MY NWT: “Good to Golf” in the NWT

There are some strange things done under the midnight sun – and Gordon Brayton, general manager and head golf pro at the Yellowknife Golf Club, has seen at least one of them. “I have been driving home and seeing a raven flying by with one of my golf balls in his mouth,” he says.
In fact, 600 balls were once found on the roof of a building in downtown Yellowknife. Ravens, some the size of housecats, were picking them off the driving range and taking them to destinations all over town. There were no reports of any missing golf clubs, however. “I had to make sure the driving range was clear before I left to go home,” Gordon says. Balls don’t go missing quite as often anymore.
Gordon was raised on golf in Calgary. He began playing at the age of four. “We grew up at the Earl Grey Golf Club, so I would walk three blocks to play golf.” He started on a nine-hole course until he was old enough to handle 18 holes. His father was an amateur golfer and Alberta champion. One of Gordon’s brothers became a professional golfer and another was a greenskeeper. Gordon turned pro in 1982 and has been a member of the Canadian PGA. He worked at clubs in Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan. He followed his sense of adventure to China, where he taught golf for six months.
Then Gordon came to Yellowknife in 2007. He looked forward to managing an 18 hole sand golf course North of Sixty. It’s not as strange as it sounds. The season isn’t much shorter than Edmonton’s, he points out. Although Gordon works at the Yellowknife Golf Club from April 1 to October 30, the club’s busy time is May 15 to September 15. “We go hard for four months,” he says. “We play 17,000 rounds of golf each summer”
The club has more than 300 members, 40-50 tournaments a year, and enough work to keep Gordon and two assistant golf pros busy. Make no mistake: Northerners are serious about their golf – and he is passionate about teaching them. “I love passing on my knowledge and watching people improve,” he says. “The thrill for me is when they’ve come off the golf course and have had their best round or their handicap is coming down.”
The club also runs a junior program to teach kids, ages five to thirteen, to play. “We get them on the driving range and take them out to play one hole. It takes them an hour to play one hole.” About 100 kids participate in the junior programs. The work with youth is paying off. For the first time, the Northwest Territories will send a team of golfers to the Western Canada Summer Games in Kamloops.
Golf NWT, an association of all golf courses in the territories, was created in 2010. "We’re just breaking ground,” Gordon says. “It’s not just for kids – but for the future of golf in the NWT. We want eventually to be part of Golf Canada to send people to a national tournament.”