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Toronto Golf Club
Toronto Golf Club

Earlier this year I reported on the “restoration” that Martin Hawtree was undertaking at Toronto Golf Club. It had been billed as a restoration by a prominent member at Toronto who was involved in the project, as well as by construction company TDI and by Hawtree himself on his website. The problem is when you move two greens, reshape fairways and rework bunkers in a style that is inconsistent with anything Harry Colt did at the course (or that his associate Charles Allison recommended in the years after the course opened), it is hard to call it a restorative effort. Let’s be honest here — what Hawtree has done is renovate one of Canada’s most historic golf courses, putting his own flair and perspective on the course.

I’m not putting this up as a knock against Hawtree — hell, his Tarandowah near Avon, Ont. is one of my favorites in Canada. But I offer up the photo below, in contrast with a photo I shot a couple years back, as evidence that this is not a restoration, but a renovation. Why else would Hawtree simply recontour the hillside on a wonderfully understated par-3? This one doesn’t make much sense to me. Sorry for the photo quality — it is taken from Hawtree’s website and I couldn’t make it much larger:

Toronto GC's par-3 7th hole, in 2008

Toronto GC's par-3 7th hole, in 2008

 

Martin Hawtree's re-do of the 7th at TGC

Martin Hawtree's re-do of the 7th at TGC

 

This isn’t some sort of navel-gazing exercise on my part. I considered Toronto GC to be one of the most significant courses in the country from an architectural and historical perspective. Hell, I liked the fact the club seemed stuck in 1938 — it meant they didn’t change anything! I typically voted it in my Top 20 in the country in Score magazine and often thought it would be one of the few courses I might actually consider joining one day. Now I’ll take a wait-and-see attitude, hoping that the photos don’t do justice to Hawtree’s work.

I’ve written about this extensively in a previous post — one that apparently got someone’s attention at the club.  And I’ll note I have only seen photos of the work — and haven’t seen it first hand, though I’m hopeful to investigate it fully next spring. Perhaps Hawtree has hit a home run at Toronto — but this seems well beyond the initial “restoration” members discussed.

Worth noting is TDI’s “blog” on the work — which caught my attention in the first place and had construction photos (which I, of course, saved), has been taken down. 

However, if you want to see an even bigger question mark, go to the TDI site and check out the reworking of Toronto’s  Lambton G&CC. But that’s the subject of another post on another day.

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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.

9 CommentsLeave a comment

  • In my opinion real architects don’t do restoration work. Restorations can be done by anyone with some old photographs.

    Real architects are creative people who have enough confidence in themselves to create their own vision and not just copy what someone else has done before. That is what they get paid for – otherwise the golf club could just hand a photograph to a bulldozer operator and say “make it look like that”.

    The greatest designers in any of the professions that require creativity are people who carve out their own vision – nobody remembers a designer who just copies what someone else did before.

    Granted the photos are small, but to my eye, the “redo” photograph looks like a more interesting hole and something I would rather play. If there is an inaccuracy here, it’s probably that it should not have been called a restoration, but that’s just fine – cause if you “restore” something that was bad or didn’t work, well, that’s just plain dumb.

  • I guess I should add that I have some experience with this type of thing, as the club I belong to went through a big debate on all this. Where I come from, if you are going to spend money to renovate, fix, alter, remediate,modernize, overhaul or in any way refurbish something, it had damn well be better than it was before. We had some idiot try and sell us that our club should restore our golf course to what it was originally, even knowing that was going to result in some real dumb holes. That’s backwards thinking down here – and he got tossed out on his ass – Thankfully.

  • The redone bank on the 7th is awful. Hawtree presumably got the job because he’s perceived as the Colt expert and sells his work as Traditional. So how did he come up with this? Colt never did anything even remotely similar.

  • Longhorn Jim: People are going to have very subjective views on whether it was “better than it was before”, anywhere. For example, like Paul Turner, I think the renovated 7th hole at Toronto Golf Club looks completely ridiculous in the photo Robert’s posted. Moreover, genuine restoration of certain “worn out” or lost features at certain aged golf courses can, and often does result in major improvement.

  • going to go check out that lambton stuff…i live on a street that on exit faces directly into lambton that has been a battleground since middle of last summer.?
    I have often wondered why the course had to not only lose one season…but likely part of next..its still not close to being done. Then again its private and i have long wanted ..ok dreamed of playing it..since its a ten second drive to course..but sadly i cannot play it. Not enough bankroll on hand…

  • Longhorn,
    By most accounts, TGC did not need much change as it had many very good/great holes. It was short by modern Championship standards but does not need to host the Canadian Open anytime soon.
    I agree, restoring badly designed holes would be dumb but that is clearly not the case at TGC.
    I could understand some changes to retain shot values and modern lengths but that hillside redesign is something that just is not keeping with the original.
    The simplicity of many Colt aspects are part of the charm of the place. Not overshaped, not tricky, not imposed on the land.
    It is a shame that the TGC members do not realize the gem they have and have agreed to this re-design.
    I don’t doubt that when architects approach these courses they use the word “renovate” to help sell their approach.
    Jones has reworked so much Tillinghast work he is called an expert, although I don’t see much of it as restoration outside of some aspects at Bethpage.
    Is Hawtree doing the same disservice to Colt?

  • While I share the view that the re-do of #7 is not appealing to my eye given the style of the course, its history, or its previous appearance, let’s be fair and wait to see what it ALL looks like once the snow melts.

    In the meantime, let’s spend our time doing something far more constructive and helpful. (And not speculating whether Tiger had his teeth knocked out, or whether he was on HGH.)

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