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My Thoughts on All the Top 100 in Canada – Part Two of Four

 

Victoria Golf Club 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th!

 

Courses 26-50

 

26 Royal Colwood

Best Element: the greens are proof that pitch can be just as cleverly used as roll

The Good: so many of the great elements are decidedly subtle

The Bad: the courses bunkering is very dull, but once was remarkable

The Ugly: the club needs to remove the trees that clutter a great design

Ian’s Rank: Top 20 

Comment: a subtle and brilliant gem of a course

 

27 Victoria GC

Best Element: The ocean setting has no rival in Canada

The Good: a truly spectacular front nine

The Bad: the holes are so tightly packed that you are always in danger

The Ugly: the safety issues at the clubhouse are frightening

Ian’s Rank: Top 25 

Comment: One course you simply must play

 

28 Sagebrush

Not seen it in person

Ian’s Speculation: Top 20

Comment: the architecture looks very interesting and reminds me of Coore and Crenshaw

 

29 Glen Abbey GC

Best Element: The valley holes still hold up well after all this time

The Good: There are lots of really good holes

The Bad: The reliance on the aerial game makes the course one dimensional

The Ugly: the 17th green is silly

Ian’s Rank: Top 75 

Comment: Good, but far from great

 

30 Kananaskis Country – Mt. Kidd

Not seen it in person

Ian’s Speculation: Top 100

Comment: I’m in no rush to see this course

 

31 Georgian Bay Club

Best Element: The course is great fun to play

The Good: The bunkering is interesting and unique

The Bad: Some times there is so much bunkering that it becomes overwhelming

The Ugly: nothing really, but I preferred the upper holes

Ian’s Rank: Top 75 

 

32 Stewart Creek GC

Not seen it in person

Ian’s Speculation: Top 50

Comment: I like what I saw when I was there, but I was unable to get out and see it all because of time constraints

 

33 Mississaugua G&CC

Best Element: The opening holes are really great

The Good: The recent renovation removed the schizophrenic nature of the course

The Bad: the holes where the fill was imported look out of character

The Ugly: the 13th hole

Ian’s Rank: Top 75 

Comment: Too many cooks spoiled the broth

 

34 Redtail GC

Best Element: The valleys are well used on many holes

The Good: Some of the holes like the 8th and 9th are great

The Bad: the course is way too tight and unforgiving in places

The Ugly: the trees in front of the 4th green are dumb

Ian’s Rank: Top 50 

Comment: the forced carries and narrow fairways hurt a petty good design

 

35 Le Maitre

Not seen it in person

Ian’s Speculation: Top 100

Comment: Nothing to draw me north

 

36 Greywolf GC

Best Element: The Cliffhanger is a great hole

The Good: The fours beginning at the 7th and through to the 17th are all excellent holes and some of Doug’s best

The Bad: The 9th could be anywhere

The Ugly: The opening fours are all way too severe

Ian’s Rank: Top 30 

Comment: I love how not one single ball ever finds the sky, there is nothing like that anywhere else I have played.

 

37 Dundarave GC

Not seen it in person

Ian’s Speculation: Top 100

Comment: I doubt I’ll ever make the effort to see it

 

38 Humber Valley GC – River

Not seen it in person

Ian’s Speculation: Top 20

Comment: the photos look fantastic and it looks well worth seeking out

 

Osprey Heathlands - all that short grass everywhere

 

39 Osprey Valley – Heathlands

Best Element: The options around the greens are some of the best

The Good: the course plays like a real links when kept lean

The Bad: The links style is a little contrived in places

The Ugly: the water holes seem out of place on a links

Ian’s Rank: Top 25 

Comment: Plays even better than it looks

 

40 Weston G&CC

Best Element: Both finishing fours are really clever holes

The Good: A truly great set of par threes

The Bad: a little too plain in places to be in the elite  

The Ugly: the railroad trestle is scheduled to get much bigger

Ian’s Rank: Top 40

Comment: A very good golf course

 

41 Glencoe G&CC – Glen Forest

Not seen it in person

Ian’s Speculation: Top 100

Comment: very modern and not my taste

 

