Earlier this year I reported on the “restoration” that Martin Hawtree was undertaking at Toronto Golf Club. It had been billed as a restoration by a prominent member at Toronto who was involved in the project, as well as by construction company TDI and by Hawtree himself on his website. The problem is when you move two greens, reshape fairways and rework bunkers in a style that is inconsistent with anything Harry Colt did at the course (or that his associate Charles Allison recommended in the years after the course opened), it is hard to call it a restorative effort. Let’s be honest here — what Hawtree has done is renovate one of Canada’s most historic golf courses, putting his own flair and perspective on the course.
I’m not putting this up as a knock against Hawtree — hell, his Tarandowah near Avon, Ont. is one of my favorites in Canada. But I offer up the photo below, in contrast with a photo I shot a couple years back, as evidence that this is not a restoration, but a renovation. Why else would Hawtree simply recontour the hillside on a wonderfully understated par-3? This one doesn’t make much sense to me. Sorry for the photo quality — it is taken from Hawtree’s website and I couldn’t make it much larger:
This isn’t some sort of navel-gazing exercise on my part. I considered Toronto GC to be one of the most significant courses in the country from an architectural and historical perspective. Hell, I liked the fact the club seemed stuck in 1938 — it meant they didn’t change anything! I typically voted it in my Top 20 in the country in Score magazine and often thought it would be one of the few courses I might actually consider joining one day. Now I’ll take a wait-and-see attitude, hoping that the photos don’t do justice to Hawtree’s work.
I’ve written about this extensively in a previous post — one that apparently got someone’s attention at the club. And I’ll note I have only seen photos of the work — and haven’t seen it first hand, though I’m hopeful to investigate it fully next spring. Perhaps Hawtree has hit a home run at Toronto — but this seems well beyond the initial “restoration” members discussed.
Worth noting is TDI’s “blog” on the work — which caught my attention in the first place and had construction photos (which I, of course, saved), has been taken down.
However, if you want to see an even bigger question mark, go to the TDI site and check out the reworking of Toronto’s Lambton G&CC. But that’s the subject of another post on another day.