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Review: Coppinwood Golf Club

Review: Coppinwood Golf Club; Uxbridge, Ont.

Designer: Tom Fazio

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I get asked a lot lately about my take on the new, and highly anticipated Tom Fazio course in Uxbridge, the nicely named Coppinwood. I’ve toured and played the golf course and pondered it at some length.

Why all the interest? Well, largely because it is Fazio’s first solo [photopress:Coppinwood3lr_1.jpg,full,alignright]design in Canada, and the first work he’s done in the country since the National Golf Club of Canada first opened in 1975. It is also a pretty high profile golf club, and there are lots of people watching it to determine whether it will be successful.

My take is mixed, but only slightly. The club is excellent. The idea of a golfers’ club with a premium on practice is a great concept and one that doesn’t really exist in the Toronto area. In a lot of ways it is like Magna, except the focus is on golf instead of food.

However, there’s a lot of expectation. Largely Coppinwood delivers.

[photopress:Coppinwood12c.JPG,full,alignleft]So what’s the result? At Coppinwood, Tom Fazio has built half of one of the most interesting courses in Canada. Why half? Well, with the exception of the first and fourth holes, the front half is solid, if underwhelming. The first, a long par five, offers a strong right to left tee shot and a green site that appears attainable in two. The risk is great, but so is the reward. Similarly, the short fourth, with an intriguing tee shot and a fall away green is an interesting concept and is just within the range that many players will tempt it. It is an exceptional hole.

However, there are others, like the standard par three hole over water (the 5th, playing 210 yards) that seem just a touch too obvious and expected. Though the short seventh is far strong, with a cleverly contoured green and an interesting chipping area right of the hole, the eighth and ninth are perhaps the least visually appealing on the course. The ninth, however, at 476 yards, ramps up the difficulty quotient enough to gain a sense of what is coming next. The 10th eases golfers into the back nine and then Fazio hits his mark.

The 11th could be one of the better long par threes in the country. [photopress:Coppinwood11b_1.JPG,full,alignright]Set in a bowl within a natural looking hillside (it can be very difficult at times at Coppinwood to figure out what was and wasn’t manufactured), the green plays away to the left and is protected by two large, flashed-up bunker. The hole asks you to hit a draw approach, especially if the flag is at the back, and those who can’t pull off the needed tee shot will struggle for par. Similarly, the majestic 12th, with its downhill tee shot and magnificent vistas could be the peak of the golf course. I’ve seen down-and-up par fours from Fazio throughout all of his courses I’ve played, but none that I recall match the 12th at Coppinwood for both visual appeal and challenge.

From the 12th, Fazio is set on cruise control, but the ride is great none the less. The 13th shows off the great land he had for the course, while he repeats the concept of a short(ish) four on the 14th. The 15th, a mid-length five, is steeply contoured downhill, and is smartly bunkered for those risking the green in two. He finishes with two stiff fours — the 17th, playing 407 yard uphill and the 18th, which plays shorter than its listed 459 yards and has a great green set underneath the clubhouse.

Coppinwood will surely be a success. The golf course is challenging and fun, while also utilizing Fazio’s trademark visual cues. However, there are still questions. Canadian architect Alan Chud, who managed the project, built three practice holes near the north of the course that are to be used as a practice range. The land is far better than what Fazio used on the front nine and it is confounding that a routing couldn’t be configured that utilized these holes, some of which have a Pine Barrens appeal (Fazio’s World Woods course in Florida).

Despite that, expect Coppinwood to be well regarded and hold up over time. Certainly those expecting a variation of the National, with its diabolical greens, will be disappointed in the subtleties of a modern Fazio course, but Coppinwood’s finishing kick makes it a course that will be well debated. Top 10 in Canada? Not quite, but close.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Some thoughts on Coppinwood:

    The fescue hadn’t started to grow yet but it looks like it would be way too penal in the summer – the member I played with said that you are dead when you hit it in the fescue. Apparently Fazio came for a visit and said the same thing. I don’t know why that was – is it because they water it or fertilize it? (By the way – Redtail has the same issue for about the first 5 yards of the fecuse off of the rough).
    The par 5s on the back 9 are too reachable. We played from the Gold tees (6500 yds) which is right for a 10 handicapper like me and I was able to reach the green or greenside bunker with relative ease.
    Some of the holes seem kind of similar. I can’t remember any holes without fairway bunkers – I think it is nice to have the odd hole that looks different.
    They have some short par 4s which is nice and is somewhat rare on new courses.
    I like the way the course is set up to encourage you to shape your shots. One of the short par 4s, I think it is the 12th, calls for a fade off of the tee. The 10th tee shot is best if you hit a draw, as is the first. The 14th green is shaped to accept a draw – as is the par 3 over water on the front – I think it is the 5th.
    The course seems to discourage walking. My friend said that he almost always takes a cart and rarely sees walkers. It doesn’t seem like it would be too hard to walk but it is a shame that the place is so geared to cart-ball.

  • I had the opportunity to play this fabulous course with the one of the course pros, who spent a considerable amount of the round describing how Mr Fazio thought out and built this course to love the terrain and to test the player. He has done a wonderful job of both.

    As a seventeen handicapper, i appreciated the consultation. Describing the ‘risk/reward’ par fours on each side, the power alleys on some of the fairways which, on one lucky par five, took my drive to the point where i thought about going for it in two , and the very challenging par threes (all four had despicable terraced greens), my guide enriched my day not only as a golfer but as a naturalist.

    Look back to the tee from many of greens and the nasty forboding bunkers have disappeared, leaving only the enriched landscape for you to enjoy, and wonder where your stress came from.

    Off the course, we were treated to a prestigiouos yet hospitable facility, which like Magna, has great food, but which, unlike Magna, revels in the game. The members we met there were clearly there for great golf, and the conversations were all about golf, until the sun set and we got the most beautiful view of the city to the south from the veranda.

    Prestige without pretention…

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