42 King Valley GC

Best Element: The routing uses the land very well in places

The Good: some great green sites and wonderful bunkering

The Bad: the overuse of water as a hazard

The Ugly: that Curtis Strange gets any credit for Doug’s work is crap

Ian’s Rank: Top 50

Comment: I like the use of cross-slope on many fairways

 

43 Copper Creek GC

Best Element: the valley holes more subtle and the strength of the layout

The Good: the 9th green is a brilliant design

The Bad: the upper holes involve massive earthmoving and lack any subtlety

The Ugly: too much reliance on ponds to create strategy

Ian’s Rank: Top 75

Comment: There is a large collection of dramatic tee shots

 

44 Le Geant

Not seen it in person

Ian’s Speculation: Top 100

Comment: Doesn’t make me rush north

 

45 Dakota Dunes

Best Element: It was the best natural site I have seen in Canada

The Good: Many of the green sites are set down in the dunes creating a terrific intimacy for those greens

The Bad: the small flat round bunkers do not do the architecture justice when compared to the natural blow outs which are awesome

The Ugly: the short 13th is unplayable for short hitters

Ian’s Rank: Top 25

Comment: The course is a must play for the unique setting and some really wonderful green sites

 

46 Brantford G&CC

Best Element: The first four par threes are all outstanding holes

The Good: The golf course has an exceptional routing and many strong fours throughout

The Bad: the trees are still too overwhelming despite recent removal programs

The Ugly: recent work continues to modernize a very old course

Ian’s Rank: Top 30

Comment: I have always thought the routing was excellent and the course would be a top 20 with a more restorative approach

 

47 Kananaskis Country – Mt. Lorette

Not seen it in person

Ian’s Speculation: Top 100

Comment: I doubt I’ll ever see this course

 

48 Deerhurst Resort – Highlands

Best Element: There are lots of great holes throughout the course

The Good: The 11th is particularly well designed

The Bad: I’m not a fan of the holes out in the meadow, they seem out of place from the rest

The Ugly: The greens are over the top in places

Ian’s Rank: Top 60

Comment:

 

Scarboro's short 11th

 

49 Scarboro G&CC

Best Element: The green sites are brilliant

The Good: The collection of short fours is the best in the country

The Bad: Three of the par three holes play 210 yards

The Ugly: The tee shot over the road on the 18th  

Ian’s Rank: Top 15

Comment: This is one of the best courses in the country, but the finishing tee shot hurts the course

 

50 Calgary G&CC

Best Element: The upper holes are all fantastic

The Good: The restoration work has done a wonderful job of making this course special

The Bad: The holes near the clubhouse hold the course back

The Ugly: The pond on the 9th made me cringe

Ian’s Rank: Top 20

Comment: Another must play and the best Willie Park course in Canada

 

 

 

 

My Thoughts on All the Top 100 in Canada – Part One of Four

 

 

St. Georges 3rd green

 

Courses 1-25

 

1 The National GC of Canada

Best Element: The routing

The Good: many of the fours and fives are fantastic

The Bad: the par threes are decidedly average

The Ugly: the renovation to the 16th is truly awful

Ian’s Rank: 7th

Comment: hardest does not equal best

 

2 Hamilton G&CC – West, South

Best Element: The routing of the holes

The Good: the threes and fours are fantastic

The Bad: just about any renovation that has been done in the last 20 years

The Ugly: the narrow fairways done for the Canadian Open

Ian’s Rank: 3rd

Comment: desperately needs bunker work

 

3 St. George’s G&CC

Best Element: The bunkers

The Good: the course does not have a weak hole

The Bad: it was even better before Robbie’s changes in 66’

The Ugly: The 3rd green is awful

Ian’s Rank: 2nd

Comment: likely the best with the original 3rd green

 

4 Jasper Park Lodge GC

Best Element: Thompson’s ability to focus holes at the scenery

The Good: best set of threes in Canada

The Bad: the course is considered to open and short to be great by some

The Ugly: The difficulty growing quality turf due to climate

Ian’s Rank: 4th 

Comment: most fun course in the country

 

5 Banff Springs GC

Best Element: The bunkering is the best in the country

The Good: The Devil’s Cauldron is Canada’s greatest hole

The Bad: the course is surprisingly flat

The Ugly: all the renovated greens are awful

Ian’s Rank: 6th 

Comment: the run along the river was a great finish

 

