SSP Publications guides us through golf courses (and brew pubs, lighthouses and courthouses) of Atlantic Canada
In the spring of 1995, Scott Smith was visiting Maine and happened upon the Maine Golf Guide. A golfer himself, Scott thought why not a handbook for golfing on Canada’s east coast? Golf was booming in the 1990s with new courses cropping up everywhere.
Back in Nova Scotia, Scott began discussing the idea in golf shops and with golf enthusiasts. Everyone seemed to agree, a guidebook to the world of golfing in the Atlantic Provinces would be worthwhile.
While researching the various golf courses, Scott began to hear of another individual who was also investigating golf in Nova Scotia and soon he had tracked down Garvie Samson, a champion golfer out of Brightwood in Dartmouth with an interest in writing and publishing. Scott suggested they work together on the golf-guide project.
Hence the birth of SSP Publications Ltd. That November, after personally visiting more than 50 courses throughout the province, the two would-be publishers launched the Nova Scotia Golf Guide, with a “Fore! Word” by renowned broadcaster Peter Gzowski. That Christmas season the book became an instant best seller.
Now, over 20 years later, and after 18 editions of the various guides (one for each Atlantic Province and one for the whole region) with sales well in excess of 20,000, the appeal of the Atlantic Canada golf guides have finally begun to slow down. No doubt this is in part due to the rise of the internet. Golf courses now have up-to-date websites and a significant presence on social media, offering prospective golfers current information on everything from available tee-times, upcoming tournaments and special green fee deals. Indeed times have changed but both Scott and Garvie are happy with the extensive life-span the guides have enjoyed — a rare feat in the guidebook world.
Part of the reason the golf guides have endured for so long — I have to confess I kept the Atlantic Canada edition in the glove compartment of my car for years — is that everything from phone numbers, driving directions, opening and closing dates, yardage, driving range and power cart availability, even golf club rentals and green fees, plus restaurant or snack bar facilities, are listed in the guides.
This convenient manual of information comes in handy when golfers are on the road to their destination and realize they haven’t got everything they need for their upcoming round of golf. Many of the course’s hole-by-hole layouts are included. For the serious golfer, hole characteristics and club selection can be sorted out before the round is actually played.
The Nova Scotia guidebook, the first one available and the best seller among the five, was updated and released in 2014 as the sixth edition. The other guides are all available as third editions. More than 150 courses are profiled in the guides and that alone makes the resource without doubt the most comprehensive golf compendium in Atlantic Canada.
While the golf books may not remain a going concern in years down the road, SSP Publications is certainly alive and well with a number of other active trade publications and plans for new publishing projects. Scott Smith’s background as an architect is reflected in his four current books on Prince Edward Island architecture, including A Light in the Field featuring lighthouses, barns, mills and fishery buildings. Most recently, SSP has released a stunning book on the courthouses of the Maritimes entitled Building For Justice. While the scholarship of the writing by author James MacNutt is impressive, production values of the book are superb, making for an elegant presentation.
Garvie Samson has also written and published a historical account of his Cape Breton hometown River Bourgeois called The River That Isn’t. And Bob Connon chronicles the Maritime brew pub scene in Sociable!
Small but vibrant book publishing is an essential part of the artistic fabric of Atlantic Canada and SSP Publications is one of a number of vital publishing houses that reflect the great diversity and unique character of the region’s culture and lifestyle.