In the early 1900s, a group of prominent Ottawans unofficially organized themselves into a riding club to indulge their passion for horses and hounds. Their enjoyment of the traditional hunt was marred, however, by the lack of a clubhouse where they could gather after the hunt or to pursue other social activities.
By 1908, the problem was solved. The group purchased 160 acres of rich, arable farmland south of the city and two years later, the first clubhouse of the Ottawa Hunt Club was officially opened by Lord Grey, Governor General of Canada, an ardent supporter, and member, of the Club. Within a few years, the Hunt Club was the gathering place for most of the country's important men and women – including Sir Robert Borden, Canada's eighth prime minister, and Sir Clifford Sifton, a leading member of Sir Wilfrid Laurier's government.
When the First World War broke out, all activities were suspended, and the Clubhouse doors bolted until 1919. By then, motor cars were the rage, and the horse race track gave way to motor car racing. Motor cars soon proved a passing fancy. The Club had a new dream – an 18-hole golf course. In 1920, Willie Park, Jr., one of the leading golf architects in the world at that time, was hired to design a course on Club property.
Four years later, Willie Park's "traditional-style" golf course was officially opened for play, and the result of his work is the basis for what Hunt Club golfers enjoy today – a beautiful and subtle test of golf.
Over the years, the Club has hosted many prestigious events – from the Canadian Open in 1932 to the Americas Cup in 1960 to the du Maurier Ltd. Classic in 1994 and the CN Canadian Women's Open in 2008 – the "star" event of the Club's centennial celebrations. The course has also drawn many world figures, including the Prince of Wales, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, entertainer Bob Hope, and golf legends Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.
By the mid-'50s, the Club was looking to expand its horizons. An additional nine holes and a curling rink were added in 1959, and the Club became a two-sport, four-season facility. Three short years later, disaster struck. The Clubhouse was destroyed by fire. Only the curling rink survived. Although devastated by their loss, members spent little time grieving. By the end of the year, a new, modern clubhouse was erected adjoining the curling rink.
By the end of the 1980s, the Clubhouse and golf course were due for an overhaul. The Clubhouse was expanded, a modern irrigation system added and all 27 holes reconstructed under the direction of course architect Thomas McBroom between 1990 and 1993.
Pressures from a growing membership and changing social habits drove a major Clubhouse renovation in 2007. It was in the modern, spacious and handsomely furnished Clubhouse that the membership celebrated in grand style on New Year’s Eve – welcoming not only a new year but the beginning of the Club’s centennial celebrations in 2008.
Part of the Ottawa landscape for over a century, the face of the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club has changed considerably since the founding members enjoyed steeplechase races and traditional hunts on what is now a 27-hole championship golf course.
No doubt, the future will bring other changes to keep pace with the times. The face may change, but not the heart and soul. At the heart of the Club are the principles on which it was originally founded. Today, the principles of trust, friendship, respect, goodwill, and co-operation are embedded in the by-laws. And it is these principles that will continue to assure members the enjoyment of a first-class golf, curling and social club for many years to come.