6 Highlands Links

Best Element: The journey through an ever changing landscape

The Good: The fairway undulations

The Bad: the 12th hole is decided average

The Ugly: the recent restoration” that was anything but that

Ian’s Rank: 1st  

Comment: clearly the best after a restoration

 

7 Capilano G&CC

Best Element: A truly great routing over a tough site

The Good: The bunkering and the finishing stretch

The Bad: all the short fives in the first 10 holes

The Ugly: the 6th green is terrible

Ian’s Rank: 5th   

Comment: brilliant routing is worthy of study

 

8 Beacon Hall

Best Element: The back nine

The Good: The 16th is brilliant

The Bad: the front nine is not near the quality of the back nine

The Ugly: the 6th is inexplicable

Ian’s Rank: Top 30 

Comment: the back nine is really good, the front leaves me flat

 

9 Muskoka Bay Club

Best Element: The rocky setting is impressive

The Good: The fairway undulations and green contours are the strength

The Bad: the bunkering

The Ugly: the 17th is too long for a green without any room for error

Ian’s Rank: Top 30

Comment: almost great, a few late decisions made the difference 

 

10 Royal Montreal GC – Blue

Best Element: It is a championship test

The Good: The threes are good holes

The Bad: the golf course is long and monotonous

The Ugly: the multi-tiered greens

Ian’s Rank: top 50

Comment: the ranking reflects the club and not the course

 

11 Devil’s Paintbrush

Best Element: The variety of holes and shots is wonderful

The Good: The right combination of fun and challenge

The Bad: the pond on the 6th seems out of place

The Ugly:

Ian’s Rank: top 10

Comment: shear fun from start to finish

 

12 The Links at Crowbush Cove

Not seen it in person

Ian’s Speculation: top 40

 

13 Shaughnessy G&CC

Best Element: The holes along the cliff overlooking the Frazer Delta

The Good: Holes like the 10th and 11th

The Bad: the site is more flat than you would expect

The Ugly: The bunkering is disappointing

Ian’s Rank: Top 30 

Comment: lacks the great holes other courses have

 

14 Westmount G&CC

Best Element: a terrific routing

The Good: Robbie’s new holes were great

The Bad: the last bunker renovation was awful

The Ugly: the 11th and 12th greens are out of character

Ian’s Rank: Top15    

Comment: the bunkers detract from a great course

 

15 Coppinwood

Not seen it in person

Ian’s Speculation: top 40

 

16 Tobiano

Not seen it in person

Ian’s Speculation: top 30

 

17 Devil’s Pulpit

Best Element: Terrific setting

The Good: many wonderful holes

The Bad: just as many not so wonderful holes

The Ugly: architect tried every idea they ever saw on one course

Ian’s Rank: Top 75  

Comment: disneyland

 

18 Oviinbyrd

Best Element: the playability off the tee

The Good: many unique and interesting holes

The Bad: the pond on the 18th seems to cliché

The Ugly: rattlesnakes right of the 10th

Ian’s Rank: Top 25  

Comment: McBroom’s Best  

 

 

Tornto's original 15th green site

 

19 Toronto GC

Best Element: The routing is clever and the land is a big part of the strategy

The Good: great collection of fours

The Bad: the recent renovation took Toronto from subtle to busy

The Ugly: the hillside on the 7th is now artificial

Ian’s Rank: Top 15

Comment: the subtlety was removed – for better or worse?

 

20 Rocky Crest GC

Best Element: Great use of rock outcrops

The Good: Lots of solid golf holes

The Bad: too many average golf holes that rely solely on the rock outcrops

The Ugly: just missing a green and hitting the rock

Ian’s Rank: Top 75  

Comment: much prefer Lake Joseph

 

21 Wolf Creek – Old

Best Element: The imagination of the designer

The Good: Brilliant golf holes all over

The Bad: many holes are too hard to play

The Ugly: the 4th is ridiculous at that width

Ian’s Rank: Top 40 

Comment: the brilliant moments overshadow the awkward holes  

 

