Doug Breen, Vice President, Chief Agronomist
In 1994, Al Kavanagh purchased Acton Golf Club and GolfNorth was born. “Acton Meadows” (as it was then known) was a humble 9-hole neighbourhood golf course with ‘potential’. Who could have guessed that 26 years later, GolfNorth would operate 33 golf courses in three provinces, two hotels, and a ski hill? But Acton will always be the first.
Shortly after purchasing Acton Meadows, the second nine was built, and the course was renamed Acton Golf Club. Five of the original holes were blended into the 18-hole layout, and they remain some of the best on the property, but my absolute favourite is one of the new holes – #14.
At first viewing, this quirky hole may seem silly – some have used more aggressive language. It’s a 170-yard par 3 with a tree blocking the green. To be precise, it’s a massive hundred-year-old white pine, and easily the tallest tree on the property. It has no branches to speak of. It’s the kind of tree that they used to make the masts of sailing ships.
When you’re standing on the tee, the tree looks like a hydro pole between you and the target – if I gave you a small bucket of range balls and told you to aim at it, you’d never hit the thing. It’s only about 30 inches across at its widest point, but it gets pummelled a hundred times per day. Every fifteen minutes there’s a tremendous “THUNK”, followed by uproarious laughter. I’ve personally struck that tree, 80% of the times I’ve played the hole. Once, I hit it so hard that it bounced halfway back to the tee, and I whacked it again on my second shot. Normally, the ball just careens into the quagmire.
I’ve tried to go over it (unsuccessfully). I’ve tried using the old “Breen Bender” aka my semi-controlled slice to go around it (also unsuccessfully). And a draw – well, let’s face it, I’ve never been able to hit a draw. If you try to hit it low and it goes long – you’re in a swamp. Right – trees. Left – another swamp. Some of the members who’ve been around for a while, play a 150-yard club, lay up short of the green (but past the offending tree) and go for the up and down. The problem with that plan is that one-putts are very rare on this deceptively tricky green.
Acton Golf Club remains a popular neighbourhood golf course, with narrow fairways, small greens, and many interesting shots to challenge even the most experienced golfer – while still being fun for beginners. There are many memorable holes, but none quite so unique as #14 – a par 3 guarded by a solitary, century-old pine tree. A tree which mathematically shouldn’t block as many shots as it does. A tree which has mangled many a good score. A tree that I hit again today.