What a difference a year makes. In my previous JATS post, I shared about the efforts of a group of our volunteers – the NSCDS Boys. They, along with dozens of other volunteers, contributed hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to the successful completion of our makeover of the 12th green complex.
The Canal Shores Grounds Committee’s intention for this pilot project was to holistically apply the principles we have been exploring in the development of our Master Plan – community golf, outdoor recreation, and ecological stewardship working together in harmony. We hope that in seeing the transformation of this small piece of the property, our players and community can get a sense of what might be accomplished with more robust resources and expertise.
The 12th green complex makeover included several components:
- Clearing and cleanup of the invasive species overgrowth around the perimeter.
- Bunker reduction and reconfiguration.
- Replacement of the dilapidated boundary fence.
- Preservation of a large “specimen” tree.
- Installation of a new native plant area.
Following is a recap of the work, which took place over the course of the past year. We received so much volunteer assistance, that it is impossible to thank everyone enough. I have included a list of all the people I can remember. If you pitched in and I left you off the list, please send me a message to email@example.com so that I can be sure to properly recognize your invaluable efforts.
(click on images to enlarge)
CLEARING & CLEANUP
As is the case with every area of Canal Shores, years of neglect on the perimeter of the property and along the canal banks has led to invasive species such as buckthorn and riverbank grape vine taking over and choking out more desirable native plants and trees.
We started in the fall, worked through the winter, and finished in the spring with reclaiming the area inside of the canal bank ridgeline.
Cleared material was stacked and topped with mulch to create hugelkultur mounds that can be planted. Uncovered ground was seeded to provide golfers with more playable width.
We did not continue down the entirety of the ridgeline on #12. The picture below shows the line of demarcation. Notice that in the cleared areas, large trees are now visible.
The perimeter of the property presented additional challenges beyond invasives – challenges created by people.
We did remove the invasives and dead trees. That material was combined with debris left behind by landscapers who were using the course as a dumping ground. We also filled numerous bags with trash left behind by people who confused the course for a garbage can.
We found several paths that had been created by neighbors entering the property in the spot most convenient to them. This is an ongoing challenge for us. We want Canal Shores to be open and integrated with its neighborhood. However, it is dangerous for people to wander onto the course in blind spots where they cannot see players and players cannot see them. On #12, we built hugelkultur mounds that will be planted to close off some of these paths. Over time, we will be working to direct our non-golfing visitors to enter and exit the property in places that are designed to minimize danger and conflicts with our players.
In cleaning up the perimeter treeline, we were able to uncover one of the historic lampposts designed by Evanston architect Thomas Eddy Tallmadge. Making reminders of Canal Shores’s unique setting visible from the course is one of our goals.
On this side of the green, it was also necessary to address the damage done to the green pad over the years by cart traffic. We repaired the cart path, installed posts to direct carts onto the path in front of the green, and added railroad ties to keep players from driving up on to the side of the green. The green side was built up, shaped to encourage drainage, and planted with fescue and other grasses for a more rugged look.
Our general perspective on bunkers is that they are expensive to maintain and they slow down play. Therefore, if we are going to have a bunker, it is needs to be cool looking, playable, and strategically relevant. This perspective has led us to remove several bunkers throughout the course, including a fairway bunker on #12.
Our original plan with the bunkering on the 12th green (pictured below before work began) was to a) rework the front-left bunker to give it more character and make it easier to play from, and b) remove the other three large “saucer” bunkers which we felt were ugly and did not add to the strategic interest of the hole.
Once we started, it got a little more interesting and involved than that…
The first order of business was to remove the left bunker by filling it in with sand, shaping the slope, and laying sod. Given that we had just the smallest of clues about how to do that, we lucked out when Brian Palmer (Superintendent at Shoreacres) showed up to help, with his sod cutter.
Fortunately for us, the winter was mild enough to give the grass a chance to take root and a year later new players might not even know that a bunker had once been there.
While we were standing around admiring our handiwork, Brian mentioned that the area that we had stripped behind the green resembled the eden bunker on the famous Eden hole at Shoreacres. He ambitiously suggested that we turn this green complex into an homage to C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor’s Eden template, which is in turn an homage to the 11th hole at the Old Course at St. Andrews. Sounded like golf geeky fun to us, so we went for it.
The first step was to rework the front-left Hill bunker to reduce the footprint, give it a gentler upslope for easier escape, and add character.
By late spring, the grass had grown in nicely and had the rugged, aged look we’re after.
Next up was the front right Strath bunker. This pot bunker needed to be created from scratch, and Axel Ochoa stepped up to the challenge. Working from a photo of a bunker at Garden City Golf Club, Axel added his own spin and made a beauty.
We let the grass grow up on the top and right to tie the Strath into the tall grass that runs down the entire right side of the hole. By late spring, Axel’s pot bunker looked like it had always been there.
Tom Tully expanded the mowing of the green out to the edge of the pad, including the creation of a false front that gives the green a sense of tilt that didn’t previously exist. The improved visual and bunker placement makes the approach both more strategic, and much more interesting.
While this work was happening on the front bunkers, creation of the Eden bunker behind the green was ongoing. The original plan was to excavate the bunker and do root trimming all in one day. We made arrangements to borrow an excavator, had 10 volunteers ready to work, and…it snowed more than a foot. Plan B – dig it out by hand.
The mild weather over the winter allowed us to chip away at excavating the bunker. During the course of that process, we decided to give the back edge more of a natural look to contrast with the straight front edge. As soil was removed, it was dumped behind, shaped and planted with fescue that we removed from the berm.
After the dig out, the root cutting, the shaping and the planting, Tom filled our new Eden bunker in with fresh sand…
…and by Spring, it had grown in beautifully.
Although the work was grueling at times, it was tremendously satisfying to bring this new configuration to the green complex to life. We gave a small taste to our players of what is possible at Canal Shores.
A while back, the Grounds Committee began discussions to address the myriad fence styles that exist around the property. The lack of a unified look is a missed opportunity to tie the segregated sections of the property together. We settled on wood round-rail for the boundaries, split rail for internal directional fences, and wood poles with safety netting for containment.
The chain link fence behind 12 green was collapsing and had several weed trees growing up through it. The City assisted with the tree removal, and our friends at Fenceworks did a great job on the removal and installation.
This new fencing is the perfect complement to the naturalized look we are working to achieve on the course and surrounding native areas.
The mulberry behind the green does not fit the technical definition of a specimen tree. By arborist’s standards, it is a low value tree and its trunk was split. By the current standards of Canal Shores, however, it is a big old tree that looks great in its location. Therefore, in spite of the advice from every expert to cut the tree down, we decided to save it.
The tree was struggling under its own weight, as it had never been properly maintained. Our friends at Nels J. Johnson thinned out the crown, and then rodded and banded the trunk to protect it against further splitting.
The tree looks healthy and happy now and will be with us for years to come. As is the case with many of the non-invasive, lower-value trees on the property, we will let nature take its course and replace them with better species when they die off. For now, we are making the best of what we have, and in the case of this beautiful tree, I am grateful for the wisdom in that approach.
NATIVE AREA INSTALLATION
The first order of business in creating the native area was to cave in the ugly berm that bordered the fence. Unfortunately, we found out that the berm had been built more from construction debris than soil, so it took considerable effort by our volunteers to shape and recondition that large space. Lucky for us, we have committed folks involved in this transformation.
With the shaping complete, Steve Neumann and his designer finalized the layout for planting. Midwest Groundcovers generously supported the project and gave each of our donated dollars 5x its normal spending power on plant materials.
The Logic Lawn Care crew and our volunteers then sprang into action, fighting through the rain to get the installation done.
With the planting and mulching complete, the native area already looks great. It is exciting to imagine just how gorgeous it will look as it matures and changes with the seasons.
Although the 12th green makeover became a much larger project than originally intended, the finished product was well worth the effort. Beyond the result though, the process was a joy. The community and camaraderie that has developed within this dedicated group of dream chasers is priceless.
Stay tuned for news on our next project. We are far from finished…
Our wonderful volunteers who pitched in and service providers who discounted and donated:
- The Golf Geeks Crew – Axel Ochoa, John Creighton, Brian Palmer, Peter Korbakes, Scott Vincent, Brad Germany, Brendan McCarthy, David Horowitz, Scott Laffin, Jim Raymond, Craig LaVasseur, Garrett Chaussard, George Michel, Rick Spurgeon, Max Sternberg, Akbar Mustafa, Todd Quitno, Brian Bossert.
- The Boys from North Shore Country Day School – CJ, Sam, Dillon, and AJ.
- Pat Goss, Emily Fletcher, David Inglis, Maureen Palchak and the Northwestern University Athletic Department staff.
- Lisa Quinn and the First Tee of Greater Chicago staff.
- Steve Neumann and the team from Logic Lawn Care, and our neighbors from Evanston Terrace.
- Our Board Members Ray Tobin, Tim Pretzsch, Mike O’Connor and our Superintendent Tom Tully.
- The fine folks at Turf Ventures, Fenceworks, Nels J Johnson, Midwest Groundcovers, and other landscapers who donated soil.
- MWRD and the City of Evanston Forestry Division.
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.11 – Blue Sky Findings
- Pt.12 – Good Geeky Fun
- Pt.13 – 4 Course Concept Revisited
- Pt.14 – The Power of Volunteers