Our generous volunteers and donors helped us complete pilot projects along Sheridan Road at our north end (6th hole) and on Central Ave in our middle (12th hole). We are grateful for their support and dedication.
Our attention has now shifted to the south end of the property, or what we call the “Metra Corner”. This is the area that includes the 15th and 16th holes, which interact with the canal and the commuter train tracks. It is also a point of major foot traffic, with commuters and school kids passing through the course in the morning, afternoon, and evening.
Like most of Canal Shores, the Metra Corner suffers from several major issues:
- The golf on these holes is a combination of hard and boring due to a lack of interesting features and inherent strategy.
- Turf health and quality, and the general ecology of the area, has been degraded as invasive species like buckthorn have taken over.
- Safety issues exist because of the layout of the holes, and disorganization of space for golf vs. non-golf activities.
Our makeover of the Metra Corner has the overarching goal of the addressing the issues above, while improving the aesthetics of the property and fun of the golf holes. A visualization of the makeover is below, with a descriptions of the steps. As the makeover progresses, I will provide updates in additional posts.
THE STEPS OF THE METRA MAKEOVER
STEP 1 – The Principal’s Nose
The 15th hole is a short par-4 that is tight off the tee and plays straight, with little strategic interest. Although the hole has great potential, it currently suffers from being boring and hard.
We are borrowing a simple strategy of positioning fairway and greenside bunkers to create options and angles for our golfers. Aggressive players can challenge hazards to gain advantage on the hole and make an eagle or birdie. Conservative players can navigate safely navigate around hazards while still having a chance at par.
To add quirk and interest to the hole, we are creating a Principal’s Nose bunker complex, inspired by the original at St. Andrews and others around America. There is an existing set of grass bunkers in the left center of the fairway that will be shifted and rebuilt.
STEP 2 – Greenside Bunkers
The bunkers front left and right of the green are out of position and in a state of serious disrepair. The left bunker will be removed and turned into fairway creating an alley for players to play running approaches. The right bunker will be shifted and rebuilt closer to the green in a rugged, “gash” style.
The existing layout of the 15th hole provides only one good option for play – straight down the middle. The new bunker configuration will introduce strategic options and risk-reward considerations for our players. Golf is more fun and interesting when it is a test of both the mind and execution.
(click on images to enlarge)
STEP 3 – Replacing the Spruce
There is a large spruce tree on the right side of the fairway on #15 that has was likely planted as a yardage reference marker. It is a non-native tree in an inappropriate position. We are exploring options for moving it, and will do so if it is cost-effective. Otherwise, we have obtained permission from the City of Evanston Forestry Division to remove the tree and replace it with natives that are more appropriately positioned. If funds allow, the new plantings will be incorporated into the establishment of a new native area.
STEP 4 – Buckthorn Removal on #15
As is the case in many areas of Canal Shores, buckthorn and other invasive species have encroached on the canal side of the 15th hole, narrowing it considerably. Previous efforts by our staff and volunteers on the 3rd and 12th holes have widened playing corridors, improved turf quality, highlighted specimen trees, and enhanced aesthetics.
We intend to remove the buckthorn and other invasives along the left side of the 15th fairway up to the canal ridgeline. Going down to clear and restore the canal bank is a much larger project for which we are not yet prepared. Our Ecology firm, Planning Resources Inc., has provided us with an advisory statement on the intended work on the 15th and 16th holes (click here to read the PRI letter).
STEP 5 – Revealing the Stone Wall
With the help of our neighbors, we have discovered an old limestone wall along the right side of the 16th hole. It is currently overgrown by buckthorn and other invasive shrubs. This is exactly the kind of unique feature that makes Canal Shores so special, and we intend to uncover and restore it to the best of our ability.
Volunteer days for this work are currently being organized. Email me, or sign up on the Canal Shores website if you would like to donate or volunteer.
STEP 6 – Round Rail Fence
The wood round rail fence that we installed as a part of our 12th Green Project has been very well received by the community. That fence style will be the standard for the boundaries of the property. It defines a boundary but leaves an open feel, while drastically improving aesthetics.
The chain link fence behind the 16th green will be replaced, increasing visibility into the course for people driving and walking down Noyes Street. A new section of fence right of the 15th green will be installed, which will help direct foot traffic away from the 15th green and the private neighbor property that borders that corner of the course.
STEP 7 – Reconfigure #16 Tees
The current tee configuration on #16 is suboptimal. The back tee position is dangerous – it is too close to the back of #15 green. Shots that go long put players at risk. The tee shot from the back tee is also too difficult for almost all of our players. Further, there is no tee box on the near side of the canal. The forced carry over the canal is mandatory, which is beyond the strength and ability of many of our players.
The back tee will be shut down, making room to reroute the walking path behind 15 green. The right and left tees will be expanded, to create more day-to-day variety, and a new forward tee on the near side of the canal will be added.
STEP 8 – Reroute Walking Path
Although Canal Shores is welcoming to walkers of all kinds, we want to keep them safe and minimize potential damage to greens. The path that many school kids and commuters currently take through this section of the property has two main problems that we intend to address.
On the 15th, walkers tend to walk too close to the green, or on it. The new fence and removal of the back tee on #16 allows us to route walkers away from the green and out of potential harm’s way from golfers.
The area between the 16th hole and 17th tee holds water, and so we will be creating a drainage feature and establishing a formal path for walkers to keep them out of conflict with golfers on #16 and the 17th tee.
STEP 9 – Expand #15 Fairway and Green
As a rule of thumb, more short grass equates to more fun for golfers. Therefore, we will be working hard to improve turf health, and expanding the fairway and green on #15. We will give our players a larger target, and more options for how to approach it through the air or along the ground.
Although this “bootstrap” work is nowhere near what could be accomplished with a larger scale renovation of Canal Shores, we do believe that we can significantly improve the experience that our visitors have in this section of the property and course. While the Master Planning process unfolds, we look forward to pushing forward with improvements in every way that the commitment of our volunteers and donors allows.
Bring on the spring!
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.14a – The Power of Volunteers
- Pt.14b – More Volunteer Power