I’ve been fascinated by Tarandowah, a Martin Hawtree design near Avon, Ont. (about half way between Woodstock and London) since its owners had a simple piece of farmer’s field they were trying to turn into a golf course almost a decade ago. I’d drive by on the way to visiting a nearby relative and see it sitting there, partially shaped and read the website which promised no carts, no tournaments and some form of pure, links-like golf.
Fast forward 10 years, and most of that didn’t happen. When I visited the club last Saturday, it had golfers driving carts through the fescue on the 18th hole (two groups did it while I spoke with the pro, who seemed frustrated by telling people to stop and resigned to the fact they would drive through the fescue anyway). It had a guy playing in a white muscle shirt. It had beer cans left just off the side of the tee boxes.
It was also a great experience, with the golf course playing hard and fast and the mix of good and great holes far outweighing the weaker ones. The fescue, for the most part, did its part — acting as a hazard, but allowing one to find a wayward shot (the exception being the par-5 14th, where the fairway isn’t guarded as much by fescue as weeds, especially around the green. Whack this stuff down guys.) The greens were firm enough that they didn’t readily mark, and forced you to consider hitting one club less and bouncing the ball in. It played like a links should — firm and fast, with balls bounding 20 yards if they found the fairway.
I’m sure Tarandowah isn’t for everyone, but it is a relatively authentic links experience. Sure some of the green surrounds are over-shaped (take the 8th, for example, with its relatively difficult mounded areas behind the green, which are unnecessary) and there are a couple of clunker holes (I don’t care for the fourth hole or the 17th, both of which have slightly ridiculous tee shots). But for the most part, the highlights (the fifth hole, the great long 11th, the short 13th) outweigh any failings.
And with rates of $42 in the week and $48 on weekends, it is hard not to appreciate what Tarandowah offers. Heck, you can become a member for less than a grand. My twosome walked the course in less than 4 hours on a hot Saturday afternoon. If dinner with my folks hadn’t been hitting the table, I might have gone out for nine more — such is the lure of Tarandowah.