A few weeks ago I headed up to Peterborough to play Kawartha. About halfway up the 115 on the left hand side a golf course I had never seen before suddenly appeared. On Sunday morning I got my first look at the Black Diamond Golf Club in Pontypool.
Black Diamond is a terrific course but a golf course with two distinct personalities. The front nine is fashioned after a British links course similar to the design style at Hunter`s Pointe in Welland. The back nine, on the other hand, is more like a Muskoka course (without the lake or Canadian Shield). Each side presents its own set of challenges but it forces you rethink your game halfway through the round.
I played from the Å“Challenge tees which lays the course out at about 6500 yards. On the first tee, the starter lets you know that the front is wide open so fire away and score your best. But, he warns you, the back has a number of specific landing areas so pay attention to the signs posted at the tee boxes to hit the appropriate distances.
The first hole is a par 5 that stretches out close to 600 yards but is downhill, which makes it a little more manageable. I hit a good tee shot but soon discovered that the front isn`t as wide open as it might seem. There are patches of tall grass to catch errant balls and if you end up there you`ll have to take your medicine and try to scramble for par.
The second hole is the first of a total of ten doglegs. Strategically placed bunkers present a good line for aim but are ready to penalize an inaccurate shot.
General manager Darren Stalteri said that the course was designed after he returned from a trip to Scotland. Having spent time playing Glen Eagles, Kingsbairns and Carnoustie among others he decided that there were a few characteristics he wanted on the course including a number of blind shots. If you ever get the chance to play in the UK you`ll learn to appreciate the blind shot. Many architects set their sight lines on landmarks in the towns surrounding the course and that local knowledge helps the player score well.
Another priority brought over from the classic links is the double green “ which brings us to our first par 3.Holes 4 and 7 are par 3s that share a 14,000 square foot Å“L` shaped green. Having played the Old Course myself I applaud his decision. Putting with 8 players on a surface can be a lot of fun and this green is no exception.
The only Å“loopy hole on the front is number, a dogleg right that doesn`t really fit into the look of any of the other holes. The hole is just 354 yards and a solid three wood still sends you through the fairway. To the left of the green is a pond – the first sign of water on the course. This hole would work better on the back but I guess you take what the land gives you.
The front ends with an uphill 575 yard par 5 which is pretty much the last straight away hole you`ll see on your round.
When I checked in at the pro shop and told them that I was going to walk they cautioned my that the back nine was going to be tough. I didn`t take their advice and now, two days later, my legs are still burning.
In the aftermath of my round, I discovered that the only way to describe the elevation changes on the back was in terms of skiing. The holes that aren`t double diamonds are blue runs. There are no beginner hills on the back.
It took me three holes to accept that I shouldn`t be hitting driver off of every tee. Number 10 has such a spectacular drop that hitting a huge drive is irresistible. It`s also irresponsible as it will either run off the fairway into a thicket of grass under trees or fly the fairway altogether.
My favourite hole on the back was the par 5 13th which is a beautiful dogleg right. A solid tee shot of 250 yards, a good nine iron and a wedge puts you on the green. Going for the green in two would be next to impossible given the angle of the dogleg as well as the forest and slope of the fairway your have to contend with.
The 13th is a good illustration of appeal of the back nine. If you are allowed to wail away on the front, you must make shots on the back. Every hole has an elevation change and many of the greens perched on hilltops require an accurate iron in order to land on the surface. There is very little room to bail out.
If number 8 is the Å“loop hole on the front, I would give that honor to number 16 on the back. Relatively short at 354 yards, this dogleg to the right allows a solid tee shot to the 100 yard marker. Now, when you reach your ball you are stuck with a dilemma, how to get around the 100 ft. white pine in the middle of the fairway? Compounding the problem is the fact that the green is up hill. I was able to turn a ¾ nine iron around the right side of the tree to get to the green but it would be easy to see why this hole would cause fits for players.
The course ends with an uphill par 4 to a two level green. When I finally reached the green and looked back over the course I immediately wanted to have another go. My legs begged for a reprieve.
Overall I`d say that Black Diamond is a fun test for good players but a stiff challenge for the average player. The disciplines required on the front and the back nines assure you that you will use every club in the bag and every shot in your game.
The one thing I haven`t talked about are the greens. I`ve saved them for last for a reason. In general, the greens are in good condition and run true. There are subtle breaks that golfers who play here frequently will be able to take advantage. The only criticism I have is that the greens are pocked with ball marks. It would help if the starter gave each group a lesson on the first tee so that they would repair their marks and any others they find. It would make the round more enjoyable for everyone.