Course Review: Hamilton G&CC
Designer: Harry Colt
Note: A previous review of Hamilton appeared before the 2006 Canadian Open.
I had the good fortune to make my now annual fall trip to play Hamilton G&CC in Ancaster. I love the golf course — it is among my Top 5 in Canada and I was intrigued at seeing the changes to the clubhouse. Here are some random thoughts on the course, which differs from an actual review.
- Does Hamilton have the best selection of tough par-3s in Canada? I can see the drawback being that they are all 180+, but it is hard to imagine a better group of holes. The sixth is all-world good, with its tee shot over the valley to a green perched on a hillside that falls off hard to the right. The 8th might be a little plain, but has a very sophisticated and cool green, and the 13th is another tough long-3. The 16th, partially blind and uphill, is also fascinating.
- The use of the land at Hamilton is almost unrivaled in Canadian golf. Hard to imagine a better walking course that still has tons of shifts in elevation throughout. The third hole, a downhill par-4 to a green cut into the hillside, is among the best two-shot holes in Canada.
- Is it just me, or are the par-5s a bit of a letdown? The fourth is fine, but not extraordinary and #17 is just plain. Interesting that while the 4th has some interesting bunkering nearer the green, the 17th is just plain. That is in contrast to the overdone bunkering on the 15th, which is apparently being altered next year.
- The grassing lines, altered for the 2003 Canadian Open, are silly. The bluegrass colour doesn’t match the older grass, indicating exactly where the fairways were narrowed. And to what end? For example, the appropriate strategy for playing the 18th, a downhill par-4, is to hug the left edge of the fairway to improve your angle into the green. The safe play is out to the right. But the left side was all grassed in meaning if you try for the angle you’ll likely be on the receiving end of a hanging lie to a difficult uphill green. Hamilton should be about options — not making the course one-dimensional.
- The short par-4 fifth hole is intriguing in the number of ways in which it can be played — exactly as a good short four should be.
- The old clubhouse was gloomy and dull. The newly renovated clubhouse is bright and inviting while maintaining the outside appeal of the old version. Took two years longer, but club members insist it was on budget. Might be the case, but it also sounds like the club is much more open to holding the Canadian Open again. Can you say 2013?
- Hamilton is prepping a renovation of its short course, creating a new one based around Colt’s great one-shot holes at places like Pine Valley and Portrush. Tom Clark is doing the work. He’s an American architect most won’t recognize. Raises the question of why someone like Tom Doak, Ian Andrew or Gil Hanse aren’t working at Hamilton. Any of the three would have a more sympathetic historical approach to the course.