Early Look – Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club West Course Re-Design

Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club - Renovated range (Photo: Joe McLean)
Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club – Renovated range (Photo: Joe McLean)

– by Joe McLean

Staff from Flagstick Golf Magazine had the pleasure of accompanying Dr. Michael Hurdzan, one of the world’s best golf course designers, on a site inspection of his work on the West Course at the Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club on Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013.

Dr. Hurdzan is the fourth golf course designer to actually work on the Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club property. In 1919, Rivermead Golf Club golf professional Davey Black assisted the then Ottawa Hunt and Motor Club and its membership in opening their first nine-hole course. Willie Park Jr., in 1920, was called upon to build an 18-hole course. His basic design is still in play today, having stood the test of time and golf. Willie Park Jr. Was one of the leading golf course architects in the world at the time. Canadian golf course architect Thomas McBroom was awarded the contract in 1990 for a major course renovation.

Construction on the West Course began early in July of 2013 and will hopefully be ready for play in July of 2014 when work will begin on the South Course. During the course of the inspection tour with Dr. Hurdzan, Ottawa Hunt superintendent Eric Ruhs and Club Professional Brad Smith, the changes to the West Course were evident.

Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club, new par 3, 4th Hole on West Course. (Photo: Joe McLean)
Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club, new par 3, 4th Hole on West Course. (Photo: Joe McLean)

In the vicinity of what was the fifth green, a new driving range with target greens is in place. “The target greens are in place for precision practice and warm-up sessions,” said Dr. Hurdzan who believes that better practice techniques leads to better play. Part of the reason for the change was the safety issue from balls on the old range periodically finding their way over the safety nets onto Hunt Club Road and the first fairway. More importantly to golfers, full length balls can be used on the new 300 yard range. Also kept in play are the original 5th hole tees that can be utilized by the teaching professionals for private lessons. By the time the West Nine opens for play in 2014, a short game practice area to the left of the new range will also be in play.

For those familiar with the West Course at the Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club, let’s go through some of the changes to the course.

The first hole is still a par five with the tees moved next to the property line on the South end of the property aiming golfers away from Hunt Club Road to a similar landing area to the former first hole. The green has also been moved to the right of its previous location. Golfers will notice the subtleties on the new greens for they look fairly flat from a distance. But rest assured there are plenty of undulations that will be a cause for concern for players.

Speaking of the new greens now in place, Dr. Hurdzan indicated that there will be the opportunity for more hole locations on each of his new greens averaging 5600 to 5700 square feet. In fact, a topographical study of the greens shows that the new greens will have the capacity for an average of 14 pin locations compared to 4-5 on the old greens. The new greens are also framed by strategically placed bunkers in most cases.

A new white tee is in place on the second hole and the new green has been moved 45 yards back and to the right. The site lines on the third hole have been changed and it appears that the new bunker in play will cause some consternation. Speaking of the new bunker, ask superintendent Eric Ruhs what he thinks a name for the bunker should be. The green is less elevated than its predecessor but the putting surface will still give players fits.

Where the brush was located between the old 3rd and 4th holes, golfers will find a new fourth hole which may become the signature hole on the West Nine. Elevated tees measuring up to 160 yards look down on a new green protected by a massive new pond. With this par three hole in place, the par on the West Nine has been reduced to 35 with three par-3 holes in place. The teeing areas for the new fifth hole are located in the vicinity of the old fourth green and the new hole plays back towards the old fourth tees. Also missing is the ridge that required the use of bells to signal play off the old tees. Be careful off the new tees as the new pond on 4 is also in play.

Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club, new 8th West green (photo: Joe McLean)
Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club, new 8th West green (photo: Joe McLean)

The teeing areas on the sixth hole have been lowered and expanded giving a similar look to the old hole with the green moved to the left and a few of the old bunkers removed making the hole less penal. The greens on holes 7-9 have also been moved. The biggest change is on the 8th hole where the green has been moved closer to the tee. The 9th green is in approximately the same location but the mounding around the green has been leveled giving a better view of play on the hole from the clubhouse.

It’s tough to go through all the changes made to the West Nine (it’s dramatic), but rest assured that members and their guest should enjoy this first step in the 36-hole renovations to the original Willie Park Jr. golf course at the Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club. When completed there will be 14 new teeing areas on the West and South Nines and will measure over 7,000 yards from the back tees.

“The course will never play the same from day to day,” says Dr. Hurdzan. “The variety of available pin locations will give a new look each time members play the course.”

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