Article courtesy of NSGA History Committee
Both the present site on the old Payzant/Aylward properties in the Falmouth Valley and the original Windsor Golf Club on the Fort Edward site in Windsor are steeped in history.
The first of the heroines to come on the scene was Mary Payzant, widow of Louis Payzant. Her husband was killed in an Indian raid and her children were taken to Quebec where they remained until the city fell to the British September 13,1759. Marie Payzant came to Falmouth Township in 1760. The Payzant Crown grant, dated 21 July 1761, was a 500-acre grant on the site of the Avon Valley Golf and Country Club.
The Payzant name today is spread across North America. However, the family remained prominent in Hants County for many years. The old Payzant Memorial Hospital in Windsor was named after Godfrey Payzant whose estate gave $20,000.00 towards construction of the facility.
Adjacent to the Payzant property was Castle Frederick, residence of Col. J.F.W. DesBarres, Governor at one time of Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton. There his property manager and mistress, Mary Cannon, oversaw his affairs and raised his children. DesBarres was a legendary character who on his one hundredth birthday danced a jig on top of a table in a Halifax tavern. Mary Cannon was a shrewd and independent woman and no doubt met and knew Mary Payzant. Two strong women who overcame many difficulties.
The last and best known of the heroines to connect with golf was Flora MacDonald. It was she who helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape from the English in 1745. For her troubles she spent time in the Tower of London. Eventually she and her husband, Allan, settled in North Carolina. With the outbreak of the American Revolution, Allan MacDonald served with the British and eventually was posted to Windsor and Fort Edward. Here in 1778 MacDonald reported they "...almost starved with cold to death." Thus when golf and Hants County are discussed, history and heroines also invariably arise.
The origins of organized golf in Hants County date from 31 October 1903 when the Imperial Government leased 25 acres of land at Fort Edward for a golf course. The cost was 17 pounds per annum. When British forces left Canada in 1906, the Department of Militia and Defense administered the lease. One of
the early fine players out of Windsor was Mrs. Nellie Handsombody who in 1913 won the Maritime Ladies Golf Championship. With the out-break of World War the club was forced to abandon the Fort Edward site. The grounds were re-leased to the club in 1924.
The old course, crowded into 22 acres of land, eventually had a yardage of 4458 and a par of 68. Green fees in 1938 were $.40. By 1946 dues were $15.00 for gentlemen and $12.50 for ladies. As early as 1956 costs to develop a new course outside of
town were considered but the expense involved was found to be prohibitive. A new clubhouse was erected at the Fort Edward site. Among those who served as professionals at the Fort Edward site were Lawrence Crossman; John Gwyme-Timothy; Lawrence "Butch" O'Hearn; Jimmy Locke; Lest Hartlen and Lyle Taylor. In 1973 the buildings were removed from the Fort Edward site and the property returned to Parks Canada.
On October 21, 1970 the Hants Journal reported that a new golf course would be constructed on the 180 acre Aylward farm, on the Valley Road. A new era in golfing in Hants County was about to begin. The Department of Trade and Industry provided plans for an initial layout. Clare professional Gordon Shaw was brought in to consult on the final plan for the course. Total expenditures were expected to reach $150,000.00.
Construction of the 6300-yard course commenced in 1972 with 12 holes seeded in the fall. Nine holes opened for play in 1973 with a par of 66. Ron Smith recorded the first ace at the course on the 135 yard, #9 hole. Sydney native Lawrence Curry served as the first professional. Dues for senior men were set at $75.00 and husband and wife at $105.00.
A serious set-back for the fledgling venture took place on 25 January 1974 when an arsonist destroyed the clubhouse. However, members quickly came forward to assist in the construction of a new facility. Today Avon Valley is recognized as one of the finest groomed courses in the province.
Avon Valley G&CC has hosted a number of Provincial Championships including the NSGA Senior 4 Ball, Amateur and Mid-amateur events.
If interested in more information, local author (and member) David Pollard's history of Avon Valley is available at the Pro Shop.