The Bob Cupp-designed Beacon Hall Golf Club has been revered since it opened north of Toronto in 1988.
While its history may not be as lengthy as other Canadian clubs at a comparable scale, the richness of its tenure and respect for its layout is never in doubt. It is constantly rated among the top courses in Canada by various publications.
The Aurora, Ontario club will take another step in the annals of Canadian golf legend later this year when it becomes the site of a United States Open Championship local qualifier, the first held north of the border.
On May 8th, 78 players will test themselves against one of the finest layouts in Canada. They are trying to take the first step towards playing in the 117th United States Open Championship on June 15-18 at Erin Hills in Wisconsin.
The tumbling former Beverly Farm property that Beacon Hall is built on once hosted horse shows and hunt events. It will serve as a good primer for those who ultimately earn their way to the major championship. The course features a forested front nine but the back nine is a more open and rambling affair, much like that found at the 2017 U.S. Open venue.
Open Arms From The Members
Welcoming them to the 7,001 yard layout north of Toronto will be an enthusiastic membership, as well as a staff led by General Manager Mike Ridout.
Ridout shared with us just what it means for their club to mark this occasion.
“Not only is it Canada’s first U.S. Open Local Qualifying event, for Beacon Hall it is an event that we are really excited to be hosting as well,” Ridout related from Vancouver where he was attending the North American Golf Innovation Symposium.
Having hosted the Copa de Las Americas in 2007, a biennial amateur golf competition for countries in North, Central and South America as well as the Caribbean, the club was on the radar for the United States Golf Association. As a result, the USGA, in cooperation with Golf Ontario and Golf Canada, approached the club about this ground breaking opportunity.
“That (Copa de Las Americas) was quite successful and I think all parties were excited to return here,” Ridout reflected. “For us, we’re happy to be able to assist with offering a qualifying site. We believe in giving back to the game, and growing the game and I think this is one way to do it. At the same time it’s a great opportunity for us to showcase Beacon Hall to a fine level of player.”
Course Setup Plans
As they look toward the hosting date Ridout says there is not a tremendous number of things they will do differently to prepare their course. “That time of year is challenging for most courses in Ontario. The course is just waking up. What’s most important to us is to ensure the course has wintered well and we’re just going to set the course up as we normally would. We’ll obviously be looking to have the players play as far back, for the most part. As far as the greens, for that time of year, we just want them to be as consistent and as quick as we can, and make them fair.”
Working with the governing bodies on setup, Ridout says there are some thing they can do differently in year’s past because of recent course work. “We may have a little fun. There are some opportunities out there.”
He points to hole #6, for example. The sharp dogleg left is just 367 yards but the heavy growth of trees down the left side of the hole has been pared back heavily. Ridout hints that it might be made into a reachable par four for the qualifier. “With today’s player it definitely leaves an option and we really like the opportunity from a risk/reward standpoint,” he notes.
“Other than that, at such an early time of year we just want the golf course set up so that it is consistent, and true throughout.”
While many members at a private club might look at an event like this as an intrusion, Ridout says that is far from the case for theirs.
“As a member club we went immediately to our golf committee when we were approached and everybody was completely on board. Everyone was really excited for the one day qualifying event. It worked out very well for our calendar but I think for us, and the entire board and our committees, and senior team and staff, we’re just really delighted to be hosting.”
Still in the early stages of planning with Golf Canada, they are working on their volunteer needs and other logistics but Ridout says they are already fielding questions from members and the public alike. “We still don’t know our full needs, we’re working with Golf Canada on that, but we are already populating a list of people of those would like to get involved for things like scoring, caddying, etc.”
One thing Ridout and the USGA will not need to worry about? Players.
Registration for the 78 player field began on March 8, closes on April 26th, and it is expected that the spots for Beacon Hall Golf Club local qualifying will be gone long before then.
Last year, the USGA accepted 9,877 entries for the U.S. Open at Oakmont. The record is 10,127, in 2014 for the U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.