Geeked on Golf

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


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Journey Along the Shores – Part 23 (The Year that CS Became a Golf Course)

Prior to this year, Canal Shores was a place where it was great fun to play golf, but it wasn’t much of a golf course.  It was a novelty that captured our hearts.  This year, Canal Shores became a golf course.

There were three big steps made by our Superintendent Tony Frandria (@tonyturf) and his crew during the spring, building upon the solid progress of previous years:

  1. Expansion of the puttable areas on the green pads.
  2. Expansion of teeing areas and fairways, and definition of grass lines.
  3. Rehab of bunkers.

Previous pilot projects touched on these three aspects of course presentation.  This season, all holes were further upgraded, creating a unified aesthetic and better playing conditions.  The result was that playing golf at Canal Shores felt like playing proper golf, rather than whacking it around in a park with target greens.


PUTTABLE AREA EXPANSION

Progressive green shrinkage is a common problem on any course, and it is particularly bad at Canal Shores.  With our extremely limited resources and poor irrigation, there is no easy way to push the greens out toward their original edges.  We made a decision to scalp the green pads anyway, working under the assumption that a patchy collar is better than rough height grass.  Players can chip or putt from the puttable area, making our holes more interesting.  Lines were painted and the grass was cut.


TEEING AREAS, FAIRWAYS & GRASS LINES

Next, we took a look at the tee-to-green presentation.  In the spirit of teasing the most interest and fun out of our little course, we again got creative with grass.  We ditched defined tee boxes wherever possible for teeing areas, allowing us to spread wear and tear over a larger area, while also giving our players greater variety day to day.

Teeing areas were connected to the fairway, and the fairways expanded.  Although we have our fair share of good players at Canal Shores, we also have many beginners, juniors, and seniors.  For these groups, short grass makes the game more fun, and fun comes first. Again, lines were painted and the mowing began.  With our new mowing pattern, a player who struggles to get the ball airborne will still be able to move forward and enjoy the hole.

We didn’t want the course to become a homogenous stretch of fairway, however.  That’s not golf.  Golf involves navigating obstacles (hazards) using your mind and your skill.  We don’t have many hazards, and we don’t have the resources or desire to create more, so we again sought to make the most of the course features we have.  There are grass bunkers and quirky mounds scattered around Canal Shores, and we decided to accentuate them by letting the grass grow.  The contrast of fairway height grass surrounding a scruffy hump, bump, or hillock is far more interesting than a single height of cut.  These hazards also create real challenge who fail to avoid them.

With a full year’s experience under our belt, we now know the mowing patterns.  In 2019, we will fine tune, including maintaining the scruffy grass at a lower height to give players a better chance at recovery.


BUNKER REHAB

The final piece of this year’s upgrade was our bunkers.  As those who have been following along know, we have chipped away at bunker rehab for years.  The goals have been to decrease the number of bunker and the square footage, while also dramatically increasing the interest.  In 2018, those goals were finally achieved across the entire course.

A donation of high quality bunker sand from a generous Superintendent in the area was the nudge we needed to follow through and bring all remaining bunkers up to snuff.  What follows is a recap with visuals of our work over the years.  Many thanks to all of the volunteers who pitched in on bunker work.

HOLE #2 – The front left bunker was rebuilt and given more character.

HOLE #3 – A fairway bunker left was removed and grassed over.  A small fairway bunker was added in the landing area on the right.

The right forebunker was rebuilt and given more character.

HOLE #8 – The two bunkers right of the green were the best we had, and so were left as is.  Two bunkers left of the green were reshaped smaller and with more character.

HOLE #12 – A left fairway bunker was removed and grassed over.  The bunker front left of the green was reshaped smaller with more character.  A bunker left of the green was filled in and grassed over.

A pot bunker was added front right of the green.

Two large saucer bunkers behind the green were removed and replaced with a more interesting single trench bunker.

HOLE #13 – The bunker front right of the green was reshaped with more character.  The sandy waste bunker behind the green was in good shape and left as is.

HOLE #14 – One long trench bunker left of the green was broken into two smaller bunkers and reshaped with more character.

