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Preview and Review: Tarandowah GC

Review: Tarandowah GC

Designer: Martin Hawtree

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It may have taken five years, and it is located in a farmer’s field where the closest town is Avon, Ont., population eight, but I must admit to being kind of excited about this strange little course in the middle of nowhere.

Many had felt this project was dead. For the last few years, while visiting my folks in a nearby small town, I’d often drive by the site just to see if anything new had happened. For three years Tarandowah seemed like nothing more than an interesting concept — bring in a noted English designer and try to build a heathlands course in Southern Ontario. It sounds foolhardy, but the truth is the course I played last week — though there was no sand in the bunkers and bare patches could be noticed throughout — was great fun and could — with the emphasis on could — turn out to be a interesting course along the lines of Osprey Valley’s Heathlands. It could be that good — if it doesn’t get screwed up.

So what’s there now? Eighteen shaped holes, with 12 to 14 in [photopress:Tarandowah2.jpg,full,alignright]varying stages of grow in. The family behind the project clearly needs some cash flow, so they opened the rough outline of a course to the public about a month ago. It was a strange move, but no stranger than the rest of the progression behind this course. Now, for $15, you can try Tarandowah and envision what the course will look and play like in a year when the fescue has grown in and the bunkers have sand. Until then, Tarandowah is a shell — but what I saw was interesting.

[photopress:Tarandowah3_1.jpg,full,alignleft]The course starts quietly enough with a straight ahead par four. Hawtree seems to step out of the way on this one and the hole is generally flat. However, it is impossible not to notice the green site, which rests between several bunkers and is generally small in stature. That turns out to be a big factor of the course — green sites have wild contour unlike anything I’ve seen in Canada since Tom McBroom’s self-described “drug phase.” Huge swales often ride throughout the greens, making shot placement and approaches key to scoring.

The second hole (which will be the back nine eventually, though the routing is mixed up at the moment) is a long four pinched in with strategic bunkers in the landing area. Once again, the green site is terrific — though it is also completely constructed by Hawtree.

Over the remaining holes, several stand out, including the short, driveable par four fourth, the long par three sixth and the tremendous closer, which reminded me a bit of Carnoustie. In fact, that’s probably an apt comparison. I’m not saying Tarandowah is anywhere as good as Carnoustie; rather, the course, with its limited shifts in elevation and emphasis on strategic green sites and bunkering has the feel of the brute from Scotland. Hawtree seems to have captured the flavour of links golf — now it is a question of whether the course and its conditioning can reflect that vision.

Tarandowah could still falter before it is completed. But here’s hoping this little course in Avon can make a go of it and complete the remaining work. It’ll be interesting, if it is done properly, to see just how good this can be.

Tarandowah web site.

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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.

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I get goose bumps when I hear the things that are being said about this course. This course truly is special. It is unique. And it will challenge you. I think Rob Thompson’s review is fair albeit a little on the critical side but hey, it piqued my interest enough to go and see for myself. I am glad I did. What I saw was potential beyond belief. Sure, this course has some rough edges to smooth out but at the end of the day all they are promising for now is PURE GOLF and boy, do they ever deliver!

  • Folks this soon to be Gem is now well on its way to the vision you are all hoping to see in the future.

    A little “birdie” has informed me that the resources to complete this project the way it is needed and deserves has arrived. And it will stay the course as Mr. Thompson hopes to see.

    Give the owners credit they have hung in there through many challenges and are now about to realize their dreams. If you visit Tarandowah take the time to meet the owners and thank them for hanging in there. We will all benefit from their perseverence and by the middle of next summer we will enjoy 18 holes of true links golf in South Western Ontario. Oh yes, and you will be able to sit on the patio over looking the 18th green while sipping a cold one.

    Stay Tuned!!!!!

  • Where is this clubhouse that CJ MONEY has promised? I have driven
    by this course several times in the past 2 months and see no buildings. I believe this course will be one of the best in the area, with or without a clubhouse, but a building would be a nice finish.

  • Marl: I received this from Bryan Row, son of the owner, last week:

    Sorry it took me so long to get back to you been holidaying,, yes we have sand in all 15 of the 18 holes and the front nine is coming great we expect to be fuly open may 24 weekend also our clubhouse is starting to get built the middle of this month.

  • This is one fine course The exception is 5-6 hour rounds. It is geared towards public play and not its membership. People cutting in at hole 10 on a regular basis is a common thing as your coming up the 9th.

    Lots of potential but definetly lacking golf management skills as far as ettiquette,pace of play and definitely public play ahead of member tournaments is really obvious. Asked about having member tourneys go ahead of public play but it never happens.It shows where their priorities are.$$$$$$$$$$

    If you want to play this course you can expect a long round of tough golf but do it as a green feer and not a member

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