By Devonna Edwards, Columnist
The Ashburn Golf Club is located on Joseph Howe Drive, formerly known as Dutch Village Road. The property was once a private estate known as Ashbourne. Ashburn has a long history as it is situated on lots seven and eight of the twelve lots granted to settlers in 1763. Two of the original settlers on lots seven and eight were Conrad Brugg, a Swiss and Balrar Gebhardt, a German. Ashburn was an outgrowth of the old Halifax Golf Club which operated for many years in the south end of Halifax on the Collins Estate of Gorsebrook.
Sometime after 1884 the property was sold to William Henry Webb, one of the partners in Brown and Webb Wholesale and Retail Drug House. When William moved to Ashburn it was a palatial country estate four miles from Halifax, with a sheep fold, tenant’s cottage, and avenues of Norwegian pine. In 1905 the Halifax and South Western Railway was granted the right to lay a rail line which affected Webb’s beautiful, quiet property, reducing its market value. In later years William Webb left the property to his son Arthur Webb. Arthur retired in 1921 due to ill health and sold the property to the Halifax Golf and Country Club for $22,500 in 1922.
Ashbourne got its name from Lord Ashbourne of England. Webb altered the spelling of the name from Ashbourne to Ashburn; ash for the ash trees on the property and burn which is the Scottish word meaning ‘small brook’ for the brook that ran through the property.
The Ashburn Gatehouse also known as the Ashburn Cottage or the Estate Lodge. The Gatehouse was built many decades before the property became the Halifax Golf and Country Club. It was situated on the east end of the property at the entrance to a winding avenue leading up to the main house. After the property was turned into a golf course, the driveway route became a fairway, and a new entrance was constructed to the north. The gatehouse was described as small and had an oddly design, with varied angles both as to its wall and roof. Upstairs contained two bedrooms, while downstairs there were three rooms and a small storage area. Originally the dwelling was used as a gatekeeper lodge when the property was a spacious country estate, but years later it was used as a living quarter for the club’s professional golfers. In 1959 the house was no longer liveable without having major repairs and that was not economically feasible at the time, so the old gatehouse was demolished.
The Two Ashburn Clubhouses. In August 1922 one hundred and fifty men and thirty teams of horses set out to build a golf course on the former Webb property. Canadian golf architect, Stanley Thompson designed the 142 acres of naturally rolling landscape to make it into an attractive golf course. The former residents of William Webb’s were renovated into a clubhouse with only minor changes, including the addition of two glass rooms: the sunroom and the dining room. The ground floor contained two reception rooms, coat room, washroom, kitchen, and pantry as well as quarters for professional golfers and caddies. The second floor had a lounge with a fireplace and two dressing rooms for the ladies, a private card room and staff quarters. Ashburn Clubhouse opened on May 10, 1924, and was in use for 75 years, before it was demolished in 1999 to make way for a new clubhouse. The new modern clubhouse was opened in 2000 and housed meeting rooms, lounges, a banquet facility, a pro shop, administrative offices, locker rooms and a dining room.
The golf course remained as it was until the late 1950’s when the province began construction on the Bicentennial Highway. To make room for the four-lane highway, part of the 13th fairway had to be expropriated which narrowed the fairway. In 1990 three new holes were built for safety reasons, because golf balls were landing on the highway, endangering the motorists on the road. In the late 1960s the old 18-hole course had become overcrowded with 1,000 members and the Board of Directors purchased property containing six hundred acres from the Lee family in Fall River to build a second golf course. In 1970 the New Ashburn Golf Club was opened on the shores of Kinsac Lake in Fall River.
Today in 2022 both Ashburn Golf Courses are among the best courses in Nova Scotia.