By: Lorne Hicks
What do Bob Hope, Tony Bennett, and Danny Kaye have in common?
Well, back in the 1950s, they all played at Orchard Beach, a beautiful nine-hole golf course in Keswick that has hosted a surprising number of celebrities.
On a hot Labour Day weekend in 1957, I joined a small band of caddies, cottagers, and residents to follow the famous Bob Hope — on a day off from his appearances at the C.N.E. — around the course. He did not disappoint. As he attempted to hit out of a greenside bunker, the clicking of a Super 8 camera broke the silence.
Pretending mock anger, Hope exclaimed, “Who’s that running the cement mixer?” and then broke into a broad, friendly smile. This was the beginning of nine holes of laughter and joking. In a memorable gesture, the great comic walked off the second tee to say a few words of encouragement to a young boy in a wheelchair.
Not so enjoyable, however, was the experience of caddying for Frank Shuster (of the Wayne and Shuster comedy team). Mr. Shuster, as it turned out, was an absolute crank, grousing and cursing during the entire round. Worst of all, having “carried double” for Shuster and a C.B.C. conductor on a sweltering afternoon, he handed me $5.00! Afterwards, when I told the pro, he said: “you should have lifted (i.e., taken) one of his clubs.”
Much credit for this outstanding golf course is owed to Stanley Thompson, the pre-eminent Canadian course designer. Thompson established several design principles for his projects (more than a hundred in Canada).
For example, his overall vision was to create courses that would appeal to both low and high-handicap players, a prerequisite that’s reflected in the layout of Orchard Beach: reasonably challenging, but not too difficult for the average golfer.
Other noteworthy hallmarks of a Stanley Thompson course are evident, such as great views blending into natural surroundings, as well as greenside and dogleg bunkers.
Interestingly, among Thompson’s major directives for course design was NOT having a finishing hole facing the setting sun; however, the ninth hole at Orchard Beach provides a magnificent view to the west where the sun sets over Cook’s Bay. I think Stanley would approve.
Although this ninth hole, “Grandview,” is the signature hole at Orchard Beach, several others subscribe to Thompson’s design principle that the flag (i.e., green) be visible from the tee.
Whether it’s a fresh spring morning, a sultry summer evening, or a colourful fall afternoon, Orchard Beach Golf & Country Club is one of “the finest” nine-hole courses anywhere.