Part IV: Celebrating 100 Years In Operation,
Beach Grove Has Weathered Many Storms
And Come Out Stronger Each Time
Story by Matthew St. Amand
Photography Courtesy Beach Grove Golf & Country Club
At 20 Bridge Street Lower in Dublin, Ireland stands a pub called The Brazen Head. A hostelry of one kind or another has stood on that location since the year 1198. Things work a little differently in North America. After 40 years of hosting concerts and sporting events—sometimes championship level—Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena was demolished. The same fate befell the Pontiac Silverdome. Precious few businesses make it to the century mark in North America. Canada, itself, is only 154 years old.
“The fact that this business has existed for one hundred years is truly amazing,” says Aidan Blunt, General Manager of Beach Grove. “It is a testament to the commitment and hard work of so many members and staff throughout the history of the Club.”
Established in the years immediately following World War I and the Spanish Flu pandemic, Beach Grove survived a fire in 1927 that destroyed the Clubhouse—and saw the structure rebuilt within the same calendar year. Beach Grove survived The Great Depression, which lasted almost the entirety of the 1930s.
“Then there was World War II,” Blunt continues, “with large numbers of men leaving the area to fight the war overseas. That might have been the lowest time for Beach Grove. A decision was made to lay-off all staff except for one, who lived here, running the boiler in the winters, and maintaining the grounds in the summer.”
In more recent memory, there was the devastating St. Patrick’s Day Flood of 1973, which saw upwards of 3,000 families in Maidstone, and along Lake St. Clair, evacuated from their homes.
Following each event, Beach Grove came back stronger.
Maybe that’s because the venerable country club and golf course is built upon the most elemental aspects of human life: Friends, Family, Lifestyle.
“Throughout those tumultuous times, Beach Grove remained a haven for families,” says Karl Straky, Centennial Committee Chair and Vice President. “People had their weddings here, celebrated their anniversaries, birthdays, and attended events. This is where people gathered with their friends and family and enjoyed life.”
“This has always been a family-focused Club,” says Club President, Frank Dayus Jr. “We built the first Olympic-sized pool in the 1930s because of our dedication to families. Within the same timeframe, Beach Grove also built a harbour, so people could enjoy the fabulous boating in this area. Nobody was doing that at that time. The Board knew they could approach and please whole families.”
In fact, the installation of the pool and harbour was a joint project. Construction of the harbour involved transforming a weed-filled marsh and building a break wall. The harbour was officially opened in July 1939 and remains a unique feature among private clubs in Canada. Today, there are 28 slips, allowing members and their guests access to Lake St. Clair.
“Since the beginning, Beach Grove has been more than a business,” Blunt observes. “The Club is a home away from home for our members. It is a place to commemorate milestones and gather to celebrate family together. Our membership is active and vibrant.”
The golf course also remains true to its original design. Over the years, substantial capital investments have been made at Beach Grove, to improve everyone’s enjoyment. In 2014, the Club made a significant investment in a mass renovation project: new locker rooms, the Stanley Thompson Lounge was updated. The Marine and St. Clair Rooms and the Upper Deck were also updated, which provides excellent views of the water.
Three years later, in 2017, a further investment was made on the Rose & Crown Dining Room, construction of a new pool house and multi-purpose room. On the golf course, irrigation was upgraded, and bunkers were improved to frame-out the greens.
“We’re always interested in improving playability,” says Golf Course Superintendent, Curtis Bondy. “That means a faster, firmer, drier course. It’s more environmentally friendly because less water is used in upkeep.”
The trees of Beach Grove have always been an important feature of the course.
“In recent years, we have lifted the canopies,” Bondy continues, “which basically means trimming the trees from the ground up. This improves the view. Our members love that.”
After 100 years, Beach Groves knows a few things about perseverance. That is how it approached the restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Management Team and the Board were all focused on maintaining services while keeping members and staff safe,” states Julie Columbus, Director of Membership Services. “When restrictions were relaxed—and the ‘OK’ was given by the Premier to reopen following all health protocols became a huge part of our operation.”
After weeks of lockdown, golfers across the province converged on courses.
“We adapted everything,” Blunt confirms, “We were very conscious of ‘touch points’—such as the ball washers, water coolers, and even the flags on the greens.”
“Curling had to be reconfigured, as well,” Blunt explains. “In conjunction with the rules and policies from Curling Ontario, we created our own set of curling protocols, a multi-page document, that walked curlers through the safest way to do it.
Throughout the pandemic, Beach Grove’s pool program remained active, while following all health protocols.
“Social distancing permitted Aquafit and lane swims,” Columbus notes. “Swimming lessons had to be canceled, but we were able to rent pods by the pool, in hour-and-forty-five-minute increments, so families could still safely enjoy the water. We had to re-imagine some things, but it allowed members to enjoy as much of the Club as possible while remaining safe.”
It is interesting how life comes around full circle, and the year Beach Grove celebrates its 100th anniversary, the world remained gripped by the pandemic.
“To celebrate our Centennial Anniversary on January 10th, we offered a wonderful family style Birthday Meal to our members for take-out,” Karl Straky, Centennial Committee Chair and Vice President explains. “During the pandemic and especially when we have been in the Red or Grey lockdown zones, our members have come to rely on the Club for our Beach Grove 2 Go food and beverage service. Over the course of our 100th Birthday weekend, our team served over 1,200 take-out meals complete with birthday cupcakes for the entire family to enjoy! It was an incredible success.”
The pick-up area, out front of Beach Grove, was decorated with vintage articles from storage.
“Somebody found some old curling uniforms,” Columbus added, “and somebody else brought in a couple of mannequins, so we dressed them in vintage golf and curling clothing.” Music from the 1930s played and the heritage display was accented with other antique items, such as old hickory golf clubs.
Beach Grove has a momentous year ahead, a Centennial calendar full of opportunities to celebrate 100 years of history with the membership. Straky noted, “There are 100 members who have volunteered to assist with the planning and delivery of the celebrations. As Beach Grove’s Vice President and the Centennial Committee Chair it is my honor to lead and represent the Board of Directors and an amazing team of volunteers who have worked diligently in preparing 2021 as a year to commemorate Beach Grove’s deep-rooted history.”
The celebrations are spread throughout the year including a heritage golf day featuring play with hickory clubs and 1920 golfing apparel, a Speakeasy night with jazz music and whiskey lounge, a Rum Runner tour, a family festival, and the hosting of the Ontario Men’s Amateur Golf Championship and Ontario Mixed Curling Championship, plus much more! The year-long celebration will end with a New Year’s Eve Gala which hopes to be a spectacular evening affair with Big Band music, dancing, and entertaining bootleg gangsters.
“Enthusiasm is building around the Centennial Legacy Project, which will see a new Porte Cochere at the main front entrance with landscaping enhancements. As well as the Community Initiative Program, which will raise funds for local charities as an important part of this year’s legacy” shares Straky. “The Centennial Committee, staff, and members are all looking forward to the time we will be able to gather safely together and raise a glass offering Cheers to 100 Years!”
For all that is written, now, about the coronavirus and its effects, it will be but a footnote in Beach Grove’s epic story—a sentence in a history written 50 years from now.
Today, Beach Grove is adapting and thriving, and marking a milestone few establishments achieve. It remains a special place to members and residents in the community, where every visit is memorable.
“We are thrilled to be celebrating our 100 Year Centennial in 2021” says Beach Grove President, Frank Dayus Jr. “The enthusiasm and interest we have had from the community has been overwhelming. Looking ahead to the next 100 years is exciting, as we grow our Beach Grove family and create a legacy for the future of the Club.”