Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Genesis: Essex.

The home hole at Essex.
It was a beautiful fall day for golf in southwestern Ontario; and, I was fortunate to enjoy what will likely be my last round for 2011 (at least in Canada) at Essex Golf and Country Club, in Windsor, Ontario, today.

I'm also fortunate to have learned golf, and developed a love for course architecture at Essex. I grew up around the club. I'm still a member, but not around to enjoy the place as much as I'd like to these days. Perhaps biasedly (but I think not), I consider Essex to be one of Canada's truly great golf courses.

Opened for play in 1929, Donald Ross' original design essentially remains intact; and, it's one of the best examples, worldwide, of how to create interesting and enduring golf over a flat site. I doubt there's more than 2-3 feet of elevation change over Essex' 130 or so acres. Remarkably, Ross' design didn't mandate much earthmoving and artificial shaping, aside from at the green sites, either.

Yesterday, I toured Paul Jansen, from (Nick) Faldo Design around Essex. He was as impressed with the design and shaping of the putting surfaces and surrounds as I've been over the past 27 years since I joined the club as a junior member.

The greens were typically slick in these beautiful fall conditions today, too. The speed of the greens really showed off all of the subtle slope and contour Mr. Ross devised. Essex' greens are beautifully shaped, but not necessarily visually intimidating from most angles. The design and shaping is very, very classy; which is not easy to achieve. It's much easier to create big contour and abrupt tiers - typical of too many over-cooked modern designs - than it is to replicate the classy style of Mr. Ross' greens at Essex.

While pointing out some of the subtlties in the greens at Essex to Paul Jansen yesterday, I frankly said: I don't believe many modern golf course designers would have the guts to stamp their approval on greens which appear as seemingly benign as a few at Essex (even though this is actually not the case, in fact). Of course there are a few exceptions.

We need more Essex'. Courses where the greens are beautifully classy-looking and adequately challenging, but not outrageous. Where tees are immediately adjacent to greens. And where a round of golf can be played with a single ball over 6,700 yards (max.) in less than four hours.

Too many modern creations are the antithesis of this formula, unfortunately.

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