Why Clear Lake Smells Like French Fries

In the third in a series profiling Canada’s most environmentally friendly courses, Manitoba’s Clear Lake Golf Course demonstrates how the irresistible smell of French fries can benefit the local environment.


Clear Lake Golf Course Manitoba (Image: Clear Lake Golf Course)

Stanley Thompson designed the front nine at Clear Lake Golf Course in Riding Mountain National Park. (Image: Clear Lake Golf Course)

(Last updated March 2019.)

As distinct as the forest scents of pine and cedar, there’s often a strong—and environmentally beneficial—whiff of French fries in the air at Manitoba’s Clear Lake Golf Course.

The smell is expelled by the exhausts of six maintenance machines rigged to run on used cooking grease gathered from nearby restaurants. It’s just one of several green initiatives that have turned the classically designed layout in Riding Mountain National Park, about 95 kilometres north of Brandon, into one of the most environmentally progressive courses in Canada.

Clear Lake Golf Course was built in two stages starting in 1928. Legendary Canadian architect Stanley Thompson designed the front nine, while the back nine was designed and built by Vic Creed. The complete course opened for play in the spring of 1934.

“Working every day in the beauty of a national parkland is both inspiring and a responsibility,” says former superintendent Greg Holden, who led Clear Lake’s drive to be more eco-friendly. “When we spot a problem, we always try to fix it in an ecologically soft way.”

A need to conserve groundwater led to a switch to compost toilets, which in turn provided a source of natural fertilizer. All grass clippings and kitchen waste are composted and used on the course. And the use of cooking oil for maintenance machines was a way of annually recycling as much as 10,000 litres of an otherwise useless waste product.

“The only downside we’ve found to the cooking oil project,” Holden jokes, “is that golfers are reporting a constant craving for fast food.”