After offering nearly four decades of nine-hole play, the Eagle Lake Golf Course and Country Club in South River is officially taking its first step towards 18 holes.
“It just got to the point where nine-hole golf courses aren’t what people are looking for,” says Ray St. Onge, co-owner and superintendent of the course, located a half-hour south of North Bay.
“Over the years, most of the courses have become 18 holes, and so to remain competitive, we need to be 18, especially since at times during the summer we cannot accommodate the number of people who want to play. When you look at those factors, the decision had to be made to bite the bullet and go for 18.”
St. Onge says much of the work is being done in-house, from the operation of heavy equipment to elements of the design. Modifications to a master plan designed by Toronto-based Robert Heaslip & Associates are being undertaken by St. Onge and his son Dave, co-owner and long-time CPGA professional.
This year’s new hole, which will be the future number 17, is a 345-yard dogleg right. This par-4 hole features a 400-square-foot pond to the left of the fairway, which St. Onge says will drain the soil, provide an attractive addition to the course, and gently punish those who hook their shots.
“Water just seems to attract golf balls,” St. Onge says with a laugh.
The tense relationship between golfers and water hazards will be further emphasized with hole 13, the first of the three holes currently in the shaping stage and slated to open for use either in the coming fall or the following spring.
Starting from an elevated position overlooking Eagle Lake, golfers will have to shoot over a 5,000-square-yard pond in effort to make the par-3.
With a par-4, the remaining two holes will feature tree-lined doglegs, providing a greater degree of challenge than has been typical for the course.
Return visitors to the course this year will find that the No.7 hole has changed. As the hole’s original layout did not fit properly into the new course design, it was shut down and rebuilt at a different angle, forcing return visitors to take a decidedly different approach.
Although it will remain a par four, the new hole 7 will stretch to 350 yards from its current length of 260 yards.
Rather than just using a driver and a wedge to make the green, most players will now need an iron or even a wood to make their second shot, St. Onge says.
While construction will be ongoing throughout the year, St. Onge says it will not interfere with play, and will offer visitors a preview as to what they will be able to expect. The remaining five holes will be completed some time in 2008.
As fuel prices have risen, traffic from the United States and southern Ontario has been dropping in recent years.
However, with the four-laning of Highway 11 practically at the course’s doorstep, St. Onge says he expects this drop to be offset by an increased number of visitors to local cottages and the nearby Mikisew Provincial Park.
As a result, he says much of the design focus has been to create a course that can be played in a relatively short period of time.
“People these days don’t necessarily want to spend six hours playing golf on a weekend. They’d like to be able to come out, play 18 holes, then go back and go fishing or head for the beach, so the focus has been on designing a course that’s about 5700 yards in length and that can be played in about four hours. That means they can go out, play a round, then go back and enjoy themselves on the beach, which I think is the key here.”