Geeked on Golf

A Celebration of the People & Places that Make Golf the Greatest Game


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Journey Along the Shores – Part 18 (Annual Volunteer Recap)

‘Tis the season for giving thanks.  My geeky heart is filled with gratitude for all of our volunteers who come out and give their time and labor to polish up this community golf gem of ours.

Our primary focus in 2017 was on the south end of the property – the Metra Loop.  We continue to bootstrap pilot projects to attempt to give our players and the community a sense of the potential for Canal Shores.  We realize that we are only scratching the surface relative to a full-scale renovation, but the progress and camaraderie that come from the work is tremendously rewarding.

More than worth the effort.

2017 PROJECTS AND VOLUNTEERS

Reclaiming the Ridgeline on the 15th

We kicked off the season wanting to complement the new bunkering and grass lines on #15 with a clearing and cleanup of the invasives along the ridgeline above the canal.  The Colfax Street neighbors came out in force and helped us knock out the entire project in one day.  They have been among our most active and supportive neighbors and we couldn’t appreciate them more.

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16th Hole South Bank

For the second straight year, a group of students from North Shore Country Day School made Canal Shores the subject of their senior service project.  Henry, Pierce, Will and Briggs carried on the tradition of making a difference by working with Steve Neumann on community outreach as well as diving in to clear the south side of the canal bank on #16.  They worked very hard and made a big difference.

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North Bank on the 16th

When my sons Jack and Henry learned about the work of the NSCDS dudes, they wanted in on the action.  Jack grabbed his friends Matt, Luke, and Charlie, and with an assist from Matt and Luke’s dad George, we cleared the north bank.  The goodness of these kids never ceases to amaze me.  When the work was finished, for the first time in years, the water and the entire 16th green were visible from the 16th tee.  A greatly enhanced experience for our players.

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The Stone Wall on the 16th

Our neighbor and volunteer John McCarron advocated for a clearing and repair of the old stone wall that borders the base for the train line.  The golf geeks, including members of the GolfClubAtlas community, got together and took care of the clearing, with an assist from Nels Johnson on the larger trees and stumps.   John then reached out to the Union-Pacific railroad, who agreed to repair the wall so that this special feature of Canal Shores remains intact for decades to come.

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16th Hole Finishing Touches

Our friends at the Northwestern University athletic department once again came out en masse for their community service day, and did the detail work on the south bank and along the wall.  They weeded, raked, picked up debris, and spread mulch.  After their hard work, we were able to seed along the wall and grow new turf, giving the approach a beautiful look.

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Behind the Green on the 16th

The golf geeks also cleared away the brush and invasives behind the 16th green, opening up a view to and from Noyes Street.  With help from the Evanston Forestry Department, trees were cleared and thinned bordering the sidewalk allowing for the removal of the old, chain link fence.  A donation from the Honorable Company of Reverse Jans Golfers allowed us to have our friends at Fenceworks install the wood round-rail that is now the signature look of our property border.

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The 16th Tee Path

Members of our Grounds Committee got out with volunteers and re-routed the walking path between the 15th green and 16th tee.  Not only did the end result look much better, it also directed commuters and other walkers to enter the property in a much safer spot than their traditional route of heading straight out in front of the 15th green.

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Clearing and Path Building on the 14th and 17th

The ETHS Boys Golf team brought out a huge crew of players, coaches and parents that took on clearing along the ridgeline on #14, clearing behind the 16th tee, and path building between the 16th hole and 17th tee. They did great work and took further ownership of their home course.

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14th Hole Bunker Rebuild

Another group of golf geeks, including Tony and Graylyn from Links Magazine, Andy from The Fried Egg, Peter from Sugarloaf Social Club, and Coore & Crenshaw shaper Quinn Thompson, joined our volunteers for a rebuild of the greenside bunkers left of the 14th green.  A great morning of work by kindred geeky spirits with a final product that adds flourish to the start of the Metra Loop.  Special thanks also to our Super Tony, Assistant Super John Lee and their crew for assisting with the work, and for keeping the sod alive.

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Reclaiming the Ridgeline on the 14th

We end the season where we began – taking back space above the ridgeline from invasives, this time on the 14th.  Our neighbors, volunteers and the golf geeks continue to assist in this effort, which in certain spots is extending down onto the canal bank.  Chilly temps, short days, and snowy skies have not deterred our army of buckthorn warriors from continued progress.

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This is by no means an exhaustive list of the contributions made during 2017.  Our volunteers, donors, staff, Board of Directors, and committee members worked tirelessly on many fronts to move Canal Shores forward.  During this season of thanks, I am grateful to be a part of this special movement.


More Journey Along the Shores posts:

 

 

Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Field of Dreams – Peter Imber & Quogue Field Club

Benjamin Litman’s GolfClubAtlas article Timeless Golf at Quoque Field Club was a key contributor to the beginning of my love affair with 9-holers.  I wasn’t sure about how exactly to pronounce the name (it is “kwahg”, by the way), but I was absolutely certain that I wanted to play the course.  The chance to experience Quogue came for me during this season’s Noreaster, and as I wrote in my recap of that trip, it did not disappoint.

As a coincidental bonus, our host was Peter Imber, who also happens to be a principal player in Quogue’s restoration.  We connected after my visit, and hit it off over our respective efforts to revitalize our golf courses.  Not only did he give me guidance on how to approach my efforts at Canal Shores, but he also graciously agreed to do an interview.  With that interview, Jon Cavalier and I have partnered to bring you a QFC photo tour.  Enjoy!

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THE INTERVIEW

How did you get introduced to the game of golf?

