The strongest critic of golf architect Dr. Michael Hurdzan is likely the man he sees when he looks in a mirror. That seems to be the way for many of the world’s best golf course creators and the Ohio resident is no different. He will tell you himself that is work is never “perfect”. But it’s pretty darn good.
The former Air Force Colonel was on hand at the Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club May 11th, ostensibly to receive an honorary membership to one of the finest clubs in Canada’s capital, but it was easy to see where his attention really was.
As his fellow honourees on the day, LPGA star Brooke Henderson and her Symetra Tour member sister (and current caddie), Brittany, played the South and West courses with some lucky members, Hurdzan walked along, but without clubs. A pencil and a scorecard were his tools of the day. He could be spotted furiously making notes on the golf courses he has completely revamped over the last few years.
Massively renovated green complexes, an expansive new practice facility and even an entirely new hole on the West course encompassed the balance of Hurdzan’s work at the club.
He liked what we saw as the course has emerged from a mild winter in impeccable condition and the scars of renovation are healing quickly. It’s a perfect scenario with hosting duties for the 2017 CP Canadian Women’s Open just over horizon for the club.
“It’s one of those things where internally, in your heart and your mind, you know you’re right, but it’s always nice to have somebody confirm that you’re right,” he shared. “So for me to come back and get such a great reception by the members, because this is a member’s course, and now to see two top-ranked players be able to play it and me to be able to see how they play it is even better.”
As for the design itself, the man who is among the most honoured in his field was honest in his assessment on this day. “There’s probably about 90% experience, wisdom, education and training and then there is about 10% guess so I am trying to see how much a percentage of my guess is right. So far about 8 of that 10% I’m spot on and there is a couple little things that we need to take care of. We just need to let it play and see how it works.”
As he made the statement, Hurdzan pointed to a small bunker and mentioned that it might need an adjustment in width to make it more playable.
Vision and experience in design is one thing but the translation from paper to real life use if important to the man who counts work on more than 400 golf courses worldwide on his resume.
“It’s real important for me to come back and to see people play it,” says Hurdzan who is a historian of the game, a nice attribute for a designer to have at a place like the Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club where the original layout was created in 1920.
That’s the big thing,” he says as we watch the #5 ranked player in the world, Brooke Henderson, stripe another tee shot, “to have players who can really play the golf course as it was intended and to see how they play it and what their reaction is.”
The answer was pretty positive as it drew comparisons by the Henderson’s to some other very strong layouts played on the LPGA TOUR.
“It’s a great golf course. We really fortunate to be able to come out here now,” noted new member Brittany Henderson, the elder of the sisters. Putting on her caddie hat and with a look ahead to next year’s LPGA event she added. “I think it will be a really good test. I think they probably can really make this firm and fast. It sort of reminded me in a way to Lake Merced (host course of the LPGA Swinging Skirts) and that’s one of Brooke’s favourite courses on tour.”
Modern golfer aside, there is one more person Dr. Hurdzan had in mind as he returned to the 225-acre Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club property, the man who shaped the course in 1920. That was two-time Open Championship winner, Willie Park, Jr.
“I think Willie Park would be happy. Honestly, I do. I honestly think the man would be happy. He was a bright guy and we didn’t ignore that at all when we did this. We tried to be respectful of him. I think we succeeded.”
/ Scott MacLeod @Flagstick