Trafalgar Golf & Country Club History

Written by Betty Robinson Neil


In January 1958, Keith Robinson obtained an option to purchase Ruthven's sod farm to pursue his dream of building and operating his own golf course. Armed with his option and Robbie Robinson's hand-coloured layout of the course, Keith and Bob Watson convinced nine astute businessmen to invest in what would become Trafalgar Golf & Country Club. (In those days, the area was known as Trafalgar Township and this is why the name Trafalgar was chosen.)

The initial investors were: Earl Black, Walter Hayward, Murray Greeniaus, Ross Hawley (who had flown with Keith during World War II), Gleason Henderson, Ken Harmer, Grif Adamson, Keith Robinson, Ivan Slessor (who sold his shares in 1959), Robert Watson and Ross Watson. All the remaining original investors, or their families, are still owners.

Once the Company was formed, Keith with the same coloured course layout started to sell memberships. His concept was that Trafalgar would be a truly family oriented golf course where men and women were to be treated equally, and baby-sitting would be provided. A swimming pool with a lifeguard would be built, and a junior program and clinic would be organized to promote an early interest in the game (a system which produced 2 Canadian Junior Champions and 5 Ontario Champions in 6 years). The junior program was modeled after my years as a member of Royal York Golf Club (St. George's now) where my sister and I were treated as equals by the ladies.

Sandra Post came to us at 8 years old because of that policy.  She was a member at Oakville where she was allowed to practice but could not play until she was 14, a rule of thumb held by most clubs.  Trafalgar had the most innovative junior program in Ontario initiated by Bud Corbett who volunteered to set up the clinics and programs, found trophy donors and in general, organized the junior section much as it is today. Our junior Canadian and Ontario champions include; Sandra Post, Wayne Macdonald, Martin Mason, Ken Fay and Kelly Roberts to name a few--a phenomenal record for a fledgling club.

Marlene Streit and I convened the very first 3-day Junior Girls Ontario Championship at Trafalgar.  The ladies billeted the out-of-town players, provided transportation to and from the course, and our junior boys carried their clubs.  We had a big barbecue and dance with a live band on Thursday evening before the final matches on Friday.  This event was the model for the Championship for many years until it was impossible to find a club that would give up 3 whole days for an outside event.

The fee in 1958 was $100.00 per couple. By April 1st, having 100 paid up members, Keith started hiring staff to begin shaping the course. Nine temporary holes were set up and many of our Charter Members will remember them with fondness. By early May, our members were happily banging away on Bill Ruthven's sod farm, while in the background, the course you play on today was being shaped and seeded. Robbie Robinson was our course consultant and made sure Trafalgar would be a championship course in years to come. On June 1st, I arrived with part of my family (the boys stayed behind to finish their school year) to run the snackbar. The Robinson family moved into the old "Price Homestead" (the original clubhouse) and shared the facilities, including the bathroom, with an ever-increasing membership. A verandah was built on either end of the homestead which served as a sitting and dining area until the new Clubhouse was built in 1961.

On July 1st, 1958, the first nine was opened (today's back nine although 1, 2, 11, and 12 were reversed). The full 18 was in play by midsummer 1959, the year the Directors made the decision to turn the club private. We have never looked back.

Keith directed the whole operation for the first two years. He was the Manager, Pro, and Greens Superintendent. Roy Romain came in 1960 to take over the Pro Shop and stayed for 15 years. I ran the kitchen for two years until there was sufficient business to offer the concession to Lorne and Bea Giberson. Many of us have mouth-watering memories of the Giberson butter tarts. Keith remained the Manager and Greens Superintendent until October 31st, 1963, at which time he left to build Hornby Tower Golf Club, a pay-as-you-play operation north of the 401. Keith Robinson died of cancer in 1966, having left his mark at Trafalgar forever.

Ross Watson became Club Manager in 1963 and remained in that position until his death in 1986. Stuart Wallace worked under Keith for one year before taking over as Superintendent in 1964, a position he held until his retirement in 1991. May Johnson came to Trafalgar on March 1, 1959, and ran the office until her retirement in 1992.  Len Turner started June 22, 1965 and is still doing a wonderful job running the bar.  John Ellison was the Pro between Roy and Edge Caravaggio who came to Trafalgar in 1981.  Edge left Trafalgar in 1993 and Fraser McIntyre became Trafalgar's head professional.

Al Langdon become General Manager in 1986 and remained in that position until he retired in 1994. Martha Watson took over as General Manager in 1995.Sadie Stevens who added her special expertise to the catering facilities at Trafalgar was with the club from 1981 to 1997. In 2009 Trafalgar took over the catering at the club and has had tremendous success with chef Peter Hansen. We feel strongly that we have a solid team, who work well together.  We are fortunate at Trafalgar to have such wonderful staff.

In the late 1980's, Murray Greeniaus and I stepped down from the Executive Committee and were replaced by, what we felt and has proven to be, an effective and astute "second generation" team. Ted Harmer, Ken Harmer's son, and Robbie Robinson, Keith Robinson's son, joined Bob Watson to form the new Executive Committee. Since taking over, this threesome has been fearless and forward thinking and have engineered all the changes that have occurred at Trafalgar in the last several years. Bob Watson retired from his duties as President and member of the Executive Committee in 2000. He passed away in 2006.

Of the original group, there is only one left, myself (Betty passed away July 9th, 2014 - in her 96th year).  We've come a long way since our scratchy and learning-on-the-job beginnings and we hope, you, the members, will be enjoying golf and fellowship at Trafalgar for many more happy years to come and have as many wonderful memories as I do. 
Trafalgar Circa 1958 Click the link and see some old footage of the golf club.