Whitewater Golf Club at Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada A Tom McBroom Design
by Diane Ambro
Carol Coffey and I were treated to a tour of the new Whitewater Golf Course the first week in September and I was astounded at the progress from my last visit. By the time you read this, seeding and sodding of the first nine holes should be almost completed. Silvio Di Gregorio was our host for the tour which started at the entrance to the old pit off Hwy. 130. He pointed out that the actual entrance to the park will be a little further south down Hwy 130 and that the road was deliberately being lowered along the tree line of Rosslyn Road. The reason being that the developers want this property to be a place where people can forget the hustle and bustle of the city by getting away to the 'country'. By lowering the road, all you can see are the trees surrounding the property with little evidence that there's a community and a city just on the other side. The point is to create a relaxing get a way for guests and those who live there.
As we wound around towards the golf course, Silvio pointed out areas where the townhouses would be built along the tree -lined road. Plans for the townhouses have not been finalized yet, but he expects that they will start at about 1300 to 1400 square feet and go up from there. They plan to build the townhouses in medium density clusters to allow for some privacy and again to retain that country feeling.
Just past the townhouse area we came to the most unique aspect of the development, the Golf Academy. Silvio believes it's the only facility of it's kind in Canada. Similar in concept to the Ben Sutton Golf School that I visited in Tampa, Florida, the academy is not just a driving range. Rather than just knocking balls down a field, you will be hitting balls to a designated target green. There are nine greens being built and golfers will be able to practice hitting shots to a direct target of varying yardages. They also have a chipping green with a huge sand pit so that you can practice hitting from the sand to a target. Having played at an academy like this, I'm excited that we're going to have one locally. It really helps your game to be able to practice hitting the ball from 90 yds. or 125 yds or 150 yds. depending on what yardages they choose to install. A driving range is fine for warming up but hitting to target greens will be a distinct advantage.
We continued on our tour to the site for the clubhouse and the main parking area. The 20,000 sq. foot clubhouse will be situated in a perfect spot, high on a ridge overlooking the Oxbow wetland, with Candy Mountain visible in the background. As we stood up on the ridge the view was peaceful and serene and even though there was course construction going on all around us. I felt like I was miles away from everything. Silvio told me that they were going to build a deck almost all the way around the clubhouse and I felt a tinge of excitement as I imagined sitting on that deck enjoying the spectacular view after a round of golf on what's sure to be the area's finest golf course. We climbed back into Silvio's four wheel drive and moved on to the golf course itself. There was activity everywhere as workers hustled to take advantage of good weather to move the production along. We stopped at hole number one and it was amazing to see an oasis of green among the dirt and rock. The fairway, tee boxes and greens were seeded with bent grass and the rough was completely sodded. The underground watering system was on and plumes of water cascaded down onto the grass. I felt like stepping up and hitting one down the fairway, it looked so perfect. At that time seven holes were completely sodded and seeded and Silvio hoped to have two more done in the next couple of weeks.
Throughout the course I noticed that the cart paths were already in place and paved. We moved towards the river and the suddenly the most spectacular hole came into view. The par three hole number four on the west course has a stunning view of the Kam River right where the calm waters flow over rocks creating bubbling rapids. The water was flowing rather benignly that day but I imagine it will be a different story in the spring time. Measuring at 175 yds. from the back tees, you will be hitting down towards the river. Once again you could be anywhere because there's no signs of civilization, just the trees, the grass and the river. I'm guessing this might be a contender for their signature hole given that the name of the course is 'Whitewater'. There's not a lot of water that comes into play on this course but it's close by, adding to the rustic serenity. A large pond was constructed on the southern end of the course and one of the holes surrounding it has been sodded and seeded. It looked ready to play. Clever brushing of the areas around the trees creates a beautiful park-like atmosphere.
I spoke a bit to Silvio about how membership sales were going and he's excited about the response he's had so far. All of the corporate memberships sold out quickly and sales are continuing well on individual memberships. They've decided to limit memberships to 200 because they want to make sure that there's room for non-members to come out and play as many times as they want by paying day fees. If progress continues as it has, the first nine holes are slated to open in May of 2004. Guess who's going to be lined up with her clubs when that happens? In a different way, Whitewater will rival Fort William Country Club for most scenic course in the area. It's too early to tell how it will compare as a playing course, but I wouldn't expect anything else than a top quality course. It's nice that Silvio and his group are making it available to anyone who wants to golf, so all of us hackers can play the best. We're lucky to have such a variety of golf courses to choose from in our area and it looks like Whitewater may just be the cream of the crop.