Course Preview II: Tarandowah Golfers Club


Course Preview: Tarandowah Golfers Club

Location: Avon, Ontario

Architect: Martin Hawtree

Tarandowah is a go. Or at least that’s how it appears, as the struggling faux links slowly comes to life.

I’ve been quite intrigued with Tarandowah Golfers Club for several years. The course, as I’ve mentioned in past previews, was created by noted British designer Martin Hawtree, and is his first creation in North America, at least as far as I’m aware.

The problems, however, were readily apparent. Several architects who were initially interviewed for the project said money would always be an issue and wondered aloud whether the project would ever get to the stage where golfers would play it.

The good news is that it has. On a gorgeous sunny, and windy, [photopress:taradowah3.jpg,full,alignright]weekend day recently, I toured out to Tarandowah’s rural and rustic location only to find the back nine complete and the grass growing on the final nine. There was sand in the bunkers, something that was missing the last time I toured the course in the Fall of 2006. Additionally, the design for the back nine (the course only has nine holes open, and they are what will become the final nine holes) is complete, making the 17th a monster 450 yard par four now that the appropriate tee is in place.

I don’t want to be misleading. The course still has some patchy areas, and is dealing with the occasional drainage problem, as is common on many new golf facilities. But the greens appeared in great shape and the bent grass fairways were coming along nicely.

This has all occured due to additional investors stepping up to complete the course. By all accounts the existing owners — the Rowe family — had simply run out of cash to put into the business. But a group of investors, including some from the Hamilton area, agreed to invest in the course, allowing it to complete a modest and small clubhouse, put sand in the bunkers and finish the final nine.

The results are striking. Small pot bunkers dot landing areas, and greens, built up with intriguing use of surrounding mounded areas, look deceptive and difficult. This looks like it could be an exceptionally hard course is the conditions are allowed to even get slightly out of hand, and maintaining conditions that make the course playable will have to be a key consideration.

The touchstone for Taradowah is certainly Osprey Valley’s much vaunted Heathlands course, an early Doug Carrick design on a relatively flat piece of land. I’d argue that Tarandowah has move movement in its land, and Hawtree does not use any of the separation mounding that is so common — and occasionally artificial looking — at Osprey Valley.

Secondly, the course’s unusual location — about half way between [photopress:tarandwah18.jpg,full,alignright]Woodstock and London, about 10 minutes off the 401 — means it isn’t going to draw the most refined golf clientele. That was clear from the groups playing in jeans — a definite no-no on most courses — on the weekend. If the course is the achieve something greater, locals are going to have to be taught the etiquette of the game. Otherwise price pressure brought on by those that don’t appreciate Tarandowah could get the better of the situation.

[photopress:tarandowah17.jpg,full,alignleft]Tarandowah isn’t a links. But it is a pretty faithful replication of a heathland course that could be found in the interrior of the British Isles. And finally, after several years of struggles, and teasing golfers with its possibilities, Tarandowah seems poised to deliver one of the more intriguing golfing experiences in Southern Ontario.

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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

  • Robert,

    I am a member at Tarandowah Golfers Club and have been reading your articles about the course on this website as well as Score Golf. I have to say that you have written some very good things and have been very fair in your writings. The course has taken some time to complete, but it will be very nice. I live in London and drive 20-25 minutes to get there but it is sure worth it. The layout is top notch and very humbling, even to a 2 handicapper. I had belonged to a private course in London where I would shoot in the low 70’s and a few times a year in the 60’s…now I just hope to break 80. It isn’t that busy yet but that is sure to change as people realize what it is. My question to you is this: “Do you think this course and its design will ever gain national recognition as one of the top 100 courses in Canada?” Hawtree’s design is very unique to this country and I love it.
    Keep up the good work and email me if you are in the area and want to play a round with a member.

  • “it isn’t going to draw the most refined golf clientele. That was clear from the groups playing in jeans — a definite no-no on most courses”

    — so is cheating, but I’d say the well dressed are better at it!

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