Golf and country club has been the heart of southeast community for five decades and counting
Don Boykiw has come full circle.
The president of the Willow Ridge Community Association grew up in the southeast Calgary neighbourhood of Willow Park before moving away to carve his own path. As fate would have it, he returned to the community 13 years ago.
“We moved here when I was a kid in 1967, just when the golf club opened,” he said, referring to the Willow Park Golf and Country Club.
The good memories of the neighbourhood – the tall trees, the quiet lanes, and the immaculately kept, private, 18-hole course – played a large role in his decision to return.
“A big part of the attraction is it’s a very safe, walkable place to live with large lots,” said Boykiw.
“There’s not a lot of traffic. There are tree-lined streets with a lot of green space, and it’s also very quiet.”
His take on the community is by no means unique – these are the qualities that drew many of Willow Park’s 5,500 residents to the neighbourhood.
Established in 1965, Willow Park was envisioned by renowned local developer and builder E.V. Keith and his firm, Keith Construction. Around town, the company has long been recognized as a pioneer developer.
Among its innovations was the concept of building communities around a major leisure attraction, such as a manmade lake or, in the case of Willow Park, a golf course.
In fact, Willow Park set the tone for golf communities in the city. After all, it was the first. And today, Willow Park remains one of the more sought-after places to live in Calgary, largely because of the beautiful private course that meanders through the heart of the community.
Cathy Burton, the head golf professional at the club, says the course has long been one of the city’s top places to golf – provided you’re a member, or a guest of one.
“If you live along the course, it’s so nice to be in your backyard looking at the course rather than another home.” – Don Boykiw, Willow Ridge Community Association president
“I can tell you from the perspective of someone who was here the other day for the first time … they said, ‘I had no idea property like this existed in the city,’ ” said Burton, who first played the course in the early ‘80s while competing in the Canadian Women’s Amateur Championship. “It’s just so pristine.”
Unsurprisingly, many members live in the community. That’s a big reason for living in Willow Park, says Boykiw, a club member himself. “But if you’re not interested in golf, it still offers plenty of green space, trees and flowers,” he added.
Willow Park offers many of the benefits typical of suburbs built in the 1960s. There are a wide variety of home styles on display in the neighbourhood, including bungalows, split-level homes, and ranch-style and two-storey houses comparable to estate homes in newer neighbourhoods.
Of course the crème de la crème of properties in the community are those that back onto the course.
“If you live along the course, it’s so nice to be in your backyard looking at the course rather than another home,” said Boykiw, who’s among the lucky homeowners with that luxury.
While Willow Park is an established community, it is now undergoing remarkable renewal.
“We have a slightly older community, with lots of people over age 40, but that is changing,” said Boykiw. “Many young, professional families are moving in.”
The housing stock is also being renewed. Boykiw says about half a dozen older homes are torn down every year and replaced with exciting, new designs – particularly along the course.
And while the course is private, it also features amenities and catering services for the public. This makes it a great venue for weddings and anniversaries, Boykiw says, and the Trico Centre is also located in the community, providing plenty of indoor leisure opportunities, including a wave pool and waterslide.
Willow Park also has the advantage of its “goldilocks” location relative to the rest of the city – it’s not too far from the downtown core, but not too close either.
Overall, Calgary’s first golf course community maintains its allure for golfers and non-golfers alike 50 years after its creation.
“If you’re interested in golf, it’s a great place to live,” said Boykiw.