Oshawa Golf Club
Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
Architect: Stanley Thompson (1929)
6,596 Yards, Par-72
My Quick Review: An excellent lesser-known in Toronto; the strategic design could come alive with selective tree removal
Golf has been played at Oshawa Golf Club's current site since 1911, and the course as it lay today is credited to Stanley Thompson. Though Toronto golf is noted for its handful of world top-100 candidates, I have long argued that the depth of quality golf around Toronto is what makes Toronto such a great golf city. Though most of these courses are private, golfers that have the opportunity to play Toronto's lesser-knowns, courses like The Summit, Thornhill, Weston and Oshawa, will be surprised and impressed.
At Oshawa, Thompson has embraced the rolling terrain to create a quirky and strategic golf course with a generally tight routing. Diagonal ridges are used to tremendous effect at the 2nd and 10th making those standout holes not only on this golf course, but in the entire province. Greensites have been cleverly selected, many of which are nestled into the side of hills or atop small plateaus. I am not sure the evolution of the golf course since its early years, though it is clear that trees now impede lines of play. In some cases I suspect tees have been added in search of additional length but at the expense of a cohesive routing -- Thompson was never uncomfortable asking the golfer to walk a distance from green to tee, but in several places short walks are bypassed in favor of more dramatic (and longer) tee positions.
The first is an excellent opener. At about 350 yards and with the fairway narrowing around the 150 yard marker, many will choose to take less than driver from the tee. Line is more important than distance here. Play to the right and the approach will be very awkward, blind over a ridge to a green angled to receive shots from the left.
The second is a great hole, and like the opener at Owen Sound CC, shows Thompson's mastery in integrating diagonal ridges to affect strategy. Play to the right, away from the stream and where the carry over the ridge is shortest, and the angle of approach is considerably more difficult. But take the bold line to the left, and if successful, the reward is a short approach to a welcoming green.
The 3rd is a wedge par-3 over broken ground to a wide and shallow green. Noting the location of the back-left bunker, one is left to wonder whether a large amount of putting surface has been lost (a question I asked throughout the round).
The 4th through the 8th are played over flatter land. The 4th is a long par-5 that bends left and features a green set just over a dip in the fairway, reminiscent of the 1st at Thompson's Highlands Links in Nova Scotia. A severe green and treacherous greenside bunkering and significant interest to an otherwise dull hole.
A 230-yard+ par-3 is the norm on Thompson's courses. The examples are everywhere -- 12 at Highlands Links, 3 at Cedarhurst, 2 at Burlington -- and this is a cracker of a par-3. An open green front and severely back-to-front green were no doubt designed to accept running approaches.
The 6th, a long par-4, and the 7th, a short par-5, run in the same direction and are two holes negatively impacted by trees encroaching on play.
The 8th returns the golfer to the rolling terrain. The tee shot is played from a high point to a fairway in a valley.
The 9th is a tremendous short par-4, where most tee shots will be played into a valley leaving a blind approach. Golfers must resist the temptation to play down the right as tilted land lay ready to kick balls into the right rough. Bold golfers may choose to hit driver into a neck of fairway leaving a clear view of this tiny, very sloped and well-protected green.
I was told before I played Oshawa that I would enjoy the potentially drivable par-4 10th -- that gentleman was right, I have nothing but praise for this short hole. Fairway bunkers meld with greenside bunkering to give a foreshortening effect, tempting golfers to bite-off more than they can carry. Even golfers who decide to lay-up to the left must fight the Line of Instinct as a diagonal ridge will kick balls to the right that are just slightly off line. That being said, those who successfully play on the bold line are left with a simple pitch that need not be played over the greenside bunker.
Another long par-5 where the primary interest is near the green. A greensite atop a plateau, guarded by a false-front that will catch any ball landing on the front 1/4 of the green.
The 12th is a pretty and difficult par-3 played over a stream to a diagonal green with a surprising amount of contour.
The 13th is the most offensive walk-back as the golfer is asked not to play the tee steps from the 12th green, but to walk up a hill some 70 yards to play a more scenic tee. Like the 8th, the 13th tee shot is played downhill before ascending to the green on the approach.
The 14th is an awkward par-4 with anti-strategic fairway bunkering and a forced lay-up tee shot. The approach is all-carry over a valley and a false-front to the largest green on the course.
Another walk-back at the 15th, this one adding some 70 yards. The original (?) tee requires a tee shot played to a diagonal fairway but the current back tee converts the hole into a straightaway one. Bunkering here is simple and strategic and a narrowing of the fairway near the 150 yard marker is cause for decision-making on the second shot. A two-tiered green surrounded by bunkers is an excellent cap to a strong hole.
The 16th is another potential standout hole, though tree issues make it a controversial hole. A spectacular green site, a mirror of the excellent 15th at Westmount, loses some of its interest because the strategic nature of the hole has been lost.
The 17th is especially driveable at well under 300 yards on a straight line, though trees block the view of the green and limit the temptation.
One final walk-back before playing the demanding par-3 18th. The green site set into the bottom of a hill could be mistaken for Crystal Downs' 3rd green site. The contouring on 18 is significant though more manufactured in feel than most of the greens at Oshawa. I understand some changes have been made to the fairway cut / bunker short of the 18th green that have created a level of controversy; I didn't notice anything offensive.
As aways, comments are appreciated!