I first picked up golf in my teens.  A friend of my father’s took me to play my first round when I was 14 at Southampton Golf Club.  After that I basically lied about my handicap to get on my high school and college golf teams.  I didn’t play in matches, but I got to play a lot with better players.

When did you know that the game had a hold on you?

I was hooked from the start.  I love to practice and I love the feeling of hitting a pure shot.  There is always something new to learn, and there is no one way to play or one “right” course design.

How did you get interested in golf course architecture?

I have been very lucky.  Growing up in NY, summering on Long Island and also living in SF for a while, I have had access to amazing courses, public and private.  In most cases I didn’t fully appreciate where I was playing until later, but I would invariably remember something about them – a shot, a view, a feel.  The two places that probably had the greatest impact were (not surprisingly) Shinnecock and National.  Both amazing in totally different ways.  As the years have gone by, I have tried to distill why they are so wonderful and the answer is ever evolving…the research is fun.

Who is your favorite Golden Age architect, and why?

It’s so hard to pick.  I have always loved Tilinghast’s simplicity.  The courses are right in front of you; they are fair and they are challenging.  It wasn’t until I went to Scotland in my 20’s that I began to appreciate architects like Raynor and McDonald, whose quirkiness comes from the source and is historically significant and not contrived.

Tell us about the history of Quogue Field Club.

The Quogue Field Club was founded in 1887.  The original location was about a mile from where it currently resides.  The club did not include golf originally but RB Wilson (head pro at Shinnecock at the time) designed a crude 9 hole layout in 1897.  As the village grew, the old location became the business center of the village and the club was moved to its current location in 1900.  The current course was built in 2 parts.  The original 9 was designed by Tom Bendelow in 1901 and much of that course is what still exists today.  A 2nd 9 was added in 1921 under the supervision of James Hepburn (pro at National Golf Links of America).  As a result of damage from the hurricane of 1938 and a lack of interest in golf around WWII, the club gave back a chunk of land representing 9 holes and what was left is the current layout.  7 of the 9 current greens are original (#4 and #6 were redone in 1999 and 1974, respectively).

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How did you get involved in the restoration of Quogue?

For years golf has been a distant second to tennis at QFC.  Many of the better golfers are members of other 18 hole courses in the area (SHGC, NGLA) and play their golf at those courses.  As a result, the course didn’t receive the attention it might have, and over the years appreciation of the history of the QFC course was lost.  In 2008 I asked the chair of the Green Committee why our greens were so much slower than others in the area despite the same weather and same soil.  The next day I was on the Green Committee.  Two years later I was asked to replace the chair when he stepped down.  

The first thing I did was challenge the committee to see how they would like to improve the course.  We began to discuss what changes we felt were most important.  The single change that lead to the restoration was our desire to remove some non-native trees that had been planted along a number of fairways.  They weren’t in keeping with the links roots of the course.  In order to strengthen our case to the board, we asked to bring in an architect for a consultation.  That’s how we met Ian Andrew.  We were so impressed with his visit that we convinced the board to allow us to retain him for a full Master Plan…and so it began.

Did you experience any resistance to change, and if so, how did you overcome it?

There is always resistance to ANY change at a club that has been around as long as ours.  There are two ways to deal with this – either build consensus for the changes, or make the changes and explain it after.  I’d like to think that we pursued a balance of the two approaches.  We worked closely with the Board at all times, and, supported by Ian’s Master Plan, we made some significant but inexpensive changes (namely tree removal to resolve a safety issue).  We did so without building consensus, but with strong conviction that we were making the right decision and with the full support of an expert (Ian) and the Board.  As the membership digested these changes, we brought in Ian to present the full Master Plan to the membership which helped build consensus for the rest of the vision.  

We still fight some battles, even as we approach the final stages of the restoration, but more often than not, we are simply asked questions about why we are doing certain things and engage in a thoughtful discussion.  In the end, the course belongs to the members and we are not looking to impose our will come hell or high water.  On the other hand, sometimes change needs a little jumpstart.  Hopefully our members would agree that we found a good balance.

How has Ian Andrew impacted the work at the club?

Ian has a wonderful vision.  He does not look to put his fingerprints on the course.  He values the history of the course and treated it like an old gem that had been lost for generations – shine it up and put it in an appropriate new setting.  Ian focused on our links heritage.  He advocated tree removal for the most logical of reasons: “Your best asset is your views and your best defense is the wind…and the trees are interfering with both.”  Ian focused a great deal on presentation, and it was amazing how much he changed the course without us moving a shovel full of dirt.  Every change he has advocated was consistent with his vision and consistent with the history of the course.

(For more from Ian Andrew, read his GeekedOnGolf interview here)

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What were the key areas of focus for the project?

The biggest focus was on improving sightlines and returning to a links feel.  Just removing the trees that lined the fairways changed the look and feel of the course.  We have three holes on the water, but you never used to be able to see the water except from two spots.  Now you can see the water from the clubhouse and almost every hole in between.  You can also stand in almost any spot and see every hole on the course.

What has member feedback been to the changes?

Overwhelmingly positive.  Even those who questioned it, now seem to love it.  As much as anything else, I think the members didn’t realize or appreciate the gem we have.  It was just a place they played.  Now their friends are asking to play it and they are proud of what we have restored.

What one piece of advice would you give to Green Committee or club members who are considering championing a renovation or restoration?

Communication is everything – whether to the Board or the membership at large.  Explain what you are doing and more importantly, why, to anyone who is curious.  Clubs have interesting dynamics borne of a wide variety of perspectives within the membership.  A well thought out and well explained plan will almost always prevail.  It’s okay if it takes time.  It gives the membership time to digest the vision.  We have been implementing our plan for five years.  Trees one year.  Two new tees the next.  A new bunker the following year.  At this point I don’t think anyone even notices the changes anymore.

What do you love the most about the restored Quogue Field Club?

I love the walk and the views.  Where you used to play holes in a tunnel, now I see golfers on every hole across the course and I can see the water from every hole.  It makes me smile.  It doesn’t hurt that our Superintendent John Bradley has done an outstanding job of raising the bar on course conditions and presentation.


QUOGUE FIELD CLUB

Before diving into the hole-by-hole tour, two important notes about Quogue:

First, how it works.  The course has forward and back tees.  There are two sets of each, which are color-coded.  One color-coded set is played the first loop around, and if you want to play 18 holes, you play the other colored set the second loop.  The different sets are at meaningfully different distances, creating a distinct playing experience on each loop.  Genius.

Second, how it plays.  Superintendent John Bradley present a course that does now seem highly manicured or over maintained, and yet it plays absolutely perfectly.  The fairway run and bounce, the fescue is playable, the bunkers are rugged yet tidy, and the greens roll true.  To me, it is the model of maintaining a course responsibly and sustainably with regard to inputs, while at the same time providing players with an outstanding experience.

HOLE #1 – (Black) Par 5 – 528 yards / (Orange) Par 5 – 492 yards

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The opener is a five par that plays over a road and flat ground to a green flanked by bunkers.  The subtle, but infinitely interesting internal contours of Quogue’s greens are evident from the very beginning.

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HOLE #2 – (Black) Par 3 – 148 yards / (Orange) Par 3 – 161 yards

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The green on the second sits surrounded by sand and fescue-covered mounding.  The putting surface is a punchbowl of a variety that not even Messrs Macdonald & Raynor ever thought to build.

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HOLE #3 – (Black) Par 4 – 270 yards / (Orange) Par 4 – 272 yards

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Quogue’s church pews, and all manner of other quirky bunkering, are on display on the 3rd.  The yardage on the card begs for a heroic shot, but the members know that for most players, going for the green is a sucker’s play.

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HOLE #4 – (Black) Par 3 – 193 yards / (Orange) Par 3 – 171 yards

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The fourth is a mid-length par-3 with one of the coolest greens on the planet – the redan, biarritz combo.  The high front right feeder slope is separated from the back plateau by a shallow swale.  Fun to look at, and even more fun to play.

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HOLE #5 – (Black) Par 4 – 412 yards / (Orange) Par 5 – 470 yards

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The 5th is a slight dogleg right that ends with a green set hard against the water. Judging approaches at this particularly windy spot on the property is a devilish challenge.

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HOLE #6 – (Black) Par 4 – 281 yards / (Orange) Par 4 – 245 yards

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The tight 6th plays over a wetland, which also guards its entire left side.  The low set green is guarded by bunkers on both sides, including a unique grassy sand dune.

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HOLE #7 – (Black) Par 4 – 414 yards / (Orange) Par 4 – 434 yards

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The 7th is a tough four par which demands a tee shot placed between angled bunkers on either side of the fairway.  The large green is surrounded by bunkers on three sides including 2 nasty little pots.

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HOLE #8 – (Black) Par 4 – 379 yards / (Orange) Par 4 – 347 yards

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The penultimate hole provides another dose of quirky challenge with a cluster of bunkers right of the landing area, and another cluster of cross-bunkers short of the green.  The green wraps around a circular bunker right making some pin positions dicey.

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HOLE #9 – (Black) Par 5 – 534 yards / (Orange) Par 4 – 408 yards

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The closing hole heads back over the road and to the clubhouse.  One final seamless transition from fairway to straight-fronted green awaits the player upon the return.

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A day spent at Quogue Field Club is a golf geek’s dream come true.  It is golf at its purest and finest.  Created before architectural egotism existed, lovingly restored, and masterfully presented, the course evokes joy from the deepest levels of a player’s heart.  That level at which each of us first fell in love with this great game.


Additional Geeked On Golf Interviews:

 

 

Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Journey Along the Shores – Part 15b (Metra Corner Update)

After all of the improvements that we have made to the 15th hole, it is really shining right now.  I took a quick walk this morning to grab final photos of the bunkers in the bright summer sunshine to complete this update on our work on #15.

The larger Metra Corner Makeover project (as outlined in this previous JATS post) continues to move along, and has now expanded to include the 14th, 17th, and 18th holes – the entire Metra Loop – in no small part because of the growing wave of support we have received from our volunteers and neighbors.  More updates to come on other holes as the work progresses.

For now, I’ll focus on my new favorite hole on the course, the 15th.

THE BUNKERS

Rework of the bunkers began in the fall of 2016.  We had an old fairway bunker complex that had grown over that we decided could use a little more character.  A bunker short-left of the green was removed, and the bunker short right of the green repositioned and reshaped.

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Fairway grass bunkers before work began

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Short right bunker before work began

The inspiration for the look of the bunkering came from a photo of Hollywood Golf Club, a Walter Travis design in NJ that has been recently restored by the Renaissance Golf team, as well as a bunker I saw at The Rawls Course in TX, a Tom Doak design.

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Hollywood GC

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The Rawls Course

Our Super Tom Tully cut the sod (thanks to the generosity of Brian Bossert from Bryn Mawr CC), and made us a big ol’ dirt pile from the mounds surrounding one of the grass bunkers.

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I dug out and sodded the right nostril.

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My buddy Peter Korbakes dug out and sodded the left nostril.

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My buddy John Creighton shaped and sodded the nose.

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Approaches were seeded, to grow in in the spring.

Next up were the greenside bunkers.  Pat Goss, David & Lindsay Inglis and players from the NU golf team pitched in with our volunteers the fill in the left bunker and reposition/rework the right bunker.

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The right bunker came to be known as “the gash”, and by the time we finished shaping and sodding, we felt that it was a fitting homage to Mr. Doak’s original.

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We were joined in our gash work by Dave Lockhart, videographer and fellow golf geek. Dave did double duty, helping us to finish the digging, while also capturing footage for a nice piece he did on Canal Shores.

 

FAIRWAY EXPANSION

In the spring, we had several productive and fun volunteer sessions, working our way down the left side of the 15th.  We removed buckthorn and other invasives to help turf thrive and to create space to expand the fairway left.  The neighbor support we received at these sessions was astounding, allowing us to move quite quickly.

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An out-of-place bush and spruce tree were removed, and the fairway was widened right to highlight the interesting shape of a large grass bunker.  Players were also given room to steer clear of the principal’s nose, giving life to our vision for more interesting strategy on a hole that had previously been bland.

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Our new Superintendent Tony Frandria and his crew filled the new bunkers with sand, and began the slow process of tuning up the mowing patterns around the new bunkers, and on the green pad.  In spite of challenging weather, the 15th looks better every day, and is now a joy to play for golfers of all skill levels.

(click to enlarge images)

 

Work is already well underway on the 16th hole.  Stay tuned for more updates as the makeover of our beloved Metra Loop continues…


More Journey Along the Shores posts:

 

 

Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf

 

 

 


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Creative Range – An Interview with Architect Mike Benkusky

MikeBenkusky-ALPlansIn 2015, when I heard about the innovative planned changes to the Arlington Lakes community golf course, my interest was piqued.  When I found out that the architect responsible was also involved in the creation of one of the highest end private courses in the midwest, I was downright intrigued.

In June 2015, Mike Benkusky was kind enough to take me on a walk around Arlington Lakes to discuss his philosophy and vision.  He hit all of the high notes for me as he shared his plans for this cool, little course which is deeply embedded in its community.  I realized that Mike isn’t just another talking head giving interviews about the troubled state of the game.  He is on the front lines of restoring golf to its roots of interest, fun, and natural beauty.

We agreed to circle back when Arlington Lakes reopened to talk more, in light of player reaction to experiencing his ideas on the ground.  Mike graciously answered my questions, but first, a bit more about the renovation.

(Special thanks to Joann Dost for use of her beautiful Canyata photos.)


ARLINGTON LAKES

Arlington Lakes is on a unique piece of property, located in Chicago’s north suburbs.  Like many older courses, the Lakes was tired and suffering from tree, turf, and drainage issues.  In renovating the course, the community could have simply addresses these problems and called it a day, but they chose a more innovative path when they bought into Mike’s plan for fast, fun, and flexible golf.

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The keys to Mike’s proposal were:

  • Making the green complexes interesting and fun.  They are the focal point of the design.
  • Removing “junk” trees and replacing them with oaks and other natives.
  • Removing 68 bunkers, and renovating the remaining bunkers to reduce maintenance and improve playability.
  • Downplaying distance, and playing up interest and fun for golfers of all ages and skill levels.
  • Adding actual forward tee boxes for juniors to give them a sense of ownership of the course.
  • Resigning from the “cult of par”.  It is just a number and breaking free of it unleashes creativity in design.

Central to Mike’s plan was a rerouting of the holes to allow golfers the option to play 3, 6, 9, or 18 holes loops.  The work has been a hit with players, and is now serving as a model for other course operators looking to breathe new life into tired, old facilities.  For even more on the renovation, read the USGA’s article – Loop of Faith.

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The par-3 11th

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The par-3 14th

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The par-4 15th

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The par-3 17th


THE INTERVIEW

How were you first introduced to golf?

My parents both played golf and got me started when I was five.  I have an older brother and both of us played.  We lived within walking distance of a nine hole course in Marion, IA, next to Cedar Rapids, where we were members.  It was a great way for our family to spend time together.

When did you know that the game had a hold on you?

We spent our summers at this club.  They had certain hours where kids could play and we planned our day around those times.  Friday mornings were always kids day and they had events.  You started out in a five hole league and moved up to 9 and 18 as you got older.  I started winning the events and then entered local tournaments, doing well in them as well. I enjoyed the competition and playing against the course.

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Canyata Golf Club #2

How did you get into the business?

In 1975, when I was 10, my parents went to the US Open at Medinah. They brought back the program that included a layout of the golf course.  I began to redraw the golf holes and later would begin to draw my own golf holes.  I had teachers remark that I was the only kid who doodled golf holes.

After some research I knew I wanted to go into Landscape Architecture and Iowa State has a great program.  I played on the golf team my first year and also got a job on the grounds crew at Cedar Rapids Country Club.

CRCC was THE club in town and is a Donald Ross design.  It’s unknown if he spent much time on the course, but he provided the layout on one of his trips around the country.  I enjoyed working there and got to play the course often.  It is here where I met Bob Lohmann, who was doing a Master Plan for the club.  I mentioned I wanted to get into golf design and he had just started his firm.  The next summer I went to work for him as an intern.  After graduation I worked there for 17 years before starting my own firm in 2005.

Who are your favorite Golden Age architects and why? 

It’s always easy to say the best known ones, Ross or Mackenzie and for me those still are two of my favorites.  Ross is easy since I knew Cedar Rapids was a Ross design.  But I really didn’t get exposed to his courses until I moved to Chicago.

Bendelow was another one I got to know early on as he designed Medinah and I read about that in the US Open program.  I think he may have completed more courses than Ross but doesn’t get as much credit since Ross and others remodeled much of his work.  I work on a couple of his courses now and they contain a lot of interest.

I got to know about Mackenzie through Perry Maxwell’s work.  Maxwell designed the University course at Iowa State, Veenker Memorial Golf Course.  Arnold Palmer won the NCAA Title at Veenker in 1949.  When you think of Maxwell’s rolls, Veenker has them.  Some of the greens are still intact and I still get out to see them if I get back to Ames.  When I studied more about Maxwell it lead me to Mackenzie.  I’ve read a lot more about Mackenzie throughout the years.

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Canyata Golf Club #4

What should every Green Committee member study/learn before undertaking a golf course project? 

One of the first things they should realize is that we do this work for a living.  Golf design is not just placing bunkers or greens, but involves a long, thoughtful process.  Just because I know math doesn’t mean that I can do finance, and just because you play golf doesn’t mean you can design a golf course.

If I was going to tell them one thing, it is that everything relates together on the golf course, especially the land.  Many times someone will say a bunker would look good in a certain spot.  Then you explain to them that the land doesn’t work due to drainage or other issues.  One thing they never think about is drainage, which is probably the most important thing to consider.

It is fun to go through months of planning for a Master Plan and educating the members.  They begin to gain an appreciation for what we do and realize that is why they brought in a professional.  Once you have their trust the project and final result is very rewarding.

Who has influenced you the most, in your work and your life?

My father was easily my biggest influence and still is.  He worked hard in life and played hard as well.  He knew how to balance his time between work and family life.  He was also smart when it came to competition.  He taught us how to handle pressure during a round of golf and to realize everyone feels it.  Those who handled it the best are the ones who succeeded.  You carry that with you the rest of your life.

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Canyata Golf Club #8

What is your favorite element of a golf hole to work on?

Too many to list.  Every element of a golf hole is important.  A proper teeing ground sets up the golf hole.  When you look at fairways you look at how it follows the land.  Bunkers set up the strategy and give the golf hole, and course, its identity.  I could go on about bunkers but I’m beginning to feel they are starting to lose their appeal as a hazard to the better golfer.  We could talk about that for hours.

We always say that greens are the face of the golf course and designing a good green may be the most rewarding.  A good green design can impact the approach shot in many ways.  From bunker placement, runoffs and chipping areas, to green contours dictating where you need to place your shot.  That is what makes Augusta National so great.

Finally, tree management is something that we are constantly working on.  Golfers are becoming more aware that trees and turf don’t always mix.  Educating them that the loss of a tree will make the turf better, (i.e. better, thicker rough), and will even make the golf hole more difficult takes years of work.  Once you get there you don’t hear many complaints about necessary tree removal.

What were some of the highlights of working on Canyata?

I worked for Bob Lohman when we designed Canyata.  It was one of those dream-come-true designs.  First off, you had an owner who wanted the best and would spend the money to get the best.  Second, he had a piece of property that had many desirable traits.  Deep ravines with large Oak trees were great to work around.  The most difficult part was that, except for the ravines, the rest of the site was very flat.  When you talk about drainage, we needed to build that in.  Therefore, we needed to create many ponds throughout the course and create elevation change on the golf holes. I get a kick out of showing guests the non-golf course land and explain that the rest of the site was this flat before construction.  The par 3 12th is a great example.  The site was flat except a ravine that cut in front of the proposed green site.  We lowered the green site 20 feet and elevated the tees 20 feet to create the 40 foot change.  We also extended the ravine up to the tees to make it appear that the hole was placed along the ravine, when in fact it was all built together.  The same thing was done on the par 5 15th.

Lastly, the owner trusted us to do what we do best, design golf courses.  He never questioned anything and I took it upon myself to look at the project as if it was my own golf course.  It gave me a great sense of pride.  When we started the back nine I told him it would be better than the front, which he found hard to believe.  When we finished he said I was right.  It’s fun working for people like that.

Ever since 2005 the owner has continued to have me make visits to the golf course.  He wants to make sure it keeps current with today’s golf market.  We’ve added some tees and bunkers to improve playability and strategy.  As with all golf courses it continues to evolve.

Canyata Golf Club - Hole #12

Canyata Golf Club #12

Did the remoteness or uniqueness of that site present particular challenges?

There were a few challenges but the remoteness was also a blessing.  The owner knew a lot of people in the area and when we needed something he knew who to call.  We had a local earthmover move the dirt which was a great help.  It made it easy because the owner paid them direct and we never had to worry about change orders or anything else.  If we wanted to move something or make changes we just did it.  It’s a fun way to build a course.

Since we had nothing around we didn’t have to worry about neighbors or any complaints about what was being completed.  We ended up moving enough dirt to line the property with mounds.  Nobody can really see into the golf course and when you are playing you never see out.  It creates a surreal feeling when you are out there.

Courses like Canyata are quite the contrast to a project such as your renovation of Arlington Lakes.  Is your approach different?

Really your approach is different on every project.  You take certain design concepts and mold them into each golf course.  At Canyata the goal was to create a top 100 golf course.  The owner did want a certain length and we achieved that.  The site also had a large scale so we needed everything to balance.  Wide fairways, big bunkers, and large greens were needed to tie it all together.  Canyata is destination golf and if it takes 5 hours to play you don’t mind.  It is similar to what golfers say about Augusta National.  You can’t wait to get to Amen Corner.  But once you are there you realize the round is almost over.

Arlington Lakes is community golf.  In this case you design for the broadest range of golfers possible.  We placed minimal sand bunkers to add interest.  We eliminated carry hazards to speed play and increase enjoyment.  Each of these projects are important and provide a role in the golf market.  Understanding each role and designing towards those strengths helps to make the project successful.

Canyata Golf Club - Hole #15

Canyata Golf Club #15

Why do you believe that community golf is important?

Because that is where the masses of golfers play.  We have far more public golf courses than private courses.  This is where most learn the game and is an added amenity to any community.  The first goal of a community golf course is to make it fun.  If someone doesn’t enjoy a course, they won’t return to play it again.  A strong golf market will include a variety of golf courses.  In Chicago, we have many golf courses that will challenge every part of your game.  These courses are too difficult for many and that is where we need courses such as Arlington Lakes and your Canal Shores project.  Every golf course has a niche and when you realize that, and make changes to embrace that niche you continue to prosper.

What role does sustainability play in your plan for Arlington Lakes?

As a Park District golf course it needs to be sustainable.  To do that we first needed to start with the operations of the course.  When you start with that aspect the rest will start to fall in place.  Arlington Lakes has its niche as a short, fun golf course.  The changes we made enhanced those aspects.  Even though it is short, we added more tees to make it even shorter.  We knew that this would help attract more beginning golfers, junior golfers, and appeal to families.  As I said, there are many golf courses that will beat you up – Arlington Lakes is for pure enjoyment.

The other thing that attracts golfers to Arlington Lakes is the time it takes to play.  In today’s time strapped world, golfers don’t want to spend 5 hours on the golf course.  Golfers come to play Arlington Lakes because they can play in 31/2 hours.  Our design changes highlighted that by removing unnecessary bunkers, going from 106 bunkers down to 38.  This still kept strategy in play and aided in enjoyment.

To further help with time constraints we reworked the golf course to have the 3rd, 6th, and 9th holes return to the clubhouse.  This helps with the junior program, as you can get young golfers on and off the course before they become bored or frustrated.  Accepting their short attention spans is important in growing the game.  We can also use this layout for families that want to golf together in the evening.  You can get home from work, have dinner, and then get 3 holes of golf in before dark.  That is a large draw for a community golf course.

The renovation of Arlington Lakes has been very well received. What were the keys to success?

Understanding where they stood in the golf market and not looking to reinvent that.  The worst thing you can do as a designer is take a golf course that meets a need and try to change it into something it is not.  Sometimes as architects we let our ego get in the way and try to force a design concept on a course where it doesn’t fit.  At Arlington Lakes we wanted to keep things playable and maintainable.  If I had built greens with big slopes and bunkers ten feet deep that course would now struggle.  It is not what the golfers wanted and that is not something the Park District could maintain.  When you talk about sustainable golf that is what it is all about.  Golf courses and golfers are similar to cars.  Some people want to drive a Chevy and some want to drive a Cadillac.

Which courses are on the top of your hit list to play or see next?

Through the ASGCA I’ve been fortunate to play many top 100 courses.  In the US I’ve played Pebble Beach and Cypress Point.  I’ve been to Augusta National three times, though I would love to play it.  I have not seen Pine Valley so that would be on the list. And a buddy’s trip to Bandon Dunes is in the works.

Outside the US I’ve played in Australia, England, and Ireland.  It may sound sacrilegious as an architect, but I have not been to Scotland.  I’ve had the chance but at the time it conflicted with too many other things, and home life always comes first.  It is still on the radar and I will get there sometime.

What do you love about practicing your craft?

Every course and every day is different.  They say if you do what you love to will never spend a day working.  That is how I feel.  When you tell people you design golf courses they have two comments.  First is that they didn’t know people did that.  The second is that they can’t believe you get spend a day on the golf course and call that your job.  I’ve been very blessed with being in this industry.  You get to meet so many great people and some of my fellow architects are my best friends.  Our ASGCA family is just that.  A family of brothers and sisters that help each other whenever we can.  My best week every year is the week we spend together during our annual meeting.

When you are not working or playing golf, what are you doing?

Most of it involves spending time with my wife and dog.  We don’t have children so we cherish our time together hiking and biking.  We love to travel and always look to go to a new place each year.  Our goal is to visit every continent and gives us something to work towards.


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Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Journey Along the Shores – Part 16 (Super Changes)

There is only one constant in life – change.  Life at Canal Shores is no different.  The course continues to evolve, as do our plans for its future.  This season, those plans changed when we learned that our team was not going to be the same.  Tom Tully, our Superintendent, decided to relocate to Colorado.  He will be missed.

After a brief moment of panic, the search for Tom’s replacement began.  Our Board President Chris Carey and Grounds Chair Steve Neumann shoulder the work, and scored us a winner – Tony Frandria.  Tony is a highly experienced Greenkeeper, who was most recently at Glen View Club.

I am excited to be collaborating with Tony and wanted to learn more about him.  In the midst of getting prepared for the season, he gracious agreed to a GoG interview.

Before getting to the interview, there is more change news to spread – the Canal Shores Grounds Committee now has its own blog that will have frequent updates on course improvements, volunteer opportunities, master planning and more.  Check it out here.  I will continue to write about golf geeky aspects of the Canal Shores transformation, but for the full story, the G&G Blog is the place to go.

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Our volunteer Jeff Hapner created multiple headers for the blog and this one didn’t make the cut.  It was too good not to share (yes, that is Steve Neumann playing the role of Spackler).

On to Tony’s interview…


THE INTERVIEW

How did you get introduced to golf?

When I was a Senior in High School, the town I grew up in, Palos Hills IL, built a 9-Hole municipal golf course (Palos Hills Municipal Golf Course).  I was looking for a summer job so I went over to the course when it opened to see if they had any openings for summer help.  I started working in the Pro-Shop, which at first was just a small trailer, taking tee times, working in the snack shop, driving the beverage cart, washing golf carts and then eventually working on the grounds.  I got my first set of clubs soon after and began to play golf every day.  The best part about the job was that it was free to play!  That’s when I developed a passion for the game, and that’s when I also took a real interest in working on the golf course grounds.  As time has passed my passion for the game remains, but I currently don’t play as much golf as I did when I was younger.  I plan to change that moving forward, but I still have a tremendous passion, admiration and respect for the game of golf.

When did you know that the game had a hold on you?

The 1991 Ryder Cup matches at Kiawah Island “The War on the Shore”– that was when I really began to love and appreciate the competition and truly understood the deep passion that the game of golf can bring out in people.

What are the biggest lessons you have learned in your career thus far?

There are several lessons I’ve learned in my career, but the most important I would say is communication on so many different levels is imperative.  Being transparent with the people you represent is also important.  People want to know what’s going on – that’s why I really enjoy sharing information to let people know what they can expect when they come out to the golf course.

Another lesson I’ve learned is you can’t be too hard on yourself – I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and sometimes take things too seriously.  That can be a good trait, but you must learn how to manage yours and your employers’ expectations because there are so many factors that you can’t control when caring for a golf course – like weather!

The other lesson I would say is something that a mentor and great friend of mine told me a long time ago.  Don’t fall too much in love with the property because it’s not yours.  One day you will leave the course for whatever reason, but the course will remain and the operation will go on without you. The most important thing is that you do the very best job you can during your tenure so you can leave the course in great shape when you move on and someone else takes the reigns.  Then, hopefully you’ll be able to look back at your achievements and be proud of what you and your team accomplished.

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Where do you see agronomy and course maintenance headed from here?

Water usage is going to become a greater and greater issue as time goes on.  Creating agronomical conditions that can allow turf to thrive with less water use is going to be a huge challenge moving forward.  Pesticide and fertilizer usages are also becoming more and more scrutinized which challenges turfgrass breeders to develop more sustainable turf species that need less water, are more disease resistant, and tolerant to adverse weather conditions.

We as turfgrass professionals, as well as golfers, must manage aesthetic expectations and accept the fact that lush/green turf doesn’t necessarily promote the best playing conditions.  I like the “firm and fast” slogan – which is also better for the environment.

The technology we have at our fingertips is also moving very fast.  Now there are computer programs for just about everything – programs that track your chemical, fertilizer and water usages. Programs that track labor, equipment maintenance, and weather.

Turf equipment is also becoming more and more complex as nearly everything has some sort of computer module that operates the engine, cutting units, etc.  It’s all commonplace now.  Therefore, it’s very important to have a solid Equipment Technician on staff in some capacity to maintain the multifaceted pieces of equipment needed to maintain fine Turfgrass.

It’s vital to keep up with these trends, and in the future, I’m hoping to implement many of the technologies currently available to the Canal Shores operation.

You have worked with Dave Esler and Jim Urbina.  What is it like to collaborate with architects of that caliber?

I’ve been blessed to have worked with these two fine architects.  Both have their own style and personality, and like me, they possess an unbelievable passion for classic “Golden Age” golf course architecture.

The most significant lesson I learned working with these two guys in particular is that I needed to allow them to do their job and to support their vision, but to also offer input on design aspirations that might affect future maintenance.  Golf course architects are basically artists and the golf course is their canvas.  When a golf course engages an architect, they do so for their design expertise, so the architect must be allotted the space to compile multiple renderings and concepts, particularly in the early stages.  It’s important to allow them to be creative without too much scrutiny from outside sources.

Why did you decide to take on the Canal Shores opportunity?

The future vision for the property is what truly intrigued me about the position.  In my career, I’ve planned and managed several high end and multi-faceted golf course projects.  I love planning and executing projects – it’s something within our profession that can add variety to the responsibility of everyday maintenance.  The proposed project at Canal Shores is so unique, and the passion I felt from Chris and Steve during the interview process was really refreshing.

I’ve worked at three private country clubs in my career – this opportunity will also allow me to utilize my experiences in the private sector to build the Grounds Department into an even better functioning facet of the overall facility – much the same as a country club’s Grounds & Greens Department, but on a lesser scale considering the size of the property at Canal Shores is much smaller than what I’ve worked with in my past experiences.

What do you anticipate being the biggest “shock to your system” coming to Canal Shores after 13 years at a prestigious club like Glen View?

First and foremost is obviously the budget.  Canal Shores’s budget is significantly less than what the budget was at GVC.  This isn’t a negative thing, as you must take into consideration the expectations of the golfer, the size of the property and the overall dynamics of the operation on a 12-month basis.

At GVC we had activities occurring all year long. When the golf course closed for the season we had to maintain the grounds surrounding the fall and winter activities available to members such as the paddle tennis facility, skeet and trap shooting, winter ice skating, sledding hill, cross country skiing, and snow removal so it was necessary to keep a sizable staff on year-round.

Canal Shores is clearly a much different operation.  The size of the property is 20% the size of GVC, and the golfer expectations will vary greatly from a private country club.  When the snow flies the operation will mostly be dormant.  I look forward to managing every dollar wisely to exceed expectations in both property maintenance and the overall golf experience of each golfer’s visit.

What are the keys to successfully managing a large golf course construction project or renovation?

Planning and communication.  I’ve seen so many projects within the industry fail due to improper planning and communications.  If the plan isn’t properly vetted in can end up drastically over budget and even if it turns out great, in the end, being over budget is never a good thing.  Every last detail must be properly planned for and budgeted.

It’s also important that the planning is taken on by a sub-committee of the Grounds and Greens Committee.  From my past experiences, I’ve learned that too many irons in the fire can be detrimental to the success of any project, particularly large scale projects with a lot of moving parts.  Typically, four or five committee Members along with the Golf Course Superintendent, Construction Project Manager, and Golf Course Architect are plenty for a successful sub-committee.

It’s also important to always budget for the unexpected – I like to call it “contingency budgeting” as it’s a certainty that some sort of adverse situation will arise at some point during the project that will cost money to rectify.

Communication is extremely vital when taking on a large-scale project.  The clientele should be kept in the loop as much as possible.  Taking pictures and posting them on a blog is a great way to easily allow others to keep up with what’s occurring and how the project is progressing.

What do you love about practicing your craft?

The job can become pretty stressful at times, but when a plan comes together and things look great and the course is playing well, the job is really rewarding.  It’s also a real privilege to be able to work outside and not be confined to an office all day.  I would go crazy if I were locked in an office all day.  I really enjoy driving around the course in the evenings near dusk – there’s something about watching the sun set on the golf course that just relaxes me.

What courses do you most want to see or play next?

I’m extremely fortunate to have developed relationships with so many talented Superintendents around the country.  These relationships allowed me to visit some of the finest courses in America and to become part of a network of Superintendents that’s become a brotherhood.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited some great courses throughout my career – Oakmont, Merion, Pine Valley, Saucon Valley, Augusta National, Riviera, Cypress Point, Oak Hill, Winged Foot, Philadelphia Country Club, Huntington Valley, Muirfield Village, just to name a few off the top of my head.

I’ve never been to Long Island though – so I would love to see Shinnecock Hills, Maidstone, and National Golf Links of America.  My colleague and former GCS at Chicago Golf Club Jon Jennings is the GCS at Shinnecock Hills – they’re hosting a US Open in two years, so hopefully that will be my chance to see Long Island as I plan to volunteer during the tournament.

I would also like to get to Scotland one day.

When you are not working or playing golf, how do you spend your time?

My family is extremely important to me, so when I’m not on the golf course I like to spend time with them.  My family and I are also die-hard Cubs fans so we try to get to as many games as we can throughout the year as well.  Go Cubs Go!!


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Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Journey Along the Shores – Part 15a (Metra Corner Makeover)

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Native plant area behind #6 green

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:

  1. The golf on these holes is a combination of hard and boring due to a lack of interesting features and inherent strategy.
  2. Turf health and quality, and the general ecology of the area, has been degraded as invasive species like buckthorn have taken over.
  3. 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.

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The staggered bunkering of Hollywood GC.

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.

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The Principal’s Nose at Boston Golf Club

 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.

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The gash bunker at The Rawls Course

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.

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Red Oak

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).

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#12 after buckthorn removal

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.

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Round rail fence on the 12th hole

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.

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New teeing options on #16

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.

CONCLUSION

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.

For step-by-step updates on this project, and all other happenings at Canal Shores, follow us on Twitter (@CanalShores), Instagram (@CanalShores), and Facebook.

Bring on the spring!

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Journey Along the Shores – Part 14a (The Power of Volunteers)

The contributions that our volunteers make to Canal Shores continues to warm my heart and blow my mind.

In the fall of last year, among various off-season projects, we decided to rework bunkers and clean up around our 12th green.  That little project has become something much cooler, and it is all because of our volunteers.

NSCDSDudes.JPGI will get back to the bunker and green surrounds work.  First, I want to highlight the contributions of four students from North Shore Country Day School.  NSCDS has a senior service requirement.  CJ, Sam, Dillon, and AJ came to us and asked if they could do their service hours at Canal Shores.  It just so happened that we were hoping to add a native plant and habitat area behind the 12th green.  The adjacent sidewalk is heavily trafficked, and we thought the community would appreciate the natural beauty.  I asked The Boys (as they have come to be known) if they wanted to see our idea through – planning to fundraising to implementation – and they agreed.

It has been fun to see them work through the steps of the project.  Thus far, they have:

  • Met with me to learn about the changes to the area from a golf design perspective.
  • Met with Steve Neumann from Logic Lawn Care to work on a design, plant list, and budget for the work.
  • Done outreach to landscaping companies to try and get free top soil to recondition the area.
  • Researched fundraising platforms and provided me with their findings.
  • Met with our Superintendent Tom Tully to work through the details of handling the funds.

Making this progress hasn’t been easy because their various points of contact are busy people.  They are persistently taking action and making it happen though, and that is what I love about our volunteers.

This is the rough design The Boys worked on with Steve and his designer Ana.

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The design includes these native shrubs, flowers, and grasses:

 

The Boys also produced this video about the project.

 

And they have launched a fundraising campaign on IndieGogo.  Click here to check out their page.

I donated to their campaign and I hope you join me.  Not just because their work is helping us to progress in the transformation of Canal Shores, but also because theirs is exactly the kind of volunteerism that we should support.  They are role models for how to make a difference, and I believe that they deserve our recognition and donations.

In my next post, I’ll share more about the bunker and green surrounds work that the golf geeks crew did, but for now, support The Boys.

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Copyright 2016 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf