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Course Preview II: Goodwood? GC

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Course Preview: Goodwood GC(Uxbridge, Ont.)

Designer: Martin Ebert and Tom Mackenzie

No one knows if it will actually be called Goodwood Golf Club (a name apparently owned by the May family, who used to own the land that became Coppinwood), by Angus Glen owner Gordon Stollery’s new course looks terrific regardless of its moniker.

This is a course I previewed about a year ago. I returned a few weeks ago, with all of the shaping complete and the course largely fully grown in.

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The photos supplied of the course do make it look pretty, but demonstrate little of the strategy and intriguing use of the land by Ebert and Mackenzie. Most greens come in naturally, on grade, part of the desire on the part of Ebert to move little land. While at nearby Coppinwood, designer Tom Fazio bragged about the amount of land he moved to create the course, Ebert is just the opposite, moving little land in crafting a course that looks both challenging and in tune with its surrounding landscape.

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Perhaps most interesting is Ebert’s use of bunkering. While rarely overdone, and with relatively few scattered over the golf course, he seems to be particularly interested in bunkering inner angles (see photo above.) He’s also created some intriguing cross-bunkering on the short four pictured below, leaving players with a number of ways to play the hole.

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Now it is hard to say exactly how this will play without actually having hit a shot there, but my immediate impression is the course is tighter and more difficult than either of its nearby neighbours, Coppinwood or Wyndance. Both of those courses are quite generous off the tee, and while Goodwood doesn’t appear to go as far as Ebert’s boss Steel did at Redtail (with narrow, narrow fairways surrounded be penal fescue), there is a sense that one is going to have to be straight off the tee, and work the ball in some instances, to be successful at Goodwood.

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There are visuals elements that don’t work at the course as well. Take the two trees in play on, if I recall correctly, the 10th hole. Owner Stollery has long been fond of trees in play (anyone recall the tree in the middle of the fairway on #16 at Angus Glen South? Let’s just say Doug Carrick didn’t want it there) and since there are really no trees in play on a vast majority of the course, these seem quite out of place. The use of trees as a primary defining characteristic (like the large oak on Magna’s 16th) rarely work, largely because if the tree disappears (as it did at Angus Glen), the character of the hole is entirely changed. Thankfully these two trees at Goodwood don’t seem to define the way the hole is played, but aesthetically they don’t work.

It is hard to say too much more about the course, other than to note no specific business plan has been created, and only a couple of people (like former Masters champ Larry Mize) have apparently actually played it according to those close to the project. Lorne Rubenstein toured it and hit some shots recently. His take on it can be found here.

One thing that will surely be debated about Goodwood is the business model, which still hasn’t fully been determined. The working plan calls for 40 owners to pony up $250,000 for essentially half the project. That would leave Gordon Stollery in control of the course.

Some will argue that Toronto doesn’t need another high-end course. They’d likely be right, but this seems to be following the model set out by the likes of the Desmarais family with Domaine Laforestin Quebec or Tom McBroom’s Memphremagog Golf Club, a new course that recently opened in Quebec with fees in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. These aren’t businesses — they are private playgrounds and have to be considered as such. If Mr. Stollery decided this was a good way to spend his money, who are we to argue with him? Historically he’s following a model that has been used in golf for 100 years. Interestingly, in time many of these courses end up being opened up. We’ll see what happens with Goodwood.

Thumbnails below are of other shots of the course. Click on them to enlarge.

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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.

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