Sunday, November 13, 2011

Golf snob (and the new frontier).

The 13th hole at Blackhawk.
Visiting those golf courses considered to be the world's best is a very important part of studying to be a golf course architect.

Over the past decade and more, I'm fortunate to have visited eight of the world's top-10 courses (according to GOLF magazine) and 12 of the top-20; not to mention many other fantastic layouts around the world which reside not very far outside the world's top-20.

Not many "other" courses live up to this standard, by which I tend to judge others. I don't really enjoy when people ask me what I think of this course or that course as a result. It's difficult for me to be very positive about the run-of-the-mill. If this makes me a golf snob, so be it! If I'm not constantly thinking about the very best, my work will suffer for it.

My work has taken me to a lot of interesting places, for which I am grateful. In Canada, I've set foot in every province except Newfoundland. And, every time I've visited a major Canadian city I've planned in advance to visit its best courses. For example, when I started consulting at Victoria Golf Club, I couldn't wait to get over to Royal Colwood - Vernon Macan's revolutionary 1913 design just outside British Columbia's capital city. And, of course, while building Cabot Links over recent years, any excuse to get up to Stanley Thompson's mammoth Cape Breton Highlands Links was used.

There have been more disappointing forays, too. A decade ago, when we started building Blackhawk Golf Club in Edmonton, I rushed over to The Mayfair (now Royal Mayfair). Without a doubt, The Mayfair occupies one of the most interesting sites for a golf club anywhere in Canada. The course is literally downtown, on the opposite bank of the North Saskatchewan River from the city centre. But you'd never know that Stanley Thompson had a hand in its original design today; and not a single golf architecture aficionado would go out of their way to see The Mayfair following significant alteration to the course over the years since Mr. Thompson was there.

Other than what-was The Mayfair (and now Blackhawk, of course), there's not much for the serious connoisseur of golf course design to see in Edmonton, unfortunately. Which reminds me of Regina.

Rod Whitman and I have done some work at Wascana Country Club, there, in Saskatchewan's capital. But unlike most other Canadian cities, there isn't a single course that I'd go out of my way to see in Regina. With some luck, this is likely to change. Saskatchewan's economy is arguably the most robust in North America. No surprise, the province is growing significantly at the moment. And, the golfing situation in Regina reminds me very much of that in Edmonton when we started building Blackhawk = a growing city, with a thriving economy without a truly good golf course. Not an ideal situation for people who enjoy golf and have the means and time to enjoy the game properly.

Blackhawk truly epitomizes the "build it and they will come" theory. What started out as a pay-as-you-play facility, some 20-30 minutes drive from 'town, has become an incredibly successful private golf club.

I think Regina's ready for the same. Recently, I've been provided opportunity to layout two new golf courses over (no exaggeration) wonderful properties near Regina. Most Canadians believe southern Saskatchewan to be ridiculously flat, and devoid of any interesting vegetation. Not true, at all. The potential for golf at these two particular properties - where soils are perfectly fit for golf, and the wind blows - is absolutely remarkable. If these two courses are ever built, we might actually provide golf architecture buffs with a reason to visit Regina, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment