Matt Bosela

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I was a bit surprised after doing a search that very little has been written here about Hamilton G&CC in Ancaster, Ontario, currently rated as the second best course in Canada according to ScoreGolf.

The tremendous 'In My Opinion' piece on Canada's Top Golf Courses by Ian Andrew, Ben Cowan-Dewar, Jeff Mingay and Robert Thompson (http://golfclubatlas.com/in-my-opinion/andrew-cowan-dewar-mingay-thompson-canadas-top-golf-courses) includes some intriguing commentary on Hamilton by two of the authors:

Jeff Mingay -
Harry Colt made two trips to Canada between 1911 and 1913 and set a new standard for golf architecture in our country at Toronto GC and Hamilton G&CC, respectively.  Both courses were originally modeled after Colt’s previous work at Sunningdale and Stoke Poges in the healthlands southwest of London, England – rugged, textured courses, featuring deep, grass- and heather-faced bunkers, and an airy, heath-like sensibility.  Although Hamilton has effectively been “tidied up” over the years, Colt’s original routing – the backbone of Hamilton’s genius – basically remains intact.  It’s a brilliant routing over a dramatic piece of ground featuring some significant elevation change.  Holes 3, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12, 13, 17, and 18 stand out in my mind as nine of the very best holes in Canada as they lay across the inherent terrain.  If the original “Colt aesthetic” was ever restored, Hamilton would likely vault to the top of my personal list of Canada’s very best golf courses.  Unfortunately, that’s unlikely to happen any time soon. The Royal Canadian Golf Association recently assured Hamilton G&CC that its course is “ok” by awarding the club its second Canadian Open in three years, in 2006.  In truth, Hamilton could use some work architecturally (particularly on the bunker styling and placement), which in a very strange way is a compliment.  I mean, the fact that Hamilton finished so high on our final list of Canada’s Top 25 courses, despite some comparative shortcomings is a clear testament to the remarkable character of the property and the genius of Colt’s original routing.

Ian Andrew -
H.S. Colt came up with a wonderful routing for Hamilton.  He created a course with large elevation changes and wonderful rolling fairways, all framed by large oaks and pines.  The golf course proved during the last Canadian Open which it still has the strength to test the pros, while it remains a perfect golf course for membership play.  The strength of the golf course is the par fours that traverse the major valley, with holes 3, 7, 10, 11, 12 and 18 all being standouts.  The later holes on the back nine are on less interesting land, but still provide some wonderful golf.  Hamilton would be the best course in Canada if it still had its original bunkering by Colt.

Hamilton must qualify as one of Harry Colt's better routings, with the course moving in and out of valleys on a beautiful piece of property in Ancaster, a suburb of the steel city of Hamilton just 30 minutes southwest of Toronto.

According to Hamilton's website, Colt visited Ancaster in May 1914 and the formal opening of the course was on June 1, 1916.  The club has hosted numerous international events and four Canadian Opens, with the most recent held in 2006 and won by Jim Furyk.  The course was a favourite of the players and the success of the Opens there in 2003 and 2006 and at other clubs like Royal Montreal and Shaughnessy in British Columbia prompted the RCGA (now Golf Canada) to decide to move the Open around the entire country to its top courses as opposed to just hosting it at Glen Abbey in Oakville every year.

I had the tremendous privilege of playing all 27 holes at Hamilton on a cold, rainy day last week.  For the purpose of this discussion, I'll only be profiling the 18 holes that make up the Colt Course (West and South nines) and not the Robbie Robinson designed East Course which was added in the mid-1970s.

I strongly believe that this course is worthy of proper discussion - yes, it's likely one of our country's top candidates for a proper restoration/renovation but that doesn't diminish its greatness and its importance to Canadian golf.  That said, I'll be posting commentary and photos three holes at a time to generate some discussion.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2010, 10:10:05 pm by Matt Bosela »

Matt Bosela

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Re: Hamilton G&CC (Harry S. Colt), Ancaster, ON, Canada - Photo Tour
« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2010, 09:07:28 am »
Hole #1 - 404 Yards Par 4

A relatively bland opening tee shot away from the beautiful clubhouse on this dogleg left par four.  Deep bunkers protect the inside of the dogleg and can be cleared by long hitters.  However, the prudent play is to the right but balls that run through the fairway possibly will run into tree trouble.  The approach shot is longer than it appears due to some heavy swales up near the green, which is protected by bunkers left, right and long.  Not an overly difficult opener.

Tee Shot


Approach from Behind Bunkers on Left


Approach from Middle of Fairway


Behind Green Looking Back Toward Tee


Hole #2 - 442 Yards Par 4

This hole was playing into a fierce wind, making it a very long two-shotter.  The fairway is slightly crowned and there is a lot more room left than you'd think standing on the tee but of course, shots in that direction will just lengthen an already considerable approach.  Many tee shots must find the bunker that protects the inside of the slight dogleg on the right, with the pin peeking out from the other side.  The green accepts a ground approach and there are bunkers both left and right that swallow up wayward second shots.

Tee Shot


Approach Shot from Fairway


Hole #3 - 408 Yards Par 4

Standing on the elevated tee on the third hole at Hamilton is an exhilarating feeling and it's the first moment you realize that you are experiencing one of the best courses Canada has to offer.  The tee shot is daunting and the fairway looks much tighter than it actually is due to the elevation.  In reality, there is a generous landing area, with the fairway split into two levels.  The greensite is just tremendous, set well above fairway grade and into a hillside, with bunkers front right and back left and a significant false front that will send poorly hit approaches right back down the hill.  A tremendous par four.

Tee Shot


Approach Shot from Middle of Fairway


Behind Green Looking Back Toward Tee

Ronald Montesano

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Re: Hamilton G&CC (Harry S. Colt), Ancaster, ON, Canada - Photo Tour
« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2010, 09:26:18 am »
#1 doesn't look to have a bland tee ball to me...it's all about position for that second shot....who y'all got to know to get on a place like this?

David Stamm

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Re: Hamilton G&CC (Harry S. Colt), Ancaster, ON, Canada - Photo Tour
« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2010, 09:42:07 am »
Hamilton has always looked very appealing to me. Thanks for the pictures!
"The object of golf architecture is to give an intelligent purpose to the striking of a golf ball."- Max Behr

Andrew Cunningham

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Re: Hamilton G&CC (Harry S. Colt), Ancaster, ON, Canada - Photo Tour
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2010, 05:37:40 pm »
Keep it going Matt.  It's been a few years since I last played Hamilton and your pictures are a nice reminder.

Dan Moore

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Re: Hamilton G&CC (Harry S. Colt), Ancaster, ON, Canada - Photo Tour
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2010, 07:40:00 pm »
The bunkers look more like Alison than Colt bunkers.  Did Alison consult at this course later on or did the bunkers simply evolve over time as they were refurbished? 
"Is there any other game which produces in the human mind such enviable insanity."  Bernard Darwin

Matt Bosela

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Re: Hamilton G&CC (Harry S. Colt), Ancaster, ON, Canada - Photo Tour
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2010, 07:56:52 pm »
David and Andrew:
Thanks...more pictures coming later today!

Dan:
Great question - see below for some information taken from the club's written history.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2010, 10:09:22 pm by Matt Bosela »

PPallotta

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Re: Hamilton G&CC (Harry S. Colt), Ancaster, ON, Canada - Photo Tour
« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2010, 09:40:08 pm »
Thanks much, Matt.

A question - all the photos seem to be taken from the white tees. Did you get a chance to see where the back markers are? I was just trying to imagine what the pros who played the Open there were faced with, i.e. if it was the same 'line' you had on most holes, just longer; or whether the championship tees tended to be angled off to one side or another, adding a demand to work the ball more.

Thanks
Peter

Matt Bosela

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Re: Hamilton G&CC (Harry S. Colt), Ancaster, ON, Canada - Photo Tour
« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2010, 09:55:42 pm »
Thanks much, Matt.

A question - all the photos seem to be taken from the white tees. Did you get a chance to see where the back markers are? I was just trying to imagine what the pros who played the Open there were faced with, i.e. if it was the same 'line' you had on most holes, just longer; or whether the championship tees tended to be angled off to one side or another, adding a demand to work the ball more.

Thanks
Peter

Actually Peter, with the exception of the photo from the first tee, all of the photos of tee shots I'll be presenting in this review were taken from the back tees, where we played.

I used a longer lense for all the photos, giving the impression I was closer than I actually was.

Rob Rigg

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Re: Hamilton G&CC (Harry S. Colt), Ancaster, ON, Canada - Photo Tour
« Reply #9 on: May 19, 2010, 01:50:51 am »
Matt . . . more photos please!

Thanks for sharing - hope to play Hamilton one of these years.

Matt Bosela

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Re: Hamilton G&CC (Harry S. Colt), Ancaster, ON, Canada - Photo Tour
« Reply #10 on: May 19, 2010, 08:25:14 am »
Hole #4 - 535 Yards Par 5

One of only two three-shotters on the course, the 4th hole has a very deep depression area left of the fairway past the first bunker that really penalizes wayward tee shots in that direction while right is out of bounds.  The hole bends left around some fairway bunkering in the landing area of the second shot then bends back to the right toward a greensite that sits up a bit in the rear, with closely mown turf to the right to allow for different options around the green.

Tee Shot


Approach Shot


Hole #5 - 318 Yards Par 4

The shortest par four on the course and it's a beauty!  The hole plays uphill but the green can be reached by the longer hitters.  However, you'll need to challenge the very deep fairway bunkers that protect the entire right side in order to gain access to the green.  Layups are no bargain either, as you'll be faced with a semi-blind approach possibly.  The smart play is taking driver or 3 wood and going left of the green, which really opens up the second shot.  The green is quite large and the view beyond the green is quite spectacular, showing off the wonderful topography at Hamilton.

Tee Shot


Approach Shot from Hillside Left of Fairway


Approach from 50 Yards Left of Green


View Beyond Green, with 10th Fairway in Foreground and 18th Green in Background


Hole #6 - 224 Yards Par 3

The par threes at Hamilton are all extremely tough and the first one-shotter sets you up for what's to come the rest of the day.  The green is pretty much level with the tee but a huge valley needs to be crossed and the shot is all carry to the putting surface, as there is a significant drop from the front of the green down towards the beginning of the fairway.  Bunkers front both sides of the green and there is one back right for good measure.  Oh yeah, right is dead here as well.  Super tough par three.

Tee Shot
« Last Edit: May 19, 2010, 08:28:22 am by Matt Bosela »

Ian Andrew

Re: Hamilton G&CC (Harry S. Colt), Ancaster, ON, Canada - Photo Tour
« Reply #11 on: May 19, 2010, 08:52:37 am »
They were Colt bunkers - I have a few opening year photos - I'll find them and post them.
The bunkers were all redone over the years.

There are a few of the originals hidden in the trees. :)

The grassing lines were much better before the Canadian Open where they narrowed up the fairways.
Great course to play - really tough set of threes.
My favourite is not even a hole by Colt!

Sean_A

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Re: Hamilton G&CC (Harry S. Colt), Ancaster, ON, Canada - Photo Tour
« Reply #12 on: May 19, 2010, 01:07:16 pm »
They were Colt bunkers - I have a few opening year photos - I'll find them and post them.
The bunkers were all redone over the years.

There are a few of the originals hidden in the trees. :)

The grassing lines were much better before the Canadian Open where they narrowed up the fairways.
Great course to play - really tough set of threes.
My favourite is not even a hole by Colt!

Ian

Has the bunkering scheme been altered from Colt's original plan?

Ciao
Realistic Next Dozen: Roaring Gap, Orchard Lake, Moortown, Sheringham, Lindrick, Blackmoor, Welshpool,  Queenwood, Leckford, Royal Guernsey, Royal Jersey & La Moye

Matt Bosela

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Re: Hamilton G&CC (Harry S. Colt), Ancaster, ON, Canada - Photo Tour
« Reply #13 on: May 20, 2010, 12:34:17 am »
They were Colt bunkers - I have a few opening year photos - I'll find them and post them.
The bunkers were all redone over the years.

There are a few of the originals hidden in the trees. :)

The grassing lines were much better before the Canadian Open where they narrowed up the fairways.
Great course to play - really tough set of threes.
My favourite is not even a hole by Colt!

Thanks Ian - I look forward to seeing those photos!

More to come later tonight.

Matt Bosela

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Re: Hamilton G&CC (Harry S. Colt), Ancaster, ON, Canada - Photo Tour
« Reply #14 on: May 20, 2010, 08:01:48 am »
Hole #7 - 412 Yards Par 4

The 7th is another great two-shotter.  The tee shot is played from an elevated tee to a fairway that bends left around some large trees and back uphill to a green that is only partially visible from the approach area.  It's protected by bunkers left and right and there are a couple of tiers to this tricky back-to-front sloping green.

Tee Shot


View of 7th Hole from 4th Tee


Approach Shot from Middle of Fairway


View from Behind Green Looking Back Down Fairway, With 3rd Green in Background


Hole #8 - 210 Yards Par 3

Very difficult par three that looks somewhat similar to the 6th hole but plays quite differently.  The tee shot must clear a very large valley, as depicted in one of the photos below.  There's a bit of visual deception at play here, as the fairway at the top of the hill looks eerily like the putting surface and I can only imagine how many balls end up short of the green.  There is plenty of room right but shots left may be lost.  Pretty flat putting surface, relatively speaking.

Tee Shot


A Look at What You Face Should Your Tee Shot Come up Short


Hole #9 - 438 Yards Par 4

Another downhill tee shot on this dogleg left par four.  There is a lot of room right off the tee here and again, the approach shot is uphill to an angled green that is protected by bunkers front right and to the left.

Tee Shot


Approach Shot

Mike Cirba

Re: Hamilton G&CC (Harry S. Colt), Ancaster, ON, Canada - Photo Tour
« Reply #15 on: May 20, 2010, 08:05:52 am »
Matt,

Appreciate the photo tour and Hamilton looks to be built on really good land forms with well-conceived holes, but the bunkers in their current state look distracting and frankly pretty awful.

While it can be rightfully argued that bunker placement is more important than bunker form, I think that low hum I'm hearing is Mr. Colt slowly spinning.

Matt Bosela

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Re: Hamilton G&CC (Harry S. Colt), Ancaster, ON, Canada - Photo Tour
« Reply #16 on: May 20, 2010, 08:26:04 am »
Mike,

It's a pretty timely comment you make, especially considering I've been just given some new information that may shed some light on the bunkering issues at Hamilton.

This excerpt comes from 'The Illustrated History of HGCC' as written by L. King, E. McGhie and A. Thompson -

- From Chapter Four
 
"Some early changes"
 
In August 1919, after the club had successfully hosted both an international match between Canada and the United States and the Canadian Open, Morrison wrote to Colt in England, noting that the American captain had praised the course but had suggested that more bunkers were needed.  Morrison commented that, "I think it is quite likely some trapping may be required, but we are not going to have any amateur work and probably be let in for one change and another which we should like to undo.  The course will stand as it is until you can come out here."
 
Colt never revisited Ancaster but Alison, who by then was handling most of the partnership's work in North America, did visit in 1920 and gave the Club's directors a report on the course.  He paid particular attention to the bunkering and concluded that the majority of the bunkers had not "been constructed in such a way as to form real, live hazards, capable of retaining the shots which they are intended to trap."
 
Some of his proposals were adopted but abandoned years later, for example a new fairway bunker on the left, at 200 yards from the tee on the 2nd hole.  Others, for example a new bunker across the face of the bank in front of the 5th green, were never implemented.


Comments?

Sean Leary

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Re: Hamilton G&CC (Harry S. Colt), Ancaster, ON, Canada - Photo Tour
« Reply #17 on: May 20, 2010, 08:36:26 am »
Looks like some trees could be removed as well but overall it looks amazing. Sir Bob raves about this course, and it is on the top of my list to play in Canada.

Matt Bosela

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Re: Hamilton G&CC (Harry S. Colt), Ancaster, ON, Canada - Photo Tour
« Reply #18 on: May 21, 2010, 09:41:07 am »
Hole #10 - 392 Yards Par 4

A stunning hole from the elevated tees and a worthy starter on the tremendous South nine at Hamilton.  The tee shot is downhill over the infamous snaking creek to a fairway that cants severely from left to right.  The approach shot is uphill to a putting surface that can't really be seen and one that slopes sharply from back to front.  A question for the experts in the audience: have the fairways been significantly tightened to the point where the left fairway bunker is a bit too far away from the desired landing area?

A couple friends ponder the tough tee shot on #10 with the gorgeous clubhouse in the background


Tee Shot


Good look at the hole from below the tee decks, with the infamous snaking creek in front of the fairway


Approach Shot


Yours Truly - Very happy to be playing such a wonderful golf course!


Hole #11 - 481 Yards Par 4

The longest par four on the course by a landslide and it's a doozy, especially from the tips which are set well back from the rest of the decks.  A long carry downhill off the tee on this sweeping dogleg left and the approach calls for a long iron or fairway metal to a green that sits well above fairway grade and is protected by a bunker front right.  A true brute!

Tee Shot


Approach Shot


Hole #12 - 386 Yards Par 4

Pretty mid-length par four with a hazard running down the entire left hand side of the fairway.  Again, you have an elevated tee shot here to a fairway that slopes sharply from right to left.  The approach is uphill slightly to a very tricky two-tiered putting surface with five bunkers sprinkled around the green.

Tee Shot


Behind Green Looking Back Toward Tee


Since this thread isn't getting as much attention as I thought, I'll likely throw the last six holes in at the same time tomorrow to get it in before the weekend.

Alex Miller

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Re: Hamilton G&CC (Harry S. Colt), Ancaster, ON, Canada - Photo Tour
« Reply #19 on: May 21, 2010, 09:48:39 am »
If that's a snack bar benched into the hillside on #10 that's the coolest f-ing thing ever! Just perfect.

Matt Bosela

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Re: Hamilton G&CC (Harry S. Colt), Ancaster, ON, Canada - Photo Tour
« Reply #20 on: May 21, 2010, 09:54:19 am »
If that's a snack bar benched into the hillside on #10 that's the coolest f-ing thing ever! Just perfect.

Good catch Alex!  It indeed is the halfway house! :)

Dale Jackson

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Re: Hamilton G&CC (Harry S. Colt), Ancaster, ON, Canada - Photo Tour
« Reply #21 on: May 21, 2010, 10:15:54 am »
Matt, thanks for the tour.  Hamilton G & CC is a truly great course that would be in the Top 50 on most lists if it was located south of the border.  I had the chance to work the 2003 Canadian Open and then play the course on the Monday after the tournament.  Your tour is bringing back some great memories!
I've seen an architecture, something new, that has been in my mind for years and I am glad to see a man with A.V. Macan's ability to bring it out. - Gene Sarazen

Sean_A

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Re: Hamilton G&CC (Harry S. Colt), Ancaster, ON, Canada - Photo Tour
« Reply #22 on: May 21, 2010, 12:03:57 pm »
Mike,

It's a pretty timely comment you make, especially considering I've been just given some new information that may shed some light on the bunkering issues at Hamilton.

This excerpt comes from 'The Illustrated History of HGCC' as written by L. King, E. McGhie and A. Thompson -

- From Chapter Four
 
"Some early changes"
 
In August 1919, after the club had successfully hosted both an international match between Canada and the United States and the Canadian Open, Morrison wrote to Colt in England, noting that the American captain had praised the course but had suggested that more bunkers were needed.  Morrison commented that, "I think it is quite likely some trapping may be required, but we are not going to have any amateur work and probably be let in for one change and another which we should like to undo.  The course will stand as it is until you can come out here."
 
Colt never revisited Ancaster but Alison, who by then was handling most of the partnership's work in North America, did visit in 1920 and gave the Club's directors a report on the course.  He paid particular attention to the bunkering and concluded that the majority of the bunkers had not "been constructed in such a way as to form real, live hazards, capable of retaining the shots which they are intended to trap."
 
Some of his proposals were adopted but abandoned years later, for example a new fairway bunker on the left, at 200 yards from the tee on the 2nd hole.  Others, for example a new bunker across the face of the bank in front of the 5th green, were never implemented.


Comments?

Matt

So do you know if Alison created a lot more bunkers than originally.  I ask because the bunkering scheme is nothing like I have ever seen on a Colt course.  It is far more demanding rather than the usual teasing. 

I thought Prestbury and Camberley Heath were hilly courses, but Hamilton is much hillier.  Thanks for the pix.

Ciao 
Realistic Next Dozen: Roaring Gap, Orchard Lake, Moortown, Sheringham, Lindrick, Blackmoor, Welshpool,  Queenwood, Leckford, Royal Guernsey, Royal Jersey & La Moye

Gary Slatter

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Re: Hamilton G&CC (Harry S. Colt), Ancaster, ON, Canada - Photo Tour
« Reply #23 on: May 21, 2010, 07:49:14 pm »
Thanks for the great shots and wonderful memories.  "Ancaster" was always my favourite Pro Am of the year while living in Ontario.  Aside from the great course and fine clubhouse, the club has always had a superb team running it (Borthwick, Mickle, Maue, etc.)

#12 was always my toughest hole, even the picture made me shiver!

Tim Johnson

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Re: Hamilton G&CC (Harry S. Colt), Ancaster, ON, Canada - Photo Tour
« Reply #24 on: May 21, 2010, 09:44:41 pm »
Hi Matt
Glad to see you got to play the course and the pictures are great. Looking forward to seeing your pictures of 13,15 and 18.
Also curious to know what you thought of the East course. I like the original 18 but the East is always a pleasure to play. It has some incredible holes.

If they could have the Canadian Open as part of a rotation then more higher ranking pros would make the trip after the British. It was very highly thought of when they held the 03 & 06 opens.


Looking forward to seeing the rest of the pictures.

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