Over the summer, the initiative to transform Canal Shores along the lines I outlined in my previous posts (4 Course Concept & Inspiration for the New Canal Shores) gained significant momentum. That gain is primarily attributable to my good fortune in connecting with Pat Goss. Pat is the Director of Golf for Northwestern University and Luke Donald’s coach (follow Pat on Twitter at @patgossnugolf). He is also highly committed to youth golf and teaching the game. And perhaps best of all, when it comes to golf geekery, Pat is a soul brother.
Several months ago, the Canal Shores Board formed a “Blue Sky” Committee to explore options for the future of the facility. Pat and I have a similar vision, and so we volunteered to explore how we might go about turning that vision into a reality. In early September, I presented our findings to the Canal Shores Grounds Committee and members of the Board, with architect Drew Rogers in attendance. The response was enthusiastic, and we continue to walk down the road toward the New Canal Shores.
I share a recap of the presentation here for two reasons: First, I want to publicly thank Pat, Dave Zinkand, Drew Rogers, and everyone else from The Game of Golf who lent their expertise and support to getting us to this point. Second, I wanted anyone who was not able to attend the meeting to have the opportunity to stay up to date on how this project is developing.
MEETINGS & CONVERSATIONS
Over the past several months, Pat and I have been talking to various parties within The Game of Golf. We were sharing ideas for the New Canal Shores, and seeking answers to two questions:
- Are we crazy for trying to do this?
- If we go forward, can we expect support from The Game to get the renovation done and pay for it?
Among those who talked to us were:
- National and Regional Organizations – United States Golf Association, Chicago District Golf Association, American Society of Golf Course Architects
- Youth Golf Organizations – First Tee of Greater Chicago, First Tee of Metropolitan New York, The Golf Practice
- Golf Course Architects – Drew Rogers, David Zinkand, Tim Liddy, Dave Axland, Andy Staples, Mike Benkusky, Todd Quitno
- Golf Course Builders and Managers – Wadsworth, Lohman, KemperSports
- Superintendents of Local Clubs – Bryn Mawr, Conway Farms, Old Elm, Onwentsia Club
- Professionals – Luke Donald, area teaching pros
- Coaches – David Inglis & Emily Fletcher (NU), Jed Curtis (ETHS)
Their answers to our questions have been:
- Yes, you are crazy, in exactly the right kind of way.
The response was overwhelmingly positive and offers of support have already started to roll in – expertise, discounted materials and services, funding, etc. It has been humbling to interact with these good people who love the game of golf so much, and want to see more kids playing it.
GUIDING PRINCIPLES EXPANDED
The Canal Shores Board previously adopted the following Guiding Principles to govern decisions about the direction of the facility. We are committed to:
- Providing an outstanding golf facility that focuses on youth and family golf. To thrive, the golf facility should deliver an experience that is fast, flexible, and fun for all levels of player.
- Maximizing value to the community by creating a multi-use green space that is designed for effective mixed use, with golf at its core. Further, all stakeholders enjoy and benefit from exposure to natural beauty, which Canal Shores will embody.
- Preparing for the long-term by committing to sustainability. From a land-stewardship perspective, that means restoration of habitat, proactive tree management, and responsible maintenance practices. From a business perspective, that means designing the golf component in such a way that the fine line between great design that generates revenue and maintenance cost minimization is effectively walked.
I chose to expand on the above principles to specifically address the renovation and its intent. The intention is for the facility to be significantly more successful, especially with families and kids. With the right execution, more players should be able to play without diminishing the value of the facility to non-players and neighbors.
The golf component of the facility will be designed, built, and maintained in a such a manner that:
- Neighbors may adopt and beautify areas along the the property border without major concern of negative impacts from play.
- There is harmony with the multi-use paths and wildlife habitat enhancement areas.
- The beauty of the property is drastically enhanced for players, walkers, and neighbors.
- The increased volume of players will not have a material negative impact to neighbors.
- Negative impacts to personal safety and neighboring property damage will be minimized.
Do these high standards create a real design and execution challenge? Absolutely. But to me, there is no reason to settle for “less than” in the New Canal Shores.
CANAL SHORES IS DIFFERENT
There are those who believe that the best path forward is for Canal Shores to try and be more like other standard 18 hole courses in the area – more like Chick Evans, or Wilmette GC, or Westmoreland CC. Pat and I obviously do not share this view.
To us, Canal Shores is unlike any other golf course we have ever played, specifically because of the land on which it sits. It is woven like a thread into the fabric of the community. It blends natural beauty with man-made architecture and the infrastructure of the community. It is also segmented by the streets in a way that has created a culture of free-form use by players. Its openness welcomes mixed-use in a way we don’t often see in golf facilities in America.
These aspects of the character of Canal Shores are what makes it compelling. It does not need to be more like other courses or clubs. To truly thrive, we advocate embracing and building upon what makes Canal Shores unique. It is this uniqueness that has so many people from The Game of Golf lining up to help us. In this case, they see that different is better.
What does this mean in practice? It means two things:
- We would be upgrading from a single 18-hole golf course, to 4 courses totaling ~40 holes.
- We would be adopting a “ski area” approach to the structure of the facility. Different areas, experiences, and demands for different skill levels.
In this manner, we can be of maximum value to the greatest number of players.
PART OF A MOVEMENT
Although the multi-course concept being considered is unique in Chicagoland, we are certainly not alone in our efforts to reconnect the game of golf to its original spirit. Around the country, alternative golf projects like those at Sweetens Cove, the Schoolhouse Nine, and others are gaining notoriety. (Click here for a map of Shorties & Alternative courses around the country – each pin includes links to more information.)
Two of my favorite projects are the Andy Staples designed Rockwind Community Links and John Ashworth’s campaign to renovate Goat Hill Park. These projects serve as examples and inspiration for Canal Shores.
Learn more about Rockwind in this short video (video may take several moments to load):
Learn more about Goat Hill in this short video (video may take several moments to load):
REFINING THE MULTI-COURSE CONCEPT
Architect David Zinkand was kind enough to spend two days visiting Canal Shores and learning about our desires for the facility (click here to learn more about Dave). He then created for us a Preliminary Rendering of the New Canal Shores free of charge. This rendering is not meant to represent the final plan in every detail, but it does give a compelling glimpse into the future.
Attendees at the meeting were also sent an Executive Summary of the proposed project that included a statement of our intention to apply for a planning grant from the ASGCA/USGA First Links program. That application has been submitted, and initial response from the directors of the program has been enthusiastic. (Click here to view the Executive Summary)
WHY GO IN THIS DIRECTION?
This is a personal question that each person who might be involved in the project must answer for themselves. People from the Game of Golf have answered that they believe that it can be done, that it will work, and that it is exactly what the game needs.
For me, there are several reasons why I am willing to put my time, energy, and money into transforming Canal Shores:
- As a dad, I want my boys to have a chance to fall in love with the game the way that I did.
- As a member of the community, I would love to be a part of leaving a legacy of a special place for golf, outdoor recreation, and natural beauty.
- As a player, Canal Shores can be a set of 4 world-class golf courses, and I want to play them for years 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.9 – Inspiration for the New Canal Shores
- Pt.10 – Off-Season Projects
- Pt.12 – Good Geeky Fun
- Pt.13 – 4 Course Concept Revisited
Copyright 2015 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf