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Preview: Otter Creek Golf Club

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Preview: Otter Creek GC (Otterville, Ont.)

Designer: Dick Kirkpatrick

Opening: July, 2008

Where is Otterville? It was my question when designer Dick Kirkpatrick asked me to come and tour his latest project. Couldn’t say I knew where it was — somewhere the other side of Hamilton, hidden in Southern Ontario at some point.

I walked the course with Kirkpatrick — who created Copetown Woods, and was the builder behind hundreds of Canadian courses over the past couple of decades — last summer, and wrote about it here. While the location may not be central, the site is quite impressive, especially as you get away from the homes and towards the more rugged areas in the south of the property.

Since the course was largely dirt when I was there — still being shaped — it was hard to determine exactly what the final form would be. The property had plenty of drama to it, and Kirkpatrick had a strong sense of the design, which had previously been attempted by Jed Azinger and Thomas McBroom. A number of creeks run through the property and though the routing had a couple of odd bits — like a walk back on 17 — it looked like it could be unique. Certainly Kirkpatrick was continuing with some of the themes we’ve seen at Copetown — including the use of some sandy waste areas, which make sense given the nature of the property.

A couple of things strike me about the website and final design. First of all, the yardages are a touch odd — 7,100 on the upper end, 6,400 for the typical men’s tees. Strikes me the sweet spot these days for yardage is around 6,800 yards, and Otter Creek’s current score card doesn’t suggest that yardage is in the mix. Could be the score card was a preliminary one, as I recall a mix of tees on the course that would suggest the yardage could easily by mixed up to set the course up around 6,500 yards.

The other question will surely be pricing. While those who seek it out — and travel from major centres like London or Hamilton — will find $55 to be a very fair value for a course of this quality, I’m not sure locals, used to inexpensive rounds, will be willing to pay this rate. With that said, I’ve only briefly discussed the business model with Kirkpatrick last year, and haven’t talked with the owners. Perhaps they know something I don’t in regards to the fee structure.

I’m sure this makes sense to someone — and given the location of the course, which is not that far from areas like Woodstock, which has experienced a lot of new jobs recently, perhaps there is enough of a population base to fill Otter Creek’s fairways.

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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.

24 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I’m a north of Toronto guy so not sure how it is in the Hamilton area, but a $55 weekend green fee is almost impossible to find around here. Also, being an average golfer, i think 6400 yards is plenty, from the website, there appears to be a good mix of 300-350 yard par fours and over 400 yard par 4’s. Mix in the creek crossings, etc, it probably plays longer than the scorecard numbers anyway.
    Robert, haven’t you been an advocate in the past of keeping courses shorter (how many people play from 7000 yards anyway)?

  • Nick: Yep, I’m an advocate of shorter golf courses, but my concern would be that a great number of players, overestimating their abilities, will jump to tees that are too long for them, rather than playing tees that are 6,300 yards long.

    As for $55, I agree with you for the GTA, but in the Woodstock/London area, there are lots of options for $30-$50. Things like Taradowah are less than this (though Otter Creek is less than $50 through the week), and there are lots of mom-and-pop shops in Southern Ontario that run lean and mean.

    Don’t get me wrong — I think this will be a good course. Just not sure that will be enough to draw people to Otterville.

  • I moved here four years ago from London waiting for the golf course to open. THANK YOU MR. KIRKPATRICK! I live across from the construction and have been anticipating opening day since I saw the Otter Creek sign get posted in November 2006. I’m definitely one local who is going to take advantage of this gem!

  • I believe this will be a true test of golf for any skill level, and at an awesome price. I’ve been living in this area for over 20 years and this is exciting to think that I can play at a course of this calibur, and have it so close to home. Usually alot of people who want to play a course that has bent fairways need to drive atleast 30-45 mins. It only takes my self 10 mins to get to the course…how nice is that. And if you live a hour away in the city…just think how nice it would be to get out into the country every sunday to play a beatiful round of golf. I’m looking forward to teeing it up with the boys for the first time this July! COME OUT AND PLAY… Opening in July 2008

  • i am positive that this course will be a success. i live just 5 minutes down the road from otterville, in Norwich On. I have lived hear for almost my whole life and i have noticed that in the last couple of years the township of norwich is expanding very quickly and the new toyota plant in woodstock is bringing even more and more locals to the area. i think this course will do fine with just locals but it is a top of the line course and people will be flocking all over to come play a round here. And i am not sure if this is a rumour or not but i have heard that they may be getting the LPGA Tour to come and play at Otter Creek? Anyway if anybody knows more about that rumour please share some details.

