In 1960 the New London Hunt Club opened on a sprawling site at the west end of Oxford Street.
1431 Oxford Street West, London, Ontario
Private; member owned
Robert Trent Jones. His son Rees Jones completed a redesign in 2000
Assistant Greenskeeper, Ernie Andrews
Canadian Open 
Ontario Amateur 
3 L.P.G.A. Events
Shell's Wonderful World of Golf Semi-final match, 1968
#10 – consistently regarded as the best par 5 in the area
#8 – the view from the tee is breathtaking, especially in the fall
Five Best Features
Views and vistas
Size of the greens and tees
Well designed and maintained bunkers
In the early days the New London Hunt Club was often referred to as “Augusta North”. The course had little or no rough, similar to Augusta at that time, and London Hunt Club architect Robert Trent Jones was reworking some of the holes at Augusta National at the same time.
There was great excitement among the golfers of London in July 1968. The well known golf program, ‘Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf” was coming to London to tape a semi-final golf match between American Dan Sykes, Ben Arda from the Phillipines and Argentinian Robert DeVicenzo, who had recently lost the Masters due to signing an incorrect scorecard. How would the eight year old course hold up to the Pros? Junior golf buddies Bill Laughlin, Bob Galpin and myself arrived to get our first look at the London Hunt Club. That was exciting enough. The three of us could not get over the size of those greens! They were so huge compared to what we were used to but in retrospect, all was well because there were so many people there watching the match and you could still get an unobstructed view at every green. Ben Arda was small of stature but a fine golfer and he won the 18 hole stroke play competition firing a bogeyless three under par 69. About 5,000 other Londoners joined us watching this match that aired the following year on February 22, 1969 on National U.S. television. Jimmy Demaret was there to announce the proceedings along with his sidekick Gene Sarazen and the guest commentator, unforgettably, was Arnold Palmer. It was a hot day and water was scarce so I still remember Arnie sipping on an ice-cold Coke on the second green and wishing that I had a Coke also. Looking back I wonder if Gene Sarazen would have had any recollections of officially opening the Classic course at Thames Valley 35 years earlier almost to the day…….and only a couple of kilometers from this location.
Many people do not realize that the New London Hunt Club was designed as a 27 hole layout by Robert Trent Jones but the third nine never got built for a number of reasons. If you take the time to study the original diagrams posted you can probably guess some of those reasons. At any rate I think the Hunt Club is happy to have things the way they are and there was lots of room to build a beautiful practice facility, plenty of space for tennis courts and parking for major golf events. The London Hunt Club has hosted many important golf events in addition to the Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf Episode. They are almost too numerous to list but include a Canadian Open, three LPGA events and many Ontario tournaments. In the fall the views of the colors from #8 tee and #10 tee are breathtaking. A round of golf there is as good as golf gets here in London.
Photo of the beautiful 14th hole, 1959.
Just a few observations about this diagram of the 27 hole design by Robert Trent Jones for the London Hunt Club. First of all it was the “Green Course” that never was built. The White Course became today’s front nine and the Red Course is the present back nine. A couple of the most obvious reasons why the Green Course was never built would be that golfers would have had to cross the entrance road twice making it less than the grand entrance that it is today with the iconic hounds on top of the gates. The 7th hole on the “Green Nine” is listed at 600 yards but I don’t see that much yardage available in this diagram unless the hole extends for a long way down the entrance road and that would cause an entire new set of problems. The land where the “Green Nine” was to be built is OK but relatively flat without as many natural features as the other two existing nines. Looking at the land and acreage available for the third nine, it just doesn’t seem that holes of the same grand scale as the other two nines could have been built there. At one point, back in the day, space for #1 hole on the Green Course through dense bush was cleared by Hunt Club staff in anticipation of completion of the 27 holes. The hole was supposed to go through the bush to the left of current #10 and the green was to be between #13 green and #14 tee. At this point, I don’t think it will ever happen. It is unlikely that the tennis facility and the state of the art golf practice facility will be removed in favor of more golf holes. Also there are a couple of interesting changes to the front nine as it is played today compared to when it was designed. The second hole is the third hole today, the 3rd is the fourth and the 4th is the second. Once the course was built it was apparent that it made no sense to walk backwards from today’s #4 into the line of fire of golfers playing present #2. Also the pars are reversed on present #4 and #5. #4 was to be a par 4 and #5 was planned to be a par 5.
