BGCC Long Range Plan Final Comments and Clarifications

September 6, 2018 Dean Baker

There have been many discussions throughout this year on the proposed LRP changes to our golf course, which have included 3 town hall meetings. There are many different interpretations of what these changes may mean to our membership. In our last greens committee meeting, I had been asked by the greens chair & committee to present key points of the project that are important for the membership to fully understand. The conclusion to this meeting was a unanimous vote and recommendation by the committee that the club move forward on all major outstanding parts of the 2006 LRP. A summary of the key points from this discussion are outlined below.

1. Irrigation System- This project has the support of most members. For good reason! Our present system is outdated (30+ years). The new system will have the latest technology, more accurate distribution of water and be far more reliable. All of this will inevitably lead to healthier turf and better playing conditions.

2. 5th / 6th Holes- These renovations have had a good response from most members. A big correction to this hole is the safety factor in moving the green left and away from the 6th tees. Trees will be planted to help add character and add contour to the new fairway. The opportunity to add yardage (to our shortest par 4) by extending the gold deck has long been a goal of the LRP. The blue & white decks will remain in the same location with less yardage increase. The red deck will be moved to lower ground before the fairway, resulting in a shorter red yardage than existing. Moving the 5th green gives us a great opportunity to move and expand the 6th tees to align with the pond and green site. Expanding the 6th green will have the benefit of creating more pin positions, spreading wear and ball marks on what is a short par 3 on a very busy golf course. Along with this project, we will see new and larger tees being constructed on the 7th hole and new forward red tee locations on holes 2,3,4,5 & 7.

3. 17th /18th Holes- This project has prompted the most discussion and has produced the most false impressions. It is important for members to understand the rational in rebuilding this hole. Most importantly; these renovations will improve the hole for ALL levels of players; in addition properly restore the golf hole to a more fitting Stanley Thompson design, similar in character to the rest of the golf course. The green will see the most favourable change with a design that will resemble our historic past.

The current design of 17 has many flaws. A large number of players lay-up before the pond on their second shots; this is not how a par 4 is intended to be played. The widening of the approach (doubled from its current size), will encourage more players to go for the green in regulation. Changing the fairway grades will flatten the landing area, eliminating the downhill “kick” many long hitters get: effectively lengthening the hole for the lower handicaps. The blind tee shot will be eliminated, exposing a view of both the landing area and green from the tee.

To clarify some misconceptions:

  • 17 will not be significantly longer. New yardages:
    • Gold 433/414 (currently 419)
    • Blues 414/401 (currently 410)
    • Whites 318 (currently 310)
    • Reds 292 (currently 305)

The new 17th green... will sit slightly higher and to the right. The centre of the new green will lie near the back of the current green and at roughly the elevation of the rear sand trap. The cost to rebuild the green is small in comparison to other work that surrounds this area, i.e. the pond.

The Pond... the cost of moving the pond has many members questioning its practicality. Regardless of the decision to move the pond, the pond is in need of major restoration in the near future. Heavy erosion threatens to compromise the irrigation intake and the stone wall is collapsing in several areas. Costs for these repairs are comparative to actually moving it. Not to mention the added aesthetic value of a new and improved water feature on the front lawn of our golf course!

18 tees... the earthwork around the pond and 17 green will also allow us to improve 18 tees. Expanding these tee areas, particularly the white & red decks, will give us more versatility with tee block locations for all members while accommodating a shorter yardage for the red tees.

The proposed changes to the golf course identified through the LRP process have been well thought out through years of planning, discussion and membership feedback. The changes we make today are important to the future of the club and its longevity. I’m proud of our club for its progressive attitude and its willingness to embrace change. If approved, I sincerely feel these changes will set a strong benchmark for the years to come.

Weighing in- The Professionals opinions for the changes to 17...

Doug Carrick (Consulting Architect) “At present, the 17th hole does not fit the mold of a Stanley Thompson design or the rest of our golf course. Changes will present a dramatic improvement in sightline from tee to green and a clear vista of the lake. It will be the signature hole on the water, the best in Ontario”.

Dave Oatis (USGA) Excerpts taken from his On-site Visit Report - August 24th 2018 
We examined the 17th green and discussed the proposed plan for rebuilding the green and altering the entire golf hole. Number 17 green is performing well, but the golf hole is not consistent with any Stanley Thompson design I have ever seen. More importantly, playability of No. 17 is poor. It is a very challenging hole for strong players, but it is far more difficult for shorter hitters and high handicappers. Between the playability problems and the opportunity presented by the extraordinarily prominent and uniquely beautiful location, I strongly support the idea of redesigning and rebuilding the golf hole. It currently is the weakest on the course and it should be the strongest!

Observations

  • We discussed playability of the existing Number 17 hole and it is poor for golfers of all types.
    • Shorter hitters and high handicappers usually lay up rather than attempt a high risk shot, so the design effectively “takes a club out of the hands” of many golfers.
    • The hole also is very difficult for strong players.
  • The design and topography are not similar to any other hole on the course, nor any other Stanley Thompson design I have seen.
  • Number 17 occupies the most prominent location of any hole on the course, and indeed the most prominent location of any hole on many golf courses.
  • In short, Number 17 has an “A+++” location but a “D” design.
  • The existing green on 17 is performing well, but it did not perform well when it was initially rebuilt.
    • The environment was much more pocketed then, and the mix used to build the green does not drain as well as it should. With years of aeration and topdressing (conventional aeration and drilling and filling) its performance has improved.
  • We examined the rough plans for the new green.
    • Surface contours were not well defined in the plan, so it was hard to draw conclusions. However, it looks to be larger than the old green and it is to be more elevated and wider.

Recommendations

In my view, the hole should be rebuilt.

  • There is no “easy” solution such as adding/removing/rebuilding a bunker/tree, expanding a green or realigning the fairway.
  • Nothing short of total reconstruction, complete with major regrading and relocation of the irrigation pond will solve the problem.
  • Number 17, given its location on the property and its position within the sequence of golf holes, should be special.  

About the Author

Dean Baker

Dean Baker, Certified Golf Course Superintendent (27 years). He joined Burlington Golf & Country Club in 2012, where he has enjoyed the remodelling and renovation of this historic 1922 Stanley Thompson design. Dean is a graduate of the University of Guelph where he remains involved with the program he graduated from, Associate Diploma in Turf Management. There he lends his expertise as an instructor to upcoming turf managers, by instructing the Human Resources for Turf Managers Course.

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