Preview: Graham Cooke’s Bay of Quinte Renovation
Even if golf architecture seems to be an ever-revolving door of new builds and renovations post-COVID 19, there are not many new public golf courses or even public renovations in Canada these days. However, Bay of Quinte Golf and Country Club, located in Prince Edward County roughly 2 hours east of downtown Toronto, is pushing forward with their latest expansion, with plans to enhance their offerings as a semi-private country club to become a “semi-public golf resort.” That enhancement includes an 18 hole championships course, and some combination of a 9, 12, or 18 hole second course as they transition to an expanded facility over the coming years.
To make way for the new holes, a new parcel of land to the northeast was acquired, offering significantly more elevation changes than the original Robbie Robinson golf course. Some natural, some manufactured, but nonetheless, a handful of dramatic rises and falls throughout the new routing. Graham Cooke and Corey Black of Northern Golf Design have built 12 new holes, with perhaps more to come in the future, while most of the shaping and on-ground artistry is done by Jeremy Lumgair.
Speaking with owner Roger Litchy, he says he is most excited about the opportunity to elevate his course and bring more interesting, and affordable golf to the Quinte area. The development of this property has changed over the last couple of years and as things evolve his approach to the golf offering here has as well. Some additional details are available on the Bay of Quinte Golf and Country Club website.
This was my first ever site visit, and as a golf architecture enthusiast, it was an intriguing perspective on golf I had not seen, beyond a couple photos on social media or this website. There is sort of a mishmash of completeness on-site, with some holes nearing completion, the grow-in process beginning on a few others, and a couple holes still being moulded in the dirt, creating quite the contrast from hole to hole. Visualizing a hole in the dirt is much harder than it looks, at least to an amateur design enthusiast like me, but I walked away with a heightened appreciation for the work that goes into building and designing a course.
There is quite a different aesthetic of the new holes, dramatically contrasting against the old Bay of Quinte, though that might be a given with the age gap between the two evolutions of the property. Interestingly, the course will be a composite of the old and new, lending itself to some growing pains as it transitions into its newer self in the coming years. In particular and as previously mentioned, the new holes provide dramatic elevation changes; in fact, at least five of the new holes play into and out of a central ridge towards the back of the property. Even further, there are at least two more holes that include smaller, but noteworthy movement.
For my personal tastes, the dramatic elevation changes are not my ideal feature on the golf course. I prefer the small, micro contours that flow nicely with the landscape, versus the repetition of large, dramatic movement that becomes sometimes becomes a crutch for courses to rely on. With that being said, I know many who do enjoy such showstopper moments and can still appreciate the clientele or demographic that the work will appeal to. I reckon it is a similar style that is found at the nearby Black Bear Ridge, which is well-liked by visitors to the area.
Starting in June, 3 new holes will open for play: the 7th, 8th, and 9th on the plan below, comprised of two par 5’s and a par 3. For those familiar with the golf course, visitors may have gotten glimpses of the new holes over the past year or so. To compensate for new holes, the existing 7th, 8th, and 15th holes will come out of rotation.
The 7th, a par 5 from the nearby existing 15th (which becomes the 6th in the plan above), is the first of the three holes opening in June. The tee shot dips down towards a pond, pinched by a bunker on the right, before sweeping to the right through a tight corridor of trees to the green site. Perhaps most interestingly, tightly mowed areas await misses to the right and short left provide a bit of variety against the old Bay of Quinte, but keeps the ethos of the original values in play. It fits into the existing routing well, and does not jump out as something completely different.
The par 3, 8th is the second of three holes to open early this year. A rather captivating par 3 with a pond up the left and a bunker on the right, this one-shot hole looks quite good, and is easily, in my opinion, the most captivating here.
Finally, the 9th is the third of the new holes. Another par 5, this one works uphill to a blind green, with contours that fit in well with the existing Robbie Robinson golf course. The large surface has some undulations to it, offering multiple pin positions that will make for some long challenging putts. My first impression is that I would have liked to see something more bold, especially at the green site, but it will work well with what is currently the existing flavour of the course.
Holes Yet To Come
In the Fall, 5 or 6 more holes will be added within the new portion of the property. The total number of holes depends on growing conditions and how well they mature. This brings Bay of Quinte to a total of 27 holes while the additional holes will come at a later date. The new holes will, in my opinion, elevate Bay of Quinte; they are the most promising contributions to the newer section.
The green sites I have seen are more bold than the existing course. The aforementioned dramatic elevation changes do come into play here as the golfer works its way up and down the ridge multiple times for two par 5’s, two par 4’s, and two par 3’s. They feature a good variety in lengths, contours, and hazards.
I think the Par 3 across the creek and the short Par 3 that plays back up into the ridge will be two of the more intriguing on property when complete. I am eager to return and play these in the Fall and see the progress the team makes over the coming years.
Long Term Outlook
While this news may not hold the same level of interest or excitement as, say, a new Cabot property, it is good to see a local golf course make efforts to improve their offerings and build something new. Far too often these days, the news revolving around golf courses in Southern Ontario (and elsewhere) has been of demise. So on the bright side, there will be new golf holes to be found in Belleville.
As to where this will put Bay of Quinte in the grand scheme of golf in Canada, I am not sure yet. I see a few similarities to the nearby Black Bear Ridge, which is a well known fan favourite amongst Southern Ontario golfers. Overall, there is a definite improvement here. I am eager to see what it all adds up to in a couple of years time.
Thanks to my friend Mike for all the drone photos.