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Published on Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Glen Abbey our grand stage of golf

Mayor says Council's heritage designation appropriate

Glen Abbey our grand stage of golf
Glen Abbey Golf Course is the main stage for golf in Canada
By Oakville Mayor Rob Burton, Special to the Oakville Beaver

The unanimous decision by Oakville Town Council to issue a Notice of Intention to designate the Glen Abbey Golf property as a cultural heritage landscape has attracted enormous attention.

Council’s decision was vocally supported by residents in Oakville, and by many others across the province. A few critics have raised concerns that this designation creates a precedent.

Of course, these concerns ignore the aspects of Glen Abbey that set it apart from any other golf course — the merits that help it achieve the high bar established by the Ontario Heritage Act.

Council gave notice of intent to designate for the same reasons that our historic Oakville Lighthouse or Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens are protected: they are a landmark.

First, there’s the historic value of the land itself. The Ashininabeg peoples were the original occupants of the Glen Abbey lands, before the property was transformed into a farm operation in the early 19th century. By the late 1930s, it was converted into a 350-acre RayDor country estate for mining magnate Andre Dorfman, whose architecturally significant house and outbuildings remain.

Dorfman sold the property to the Jesuit Fathers of Upper Canada in 1953 and it became a monastery for 10 years (hence the “abbey.”) It was then bought by Oakville residents who transformed the site into the Upper Canada Country Club, with an 18-hole golf course.

In 1974, developer and golf enthusiast Rod McIsaac purchased Glen Abbey. The club caught the attention of the Royal Canadian Golf Association (now Golf Canada), which was looking for a base for the Canadian Open. McIsaac and the RCGA agreed to make Glen Abbey the tournament’s permanent home, and hired legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus to design a new golf course — the first solo golf course in his portfolio.

Glen Abbey opened in 1976 as the first course in the world built for spectators — and it shows. Its stadium design and hub-and-spoke layout enabled spectators to get an intimate view of their favourite players in action, a design approach which has been copied by courses worldwide.

Glen Abbey’s unique sequence of valley holes is also considered among the most beautiful and challenging in golf, with outstanding views of the surrounding natural ecology.

Then there’s the fact that Glen Abbey has hosted the Canadian Open a record 29 times, making it the undisputed grand stage for golf in Canada.

The cultural heritage landscape designation is about what these lands, both before their use for golf and since, have meant to the community’s history and reputation.

Town staff and heritage experts have brought forth compelling evidence of modifications of the site by human activity over centuries, and identified its many heritage attributes, including viewsheds, the RayDor estate buildings, Jack Nicklaus’ groundbreaking design, and the course’s legendary tenure as the semi-permanent host of the Canadian Open.

Town council and hundreds of local residents have spoken eloquently to its value to the community.

The site clearly merits the protection of its heritage attributes that designation would bring, and the Town of Oakville remains committed to working with ClubLink and Golf Canada to develop a successful conservation management plan for the golf course that will ensure its ability to operate successfully for present and future golfers.
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Author: Mayor Rob Burton

Categories: News

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