In recent Journey Along the Shores posts, I have been focused on what we are doing to improve the course now. With Autumn quickly approaching, stay tuned for news on the next batch of improvement projects.
Let’s take a break from the present, and revisit the subject of the future of Canal Shores. There are exciting discussions taking place on how to increase the beauty of the property, the playability of the course, and the sustainability of the facility. The Board and community have yet to make concrete decisions about a Master Plan. However, since I posted about a 4 Course Concept, there has been quite a bit of enthusiastic feedback, including from people who know much more about golf than I do. To the best of my ability, I have integrated the ideas that these experts have generously shared.
I have also repeatedly been asked a question – What will this look like and how will it work?
Before answering, first, a disclosure. There are no original ideas in my Concept. Rather, what I have tried to do is envision a new Canal Shores that leverages best practices from the past and present to provide a golf experience that is more flexible and fun for all of our players, especially kids.
THE ROLLING GREEN
There is one aspect of golf that every man, woman, and child can enjoy, regardless of skill level – putting. Who doesn’t love the sight and sound of a ball tumbling into the hole? That is why I have proposed the creation of a putting course for Canal Shores. It is a place that can be enjoyed by all, and where kids can begin to learn the game properly – from the hole outward.
Inspiration for The Rolling Green comes from the world’s most famous putting course – The Himalayas at St. Andrews. Pictured below, it is the home to the St. Andrews Ladies Putting Club, and is also open to the public for a very modest fee.
Closer to home, course developers and operators have started adding putting and short courses to their offerings. Mike Keiser has proven to be a visionary with the opening of the Punchbowl at Bandon Dunes Resort putting course, designed by Tom Doak and Jim Urbina on 100,000 square feet of wildly contoured duneland. The course is no charge for resort guests and area residents. Having played it myself, I can attest to how incredibly fun (and addicting) it is.
Even the USGA has gotten into the act. On a visit to Canal Shores, USGA senior executive Rand Jerris shared that Gil Hanse designed a putting course at the USGA headquarters. “Everyone used to eat lunch at their desks, but not anymore,” Rand explained. “It has fostered a sense of community among our staff.”
THE KIDS LINKS
In Scotland, where the game was born, access to the links was not a right. It was a privilege that young players had to earn through developing skills and etiquette. Where were kids to learn the game? Often, they had their own “courses” set aside – open spaces with greens, minimal hazards, and undulating ground.
Inspiration for our Kids Links was provided to me by Northwestern Coach Pat Goss on a recent trip to Scotland with Luke Donald. Pat played North Berwick, and saw the Children’s Course, one of the oldest in existence. This is a space for kids only. No adults allowed unless accompanied by a child.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of seeing a short course designed to engage kids and beginners, at CommonGround outside of Denver. Designed by Tom Doak, the course is packed with interesting ground features and cool greens. The evening I was there, it was also packed with parents and children.
And a final piece of inspiration was provided to us by Lisa Quinn, Executive Director of the The First Tee of Chicago, when she stopped by Canal Shores. She tipped us off to the Youth Links at Cantigny in Wheaton. I plan to load my boys up to go play this gem – they play, I caddie.
THE BACK LOT
Watching players progress in the game to the highest level of competitive performance is very rewarding. Who doesn’t like seeing an advanced player produce mind-blowing shots?
Giving the area’s competitive players – Northwestern’s men’s and women’s golf teams, ETHS’s teams, AJGA amateurs – a world class practice course on which to develop their games exposes the community to part of what makes golf great. It can never be mastered, and so the reward is in the progress. Watching better players has always inspired me to keep developing my game, and I subsequently get to experience the joy of hitting shots that seemingly transcend my ability.
And to up the ante, what if the Back Lot was open to parents and kids as a “family course” so that we could walk and play in the footsteps of more advanced players? I know my boys would love that experience.
Inspiration for the Back Lot comes from existing practice facilities, and short courses. I am particularly intrigued by the outstanding work done by Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw at Bandon Preserve. Although a par 3 course, it has the fundamentals of a great practice course – variety of approach shot distances and angles, challenging hazards, and big, interesting greens.
Ask any visitor to Bandon, and they will tell you that the Preserve provided challenge, and maximum fun. Architect Dave Zinkand includes his work on that project at the top of his list of favorites. (Read the GeekedOnGolf interview with Dave here)
Other college golf programs have provided their players with first-rate, imaginative facilities on which to practice their craft. University of Illinois’s Lautritzen/Wohlers Outdoor Golf Practice Facility, The Playground at University of Washington, and Stanford’s Siebel Varsity Golf Training Complex are all examples of how a practice area can be both beautiful and beneficial to players.
As a resident, it would be very exciting to me to have top players out showcasing their skills for me and my kids to see. And you never know – with a space like this, we might even be able to convince former Northwestern players such as Luke Donald and Matt Fitzpatrick to stop by and visit when they are in town…
THE JANS COURSE
What about players who have the skills, and want to play golf on a “standard” course? Canal Shores does not have the space that allows for a typical 18 hole golf course. However, that does not mean that players have to settle for “less than”. Rather, what can be offered in a renovated short course – The Jans Course – is the kind of fast, fun and flexible golf that fits with today’s busy lifestyles.
Facilities around the country, including nearby Arlington Lakes GC (stay tuned for the GeekedOnGolf interview with architect Mike Benkusky on this project) are reimagining what a “round” of golf could mean. The creativity of these initiatives is inspiring to me.
The Jans Course could be routed in numerous combinations of par 3s and 4s into 9 to 14 holes. If/when the time comes, we’ll leave that to the GCA professionals. Regardless of the routing, we can draw on the rich history of early-20th century architecture for style inspiration. Donald Ross, William Langford, Seth Raynor and others have left us with numerous examples of how to create interest with bold features that also fit the natural surroundings. We need only look around in our Chicagoland “backyard” to courses like Old Elm, Shoreacres, and Skokie CC to see how beautiful and fun these golf holes can be.
Tee-to Green Hazards would likely include minimal bunkers to keep maintenance costs down, but those we have could have the classic look of Golden Era courses.
Without bunkering, The Jans Course could rely on Ground Features – humps, bumps, hollows, and hummocks – to challenge players in a creative and beautiful manner. In a visit to Canal Shores, architect Drew Rogers stressed the value of these features in giving players variety without sacrificing playability (read the GeekedOnGolf with Drew here)
Our Greens will likely need to be on the smaller end of the scale, but that does not mean that they won’t be interesting. We are not looking for severity, but rather the subtle contouring that confounds players and makes them want to come back for more. On his tour of Canal Shores, Rand Jerris encouraged us to preserve and/or recreate some of the neater greens on the course, thereby maintaining a link to the origins of the course.
Is all this possible at little ol’ Canal Shores? Not without commitment, resources and significant effort. But otherwise, why not? We do not need to reinvent the wheel. Rather, we need only look around for sources of inspiration that abound when the spirit of the game is upheld. With that spirit, we can transform a unique space into one of the truly great golf facilities on the planet.
Are you inspired? Stay tuned for news to come…
More Journey Along the Shores posts:
- Pt.1 – Introduction
- Pt.2 – The Land
- Pt.3 – Principles for Greatness
- Pt.4 – First Steps
- Pt.5 – Tree Management
- Pt.6 – 4 Course Concept
- Pt.7 – Pilot Projects
- Pt.8 – More Tree Management
- Pt.10 – Off-Season Projects
- Pt.11 – Blue Sky Findings
- Pt.12 – Good Geeky Fun
- Pt.13 – 4 Course Concept Revisited
Copyright 2015 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf