Golf was born on the windswept highlands and fields of Scotland long, long before today’s pristine fairways, finely trimmed greens, titanium clubs, shaded golf carts and Tiger Woods. The Scots imported many things to the Cree in James Bay when they first arrived with the Company: fiddling, brandy, watchia, syphillis, capitalism. They would have done well to introduce the game of golf. I was thinking of this as I lined up my 13th stroke towards the par 5,7th hole on Great Whale’s 9 hole wonder.
I was playing, badly, against rookie Sonny Orr, and advanced amateur, Greg Hatt of Sandy’s Corner Store. The first hole is a tough par 4 or 5 with a dogleg left, past the huge petroleum tanks which power the town’s ubiquitous ATVs. Actually, the oil tanks added at least two strokes to the first hole when they were built recently, so Greg wasn’t too sure if it was par 4 or 5. Golf paraphernalia is scarce in Great Whale (but there’s a surprisingly large number of people who play the game) so we had to scour the tee for used tees to start.
“You don’t want to hit the green, it’s gonna bounce!” advised Hatt. The greens are made of plywood, with an astro-turf coat. Some holes don’t have flags so your eyes have to be pretty sharp. We finished our first hole with Hatt shooting 8, Sonny shooting 14 and a 9 for me.The game pretty much continued this way through all the holes. The wind picked up while we were playing the 4th, which helped on a long par 5. Sonny and I lost the 6th hole and I ended up with an awful 21 strokes. A record. Sonny was catching up to me. It was Greg’s game all the way so me and Sonny were left battling it out for second place.
The Great Whale golf course is probably like those first “gowf” courses in old Scotland. Perhaps worse. What you’re doing is battling rough through the entire course, there’s moss everywhere. A few small trees still stand but they wouldn’t be considered a hazard, unless you’re lined up right beside one, like Greg on the 6th hole. He swung and hit the tree from about four feet away. I could see the trees needles shake and fall. Sonny heard us laughing and saw the tree still shaking. He thought it was the wind.
With Tiger Woods having already tamed world’s toughest courses, Great Whale may be the only true challenge left for him.
The golf course sits right by the bay and airstrip on the Inuit side of town. You can’t miss it. Lot’s of people come out to play on good days. Check it out while it’s still free.