Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Best in Canadian Golf - Part 1

Best Golf Course in Canada: St. George’s Golf & Country Club

It is the best routing of the Canadian course with its brilliant use of the bisecting valleys. It is one of the finest examples of Stanly Thompson’s architecture and has some of his best bunkering. Out of all his work, this is the one that could comfortably hold the best players in the game at bay, and still provide a pleasant round for its membership.

Runner up: Highland Golf Links

Best Par Three

This is a landslide win for the Devil’s Cauldron at Banff Springs. It would also be my pick for the finest hole in Canada too. The hole plays over a small glacier fed lake to a beautiful green site set in a natural amphitheater on a plateau above the lake. Thompson further framed in the green with a beautiful array of bunkers providing some additional drama to the setting. The backdrop of the green is small sliver of dark spruce which helps emphasize the beautiful natural setting for the green, but the most unforgettable part of the hole is how the shear mountain face seems to loom right over the hole. You feel a thrill just standing on the tee looking at everything around you and Thompson delivers an exceptional one shotter that lives up to the setting.

Runner up: The Bad Baby at Jasper Park (best short three)

Best Long Par Four

My favorite is the 2nd hole at Highland Golf Links

My favorite long four has no bunkers and no water, so how can it be great? What makes the hole so much fun to play is the terrain of the land and the contour of the green. The hole is a dogleg to the right with the landing area tumbling down like a gentle mogul run to the green site. The player can choose to carry the corner of the trees and valley to shorten the hole or to play straight out leaving a very long approach. The shot in is downhill but the lie can be anything due to the wildness of the fairway. The green sits just beyond a deep swale in front. With no bunkers, so you can run it on or fly it in. The green is a stunner with the deep swale dissecting the centre of the green making putting, chipping and the approach shots fascinating.

Runner up: 2nd hole at St. George’s

Best Short Par Four

My favorite is the very drivable short 7th hole at Scarboro Golf & Country Club. From the tee the green is very inviting and reachable for a very long hitter. The fairway has no bunkering until really close to the green where two fairway bunkers pinch the approach. The green is also open in front with two deep bunkers flanking the right and left of the green. The key to the hole is the small and narrow green that also has a very steep bank of fairway in front of the green. This makes the pitch extremely delicate pitch. Finding yourself in the left or right fairway bunkers is the toughest bunker shot you can face. Finding yourself right, left or long all leads for a tough recovery shot considering the shape and pitch of the green, even short is no bargain because how much higher the green is than the fairway. A great short four test your judgment and nerve with obvious risks and rewards. The best ones lull you into playing aggressive when you shouldn’t – this describes the 7th well.

Runner up: The 4th at Highland Links (from the old tee)

Best Par Five

The 18th at Capilano offers the best finishing hole in Canada and my favourite par five. The tee shot is uphill between a series of Thompson bunkers where placement is at a premium. The second shot is a classic risk and reward scenario where you either take your shot aggressively to the upper right fairway leaving an easy short approach between the bunkers; or you play to the lower fairway leaving a tough semi-blind shot over very deep bunkers to the green. The green has plenty of slope and provides the final touch on this terrific three shot par five. Finally the setting is one of the greatest in Canada, the hole plays by the spectacular clubhouse, the mountains are infull view when you look back down the hole and the city of Vancouver can be seen in the distance from the green.

Runner up: The 14th at Summit Golf & Country Club

Monday, July 31, 2006

If I Founded a Private Golf Club

My course would have great contours and minimal emmenities

If I had the money, I would love to build a golf club. First off if I were to build a course it would be public, but I’m going to offer up my version of how I would set up a my own club through all my experiences with private clubs.

The golf course has to take priority over every facet of the club, since it’s the reason people join. It must be a great golf course that is enjoyable to play each and every day. My model would be the National Golf Links of America which is full of limitless options, playability and enough challenge even for the better player. The National is a course where you would be as happy at 20 as you would at 70.

There should be no tee times. This eliminates certain groups controlling key times and promotes a more social atmosphere of waiting and “finding” a game. The course will have no cart paths although carts will be available to those with a doctor’s note. Ideally a real honest youth caddy program would be established. They will be juniors who will be offered access to all facilities, have lessons offered twice a week by the professional staff, and once a month receive a short lecture from “a member” to help them gain important life skills for their future (like understanding compound interest). I’ve seen this work extremely well in other areas and wonder why this hasn’t come into golf. The membership will be encouraged to interact with the staff and visa versa. My favourite club to work at actively encourages this policy and it makes for a wonderful place to be. They have almost no staff or membership turnover – not hard to figure out why.

The clubhouse should be small and understated. There should be a pro shop, a place to get a burger and a beer and nice locker facilities – that’s it. The showers must have the Merion style waterfall heads, if you’ve experienced them you’ll understand why. There should be no dining room, since they can’t compete with restaurants, and lose money for the club. The food should be good, but I’ve never seen the value in a chef and a menu. There should be no outside events on the course or in the clubhouse. There should be no workout facilities, curling rink, tennis counts or pool - you belong to play golf. By doing this the clubhouse will make money or the prices can be kept very reasonable.

The club will have full practice facilities including a short game facility and a wildly rolling green like the putting course at St. Andrews. There will be no shuttling of players, golf bags or anything else back and forth; you will have to carry your own bag if you want to go somewhere.

Finally the structure of the club is important too. There will be a board and they will only make decisions on financial and clubhouse issues. There will only be one committee, the green’s committee, which will deal only on issues related to the course. In my version of things the superintendent will have the final say on everything but budget. His job is up for review after each contract so he has enough pressure already without facing micromanagement.

While I would keep the rules to a readable two page document with simple rules of decorum, I would insist upon two items. One that allows the board to pay a member back at any point if he has become a detriment to the club, and the second being no changes can be made without the input of the architect.