Design firm Lobb + Partners is working to reduce risks at classic course

VANCOUVER, Canada – The University Golf Club in Vancouver, Canada, was designed by Golden Age architect Vernon Macan in the 1920s. Macan was hired by Shaughnessy Heights GC to find a new site in 1924; he viewed a number of properties but the club eventually decided to remain in its original location. 

Three years later, though, the government of British Columbia decided to use the property to develop a new public course, and Macan was hired to design it. The course eventually opened, as Westward Ho Golf Links, in 1929.

Almost a century later, the renamed University course, renamed because of its proximity to the University of British Columbia, and owned by the Musqueam First Nation, is regarded as one of the top public golf venues in Vancouver – its motto is ‘non-members only’.

But the course has a significant safety problem on the par 4 sixth hole, which runs alongside College Highroad, and too many balls leave the property. To avert this problem, the club has been playing the hole from a very forward tee, making it an extremely short par 4. 

Now, though, University has hired architect Alex Hay, who runs the Canadian office of London-based design firm Lobb + Partners, to effect a more permanent solution. Hay’s answer is to turn the sixth into a par three, and then to change the seventh hole, now a one shotter, into a par 4. 

The project is being phased, with construction of the new sixth hole being carried out first, and ground has just been broken. Construction of the new seventh is expected to follow in 2025.

Hay reckons the new par three will be an extremely strong hole.

“The new green sits perfectly on the natural terrain, moving from left to right,” he says. “Ordinarily, with a green of that orientation we would probably bunker the right side of the green, but to guide golfers away from the road we’ve placed a large visual bunker on the left side, and opted for a short grass run off to the right.”

Hay’s project will also see the introduction of significant out-of-play areas of native grasses to reduce the irrigation requirement. The build, being handled by Alberta-based contractor Goodwin Golf, is estimated to take six weeks. A temporary sixth hole has been created so the course will have 18 holes in play throughout.

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