Set out on the glacial moraine landscape to the north of Toronto, the course at Goodwood Golf Club is a new millennium layout that was conceived by the late Canadian entrepreneur Gordon Stollery as a private golfing retreat where he could entertain business associates and the like.
Donald Steel’s design company – which made its North American debut at the end of the 1990s in Port Stanley with the Redtail course – was tasked with routing the eighteen holes around an expansive property and it would take until 2007 before lead architect Martin Ebert, working by then with his own company, completed the project.
Little earth was moved during construction and many of the greens are located in natural, lie of the land sites, with a premium placed on approach shots finding the right part of the generally large and contoured putting surfaces. Bunkers have been used sparingly around the property, as might be expected at a venue where the pursuit of golfing pleasure is an underlying theme.
There’s an eclectic mix of long par fours and short par fours on the course, while the par threes are all stout one-shotters – playing in the 185-yard to 210-yard range – with the best kept ‘til last at the 17th, where a heroic, do-or-die tee shot is called for across a small valley to a narrow target.
We hear that Mackenzie & Ebert are still involved in making minor course alterations at Goodwood and there are plans in hand to build an enormous Himalayas putting green and a short game putting surface shaped like the Road Hole green on the Old course at St Andrews.
Gordon Stollery was a character of legend in Canada. His father Arthur was a successful businessman and was a mining entrepreneur who also raised cattle, horses, and developed the famous Angus Glen GC.
When his father died Gordon and his sister took over the mantle and continued to build Angus Glen, sell housing, and ran a couple of Canadian Opens there.
Gordon also developed his own oil company, and another golf course that was never officially named or opened.
Gordon was one of Canada’s top businessmen, a four time club champion, and a member of the R & A, so his death at age 64 while scuba diving was keenly felt.
He never did live to see his vision through at Goodwood GC, which is so named now simply because it was referred to as the golf course at Goodwood for so long.
Stollery bequeathed the course to his 7 daughters, but it was never quite finished, and the daughters haven’t quite worked out what to do with it yet…
The makeshift clubhouse is fine for a few people, and that’s all they have to cater for, because this is a very private course with few members. Stollery had plans including a 3rd nine holes, but everything went on hold when he passed.
Goodwood Golf Course as it is now known opened in 2007, and was designed by Martin Ebert.
Ebert worked as lead architect for Donald Steel, but when Steel retired Ebert undertook the work at Goodwoood in his own name.
In recent years Ebert has come to fame as ‘The Open Doctor’, renovating Open Championship courses for the R & A. His most recent work at Turnberry is nothing short of stunning. His green settings appear to be very natural.
It looks like a nice course to walk, but does move through a rolling landscape, and the distance between some greens and tees means that most players ride a cart…
When we played the course was in immaculate condition, and looked a treat- with long straw coloured rough waving in the wind, and ribbons of green fairways twisting through the landscape.
Goodwood has a reputation that precedes it, and as a very private course I expected the fairways to be tighter- in fact the landing areas were quite generous, and with those green fairways heading off in different directions into the straw, it reminded me a little of Shinnecock Hills as far as the look and feel is concerned, particularly in the front nine.
That front nine was quality without ever getting me excited, as the very top courses would do.
The back nine offered more variety, more elevation change and stepped it up to the stage I thought it was seriously good.
Notable holes include:
- the short dogleg par 4 second hole
- the par 3 sixth hole
- the downhill par 4 tenth hole, with tree framing the tee shot, and left to right contoured green with water in play long and right
- the shorter par 4 eleventh hole with gully fronting the green
- the gorgeous downhill par 3 thirteenth set in a dell
- the epic uphill par 3 seventeenth hole
- the long twisting par 5 closing hole
Goodwood GC is a seriously good course. But with Gordon Stollery gone, Goodwood is a little confused as to it’s identity. It is not really a member’s course, and the public cannot gain access.
Stollery’s 7 daughters will eventually take advice, and work through all the issues that face them in finalising a plan for the future of Goodwood. It will be interesting to see if they decide to invest further in the site, and create a members course, and perhaps build the additional nine holes, a clubhouse etc.
They have an asset that is a seriously good golf course, and rates as one of the better courses in Canada. But it has potential for more…