HOLE #15 – Two fairway bunker were reconfigured into the Principal’s Nose.

A bunker short left of the green was removed and grassed over.  The bunker front right of the green was repositioned and reshaped with more character.

HOLE #17 – The left fairway bunker was reshaped with more character.  The right fairway bunker as allowed to grow over as it is within the delineated wetland buffer.

HOLE #18 – The near right and left fairway bunkers were allowed to grow over.  The far right fairway bunker was transformed into the Church Pews.  The bunker front left of the green was filled in and grassed over.

Puttable areas, grass lines, and bunkers.  Thanks the commitment of our staff and volunteers, we continue to push our little gem forward.  In 2018, Canal Shores became a real golf course.  Who knows what 2019 might bring.  Stay tuned….


More Journey Along the Shores posts:

 

 

Copyright 2018 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Journey Along the Shores – Part 22 (Reverse Jans Recap)

Canal Shores is about coming together, having fun through laid back competition, and caring for a special community asset.  That is the spirit in which the Honourable Company of Reverse Jans Golfers convened for its third annual gathering and golf outing in December of last year.

CanalShores14-AndyDrone.JPGThe day began with solid geekery as HCRJG Member Andy Johnson (@the_fried_egg) brought out his drone to capture photos and video of work that we completed as part of our Metra Corner Makeover.

Andy was kind enough to put together a video montage that illustrates well how integrated with the surrounding community Canal Shores is.  Our clearing efforts along the canal and our work on making bunkers and grass lines more interesting is also evident.

 

 

It was then on to the golf.  We had six teams totaling 24 members of The Company playing our 14 hole reverse routing.  The competition was friendly and intense, and thankfully we managed not to damage any property.  We also got the now customary wide range of curious and bemused reactions from folks out walking wondering a) why is this big group playing golf in December, and b) do you realize that you are going in the wrong direction?

After the round, we convened at the Legion for food, storytelling, and awards.  Many thanks to Company Member John Enright from Bluestone in Evanston for providing the food.  Thanks also to Imperial Headware and Seamus Golf for once again providing us with stellar swag for our contestants.

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As always, Team Dingles (Captained by David Inglis) won one of the sets of treasured glassware.  I can honestly not remember which team won the other set, and it doesn’t matter because having fun and giving back is what is more important to us.

We managed to raise several thousand dollars and were ecstatic when the opportunity arose to use our donation to help our Superintendent Tony Frandria (@TonyTurf) repaint his maintenance shop.  HCRJG Member Lisa Quinn connected Tony to a vendor and this spring the shop was transformed.

The fine folks at Dynamic Colors absolutely crushed the job and gave us a cool recap video as a bonus.

 

I can’t thank the members of the HCRJG enough for their ongoing support of our dream chasing at Canal Shores.  That support extends well beyond the afternoon each December when we hold our gathering.  They are there year-round, putting the community in community golf.


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Copyright 2018 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Journey Along the Shores – Part 21 (Burn Baby Burn)

There’s a new boss at Canal Shores – a Burn Boss, that is – and his name is Steve Neumann.  Steve is the Chair of our Grounds Committee as well as the Eco Committee that recently completed creation of the Ecological Component of our Master Plan (click here to see the Eco plan).  Being a geeky man after my own heart, he fulfilled an ambition of becoming an officially certified Burn Boss by participating in training with the Forest Preserve District.  Perhaps the coolest title I have heard to date.

In my previous post on trees, I shared about our intention to continue the battle against buckthorn, honeysuckle and other invasives to create space for native trees, shrubs and other plants to flourish at Canal Shores.  The property is currently so terribly overrun with invasives that the by-product of our clearing efforts is a tremendous amount of brush.  Prior to this season, we have experimented with using the material in raised hugelkultur beds, and we have chipped quite a bit of it.  The chipping is faster and tidier, but it is also cost-prohibitive considering the volume of material.

Cue the Burn Boss.

Burning has been a land management practice since before European settlers arrived in America.  Native Americans used prescribed burning of the prairies and woodlands to promote biodiversity, maintain ecological health, and sustain their food sources.  Fast forward several centuries, and ecologists, land managers and Golf Course Superintendents are once again embracing regular prescribed burning as a best practice for maintaining healthy ecosystems.

According to the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, “Unburned natural areas can quickly become choked with invasive trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants including buckthorn and honeysuckle.  A periodic fire regime limits these unwanted species while promoting more desirable woody species such as oaks and hickories, as well as numerous grasses and wildflowers.

As an additional benefit to prescribed burns, the black earth left behind after a fire warms more quickly in the spring, which gives native species a jumpstart in growth over unburned areas.  Other benefits include accelerated nutrient cycling in the soil and decreased fuel loads that will reduce the likelihood of wildfire.

Our crew is now committed to the practice of burning to support the ecological enhancements we are working so hard to make.  Steve obtained permits from both the Illinois EPA and the City of Evanston, and organized our first burn.

Although we are starting slowly with burning brush piles, my hope is that we expand the practice to our woodland and “native” areas in the long run because burning is a best practice.


OUR FIRST BURN

After winter clearing projects, we had plenty of brush to burn.  Tony and John moved and compiled it on the 11th hole.  The pile was big to begin with, and during the three hour session, we continued clearing the along the canal.

We were fortunate to have a great turnout of volunteers, young and old.  Our Burn Boss got the fire going, and for more than 2 hours, we fed the fire.

What started as a big pile of brush became a big fire.  24 hours later, all that was left was a small pile of ash.  Spring rain and wind will take care of the ash, and we will do it all again in the next session.

Many thanks to Steve for his efforts to educate and organize, and to our dedicated volunteers who showed up to feed the fire and feel the burn.


More Journey Along the Shores posts:

 

 

Copyright 2018 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Journey Along the Shores – Part 19 (All About the Trees)

Over the past several years, countless hours have been spent in the field and in meetings to assess the state of our tree population, and to chart a course forward toward making that population larger and significantly healthier.

Our findings will not be a surprise to anyone who has taken the time to look closely at the ecological picture at Canal Shores.  In many places, the property is a disaster area, and it has been for many years.  I am grateful to the members of the community who decided that the “gem in their backyards” was in distress and stepped in to save it.  For those who have not yet done so, now would be a good time.  We have a plan, and there are opportunities to target contributions of volunteer time and money to revitalize Canal Shores, including its trees.


ASSESSMENT

We are not short of trees at Canal Shores, but as it turns out, we are short on good ones.  Planning Resources Inc. sent their Arborist out to do a tree survey.  They were looking for valuable trees to keep and incorporate into the ecological master plan for the property (full Plan coming soon…).  “Valuable” is defined as important native species, or large, healthy trees that are not invasive species.  The survey found that Canal Shores has 904 trees on our 82 acres.

At first glance, that number might seem big, but it really isn’t.  Given that the golf course occupies less than half that total acreage, a healthy tree population would number in the thousands.

PRI tagged every valuable tree they could find.  I encourage anyone walking or playing the course to look for tags to better understand which trees are desirable, and sadly how few of them we have.

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Tagged trees are numbered and catalogued for reference, and have been geo-located onto the map that follows.  The map, along with the associated illustrations, is a great reference for learning more about where our desirable trees are, and what they are.  I have learned a great deal about trees from PRI’s work, and I have started to share that knowledge with my boys.

Valuable trees are circled, and “key” trees (meaning high value species and of size) are in orange.

GREEN BAY TO LINCOLN

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LINCOLN TO CENTRAL

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CENTRAL TO ISABELLA

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ISABELLA TO LINDEN

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LINDEN TO SHERIDAN

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INVASIVES

Invasive species are making Canal Shores unhealthy.  I am far from being an expert, but what I have learned is that a healthy ecosystem has layers, each layer ideally containing a variety of species:

  • An herbaceous (ground) layer of grasses, flowers and groundcover that are the home to pollinators and other important insects and animals.
  • An understory (shrub) layer of small trees and shrubs that provide food and habitat for birds.
  • A canopy of trees, of varying species and age.

The primary problem that Canal Shores has with its invasives is in the understory, specifically with buckthorn and honeysuckle.  That problem has manifested in three ways:

  • First, within the understory, buckhthorn and honeysuckle are extremely aggressive competitors and they have left us with almost no other shrubs, greatly decreasing biodiversity.
  • Second, they form dense thickets, starving the herbaceous layer of sunlight.  Where buckthorn grows densely, there is bare ground underneath which also creates erosion problems on the canal banks.
  • Finally, the buckthorn and honeysuckle leave no space for desirable trees to regenerate.

There are good reasons why it is illegal to sell or plant buckthorn or honeysuckle in the state of Illinois.  They are parasitic plants that take over and leave the areas they populate in much worse health.  To say that one likes buckthorn is the equivalent of liking a tapeworm.

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In fighting buckthorn at Canal Shores, I have learned first hand the many ways that it fights back.  It has whacked me in the face, hit me in the head, poked me in the eye, cut up my arms and legs, and more.  Suffice it to say, I have never been a fan.  However, when I watched the video below, I was tipped over the edge.

Not only is buckthorn bad for the other plants around it, but the berries produced by the females have a laxative effect on birds, while providing no nutritional content.  Are you kidding me?  This demon weed must go.

Many thanks to Brandon from Ringers Landscaping for allowing us to share his webinar.  I highly recommend watching at least the first 18 minutes.


STEWARDSHIP

During the course of this lengthy process of assessment and learning through pilot projects, I have heard and read statements like “Save the buckthorn!” and “Can’t we just let nature take care of itself?”.  These statements are born of ignorance and are in direct conflict with the principle of land stewardship for which our community is responsible at Canal Shores.

Abdication of our stewardship responsibility has directly resulted in ecological degradation.  In the hundreds of hours that I have spent on the ground with fellow Buckthorn Warriors, I have seen what this degradation looks like.  We have saved desirable trees that were literally being choked to death by invasive vines.  We have watched in disappointment as a large, unhealthy tree falls over in a storm, taking with it several desirable trees that we hoped to save.  We have seen the bare ground under buckthorn thickets suffering from stormwater erosion.  And we have seen newly cleared areas spring back to life with grasses and flowers when sunlight is allowed to reach the ground.

The results of doing nothing are obvious and incontrovertible.  It doesn’t work.  Based on our learnings and the counsel of experts, we are now moving forward.  Special thanks to Grounds Committee member Matt Rooney who drafted our Tree Policy, and then painstakingly revised it to incorporate feedback from numerous parties.  Click here to read the Canal Shores Tree Policy, which has been approved by our Board of Directors.

What does this look like on the ground?  Before areas can be revitalized, clearing has to take place.  We are prioritizing spots that directly impact the golf course – tees, greens, fairway landing areas are all of highest priority as we want to enhance the turf quality, playability and visual beauty for our paying customers.  We have selected specific trees (e.g. black cherries) to add to the tagged group for preservation, and buckthorn has been painted for removal.

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The work is well underway on holes 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 12-18.  We have applied for a burn permit from the EPA to deal with the cut brush.  We are also recruiting a Landscape Architecture / Ecology intern whose focus will be on maintenance of cleared areas as well as site-specific habitat design and implementation.


CONCLUSION

Decades of neglect and mismanagement are not going to be undone overnight.  However, we have made a beginning and we will continue working toward our goal of making Canal Shores a healthy ecosystem that includes a variety of native and other desirable trees.

We hope that all members of the Evanston-Wilmette community join us.  Check the Greens & Grounds blog for dates of upcoming volunteer work sessions, or email me at jwizay1493@hotmail.com to be added to the Buckthorn Warriors mailing list.  Inquiries about tree donations can be made with Dan Bulf (dbulf@canalshores.org).  This is a big job, but together, we can do it.

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More Journey Along the Shores posts:

 

 

Copyright 2018 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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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.


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Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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Golden Age Redux – Shawn Smith & Todd Fyffe at Westmoreland CC

WESTMORELAND COUNTRY CLUB

An Interview & Course Tour

On the way from my house to the highway sits Westmoreland Country Club.  For years, I drove by and peeked through the fence at the course, with its gorgeous clubhouse overlooking the perfect green fairways.  When I finally had the good fortune to play Westmoreland, it was a treat to spend an afternoon experiencing first-hand what I had so long seen only from the road.  The course was nice, with a few neat holes and greens, and the conditioning produced by Superintendent Todd Fyffe and his team was second to none.  Was there anything that set it apart from the numerous other terrific country clubs around Chicago?  Truth be told, not really.

This is the challenge for clubs in a town so deep in good golf courses.  How to be truly great, while continuing to serve the needs of the existing membership.  The leadership of Westmoreland must have been wrestling with that same question, because last year a renovation of the course began under the direction of golf course architect Shawn Smith.  The bunkering was being completely overhauled, and the pictures that began to pop up on Twitter were attention grabbing to say the least.

Shawn and Todd were kind enough to invite me out for a walk around the course this spring as construction was nearing completion.  Shawn shared his thoughts on the bunker style change – bold and strategic, but with a classic vibe.  He also shared about the architectural history of the course, which is somewhat murky, but includes work by A.W. Tillinghast.  Shawn, Todd and the club’s leadership are clearly intent on recapturing that Golden Age feel, and thus far they are succeeding.

The bunker work has been complemented with fairway expansion and the tweaking of grass lines.  Trees are slowly coming down, opening up vistas and improving turf health, and new fescue areas are being established that will create a beautiful color contrast.

 

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How can a club set its course apart in a crowded field of solid quality courses?  A return visit to play Westmoreland a few weeks back would suggest that they have found their answer.  As the refinement continues and the new work matures, it will only get better.  And who knows, Shawn might just have a trick or two left in his Golden Age bag.

I am very much looking forward to repeat plays in the coming years.  In the meantime, Shawn and Todd have been gracious enough to share more of their perspective (Todd’s answers are coming soon), and I created a hole-by-hole tour for those who have not yet seen the new Westmoreland.  Enjoy!


INTERVIEW WITH ARCHITECT SHAWN SMITH & SUPERINTENDENT TODD FYFFE

How did you get introduced to the game of golf?

SHAWN SMITH: I grew up in Laurel, Montana, a small town of about 7,000 people and we lived a couple farm fields away from the golf course.  My parents first introduced me to the game when I was six but it was pretty casual, consisting of me banging a 7-iron down the fairway 90 yards at a time.  I started to take it more seriously when I turned eleven and began playing in local junior golf tournaments.    

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

SS: The summer that I turned eleven, my dad signed me up for my first junior golf tournament and I quickly discovered how much I enjoyed the game.  From that point forward, most of my free time was spent on the golf course.  During the summer, I would spend most days from sun up to sun on the golf course.  

How did you get into the business?  

SS: Growing up, I always enjoyed drawing and being creative.  In the mid-1980s when I was in my early teens, I became aware of the profession of golf course architecture and it seemed like the perfect blend of my creative side with my love of the game.  From that point on I began chasing the dream – I read everything I could get my hands on about golf course architecture, worked in the pro shop and on the grounds crew of my local course to better understand that side of the business, interned for a local landscape architect who also dabbled in golf course design, attended Washington State University where I received a degree in Landscape Architecture and spent a year working golf course construction in Mississippi and Louisiana.  In 1998, I was brought on as a design associate for Arthur Hills and Associates (currently Hills & Forrest) and became a principal in 2010.

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What got you excited about the opportunity to take on this renovation?

SS: Westmoreland Country Club has a rich history that dates back to 1911 and includes architectural contributions by Willie Watson, William Langford and A.W. Tillinghast.  When you visit the Club, it has a vibe that is consistent with many of the great old golf courses built during that era.  From the iconic Colonial Williamsburg clubhouse to the beautifully contoured greens, it just looks and feels like a course that has been around for over a century.  The exception to this was the bunkering which, prior to the most recent work, had been rebuilt a number of times over the years and had taken on a character that wasn’t consistent with the rest of the golf course.  What I was most excited about with this renovation was the opportunity to recapture a bunker character with straighter, simpler lines that was more consistent with the other classic architectural features that already existed.      

Describe your process for a renovation of this nature.

SS: The first thing we do with any renovation is to meet with the Club to determine their goals and objectives.  From there, we go to work studying the golf course.  We spend a couple days walking the course, establishing an inventory that identifies its strengths and weaknesses.  We meet with the superintendent and other key individuals at the club to get there perspective.  If its an older course, like Westmoreland, we spend time researching the history of the course to better understand the original architecture and how it may have evolved over the years.  From there, we take all the compiled information and develop a plan for improvements which we present to the green committee.  Based on their feedback, we make any necessary revisions to the plan so that we have a consensus going forward.  When the Club chooses to implement the plan, we prepare construction drawings, facilitate the bid process and help the Club select a contractor to complete the work.  In the case of Westmoreland, they have worked with Leibold on most of their projects over the years so there really wasn’t a formal bid process.  Once construction begins, we make site visits to review the construction and recommend any field modifications to ensure that the design intent is met.  The frequency of the visits varies depending on the stage of construction and how quickly it is progressing.  At Westmoreland, I was making 1-2 day site visits weekly for the better part of four months (Oct., Nov., April & May).      

Did historical documentation play any role in your approach to the renovation?  

SS: We had an aerial photograph from 1938 along with a handful of other ground and oblique photos from that timeframe.  The original bunkering in the 1938 aerial consisted of massive bunkers that were mostly out-of-play.  It simply wasn’t practical to restore the bunkers to their original design.  We did however use the photographs to educate the membership about how many trees had been planted over the years.  The old photos, which showed far fewer trees, supported our recommendation to implement a tree management plan.  The plan focuses on returning to a native plant palette of deciduous hardwoods and creating more of an open character which highlights specimen trees and accentuates shared views and vistas across the golf course.

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What were your goals going into the project?  

SS: The project originally just began as a bunker renovation and evolved into rebuilding, squaring up tees, widening/straightening fairways and a tree management plan.  These were the original goals of the bunker project:

  1. Improve the aesthetics of the bunkers by creating a style and character that is consistent with early 20th century architecture and the other classic features found on the course.  
  2. Improve the strategy of the bunkers by creating risk/reward relationships that encourage thoughtful play and make the holes more interesting.
  3. Improve the playability of the course by positioning bunkers where they challenge better players without undulling penalizing the weaker players.
  4. Improve the infrastructure of the bunkers so that they drain properly, are easier to maintain and provide consistent playing conditions for the membership.   

How did you decide on the bold bunker style?

SS: We knew early on that restoring the original bunkering wasn’t practical so we chose to create a bunker style that was consistent with the era Westmoreland was originally built.  Ultimately, we decided to draw inspiration from the trench-style bunkering of C.B. McDonald and Seth Raynor which has strong roots in the Chicago area.

In a renovation like this, how much weight do playability and functionality carry respectively?

SS: A large part of our effort in rebuilding the bunkers was to reposition them (especially the fairway bunkering) so that they challenged the better players without unnecessarily penalizing the weaker players. In many instances, we shifted existing fairway bunkers farther down the hole or added bunkers at the far end of the landing area that could only be reached by the better players.  We widened most of the fairways to 40 yards+/-, especially in the areas leading up to the fairway bunkers where shorter hitters would tend to hit their tee shots.  At the greens, we reposition a number of bunkers and realigned fairways to create wider approaches that would allow for a shot to be run onto the green.  By repositioning the bunkers and widening the fairways and approaches, we were able to make the holes more strategic and thought provoking for the better players and at the same time more playable for the lesser skilled golfer.  

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Did you run into challenges with the membership before, during, or after the project, and how did you overcome those challenges?

SS: A year prior to the project, the Club rebuilt two of the bunkers on the short game area to help educate the membership on what the new bunkers would look like and how they would play.  This turned out to a great decision as it was instrumental in helping to gain the membership’s support for the project.  

For the most part, I dealt directly with Todd and the Long Range Planning Committee.  Throughout the project, they were great to work with and were very enthusiastic about the initial plan we presented.  There were a couple holes were we were asked to adjust the bunker placement but they were minor.  As with any project, once we got into construction, there were some minor tweaks that needed to be made and we worked closely with Todd and the committee’s leadership to make those changes.  

