It had been a couple of weeks since I had played a round a golf and my family and I had just returned home from our white water rafting adventure on the Ottawa River. I loaded up the car with my Callaway`s and headed to Royal Ashburn in Whitby. The weather was beautiful and my prospects were good. But I arrived at the pro shop only to fin myself face to face with a full tee sheet and little chance to get out in the next hour. I headed back to my car and decided to drive another 10 minutes north to see if I could get on at Oakridge.
It`s been four years since I last played Oakridge. I used to love playing the course because I always found it a good challenge for someone at my level at the time (I had only been playing for a couple of years at that point) and it was a great value at $50 for eighteen.
Oakridge was one of Tom McBroom`s earlier designs. It is a testament to the course layout that I can remember so many of the holes even after all of these years. Although I always loved the layout but there was one annoying quirk to the course. The eighth, ninth and fourteenth greens were always a mess. The rest of the course was always in great shape but those greens were always blight on the landscape.
About a month ago I was playing at Royal Ashburn with a couple of guys who had taken the week off of work to play around the Durham region and they reported that Oakridge was in great shape. With that reported still fresh in my head I was anxious to see the course after my disappointment in the Royal Ashburn pro shop.
Turning on to Oakridge`s driveway brought back a flood of memories “ great shots, terrible shots and my very first eagle! I drove up to the bag drop and ran in to see if I could get a tee time. Looking down at the near empty tee sheet, it was obvious that getting on wasn`t going to be a problem. After parking my car, I returned to the pro shop and was hit flush in the face with the reality of inflation; Oakridge now costs over $70 to walk. Why do these courses that are in remote locations have to be so expensive? But, I came to play so I paid my fees and met up with the starter.
The starter was a nice enough fellow who suggested that, since the course was so empty today and the weather was so nice, I should play two balls and enjoy myself. Not a bad idea but I really wanted to pace myself for a good round so I decided to play one. He let me know that there was one foursome a few holes ahead of me but I could probably just play through. His last note to me was that the water at #1 was 300 yards away so I should be careful with my drive. Yeah “ I wish!
As I headed out onto the course, the design came flooding back to me. McBroom had a great piece of land to work with and he made the most using strategic bunkering to test all aspects of your game without compromising the beauty of the land.
The course has four par 3s. Three of them are strong and two of them are spectacular. #2 is the first of those spectacular holes. It measures over 200 yards form the back tees with a tee shot from a plateau to a green complex built on the side of a hill. #13 is another brilliant par 3. The tee box is at the highest point on the property and the green is nestled in behind another large pond.
Two of the longer holes that have stuck in my head all of these years are the par 4 6th with a fairway that runs between two ponds that are placed right in the hot zone for slices and hooks while I have affectionately always thought of the 18th as Å“The Laughing Clown. You know how at Mini-Putt courses the last hole always seems to be a laughing clown? You hit the ball into the clown`s mouth and you never see it again. #18 at Oakridge is a short par 5 but your shot into the green is traitorous. The green is protected by a pond that has a fountain running to remind you that it`s there. If that`s not enough, there is a big old oak tree standing in front of the green daring you to go over it and giving you precious little space to maneuver around it. Balls inevitably end up lost in the pond, just like at the Mini-Putt.
The greens are, indeed, in great shape all the way around which is why, despite a greens fee that they could stand a $10 – $15 reduction, I would highly recommend you drive up to Oakridge and take a look at it yourself. In the three hours I played the course as a single, I only passed through two foursomes. Given the fact that only ten minutes away Royal Ashburn was packed to the gills, it makes you wonder if the owners at Oakridge might want to re-think the greens fee.