A layout diagram from the 1960’s of the 27 hole golf course at Sunningdale. Front Nine, Back Nine, West Nine. This layout was in play from 1963 until 1971.
465 Sunningdale Road West, London, Ontario
Private; owned by the Thompson family since 1934
Became a 27 hole layout in 1963; in 1971 Sunningdale became a 36 hole golf course
Stanley Thompson designed the Front and Back Nines
Clinton “Robbie” Robinson designed the West Nine
Supertest Ladies Open in 1966 and 1967
1962 Canadian Men’s Amateur [Chaired by Sandy Somerville and won by Reg Taylor
from South Africa 4&2 over American Tom Draper]
Qualifying site for 1970 Canadian Open [which was held at the nearby London Hunt Club]
#13 – was the first of three consecutive par 4’s along the back fence; OB left and a beautiful stand of mature beech trees on the right
#4 – was a short risk/reward par 5 that partly cost Mickey Wright a chance to win the inaugural 1966 Supertest Ladies Open
Stan Bacon was good but there were 50-100 single digit handicaps among the members
Five Best Features
27 hole golf operations are a notoriously efficient way to operate a golf course. They have so many operational advantages for hosting tournaments, accommodating maintenance activities like airifying and spraying and economies of scale for turf equipment, while still allowing the members to play with a minimum of disruption.
I have lots of personal memories of this era at Sunningdale. In 1962 the Canadian Men’s Amateur Championship was contested at Sunningdale and the event received plenty of local news and television coverage. The news cameras were set up on the hill behind #9 green which gave a majestic look to the course on all the televised segments. I was only 9 years old but I had become intensely interested in golf and the memories are vivid.
In 1963 the third nine, the "West Nine" opened for play for the members. It was not as mature as the other two nines which had been around since the 1930's. Accordingly it was not as popular. Al Penford remembers caddying at Sunningdale in the early 1960's. Sunningdale had a strong caddy program in those days and the caddies were encouraged to play on certain days and at certain times. Interestingly the caddies were allowed to go out and play the new nine before it actually opened to the members.
In 1966 Sunningdale hosted the first ever L.P.G.A. event ever staged outside the United States, the Supertest Ladies Open. My neighbours across the street were the Gingerich’s and they were billeting a teenage amateur from Quebec named Jocelyn Bourassa. I met her on the front step of our neighbours house and I watched her play some holes in the tournament the following day. Her great career speaks for itself. My best memories of the inaugural “Supertest Ladies Open” however were from following the last group for the entire final round. Crowd favorite Mickey Wright played with Kathy Whitworth [one of the all time greats] and Sandra Haynie who was a fine player in her own right. On the fourth hole, a short but treacherous par 5, Mickey hit a good drive and tried to go for the green in two after Kathy and Sandra had laid up. She didn’t quite catch her three wood flush and the ball ended up in the Medway Creek. She dropped behind the creek and hit a decent pitch but missed the putt, fell behind and was never able to recover the lead. Kathy Whitworth won the inaugural Supertest Ladies Open and she was a very deserving champion. I also followed Marlene Stuart Streit and 1967 champion Carol Mann for a few holes. Great event for Sunningdale. Class all the way.
My neighbour, Jim Caughlin, was a caddy at Sunningdale during the 1960’s. The caddy program there was second to none and many golfers got their start there. He always remembers caddying for Roy James when he potted a famous double eagle on #8. The ball slithered around the front bunker and into the hole for a two on the par 5 hole.
In this 27 hole layout from the 1960’s the “Front” and “Back” nines are basically exactly the same as the 18 hole Thompson course today. The “West Nine” consisted of Robinson #1, Robinson #2, Robinson #15, then a three hole loop on the south side of Sunningdale Road that is similar, but not exactly like the holes there now. 16, 17 and 18 Robinson make up the last 3 holes of the West Nine.
1967 aerial of the West Nine at Sunningdale. Six holes on the north side of the road and three to the south.
In the mid-1960's the ownership of Sunningdale approached Jim Windsor, the club's PGA of Canada Golf Professional, about the possibility of hosting a PGA Tour event. Jim responded that he didn't think that the club was ready for a PGA Tour event but that he thought Sunningdale would be a great fit for an LPGA Tour event. At this point every single LPGA tournament had been played in the United States so it was a big deal for the ladies to head north of the border. To the surprise of no one, the prime sponsor became Supertest Petroleum, the business of the owner of Sunningdale. The 54 hole tournament was played at the very end of July, 1966. The winner, Kathy Whitworth, still owns to this day the record for the most professional golf tournament victories. Her 88 wins gives her a comfortable lead over her closest pursuers like Sam Snead, Mickey Wright, Jack, Tiger, Annika, Hogan and Arnie.