Perhaps the biggest hurdle we had during the project came toward the end when we recommended removing a few trees as part of an overall tree management plan.  Through a series of presentations to the Long Range Committee, the Board and then finally the membership, we carefully explained the rationale for our recommendation.  It began with a detailed analysis of the early photographs of the golf course showing the numerous trees that had been planted over the years.  We explained the challenges that trees create from an agronomic, aesthetic and playability standpoint.  And, we included a comprehensive look at the trend in the industry, especially with classic golf courses built during the early 20th century, to remove trees and restore more of an open character with only a few specimen trees.  

Describe your approach to tree management going forward.  

SS: The long term objective of the tree management plan is to eliminate non-native and ornamental trees so that we can highlight specimen hardwood deciduous trees and return the golf course to more of an open feel.  At the same time, we plan to create a dense plant buffer on the perimeter so that we can screen unwanted offsite views.  

In addition to the tree management plan, we have identified 15 acres that we plan to convert to native fescue areas.  We believe the combination of the bunker improvements along with the approach proposed for the trees and native areas will provide a look and feel that is very much consistent with a golf course that was built during the golden age of design.  

How will the renovation impact ongoing maintenance needs and costs?  

SS: Todd may be the better person to ask this question but one of the neat byproducts of the trench bunker style was the fact that we were able to significantly decrease the total bunker square footage on the golf course which should reduce the time spent maintaining the bunkers.  Prior to the renovation, the course had 57 bunkers totaling 83,275 square feet.  With the new bunkers, we increased the number to 66 but the total square footage was cut by a 1/3 to 56,620 square feet.  Additionally, the flat floors and the Better Billy Bunker construction method should all but eliminate washouts following a rain event.

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What makes you the proudest about the new Westmoreland?

SS: I am most proud of the transformation we were able to make to the character of the golf course.  We took bunkering and fairway lines that were out of place on a golf course of this age and made them match the other classic elements of the golf course.  It instantly made the golf course look and feel 100 years older!

What do you respect most about your collaborator?

SS: This project afforded me the opportunity to spend a lot of time on site and see firsthand all the hard work that Todd and his staff put into providing impeccable conditions for the membership.  At the same time, they were also instrumental during the renovation, taking on significant portions of the work in-house. Todd is extremely knowledgeable when it comes getting the most out of the golf course but what I respect the most about him is his drive to improve.  He is continually talking to his peers, trying to learn and get better at his craft and is not afraid to try new things or implement new ideas in the quest to get better.  I’m looking forward to seeing how the improvements we made mature under his stewardship.   

What do you love about practicing your craft?

SS: The aspect about design that I love the most is the creative process; taking an idea, refining it, building it and ultimately seeing people enjoy it.

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WESTMORELAND CC COURSE TOUR

The classic experience begins at Westmoreland at the clubhouse, which might be the most underrated in Chicagoland.  The opening holes on both nines play down away from the clubhouse, and their tees are tied beautifully together by the putting green and closely mown bentgrass surrounds.

Hole #1 – Par 4 – 331 yards

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The opener is a short, slight dogleg right that plays downhill.  The player is confronted with the first of many strategic decisions as the bunkers on the left are reachable.  Positioning is the key to scoring on the 1st, and throughout WCC.

Hole #2 – Par 4 – 388 yards

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The 2nd is a straight par-4 with a long trench bunker guarding the left side of the fairway, and a nasty pot bunker guarding the green front left.  It hits home at this point that most of these bunkers are in fact hazards.

Hole #3 – Par 4 – 439 yards

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The 3rd is a brute of a par-4 playing uphill off the tee to a wide, often windswept fairway.  The approach is blind down to an angled green that will accept running and aerial shots.

Hole #4 – Par 4 – 351 yards

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Options abound off the tee on the short 4th.  Smart players sneak a peek at the pin position coming up the third, as the green runs away from front to back and the approach must be made from the proper angle.

