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25 years at National Pines

07 SEP 2017

By Terry Paddison

 

In 1989, Ed Membery purchased 215 acres of property from the Ross family of Cookstown.  The year before, the Membery family had sold the Harbour View Country Club and now they were looking for a suitable site to build another golf course.  Ed's dream was to create a quality golf course that would meet the growing demand for a high-end facility in the area. 

The track of land that they purchased on Huronia Road was not surprisingly a former hunt camp.  Lovers Creek followed through the property that comprised of a dense and primarily pine forest, several swamps and a few meandering trails.  Two log cabins were located on the property.  One cabin was beside what is now the 16th hole.  Facing Lockhart Road, the other cabin would soon become the sales office.

Thomas McBroom, who had just finished designing Beacon Hall (1988) and Monterra (1989) was hired to design the new course which would occupy 165 acres of the property.  In 1990, construction of  National Pines began.   Problems with the first contractor led to Membery hiring Ontario Greens Ltd. to finish the challenging and expensive job of creating what would become a 7,013-yard gem. 

Eugene 'Geno' Boccia, a Toronto entrepreneur, developer, and contractor, became a partner in the project in 1991.  Geno never golfed but he certainly knew the score when it came to business opportunities.

With an anticipated course opening in 1992, a membership drive began. Starting with an initiation fee of $16,000, that cost would increase by $100 with each additional membership sold.  The maximum fee would be capped at $22,000.

Buck Lawrence was hired during the construction phase of the course.  One of his many jobs then was to help build the crushed limestone cart paths throughout the course.  He recalls that nine holes were opened to the membership in the fall of 1992.

The clubhouse was erected with a players' lounge and offices on the second floor.  The lounge included a fireplace and an opening with a view of the bistro below.  It wasn't until after Ed Membery sold his share to Geno Boccia in 1996 that the second story was expanded and converted into a banquet hall.  The original plan was designed to have two large banquet areas.

The entire course was opened for play in 1993.  The owners initially wanted the first tee to be where the 10th hole presently is but McBroom insisted that he had not designed the layout of the course that way.

Although Moe Norman was never a member at National Pines, Craig Membery recounted that "Moe would spend hours on the range and offer golf clinics for the eager members."  Winner of 54 tournaments, 'Pipeline' Moe set 33 course records and had 17 holes-in-one.   Moe loved to entertain the crowd.  His many words of wisdom included "Golf is easy. People make it harder."

Golf Digest ranked National Pines as the third best new course in Canada when it opened.  Score Magazine has consistently listed the Pines in Canada's top 100 courses each year.  Your putting skill would be tested by the tremendous variety in the greens designed by McBroom.   Heavily contoured with false fronts, humps and side slopes, those 'potato chip' greens have become a trademark of McBroom's courses.

With ClubLink's 21-year lease beginning in 2004, most golfers believe that National Pines is one of the very best courses of ClubLink's many properties.  Brent Miller, ClubLink Vice President of Corporate Operations and Membership noted: "So many of our members know that an extra 10-minute drive up Hwy 400 provides them with a day of golf that is quite simply, complete."

The Canadian Tour Championship was held at National Pines in 2007 and again in 2008.  Graham DeLaet has great memories of competing in the 2008 tournament and acknowledges that the National Pines layout will continue to challenge the future stars of the PGA Tour.

25 years after the course first opened, National Pines will host the MacKenzie Tour PGA Canada  Ontario Championship this September.

Thank you, Ed Membery for pursuing your dream!

 

Many thanks to Buck Lawrence, Craig Membery and Kevin Bailie for sharing their memories of National Pines and its history.