  • To-dayI played the front nine and throughly enjoyed the experience. The first 4 holes were linksey and the others were through the valleys and hills. The greens are huge and fair but challenging. The 4 tees pads make this course playable for all abilities if you choose to play from the appropriate tees. As the course matures it will become amazing. I will be back.

  • I played the course for the first time today and was disappointed. The tee blcocks have a gap in them going from over 7000, to 6700 all the way down to 6000. The whites should be around 6400. The back nine had some rough greens and fairways. The price was high at $55, but what they don’t tell you is that the course is designed with large distances between holes so you need a cart, which is extra. $55 including a cart would be more in line. The couse will be very nice when it matures but there are other course in the area nicer and for less money.

  • Played the front nine today and was very disappointed with the condition of the greens- very slow and bumpy. They should not be charging full green fees until they are in good condition. I’ve heard the back nine greens are even worse but we didn’t get to play the back nine because our cart broke down going up the hill at 10 and we were already disappointed with the greens so we took this opportunity to get a refund for the back nine. They still charged us $75 for the front nine with a cart which is way overpriced for the greens (which look like they belong on a course that charges half as much). It’s a strange design, with some very long forced carries and routing that requires you to ride back along other holes. I may try it again next year if I hear the greens have improved.

  • How about a map to show us how to get there? We drove around on Monday and didn’t even see a sign. It would be much appreciated. Thanks

  • Have been waiting a long time for this course to open and it was worth the wait!! I have played it and it has got the best of me but that is what makes me want to go back.

  • I played this course on Friday — the greens, with the exception of one — were in terrific shape. Nothing bumpy here.

  • I played this course for the first time today. It’s a beautiful course with great challenge. The front nine was in good shape, but the back nine should not be open yet. The greens were in terrible shape as were some of the fairways. They should not be charging full price. We were orginally going to walk but decided at the last minute to take power carts. Good thing because the distance between some holes is extreme. This course should be mandatory power carts at a lesser rate. Something like $65 inclusive would be more reasonable. There are far nicer courses in the area that offer more reasonable rates.

  • I have recently played this course and was really impressed. The course was really challenging and very beautiful with all the creeks in play. I feel this course has proffessional potentional. I think this course will be the best in the area in a few years.

  • I played this course recently with my brother Wayne from Ottawa and between us over the past 50 years we have played many fine courses. We both thought this to be a great layout, challenging, in good shape for being new and some great wilderness holes in the valley and along the river. I’m not sure what course in the area others are referring to when they say there are better courses. I agree with former comment that this could be used for a professional turney sight. This will not happen before a club house is built but I’d be very surprised if there isn’t some signicant event here in the next 5 years like at least the Ont. Amature.
    I have to agree with a former comment that the layout is poor in 2-3 places where you have to be aware of golfers hitting the ball when your going to another tee–10 and 14 comes to mind.
    I didn’t like the $76.00 (with cart) on Sat. and feel much better about the $48.00 Mon. to Wed. but as this course matures and becomes better known, I think you’ll find the $76.00 to be fair and there is no comparison of this course to the other $47.00(with cart) in the area.
    YOU WILL SEE THAT THIS WILL BE A CHAMPIONSHIP COURSE IN THE FUTURE–MAYBE NOT FARE BUT WHEN COMPARED TO GLEN ABBY THIS IS A REAL BARGIN.

  • I played the front nine with a cart late August. The course was in good shape, but the Tarandowa course (Putnam) is a lot more reasonable, just as challenging, and closer to London by about 15 minutes. The course, until there is a club house, and liquor licence, should be trying to draw customers, instead of overcharging. It’s not a championship course yet, and no real tournament will be there in the next 5 years. The short par three on the front nine (forget the hole number) is dangerous if people are playing the hole on the back nine (Like they were while we were hitting) that seems like they share the green. Out of bounds are not clearly marked, as well as “next hole” signs. How is this a bargin compared to Glen Abby? The Abby is mature, well set out, has a club house, no real surprises, and has had championships (a plethora) played there already. (The reason they can charge what they do) It is not surprising that the long week-end in September (Sunday) had half as many people as the Tarandowa course did, at 1pm.

  • This is getting really stupid. Comparing Otter Creek to some of the best golf courses in the Country!!!
    Let alone conditioning, design is ok but not stellar. Hard to remember any holes at all. Everyone of them seemed to play the same.
    It will never be in the league of most modern golf courses, the course was not built to “PGA/USGA” standards. It will be a cute country golf course.
    Regarding an amateur event, sure, not many clubs want them. A professional event, maybe Great Lake Tour.
    It is a value conscious golf course and it was designed/built to be just that. Enjoy it as such.

  • Iwould like to make a comment to bob and george. Ithink you
    ripped a very nice golf cource in otter creek.My feelings are that
    you must have had a bad scoring.You must have played the tee
    blocks that were to tough for you or you thought you are much
    better than your game really is.I have talked to several guys some
    from london ,hamilton,simcoe that thinks this course is very nice.
    If you think that the course in avon is much better i hate to see
    what you shot on that course. At least otter creek rough and fescu
    is in much better condition.Iwill bet you that this course ate you
    up.

  • Like a few of you, I am from this area and used to work on this land when tobacco harvest was in full swing. Remembering what the landscape looked like then and to what the designers have given to us is amazing. For those of you who complain about pricing, I can tell you I’m tired of driving 45 min to an hour and having to pay some of the prices that larger centers think they are entiteled to charge. Some of the trips have cost me 150.00 or more after you facter in food and gas. To play here for what they are charging and the course design is well worth the trip to Otterville, Ont.

  • Many of you have mentioned that this course is a deal for $55 on the weekend with a cart. I’m playing it tomorrow morning for the first time, and according to the website I’m paying $77 with a cart. If I’d known that this was the price I would have told my buddies “no way”. I’m a 15 handicap, $77 is beyond me. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it, if it doesn’t eat me up. And that $77 doesn’t even include my losses to my buds in the side bets.

  • What a terrible layout. There are some good holes, but possibly the worst set of par-3s and the worst 18th hole that I have played. On two of the par-3s (5th and 17th), the player plays the hole and then walks (or rides) back up the length of the hole he just played to get to the next tee. On the 7th hole, the green is so skinny that is the player misses right or left, he can’t keep the ball on the green with his first chip. On the 12th, the green slopes from front to back so severely that the green is not hittable from the tee.

    The par-5 18th was 4-iron, wedge, wedge for me from the blue tees. The other 13 holes are decent, but the five awful holes are awful. Some people will love it as it doesn’t look like anything else in the area. Go to Northern Michigan is you like this course. There are 30 similar looking and way better layouts. Start with the Fazio Course at Treetops or Red Hawk.

  • Wow, what a Great Track….even at 2 hours from my place in Toronto, I’m gonna be playing it a few times this year.

    Poster (“SB”) above says “worst set of Par 3’s”….wtf?
    I think they are THE BEST set of par 3’s I’ve played in long time (except for maybe #17)

    YES, this is another course where you REALLY NEED a Cart, but that’s how I roll, so no complaints here.

  • I stand by the “worst set of par-3s”. The fifth and 17th are ridiculous in that you play the hole and return through the “line of fire” to the next tee. That’s careless golf architecture.

    Five is also bad because of the nearness of the 8th green. 7 and 12 suck because of the green. It is a long iron for most folks to a green that is unholdable. There isn’t a way to run it up and the green is rock hard.

    Go to Michigan. Start with Red Hawk and Treetops, throw in some Forest Dunes. You will see what I’m talking about. People are pumping this course because it isn’t like anything around. Better still, drive a little further and play Tarandowah. It blows Otter Creek away.

  • Just came home from playing the course. The front 9 is strong, however the trip to the 10th tee and the 17 hole are ridiculous and need to be reworked somehow. The 5th is also not a good design. Finishing hole is very weak in my mind. Greens were good, actually very good condition, but some of the front to back slopings were put on the wrong holes. On a 430 yard par 4, that is not the time to put one of these greens on when you are approaching from 180 – 190 out. Is truly worth the trip once a year for sure, but could not see myself playing it with any regularity. If the clubhouse does get built, it will be a fantastic view.

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