Hole #5 – Par 3 – 170 yards

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The elevated green at the 5th is one of those “must hits”.  A deep bunker guards the front left and steep, closely mown runoffs surround the rest of the green.  A short game fiasco is a really possibility when tee shots are errant.

Hole #6 – Par 4 – 300 yards

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The 6th green is reachable for bombers, but the green surrounds are no bargain if the heroic attempts fail.  The small green is sloped and contoured and players who leave themselves short-sided are unlikely to get up and down.

Hole #7 – Par 4 – 340 yards

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The 7th begins with a blind drive over a hill that runs down to a tiered green.  It is reachable, but the punishment for being on the wrong tier is a near certain three putt.

Hole #8 – Par 5 – 469 yards

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The lone five par on the front is a terrific risk-reward proposition.  Challenge the right bunkers off the tee and the distance is shortened enough to make carrying the fronting lake doable.  The heavily sloped green is unforgiving of imprecise approaches though.

Hole #9 – Par 4 – 391 yards

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The view from the 9th tee is one of the best in town.  Staggered bunkers cutting into the fairway on both sides disorient and confuse, making the hole look narrower than it actually is.  The uphill approach to an elevated green demands a confidently struck shot.

Hole #10 – Par 4 – 408 yards

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Like the first, the 10th plays downhill and doglegs right.  However, it is both narrower and longer and the green has distinct sections with testy pin positions.  This is no gentle handshake.

Hole #11 – Par 5 – 505 yards

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A deep bunker right and two simple bunkers left flank the landing zone on the 11th.  A glorious old tree must be navigated with the lay-up and approach to this contoured green that sits beautifully on the land.

Hole #12 – Par 4 – 375 yards

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The 12th is a two-shotter that plays much longer than its yardage straightaway uphill.  Deep bunkers left and right of the green lie in wait to dish out punishment.

Hole #13 – Par 3 – 193 yards

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The par-3 13th plays over water downhill to a green in an idyllic setting.  Rough-covered mounding surrounds the green creating tricky lies and stances.

Hole #14 – Par 4 – 360 yards

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The 14th plays over a hill and left to blind landing area.  Well struck tee shots with a draw can feed all the way down near the green which sits in a natural amphitheater.  The “dreaded straight ball” however, if overzealously played runs the risk of going through the fairway into a pond right that is hidden from view on the tee.

Hole #15 – Par 5 – 530 yards

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Westmoreland’s third and final par-5 15th might be the most improved hole on the course.  Tree removal on the inside of this dogleg left has opened views and lines, and fairway expansion has created room to play.  That room is critical because the approach to the green is now littered with bunkers that must be avoided to give the player a legitimate chance at birdie.

Hole #16 – Par 4 – 397 yards

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The par-4 16th is a straight par-4 that plays much more narrow than it is.  The left side of the green is well defended by bunkers into which the fairway feeds.

Hole #17 – Par 3 – 141 yards

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The par-3 17th plays over water to an elevated green fronted on the the right by bunkers.  With the wind whipping across the pond, judging line and distance can be a real challenge.

Hole #18 – Par 4 – 383 yards

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One final gorgeous view awaits the player upon reaching the home home, a par-4 which plays back up the hill to the clubhouse.  The heavily sloped green has a mammoth bunker left demanding one last accurate approach.

On the day of my round at Westmoreland, the weather soured as we played the finishing stretch, but it did nothing to dampen my spirits.  Spending time on this now special golf course, discussing the game, architecture and history with Shawn and Todd is as good as it gets for this geek.


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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…


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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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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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More Journey Along the Shores posts:

 

 

Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf

 


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Journey Along the Shores – Part 14b (More Volunteer Power)

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 jwizay1493@hotmail.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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 


BUNKER WORK

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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…and by Spring, it had grown in beautifully.

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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.


FENCE REPLACEMENT

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.

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TREE PRESERVATION

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 VenturesFenceworksNels J Johnson, Midwest Groundcovers, and other landscapers who donated soil.
  • MWRD and the City of Evanston Forestry Division.

More Journey Along the Shores posts:

 

 

Copyright 2016 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf