‘je ne sais quoi’ quality. Our hosts, Jacques and Richard in Quebec, Ian Wetherly and Bill Molson in Montreal and Ted and Richard in Niagara were incredibly generous to us, and we all look forward to returning some of their hospitality when they come over here – the numbers of Canadian entrants for the Commonwealth Tournament will, we hope, increase considerably.
I could not however have managed things without the considerable assistance of Jeremy Carey (treasurer), Paul Richards (golf supremo) and my wife Jenny and Jennie Cunis (dinner arrangements), to whom I offer my great thanks. By the way, Jeremy and I are currently finalising the tour accounts, and it looks as if a small dividend may be payable!