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|The par-5 17th at Duncan Meadows Golf and Country Clubs can be reached in two by long hitters, but it will take an accurate second shot with a hazard in front of the green. (Mike Bailey/WorldGolf.com)|
DUNCAN, B.C., Canada - To see Duncan Meadows Golf and Country Club today, it's hard to believe that a little more than a decade ago it was a run-down golf course badly in need of some tender loving care.
For today, Duncan Meadows, which remains to many outsiders a bit of a hidden gem on the Vancouver Island Golf Trail, is a vibrant golf venue, bursting with character, fun and just enough challenge to make it a favorite for significant golf tournaments.
This summer, for example, Duncan Meadows hosted the British Columbia Amateur. And over the years, it has been the spot for numerous high-level junior, club pro and college tournaments.
These tournaments are commonplace now because of the facility's owners, who bought the course when things were looking a bit bleak on this Claude Muret design.
When Duncan Lakes, as it used to be called, went up for sale in 1996, it was in such poor shape apparently that several potential buyers passed on it. But Ming Hui and his wife Grace saw potential.
Mr. Hui had plenty of golf course experience already. His family had owned another course, where Hui had worked even after his father sold it. Only in his 40s, Hui had actually considered retiring, but he missed the golf business and knew he could turn things around at Duncan Meadows.
The first order of business was to get the course in shape, so he brought with him Superintendent Dave Brummitt, who has been at Duncan Meadows ever since. Brummitt overseeded the greens with bentgrass, brought back the fairways and turned on the water. The course was cleaned up, and over the past 13 years scores of other improvements have been made, including new cart paths, irrigation and new tees.
This year, the bunkers at Duncan Meadows Golf and Country Club got new sand and several back tees were added to help bring the par 72 to nearly 7,000 yards for a true championship test. Unfortunately, because of a short growing season, the new tees weren't ready in time for this year's B.C. Amateur.
"Those tees will make the course a little tougher," Hui said.
The Hui family's loving care has brought out the best in Duncan Meadows. It's a course that starts out with a relatively benign par 5, but by the time you get to the short par-4 fourth, you know you're in for a bit of a fight.
The fourth, just 357 yards, may be one of the best short par 4s on the island. You run out of fairway around the 230-yard mark, which discourages hitting the driver, so laying up with a long iron or fairway wood leaves a pretty challenging approach shot to a shallow green that's nestled into the trees over a deep creek. Miss short, and you're in Duncan Meadows Valley of Sin with a very tough up and down.
The golf course is also a hybrid of sorts. Half of it has a links feel; the other half is parkland. And with nary a home on the course, it's all golf with no noticeable white stakes.
One of the strengths of Duncan Meadows Golf and Country Club is its variety of par 3s. Two are more than 200 yards from the tips, but the two short ones are probably more interesting. The 138-yard seventh hole plays to a highly elevated green, which means not finding the putting surface is almost surely a bogey or worse.
The 16th, at 179 yards, plays over a creek and into an amphitheater of trees to set up a terrific finishing stretch. The 17th is a nice risk-reward dogleg right par 5, and the finishing hole is a sharp dogleg left with a hazard through the fairway on the tee shot.
The fact that Duncan Meadows is all golf gives it an opening high grade. The fact that it's a good design in excellent condition makes it a course I'd play over and over again.
I got to play it with Mr. Hui, whose competitive fire in a good-natured Nassau showed why he's never satisfied with the course. My guess is that next year, he'll make a couple more tweaks.
It's also evident that the operation is a family affair. When you walk into the shop, you're most likely to be greeted by Mrs. Hui or another family member (son Gary Hui is the director of golf).
The new clubhouse is also a great place for a drink or a bite to eat. It offers a deck with views of the golf course and the finishing hole's green. An appetizer platter that includes dry-run ribs and egg rolls with a cold beverage or two is the perfect antidote to losing the final hole, by the way.
Duncan Meadows is also a great place to work on your game. With excellent practice facilities that include a large driving range and short-game area, you can hit balls or get some instruction from noted teacher Kelvin Trott.
Duncan Meadows is in the Cowichan Valley about 45 minutes up the east coast of Vancouver Island from Victoria. The town of Duncan is just a couple of miles away, and it offers a number of hotels to choose from, including two Best Westerns.
You could also stay at the Oceanfront Grand Resort & Marina on Cowichan Bay. This intimate waterfront resort-style hotel is located in the heart of the Cowichan Valley - Canada's Napa Valley, if you will. Resort amenities at this remodeled property include a waterfront indoor pool, whirlpool, sauna, fitness facility, conference and banquet space, Waterfront Penthouse Steak & Seafood Restaurant, sushi bar, lounge, wine shop and wine tasting room.
August 13, 2009
Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 15 years in the golf industry. Before joining the WorldGolf.com team in 2008, he held positions at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Read Mike's golf blog here and follow him on Twitter here.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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