– A Living Legacy –
Ron McHugh is about as no nonsense as they come. The aging leader of the Bearbrook Golf Club does not mince words, an attribute you have to respect, especially when he tells the tale of the course he built on the eastern outskirts of Ottawa, in Navan, and it’s trial and tribulations through the years.
Most recently, the patriarch of the McHugh family has had to deal with more than most people could handle. After putting the club on the market a few years ago they thought had a deal in place with a management company that would take the burden of the business off their hands. Unfortunately, the situation soured and the McHugh’s continue to deal with the fallout. They’ve returned to operating the course on their own, having to clean up a few “messes” in the process, and work to re-establish the goodwill they created in more than four decades of operating the modest club.
In the midst of this Ron suffered a heart attack, a medical scare he admits was difficult emotionally.
Undaunted by all the issues, McHugh is back doing what he can to help the club thrive.
It’s a familiar position for him. Forty-five years ago he was doing much the same to launch the golf course in the first place.
McHugh, a native of the Montreal area, was a staple in the landscape business back then, and brought his abilities to the golf industry with the construction of the original nine holes at the Petawawa Golf Club. He furthered his golf interest working alongside brother-in-law John Green who was then the pro at the PineView Golf Club in Ottawa.
It was Green who led Ron to the property that would become Bearbrook.
McHugh’s first reaction was “Where is Navan?” only he admits his language when posing the question might have been a little more colourful.
Soon the two were traipsing the land and realizing its potential with subtle hills, dense stands of trees, and the occasional intervention of water. A deal for $34,000 was struck (including a house) for the 300 acres and the story of Bearbrook truly began.
It took several years for McHugh to get the first nine of the golf course open, at the same time he was also developing subdivision lots to provide a more immediate return on the investment. The first lot sale was a welcome one and before long he bought out his three partners in the venture.
It was a lot of work but McHugh always had something in mind. “I was building something I could leave for my family,” he relates as we lean on his truck on a cool Fall day and watch golfers roll by. Many stop to say hello with the intimacy of a close friend; hands-on involvement has connected all the members of the McHugh family to their guests.
When it comes to the golf course itself, Ron does put on any airs. “It’s a good layout; it’s all most golfers really need,” he remarks as we look down the straight-away 5th hole.
At 6024 yard from the longest of the three tee decks you won’t find a Canadian Open playing out at Bearbrook anytime soon but for many golfers is suits their needs quite well.
“For the price you can’t beat it,” a passing golfer tells me when I query his thoughts.
With reasonable pricing and a location close to many in the east end of the National Capital it is a fair assertion.
When compared to more elaborate designs some critics have dismissed the course as being overly simple but McHugh puts the notion aside. Admittedly he is biased but when you give the layout a closer look you recognize it’s attraction.
The layout alters between open areas and more feature filled settings . Subtle elevation changes enhance several holes and features like the crowned green on the tenth hole test your short game prowess. Par fours run from a driveable yardage of 275 yards all the way to 400 yards, ensuring that most clubs in your bag will gets some use during a round.
The front nine is the shorter of the two but sports great bookends in the form of a 530-yard, par 5 opened and a brute of a par three to close at 216 yards.
The final nine provides plenty of scoring opportunities and some aesthetic touches with many willow trees dotting the property and providing inspiration for the name of the main road of the subdivision, Whispering Willow Drive.
In the last few years the clubhouse interior was renovated and redecorated, now providing a comfortable setting for daily guests and tournament play.
There is nothing fancy about Bearbrook but it’s simplicity has been a part of the reason for its success.
McHugh admits they have struggled of late with the condition of the greens unlike they ever have but is relieved that they seem to be on top of the situation and a sense of normally is slowly returning.
In the meantime they are still entertaining buyers, with several parties showing real interest. It’s just time for the family to move forward.
McHugh says any deal will be for the 170 acres that the golf course occupies, an extra 88 acres they added and where they laid out 11 holes that never officially opened will likely remain with son Todd, who spent years as the greens keeper at the club.
A future sale may take the names of the McHugh family off the deed to the BearBrook Golf Club but after forty-five years it will always be a legacy to the efforts of Ron, wife Bev, and children Todd and Carol.
Tees / Yardage
Blue / 6024
White / 5679
Red / 5080
Average Hole Lengths (Blue Tees)
Par 3’s – 159 yards
Par 4’s – 343 yards
Par 5’s – 489 yards
Bearbrook Golf Club
4725 Whispering Willow Drive
Navan, Ontario, K4B 1J1