Calgary course ready for the big time
Glencoe’s Glen Forest layout to make it fit for tour pros, members alike
Published on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012 08:03AM EDT
It’s astonishing that the Canadian Open has never been held in Calgary and that it’s been in Alberta just once, in 1958 when Royal Mayfair in Edmonton – then without the Royal – staged the championship.
Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), the current sponsor, would like to take the tournament to Calgary, and if architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. and his associate Bruce Charlton have succeeded in their work at the Glencoe Golf and Country Club there, that could happen.
Jones and Charlton were at their office in Palo Alto the other day when they chatted about their renovation, restoration, revision and refreshment of the Glen Forest course at Glencoe, a club that has 45 holes. Words beginning with “re” apply, as Jones, 73, said, especially in today’s eroded business climate. Hardly anybody is building new courses.
Jones’s company did the original courses at Glencoe. The club’s board of directors wanted to update the Forest course, and sold the project to the members on the basis that they would enjoy it more after Jones and Charlton had their way with an already fine layout. The subtext was always that the course should be capable of playing host to a Canadian Open. Calgary resident and PGA Tour player Stephen Ames, for one, didn’t think it was.
It’s not easy to come up with a course that examines the best golfers while also providing enjoyment to club golfers. Tour players hit the ball so far and high that it’s nearly impossible to compel them to hit anything but short irons into par-fours without stretching a course to absurd lengths. It’s always possible to tighten fairways and frame them with ridiculously high rough, but then golf becomes one-dimensional.
“How do we defend a course against the tour player’s aerial bombardment?” Jones asked as he sat on a leather sofa with the Glencoe master plan, dated March 16, 2010, spread out on a table in front of him and Charlton.
“It was paramount in the board’s mind that they were sure the money being spent on renovation would allow championship play,” Jones said. “As for the members, fun and flexible was our mantra.”
Some 400 yards were added, bringing the length to 7,530 – still not long at Calgary’s altitude. Meanwhile, Glencoe’s Forest course is, well, deeply forested. Tall spruce trees are hazard enough on about half the holes for wayward shots. Jones calls them “vertical hazards.”
The flexibility to which Jones referred and which he and Charlton wanted to introduce to the course would also improve it as far as coaxing a championship course out of the property. The idea was to create options for shots and to make players think, thereby making the course more strategic and less susceptible to aerial bombardment.
Fairways were widened so that players would have to consider where to place their tee shots. This can seem to make a course easier, but in fact width generates options. There’s 23 per cent less sand, and therefore more grass. The idea is to allow the ball to run away. Green contours were also softened. This will allow for greens to play at modern speeds. Every tee, fairway, and green was sodded rather than seeded. A couple of greens were repositioned. Some bunkers were moved forward and fairways pinched there, so that tour pros would have to think about whether they wanted to hit driver from the tee.
“We’ve brought more imagination into the course,” Charlton said. “We wanted to get into players’ thinking caps.”
At the same time, corridors for spectators were opened in the trees. That too is part of modern golf for clubs that want a PGA Tour event. The course should be ready for play by next June, assuming the weather co-operates.
“The club will probably get Golf Canada and RBC people out in May to see it,” said Jones, whose Chambers Bay course on Puget Sound in University Place, Wash., will hold the 2015 U.S. Open and whose CordeValle course in San Martin, Calif., is the site of the Frys.com Open on the PGA Tour this week.
It’s not a done deal, for sure, but the chances of Glencoe staging the Canadian Open should be enhanced. It’s long past time when the tournament should return to Alberta. Moreover, it’s absurd that the country’s national championship has never been held in Calgary, a golf-mad city.
Beyond belief, really, but there it is.
Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and, most recently, he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including The Natural Golf Swing, with George Knudson (1988); Links: An Insider’s Tour Through the World of Golf (1990); The Swing, with Nick Price (1997); The Fundamentals of Hogan, with David Leadbetter (2000); A Season in Dornoch: Golf and Life in the Scottish Highlands (2001); Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame.
Lorne can be reached at email@example.com.
You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein