Early start for Oakville renovation


Early start for Oakville renovation
Sean Dudley

Remarkable March weather in Canada has permitted an early start on a major bunker renovation project at the Oakville Golf Club near Toronto.

Founded in 1921, Oakville’s nine hole course was originally designed by Canadian golf Hall of Famer George Cumming, a Scottish immigrant who served as golf professional at Toronto Golf Club for half a century until his death in 1950. Cumming was a pioneer golf course designer in Canada. For a time during the early 1920s, when he designed the Oakville course, Cumming was in partnership with legendary Canadian golf architect Stanley Thompson and his eldest brother, Nicol Thompson, designing and building golf courses throughout Ontario. 

Oakville commissioned architect Jeff Mingay to create a long-range plan for golf course improvement in 2009. Late last year, members approved a comprehensive bunker renovation project. With fantastic summer-like weather in the Toronto area, implementation of Mingay’s  bunker plan began in early March. Contractor Evans Golf is handling the construction work. The project is scheduled to be complete by 1 June. 

“Oakville’s a neat project,” said Mingay. “The bones of Cumming’s original layout, a nice routing over a relative interesting property, bisected by a meandering stream, is basically intact. But many changes have been made to the course over the years. Principally, the aim of this bunker project is a restore design continuity throughout the course. But, at the same time, we’re also using this opportunity to revise bunker schemes at all of the holes, to put some teeth into the course.”  

While the project is not aiming to restore Cumming’s original design, Mingay intends to draw inspiration from the course’s heritage and what he calls an “early 1920s style of architecture” in developing an appropriate and distinctive bunker style at Oakville. 

“I have relatively simple, somewhat geometric shapes in mind for the bunkers,” Mingay said. “In general, I think they’re going feature mostly grass faces, with some movement, and flatter sand bottoms. But we’re certainly not going to limit our creativity in the field with any definite rules. The bunker style will develop as the shaping work progresses, as usual.”   

Mingay’s plan also includes elimination of eleven existing bunkers from the course. “I more often than not come across older courses that feature too many bunkers, bunkers that serve no strategic or other purpose” he said. “Oakville’s no exception. So, we’re going to reduce the total number of bunkers from 40 to 29, without compromising playability and challenge, or the overall look and feel of the course. This is an exciting aspect of this project, minimising construction costs and, in the long run, saving on maintenance expense as well.” 

A number of bunkers planned to be removed will be replaced with what Mingay described as ‘old fashion mound features’.

“Back in the early 1920s, many of my favourite golf course designers and builders didn’t waste a lot of time hauling away material excavated for bunkers and other features,” he said. “Instead, they economised construction by using spoils nearby, to create quirky mounds and other features distinctive of that particular era that really give some of the best courses from the 1920s a very unique, old fashioned look, and present some equally unique, and interesting scenarios and shot-making requirements.”