Here is the actual yardage for each of the three nines in Robert Trent Jones original design. The “Green Course” is the one that was not built. 7,000 yards for any combination of the nines might have seemed excessive in 1960 but looks like a wise decision today. Note the change in order of the holes on the “White Course” which is today’s front nine. Holes numbered 2,3, and 4 are now 3,4 and 2. The pars on #3 and #5 as designed are reversed on the “White Course”. The “Red Course” is today’s back nine. For the 1970 Canadian Open the front and back nines were reversed…..partly to try to create excitement right off the bat but mainly because the natural amphitheater on #9 would better accommodate more viewers for the final hole.
The London Hunt Club was Robert Trent Jones first solo design in Canada. The renowned Trent Jones eventually designed courses virtually world wide. This is an excerpt from a fine book about Robert Trent Jones called “A Difficult Par” by James R. Hansen, 2014.
New clubhouse under construction, 1960. Easily provides the best dining experience available at a London golf course……..and perhaps anywhere else in London ……..period.
The coolest hole at the Hunt Club is the 8th hole with a spectacular view from the tee whether you are looking forward to the task at hand or looking back from a high cliff above the Thames River. This view is from the green looking back toward the tee. The bridge over the gulch is by far the best ever built on a golf course in London. It was built by McKay-Cocker Construction. Mr. Cocker was a Hunt Club member and he was very proud of his bridge although doing the job properly always comes at a cost.
One of the best times to play the Hunt Club is the first week in October. View from the eighth tee.
Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf Episode, London Hunt Club, 1968.
In early 1968 it was announced that Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf was going to film one of its shows in London Ontario. The golfing community was stoked that such a high profile show was coming to our City. Arnold Palmer was coming to London, Ontario to be a guest commentator! In general the feeling was that it was a good dress rehearsal for the Hunt Club because the Hunt Club had been named as the site of the Canadian Open in 1970. My golfing buddies Bob Galpin, Bill Laughlin and I attended along with thousands of others. Excitement filled the air. It took most of the day to film the episode because the cameras had to be moved constantly to the location of the next shots of Dan Sykes, Roberto DeVicenzo and eventual winner Ben Arda from the Phillipines.
The unusual and unique feature of "Shell's Wonderful World of Golf" episodes filmed in 1968 was that for the first time, the show was based on a playoff format where the stroke play winner from a group of three golfers advanced on to a semi-final match. The first round matches were played around the globe as usual. The winners of each of the semi final matches were going to play against each other in the final match at the famed Medinah #2 in Chicago. The round played at the Hunt Club therefore had added stature because it was one of the semi-final matches and the winner was going to be playing for big bucks at the final at Medinah.
Although the golf was filmed in mid-summer 1968, the show aired on American network television on February 22, 1969. Bob Galpin, Bill Laughlin and I met at Bill’s house with great excitement in winter 1969 to watch the match that we had witnessed live many months before. One of the biggest questions on everyone’s mind was what was going to happen during the section of the program that always promoted the area where the show was filmed? We had ironclad memories of exactly what we were going to see during the actual golf match. The shows were often filmed in exotic locations around the globe where it was easy to make interesting travelogues but what were they going to focus on in London, Ontario? We figured that Storybook Gardens was going to be there somewhere but it turned out that the promotional segment was centered on a long defunct event in London called the “Fortnight Festival”. I think the festival only ran for a couple of years. Bob, Bill and I spent a lot of time laughing at this part of the program. I have since seen the promotional tapes of this part of the show and actually they are not that bad. Most viewers who watch the promotion have no idea that they are watching part of an old golf telecast of “Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf”. I have been told that there is a clear view of me at some point at the age of 15 racing across some fairway to try to get a better view of the action but I have never seen the whole show. Perhaps we will be able post it here.
This is a photo of the crowd at the match for Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf. I am almost positive that this is on the 16th hole at the corner of the dogleg and moving up the hill toward the green. Roberto DeVicenzo was the only player to reach the green in two shots but he three putted #16 for a par.
One of the most memorable shots that I ever saw happened during the taping of this show. The three golfers were playing #4, a par 5. Roberto Devicenzo from Argentina was a very strong guy and had outdriven the other two players as usual. I seem to remember that his nickname was the "Bull of the Pampas". Ben Arda and Dan Sykes were short in two but Roberto pulled out a four iron from a slightly downhill lie. Bob Galpin, Bill Laughlin and myself were standing right behind Roberto and when that shot took off it looked like it was heading for #5 tee. All of a sudden, as if on a string, the ball made an abrupt left turn, took the detour around the pond and ended up in the middle of the green, putting for eagle. A great memory.
The headline at the top of the page has to make me chuckle. Don't think it was written by a golfer.
I have a few personal memories from the only day that I attended the 1970 Canadian Open with my dad. On the practice tee I watched Nick Weslock warm up and I remember thinking how much at home he looked striking balls with all of the PGA Tour hotshot professionals. He was the low amateur in the Canadian Open so many times and it was easy to see why. The biggest draw at the 1970 Canadian Open was undoubtably the legendary Sam Snead. Sam had been playing great golf in the practice rounds but managed somehow to shoot 80 in one of the first two rounds and missed the cut.
There was a young, blond haired golfer from California hitting balls on the range beside Weslock so my dad and I decided to follow him for the first nine. The youngster pulled out a driver on the first hole, #10 today, and snap hooked it into the pond. It didn't look anything like the great shots he was striping on the range. He was never heard from since. Larry Ziegler was a decent touring golf pro but he famously loved hockey and occasionally served as the stick-boy for his beloved home town St. Louis Blues. The Blues were the most successful of the early NHL expansion teams. They were a tough team led by the Plager brothers, Bob, Barclay and Billy who weren't shy about mixing it up when necessary. Barclay caddied for the stick-boy, Ziegler, during the tournament. A young up-and-coming Hunt Club Assistant Greenskeeper, Graham Shouldice, got the honor of changing the hole locations every day. He would go on to have a great career at Highland.
The weather deteriorated as the round went on and it began to rain steadily. George Knudsen was teeing off on #2 with a Spalding long iron and he hit a beautiful shot close to the flag. We walked up to #2 green to see if George could make his putt. True to form he hit a weak putt with his golden Acushnet BullsEye. They say that in sports the position that has improved the most is goaltender in hockey. Old films certainly seem to prove this correct as goals that went in years ago would have no chance today. There was so much more net to look at. Putting on the PGA Tour might be a close second. At one point you could survive and win as a fine ball striker but only great, great, great putters have a chance now.
The 1970 Canadian Open Golf Tournament remains as possibly the biggest sports event ever staged in London, Ontario.
By the mid-1950’s it was apparent to the members of the London Hunt Club that their course situated on leased land at the University of Western Ontario grounds was doomed by the rapid expansion of the University and its buildings. Accordingly in 1957 they purchased 274.5 acres of land at the west end of Oxford Street, to build a new 27 hole course. The club enlisted the services of the most renowned golf course architect of the day, Robert Trent Jones, to turn their dream of a grand scale, world class golf facility into a reality.
Although construction moved along on schedule and the course opened for play in 1960, this project was not without the usual challenges faced by new golf courses. The course took time to mature. The holes built close to the river were great from the get-go and holes like #12 built through a hardwood forest were awesome right off the bat but a lot of the property on the higher levels had been farmland with no mature trees. Fast growing silver maples were planted in many areas just to give the course a more Parkland appearance. For example, the giant silver maples on the right of the first fairway still had stakes to support the young scrawny trees in 1968 and I saw Dale Tallon get relief from one in the 1968 Ontario Junior. The line off the tee on hole #5 was nowhere close to where you have to drive now. You just lined up to hit it far to the right of the fairway bunker, almost directly at the green. There were no mature trees over there. A forest awaits you on that line today.
Whether the New London Hunt Club is a “monster” or not could be up for debate but the course certainly has some teeth. Ben Arda’s three under 69 in 1968 was good enough to win the Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf event. Three of the four biggest professional tournaments held on the site ended with very reasonable scores. Kermit Zarley’s 279 in the 1970 Canadian Open was a modest 9 under par. Brandie Burton won the 1993 LPGA event with minus eleven and Christie Kerr took the 2006 event with twelve under……both expected results. The only top professional event that made the course look easier than it is, was the 2014 LPGA event won by Ryu So Yeon at 23 under. Winter damage to the greens that year and massive efforts at recovery in time for the tournament meant that the greens were much slower than usual for a tournament of that caliber. Tough to blame the Hunt Club for not wanting to shave down their greens in the heat of the summer. Despite having almost 1000 yards of extra golf course behind the tees that were played, the LPGA stayed with their yardage formula with predictable results. The course was a sitting duck and it shows what today’s best players are capable of if they are given an easy setup. I doubt that the 23 under score for a four day tournament will be matched at the New London Hunt Club anytime soon.
A couple of weeks ago I visited the London Hunt Club to view some memorabilia that are preserved there from the days of the Old London Hunt Club when it was located at the University. I received a tour of the interior of the clubhouse which is beautiful and on a grand scale. I knew that the course had constructed a new driving range on the site of the proposed “Green Course” in 1960. I didn’t realize how great the range was. I just had to stop along the entrance roadway to check it out and take a few photos. Essentially it has been built on Green #9 fairway from the site of the proposed green, back toward the tee. It is magnificent and any thoughts of building the Green Nine and sending along a cheque to the family of Robert Trent Jones for 10% of the construction cost of the Green Nine [his usual fee], can officially be laid to rest.