The history of Bally Haly is one of two stories come together; one of a 19th century British Army Officer and another of the first golf course in Newfoundland.
William Haly was born in Cork, Ireland in 1770 and joined the British Army at the age of 16. Through his time in the army he travelled the world seeing action in France and the West Indies. In 1799 he was appointed garrison commander of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and moved to St. John’s. Two years later he achieved the rank of Major, was married, and was given a small plot of land on Logy Bay Road. He would add to the land and name it Bally Haly after his father’s estate in Ireland. ‘Bally’ is the Gaelic word for farm meaning, in effect, Bally Haly is simply ‘Haly’s Farm’. Shortly after his death in 1838 the estate reached 271 acres but was sparsely used for almost 70 years.
Early in May 1896 a group of enterprising St. John’s citizens lead by the Hon. John Browning decided to introduce the game of golf to Newfoundland. A barren of low-lying scrub located north of LeMarchant Road and in an area known as Buckmaster’s Field near Pennywell Road was chosen as the site of the proposed links. By late June of 1896 the chosen site had been cleared of much of the overburden of gorse and the area had taken on a landscaped look. Nine reasonably level and strategically located sodded areas known as greens along with nine approaches or fairways abounding in many natural hazards, including the presence of a bog, completed the construction of what became known as the Newfoundland Golf Club. Neil Shannon had been brought from Troon, Scotland to St. John’s to lay out the golf course at Buckmaster’s Field and supervise its construction. Hailing from the land which had given birth to the game, Shannon was a member of a family with a lengthy association with golf and experience with course construction. In addition to his architectural ability and artistry in laying out golf courses, Shannon was quite proficient as a golfer as well. He was retained as the new club’s professional instructor.
The original nine‑hole Buckmaster’s course had limited area for expansion and in 1908, with the growing popularity of the game, Hon. John Browning became the motivating force in inducing the Executive of the original Buckmaster’s Club to negotiate with the trustees of the estate of the British Garrison, for the purchase of property which Bally Haly Golf and Curling Club now occupies. By 1908 the newly formed Bally Haly Golf and Country Club, having met the agreed purchase price of $7,500 for the entire 280 acres of land including the Haly ancestral home and stables, prepared to move in, take possession and commence work on the layout of an 18 hole golf course. Neil Shannon was to design the course again and he took no time in getting started. There was still the question of what to do with the old Haly residence however, a question that would answer itself on the night of December 8th 1908. When Mr. Shannon had left for the day the old residence caught fire and was burned to the ground, ironically, on the same night the Executive of the club was meeting to discuss the best way to dismantle it. By 1910 the course and new club house was ready for use.
In quite a coincidence on December 8th, again, of 1936 the clubhouse was destroyed by a fire losing much of its early history including a photo and guest book signed by the Prince of Wales who would become King Edward VIII. Following this, the company went into voluntary liquidation and was reorganized. A new clubhouse was built and officially opened in May 1937 in time for the golf season. The company operated only during the summer season because its major sports at the time were golf and tennis. In 1957 the clubhouse was again destroyed by fire though this time many of the items inside were able to be saved. The club was rebuilt for a third time in fifty years and expanded its offerings to include a four sheet curling rink.
Though our members are still our number one priority as they were in 1908, we have since opened our doors to the public. In doing this, we faced a new challenge of altering the general perceptions that have existed for generations. This perception is that we are a members only club when in reality, our doors are open with a warm welcome for everyone. This philosophical shift in our business model allows us to accommodate the demands of today’s business world.
We operate as a year around business with the main focus on our golf and curling memberships, in addition, we offer premiere function space and full service dining. We cater to all of our clients under the same model of service that we have been offering our members for over 100 years. As we continue to have more people come through our doors each and every day our future looks bright and promising. Though we honour the history and policies of our founders, the current success has afforded many more opportunities than they ever could have imagined. With a full management team, a staff of upwards of 70 and a full board of directors we are proud to make Bally Haly everything you want it to be.
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