 22 Eagles Nest GC

Best Element: The creativity and imagination is outstanding

The Good: Many excellent holes, with the threes being the standouts

The Bad: The right side of the 17th doesn’t seem to be a viable option

The Ugly: the 18th is so cliché that it’s a disappointment

Ian’s Rank: Top 15

Comment: Carrick’s best work  

 

23 Taboo

Best Element: The setting is well used

The Good: Some terrific and fun holes to play

The Bad: a few holes just don’t make sense

The Ugly: the 7th is so awkward

Ian’s Rank: Top 75 

Comment: beautiful and awkward

 

24 Bigwin Island

Best Element: The setting has few rivals in Canada

The Good: Many great holes with some outstanding fours and fives

The Bad: the threes are the weak point of the course

The Ugly: the ownership situation

Ian’s Rank: Top 20 

Comment: some of Carrick’s best holes

 

25 Blackhawk GC

Best Element: The upper 7 holes are brilliantly designed

The Good: The style of architecture is refreshing and original

The Bad: the 16th is cliché

The Ugly: the 9th doesn’t work for me

Ian’s Rank: Top 25 

Comment: one of the most original and refreshing pieces of architecture

 next Tuesday 26-50

 

 

 

 

 

Knollwood 16th

 

 

The before

 

I spent Tuesday and Wednesday just outside New York City. This was the start of the restoration work at Knollwood Country Club, a course designed by Seth Raynor and finished by Charles Banks. The main focus of the work will be restoring all the greens back out to the edge of their fill pads and returning the bunkers back to their original steepness and configuration. I was on site to provide direction for the restoration of the 16th hole.

 

We began by expanding the green out to the edge by removing all the sand build-up at the bunkers and by amending the remaining edges of the plateau to create a soil profile that matches the rest of the green. The next stage was to lower the exit points and raise the centre point approximately six inches to get minimal fall, since the green was stunningly flat through the main pin area. We then amended the entire surface again to try and bring more sand into the greens mix to improve the porosity and growing environment.

 

Once the green was pushed to the limits, we then set out to restore the bunkers. The front bunkers were quite close to the original shape and depth, so we concentrated on returning the two noses (unusual for Raynor, but not as unusual for Banks) and made sure the two bunkers were pretty close to the shapes of the originals. We then concentrated on the wrap around bunker that begins on the left and extends all the way around to the right of the green. The bunker was long gone and so were the original side slopes. We concentrated on the green side slopes and returned the steepness all the way around. From there we dug out the remainder of the bunker so that it once again completely encircles the green as originally designed.

 

 

The After (white is green expansion)

 

The next stage is removing approximately 30 large White Pines. The primary reason is to open up the airflow, but this is also to return the views too. Players will look out the back of the green and see the beautiful ridge in the distance, looking to the right they catch a glimpse of the beautiful clubhouse and once they stand on the green they will see the  incredible hidden stone bridge that is shown in so many of the pictures from the turn of the century.

 

 

The left side of the green with the wrap around bunker going in

 

This is our opportunity to make a statement to the membership, since they will not only get a chance to see a hole completed, but can understand the impact of all the green recapturing that has begun at the other 15 greens. The superintendent at the club is outstanding to work with, shares the vision and has taken the bull by the horns and pushed forward with the recapture of the greens on the course. By seeing the 16th done, the membership will come to understand why all those areas are worth the patience as he slowly convert them down to greens height by cutting and over-seeding.

 

 

The right side of the wrap around bunker is 10 feet deep!

 

I talked about my trip a few days ago and how enjoyable that whole experience was, but that still doesn’t compare with the thrill of returning the work of a Master Architect and knowing how much the membership will enjoy laying the hole after we are finished.

 

August 27th, 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prairie Dunes

 

4th at Prairie (courtesy GCA)

 

There are few courses more surprising than Prairie Dunes. The hour long drive in from Wichita makes you wonder where you made the wrong turn. It’s only a quarter mile from the course where you see the first slight rise. There is not a single dune right up until you get to the golf course, and then there they are fifty feet high, a series of dunes reminiscent of the coastline in Scotland. It only makes sense once you realize that Kansas was once underwater and these are actually coastal dunes.

