I have written about Tarandowah before, but I never seem to get any photos. I had the opportunity to play it again a couple of weekend ago while home in St.Thomas visiting family and I made sure to snap a few photos of the course.
I remember a number of years ago, before I had moved away from home. I was working at Lake Whittaker Conservation Area as a security guard over night. It was a decent job, made even better by the fact that I could play golf every day before heading into work. Today, the conservation area is a stones throw from Tarandowah Golfers Club (both are in Avon, ON which is as big as it sounds), in the summer of 1999 and 2000 it was merely a driving range and an idea. They had a sign, they even had a website. Most people thought they had gotten a little ahead of themselves and that it would likely turn out to be nothing but a driving range. I hit balls there probably 3 times a week and talked with the kid working, always the same kid (I believe he was the son of the original owner of the land).
That was my last summer in the area. I moved away, didn’t play much golf for a few years and didn’t give much thought to the idea of a golf course that I was never sure if I was pronouncing the name correctly.
The course opened in 2007 (or 2008?) and I had my first crack at it the next summer. Right from the first tee I was sold. It is an inland links course with very few trees in play, punishing fescue, lots of bunkers and tricky greens. Its not an easy course, a par 70 playing between 5,896 and 7,067 yards, rated between 68.6 and 74.5 with a slope between 122 and 137. I have played it from the Blues and the Whites. Par 70 at 6,602 yards is a little long for me, so I enjoy the Whites better at 6,203.
I had a busy weekend home and had to get on the road late morning on the Monday as I was heading up to see my brother at Taboo Golf Resort and Spa (another round of golf, blog coming). As such, I showed up to Tarandowah at dawn, but was surprised that the club house didn’t open until 6:30, about 30min after dawn. At my home course in Ottawa they are lined up on the first tee waiting for the first sign of light (around 5:30 these days). Needless to say, I was first on the course at 6:30, just as the sun was visible over the horizon.
I played the first 5 holes, not overly well, pretty quickly, but when I got to the 6th tee I noticed some fog rolling in. I hit my tee shot nothing thinking too much about it, but when I got to my ball I realized I couldn’t see more than 20 feet in any direction. I was in a little bit of a pickle, if I waited the fog out, I might not finish my round in time to get on the road for Taboo, if I played, it was less likely to feel like a round of golf and more like a game of marco polo, without the “polo”. If I had know the course better it would have hit no problem. In the end I decided I would rather keep going in the fog, then not get my round in. It was an interesting couple of holes, but I am happy to say I didn’t loose a ball, and played holes 6 – 9 1 over, without ever really seeing a shot until the 9th.
The fog cleared on 10 and I was back in business. The front 9 requires accuracy, a narrow fairway on 1, fairway bunkers on 2, protected green on 3, hazard on 4, fairway bunker on 6, dogleg left on 8 all present difficult tee shots. The only holes you need to bomb it are 5 (403 uphill) and 9 (par 5). If you can avoid the fescue and bunkers on the front you can score well.
Where the front 9 demands accuracy above distance, the back 9 demands controlled length off the tee. The 10th is a tricky hole, not long, but a tree sits down the left side of the fairway. The ideal shot is a draw around the tree, or possible a high cut over the tree. I simply pushed it right into the fescue. The 11th is a 434 yard par 4 (from the whites!) that us protected in front by bunkers. Tee shot needs to be far enough that you can hit an iron into the green as the front is well protected by bunkers, eliminating the option of rolling a fairway wood on. The 12th is a par 3 over water, the 13th has more bunkers then I have ever seen on a golf hole, it looks like a battle field. The 14th is a birdable par 5, but 15 is a tough par 3. 16 is long uphill par 4, 17 is a long dog leg left with a hazard stretching across the fairway in a lot of peoples landing zone, need to decide to go for it or lay up off the tee. The 18th is a long par 4 (423 from the whites). Fairway bunkers are in landing zones, and green is protected with bunkers so again you need to get your drive out far enough to hit green as opposed to rolling one on.
I was puttering around pretty well for the day (not great, but ok) and with a birdie on 15 (chip in!) I was feeling pretty good. I then managed to play the last 3 holes 4 over and shot 80.
I finished up my round, picked up Mary and headed to Muskoka for 24 hours at Taboo golf resort and spa.
See you at the turn,