Golf Canada’s big secret is in a basement in Oakville

August 05, 2014

by: Garry Mckay (Originally published in The Hamilton Spectator)

A tour of the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Museum located in Golf Canada’s Golf House at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ont. can be a fun experience for anyone who plays the game.

The displays of old clubs and equipment leaves you wondering what it must have been like to play the game in days of yore.

One of the museum’s greatest collections, however, is virtually never seen by the public. In the basement of Golf house, down the hall past boxes of golf artifacts is one of the largest collection of golf books and magazines in the world.

The Canadian Golf  Hall of Fame and Museum’s library is so extensive that they regularly donate extra copies of some of their books to the World Golf Hall of Fame and the United States Golf Association Museum.

“We recently sent out a list of our extra books and the World Golf Hall of Fame emailed right back and asked us if they could have 50 of them,” said Meggan Gardner, curator of the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Museum.

Jim Fraser, the retired former executive director of the Golf Canada Foundation, is currently re-cataloging and digitizing the entire library.

“Right now, we have 5,795 books by 1,991 authors in our collection,” added Fraser.

The golf books are stored on shelves and filed by categories that include, but aren’t limited to: architecture, art, associations, auto biographies, biographies, championships, equipment and collections, general, geography, golf clubs (courses), health and fitness, history, instruction, psychology, literature (including humour and poetry), management, quotations, reference, rules, tournaments and turf.

The collection of instruction books, which includes a number that are in french, is the largest in the library. They have 973 of them. If you read them all it would probably mess up your game to the point that you’d never play again.

The Museum buys the odd book and they have some rare ones in their collection. Mostly though, they’re donated.

Noted Canadian golf journalist and author Lorne Rubenstein recently donated about 600 books and close to 2,000 magazines.

Fraser says they aren’t getting as many books donated as they used to and they want to encourage anyone with golf books to consider donating them to the museum. You’ll even receive a tax receipt.

“It’s a shame more people don’t know about the library and it would be nice if we could have it in a building where people could see it,” says Fraser. “I think more people would donate books if they knew we were here.”

Gardner says the library has almost become the forgotten part of the museum’s collection and digitizing the collection will help bring it back into the light.

“There’s some great things happening with digitization projects and making these things available on-line,” says Gardner.

Fraser says their magazine collection probably numbers around 10,000. That includes a priceless collection of Ralph Reville’s Canadian Golfer Magazine, which offers a complete history of golf in this country from 1915 to 1933.

While very few people have ever seen Golf Canada’s Library, the collection is not completely closed to the public. “

We don’t let people borrow books and take them out, but we do allow access to the collection, especially if someone is doing research,” says Gardner. “They can make an appointment and we’ll find a place for them here to read whatever book they want.”

Gardner says there are all kinds of reasons someone might want to access the library as reference material. For example, a golf course designed by any of the great golf course architects might be coming up on a special anniversary. Chances are pretty good the Golf Canada library would have books written by or about that architect.

If you want to see a list of the books in the library, click here.  You can also contact Meggan Gardner at cghf@golfcanada.ca if you’re doing research and would like to access the museum library.

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