Preview: Tom Fazio's Coppinwood Golf Club

He’s likely the best known and most expensive designer in the world, but Tom Fazio hasn’t worked in Canada since developing the National Golf Club of Canada alongside his uncle in 1975. That’s all changed with Coppinwood, a new private course scheduled to open in Uxbridge in late May.
The private club, which costs $75,000 to join, is the boldest new facility to open near Toronto in several years. At a time when numerous private courses are struggling (Summit Golf Club and Thornhill, for example), Coppinwood will try to portray itself as a superior golf facility and entice new members to pull out their cheque book.
So what do we know about the golf course?
In many ways Tom Fazio like a chain of high-end restaurants. You can be assured the food will always be good, but the chain will never take the risks to make it great. The same can be said of many of Fazio’s courses. He’ll never make a bad course (not with the budgets he works with — regularly more than $10-million per course), but the facilities he creates are often more style than substance. Pretty golf courses where the aesthetics are remarkable, but the golf is, well, just good.
That was the point of an article by Golf Digest critic Ron Whitten last year when he asked the question, Is Tom Fazio Good For Golf?
Whitten essentially concluded this:
Clients love Tom Fazio because he creates more headlines than headaches. Golfers love him because he doesn’t beat them up. And rival architects love him�well, they appreciate him�because his splashy impact has helped raise everybody’s fees.
What does this mean for Coppinwood? Well, nothing so far. The course is reputedly built on a great site that had several Canadian architects drooling over their chance to build on it. Initially conceived as 36 holes, the course is now 18, with three practice holes. The partners behind the course, including the powers behind Maxium Financial, are astute businessmen with deep connections. They’ve hired a great pro in Euan Dougal, formerly of Eagles Nest and Bigwin Island. Everything seems to be lined up, so the only question is whether the course is great, or just good? If it is great, this could be a home run. If it is just good, it’ll still be a success, but it’ll take longer to fill up the membership.
The photos I’ve included with this write up make it hard to determine what Fazio has delivered. It certainly is pretty, with bold bunkers with clean lines and greens perched in dramatic locations. The vistas look great.
I’m planning on getting a closer look as soon as the snow departs, so I’ll try to draw a better conclusion then.

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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.

11 CommentsLeave a comment

  • As good as Dougal is, what about the person who is going to make or break the course, the superintendent. Is he not worth a mention? Or is it that the individual has done nothing worth mentioning? I do believe that the pro will make great decisions for it membership however; he is at the mercy of the superintendents efforts which result in the final product. The memberships are not being purchased based upon what the proshop will sell or is going to look like, they are after the Fazio hype, the playing surface conditons and the exclusivity.

  • You are right — the super is an important factor in Coppinwood’s success. In this case, the superintendent is Sean DeSilva, formerly of Taboo. Taboo was always in great shape and I’m sure Sean knows a lot about the grow in stage given his history with that club’s development.

  • I’ve known both of these fine gentleman for a long time. They are both very professional and are the start of a great team. The ultimate sucess of Coppinwood will be based on membership satisfaction not personal limelight. I have no doubt that their own personal satisfaction will be based on the sucess of Coppinwood and it’s membership.

  • I believe Coppinwood is a success already in that it brings another great course to GTA with a name Fazio brings.

    GTA is already known to be a great place for golf. We should all support and pray this new course will be a success both to members and golf community to make GTA even greater place for golfers. I congratulate the efforts of the owners to bring this course and let it become a great success!

  • You will probably guess (and correctly), that I am a Summit member. For the record, Summit is not struggling, far from it. Summit had a small operating surplus in 2005 and has a significant capital reserve fund. Summit continues to be in demand with 37 new members joining in 2005. Our only enemy is the current Liberal government in Ontario. They have allowed contractors to build thousands of homes on the Oak Ridges moraine while they protect the environment by saying we can’t cut a tree down on out golf course.
    Come play Summit this summer and see if it is not the gem in Ontario old style courses.

  • I hear Summit’s entry fees are falling, though that might not actually be the case. I’ll call the club’s GM today.
    I hear Doug Carrick has put forward a plan to gut a big part of the golf course. That can’t be a good thing…

  • I know the property like the back of my hand. I have walked it a hundred times over. This golf course will be the best in Toronto and Canada for that matter! It has great views. It has an unbelievable setting. It will be an experience start to finish. The layout is incredible. From the first hole to the 18th your golf experience will be unparalelled. The course will be tough but fair and will be a great challenge for all handicaps. The 12th hole will be a beast. I look forward to reading other comments regarding Coppinwood. And I challenge any of you to find a better course and facility in the GTA!

    Yours Truly,
    Mr. Guaranteed

  • Hmmm. If you’ve walked the property 100 times, maybe you can tell me if Fazio needed to move 1.5 million yards of soil to create this course.
    One other question — do you do marketing for Coppinwood, Mr. Guaranteed?

  • RT, it is a shame that Mr. Guaranteed was
    so over the top in his comments, and was compelled to start the “mine is bigger than yours” line.

    However, I saw the course in the summer and fall (only 2 times—so that would be 1/50th of Mr. Guaranteed), and it did look spectacular (and tough!).

  • Recently joined Coppinwood…. 2 visits and it was over for me. The course is superb and if you don’t believe me go take a tour and your cheque book!!

  • I have had the pleasure to play Coppinwood twice and cannot say enough positive about the club.
    The course is a terrific but fair challenge and the facilities are best in class.
    The design genius of Fazio is everywhere. From the tee deck on the 3rd hole you see 3 intimidating bunkers, which are large and well positioned. Once you get to the green and look back, they disappear and all you see is a long green fairway surrounded by fescue.
    The fifth hole is one of the best par 3’s I’ve played anywhere and if par 9 you have gained a shoot on the field.
    The back nine is simple spectacular.
    Congratulations to all those involved in putting this club together.

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