 

The next surprise is the landscape. Everything that is not golf course is either native prairie grass, perennial or thicket shrub. The club has long embraced the importance of this beautiful but disappearing landscape. They actively manage the native areas with controlled burns and other programs designed to help the native areas flourish in their natural state. They don’t fight nature instead they encourage it as a significant part of the course. The splashes of colour along with the beautiful golden grasses provide the club with a magnificent texture unique to only Prairie Dunes. When you combine that with the wonderful dunes and copses of ancient Cottonwood, you truly have something very special.

 

The course is a combination of Perry and Press Maxwell. The routing does a wonderful job of playing through, along, up on to and off the main dune lines of the property. The driving areas are beautifully defined by the dune lines and it’s probably one of the best driving courses I have had the pleasure of playing. The green sites are well mixed with just as many set down inside natural valleys between the dunes as there are set up on plateaus up in the dunes. The great tribute to both men is how each hole has a unique setting, its own particular challenge and that how each embraces the land.

 

 

14th at Prairie (courtesy GCA)

 

Perry Maxwell in my estimation was the greatest designer of greens the game has seen. His work at places like Pine Valley and Augusta (seven of the existing greens) has no peer. The greens at Prairie Dunes are impressive. The mixture of exceptional interior contouring, false fronts, side droops and internal ridges has developed a set of greens where certain pins require you to play from particular locations on the fairway. I was lucky enough to experience different pins and saw how placement dictated position back in the fairway.

 

The bunkers are the focal point for many. The integration of native grasses, the inclusion of yucca plants and the raw torn out appearance is very reminiscent of the pictures of the earliest bunkers from the book British Links. I found each bunker had character, each one blended into the surroundings perfectly and all of them did a wonderful job of adding some architectural and visual accents to the course. The wonderful part of the bunkering is that it reinforces the strategy created by the routing often by sitting to the sides and collecting the mistakes or aggressive play rather than imposing as the singular strategy of the hole. For this reason the course is eminently playable and fair, in fact a running shot often is a good solution, but because of the green sites and internal green contour the course remains tough as nails at the same time.

 

As we headed out of the parking lot I stole one last glance over my shoulder at that magnificent golf course and thought to myself I must return one day. We rolled a quarter mile down the road and the dunes were gone and the site opening up to the flattest land you can imagine. I would have had a long face, except I could see every hole and every bunker of that golf course as fresh as if I was standing on the fairways and tees again. Prairie Dunes had not only met some very high expectations, but had surprised me by being even more than I had hoped.

 

 

 

 

The Week-end of a Lifetime

 

 

I’ve had some pretty amazing experiences in my life and I’m a very fortunate man.

 

This week-end past was certainly one of my favourites. I flew Thursday night to Chicago and onto Wichita on Friday morning. We went directly to Prairie Dunes to play the course that I most wanted to see in the world. I’ve long had a fascination with Prairie Dunes and how well the golf course incorporates the native prairie right into the architecture. It exceeded even my high expectations for the course. I will write about the course this week.

 

That evening we made a bee line back to Wichita to go and see Rush. I’ve been a fan for a very long time, preferring the first half of their career over the later half. This tour was not based on an album, but rather a reflective look back including the complete playing of my favourite album Moving Pictures. What made the evening special was I was given a backstage pass, a chance to walk on the stage and see the crowd prior to the show, a front row seat, a pick from Geddy Lee and a chance to meet some really interesting people over dinner back stage. It was a night to remember.

 

We returned to Prairie Dunes for 36 more, but cut it a little short with the heat taking its toll on all of us. This provided me with a chance to meet many members and made me really wish I could join that club. We made a quick flight to Chicago and spent the night at the Olympia Fields clubhouse. Next morning feature 18 holes on the South Course, which was really good. That afternoon featured 18 holes over at Shoreacres playing with the professional and a member. Shoreacres was another course that I dearly wanted to see for the routing and architecture of Seth Raynor. It was a great example of detail work around the greens. The one fascinating thought is some of the best holes are not templates!

 

I then did my best to help us try miss our plane (missed the turn-off when we were running tight to time), but we made the plane and flew back to Toronto. I’m home, I’m tired and I feel so very lucky to be given a chance to have a week-end like that.

August 23rd, 2010 

 

 

 

 
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