Since the Fall of 2015, the Royal Ottawa Golf Club in Gatineau, Quebec has seen extensive changes to its championship golf course and its Royal Nine with the vision put forward by Golf Course Architect Neil Haworth and his firm of Nelson & Haworth Golf Course Architects, Nelson & Haworth (HK) Ltd and approved by the Royal Ottawa Board of Directors and membership through town hall meetings.
The goals set forth by the Royal Ottawa for these renovations were (a) to improve the golf club for the members by recreating the tradition of the course while making it more playable for the membership; (b) to improve the practice facilities and (c) to improve the playability of the opening holes.
A brief review of the changes made to the Royal Ottawa Championship Course include on #1 (St Andrews) moving the regular tee forward and shaping the tee shot away from the tree line along the Aylmer Road; closing the old green and moving it back seventy yards keeping the same green concept envisioned by Tom Bendelow and tweaked by Willie Park Jr with no bunkers, a fall off on the left and keeping a little plateau with more of a fall off. The par 3, 2nd-hole (Uphill) was eliminated as errant tee shots were dangerous for players teeing off on the third hole. The old #3-hole (Woodside) became the 2nd-hole with its maximum length lengthened by twenty-six yards with the back tee complex moved back to the vicinity of the old 2nd green. A new par 3-hole (Northern Pines) was built and put into play with pine trees and a sugar maple framing the green setting. The 4th hole (Laurentian) was changed by moving the tees to make the hole play in a straighter line with the par changing from a five to a four. Tees on the 5th-hole (Summit) were pushed back into the tree line, changing the par on the hole from a four to a five.
Work then began on the Royal Nine to add two more holes so that holes 2 and 3 could be closed and work begun on a new and enlarged practice range, followed by a short game area.
On July 26, 2019, new holes 4 (Old Glenlea) and 5 (Keffer’s Corner) were opened on the Royal Nine with a members’ shotgun tournament. Club President George Smith in his report in “The View from the Verandah” summer membership newsletter stated, “The new holes have been enjoyed by Members since then with positive reviews regarding their beauty and challenge.”
Old holes 2 and 3 on the Royal Nine were then closed to allow for construction of the new driving range facility which subsequently opened in August of 2020. The old range was then closed, allowing for the construction of the Royal Ottawa’s new short game area due to be opened in 2021.
THE NEW ROYAL OTTAWA PRACTICE RANGE (Now Open)
Features of the new practice range include a new practice putting green close to the Royal Nine first tee, a huge grass tee of about 40,000 square feet, as well as 30 hitting mats, a grass teaching tee located at the far end of the range, and a first in Canada is the entire range being serviced by Trackman Range radat. In addition, a new building was built to handle two hitting bays for lessons and club fitting. The distance from the hitting mats to the end of the range measures about 400 yards.
Royal Ottawa Assistant Golf Professional Marc Rouse explained the Trackman Range concept.
“Trackman Range is its own entity and it covers our entire hitting bays and tee decks. Members can download an app to their phones and this app will know where they are hitting shots from whether from mats or grass and provides them with eight data files within parameters that Trackman Range measures. These data points include ball speed, launch angle, launch direction, height, carry, total, side, and from pin. So those eight measurements are provided and our members can see their tracer lines on the app through their phone.
They can play games such as Hit It, Long Drive, Bulls-Eye, and Capture the flag and Trackman is constantly doing updates and they will be adding features which I am to understand will have a virtual golf component to that so you’ll be able to play St Andrews from the range. It’s all pretty cool.“
Monitors and projectors are being set up and computers are ready to go in the new practice range building and, after a short test period, will be ready for use by the Royal Ottawa Professional Team year round.
THE ROYAL OTTAWA’S NEW MULTI-PURPOSE SHORT GAME PRACTICE AREA
Golf Course Architect Neil Haworth and Royal Ottawa Golf Course Superintendent / Project Manager Mike Van Sickle as well as Royal Ottawa Assistant Superintendent Mike Menkhorst walked Flagstick Golf Magazine through the concept of the short game practice area and the work being carried out by Dan Lacroix and his construction crew from Orleans, Ontario.
The Chipping Green and surrounds will replicate conditions found throughout the golf course, simulating lies from in front of green #4, behind green #11, back of green #10 and short of green #1. Approaches to greens #5 and #8 on the Royal Nine will also be replicated. Various short game shots from just a few yards to over 100 feet away can be practiced at the Chipping Green.
The Bunker Green will allow players to practice bunker shots from shallow, medium and deep bunkers, replicating the bunker shots required on Holes #11, #16 and #10 respectively. New bunker sand will also be installed in all bunkers to match the Main Course bunker upgrades. Practice in these bunkers will also assist Royal Ottawa golfers when they play games of golf away from their home course.
The Pitching Green will be set up for members to practice approach shots from 20 to 50 yards out. Members can improve their pitches over bunkers, and from the rough and semi-rough as well as from uneven lies in the fairway. The green surfaces will be slightly raised in front, replicating the fairway approaches of Greens #13 and #17, for example.
The two Target Greens will allow golfers to practice wedge shots from 50 to 100 yards in length as well as long bunker shots from the Bunker Green greenside bunker. In contrast to the driving range tee, the Target Green fairway will be undulating so members can practice downhill, uphill, and side hill shots, similar to fairway approach shots found throughout the Main and Royal Nine courses at the Royal Ottawa Golf Club.
Given the early mandate by the Board of Directors of the Royal Ottawa Golf Club and its Membership that the Practice Range and the Short Game Practice Area should be world class, it is evident that Neil Haworth, Mike Van Sickle and Mike Menkhorst have paid attention. Construction has gone smoothly, materials have appeared on time, the weather has been good to allow for favorable growth of grass, and the wet weather in 2020 has not overly affected work on the Short Game Practice Area. It is on target to open in the summer of 2021.
Flagstick talked to Paul Carrothers, Director of Golf at the Royal Ottawa Golf Club, about the improvements made over the past five, going on six years.
“I think the interest in what Trackman Range has provided even in the short term since we opened during the first part of October has everybody’s curiosity peaked to see how it works and operates. The interest in the new technology is absolutely growing. The COVID situation has helped golf in its resurgence and it’s the only game in town. The traffic at this time of year far exceeds anything we’ve had in the past.”
Flagstick asked if after almost six years of changes, is there a thought to slow down?
“We don’t seem to stop improving the course and making changes. Any future changes will be in consultation with Neil Haworth and our members in conjunction with our long range plan. It’s important to have our members enjoy what we’ve put forward for them.“
The almost 1200 members of the Royal Ottawa Golf Club should be proud of the work that has been accomplished over the past few years and also look forward to the opening of their Short Game Practice Area.
I’m sure that at times members have been frustrated and inconvenienced by work in progress but in the end they will be able to appreciate their world class facilities.
I’m also sure that the founders of this third location for the Ottawa Golf Club (Royal status in 1912) in 1903 could not have envisioned the recent changes made to the property they purchased. I might add that the extra property that they later purchased to allow for the playing of polo, which never happened, has now been transformed into a wonderful Royal Nine course, as well as a state of the art practice area and the upcoming world-class short game practice area.