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Course Preview: Laval Sur-le-lac (Blue Course)

The third hole at Laval's Blue Course, designed by Ian Andrew and Mike Weir.

Course Preview: Laval Sur-le-lac (Laval, Que.)

Designer: Ian Andrew and Mike Weir

The Scorecard: When Ian Andrew first left Carrick Design seven years ago, Laval was poised to have Rees Jones re-do its blue course, an almost toxic mix of Howard Watson and Graham Cooke that was lack in cohesion, aesthetic appeal, strategy and interest. At the time Laval wanted the exposure of a Jones-led design. Anyway, given the lacklustre way that Royal Montreal’s Jones’ renovation was received, Laval smartly took a different direction and hired Andrew (who has worked for years as the restoration architect for the club’s green course) and his design partner Mike Weir to rework their lesser 18.

I toured the work Andrew and Weir started last fall. At that time the project was largely in rough shaping, and walking around it in the mud was interesting as long as your shoes stayed on your feet. This summer the project is largely finished, with only a couple of holes left to complete. Several of the greens are grassed, and it is easy to see what Andrew and Weir have in mind.

The completed course is subtle, smart and simple. Green sites are punctuated by dramatic bunkers that have collars of blue grass around then, while short grass surrounds abound. Andrew and Weir did utilize many of the same areas where the previous course resided, but this is a complete re-do, one that is already capturing attention from those that have seen it.

The 9th hole at Laval uses some of the terrain occupied by the former Watson nine.

Birdies:

  • Subtlety: In an area where designers often use bunkers just to jazz up their designs as opposed to having them serve a strategic purpose, Andrew and Weir have cut back the number on their course. That means each one has an important role to play in the strategy of the course. Fairway bunkers are rare — with Andrew using the rolling land to set up the strategies, as opposed to being defined by sandy hazards.
  • Greens: One of the best set of greens I’ve seen on a modern course, the goal of the design at Laval was to create something that would work as a member’s course and challenge pros if the RBC Canadian Open comes, as expected, in 2017. I heard someone say the greens are like Pinehurst No. 2. That’s not the case — they aren’t crowned. But Andrew does use some devilish false fronts, and does often raise the putting surfaces. He flashes up corners in other places, giving players the opportunity to be creative if they have enough imagination to envision some alternative approaches.
  • Routing: The routing follows some of Watson’s work, but generally ignores the Cooke routing. The result is a very walkable course where holes wander as opposed to being stacked in parallel lines.
  • Standout holes include the par three third; the very cool par four fifth, where players can tackle two fairway bunkers to find the ideal position to attack the flag; the short seventh, where I saw Andrew add a fairway bunker to toughen up the landing; the cool 11th hole, with its raised green, the short par three 14th, and the long, difficult closing par four.

 

The long par four 10th will be a three-shot hole for many members.

Bogeys:

  • I think Laval’s new course has a chance to be considered among the best in Quebec. However, I also think there are some that will find its lack of fairway bunkers distressing. I’m sure there will be some who find it a bit plain. That’s not my perspective — I think it works — but I wonder if others might find the lack of bunkering means the course lacks some definition.

The 14th at Laval is another on the course's great one-shot holes.

The final tally:

Laval’s new course (which I suspect will be called the Weir Course) has a chance of giving the club one of the best one-two punches in Canada. Weir was actually quite involved in the project, helping Andrew define strategies and working on the subtle green contours. Those greens, matched with Andrew’s unique bunkering (I haven’t seen anything quite like it in Canada), and some smartly designed holes (especially on the back nine, where the land didn’t exactly fit the mould for great golf), makes Laval stand on its own in Quebec. In creating Laval Andrew has proven that he’s more than just a renovation/restoration designer — he’s developed his own vision, bucking trends and displaying his own take on what makes great golf. Weir, for a pro/designer, actually brings benefits beyond just his name. The pairing works well and the course they’ve developed looks like a hell of a lot of fun to play.

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Jeff Lancaster

Jeff Lancaster is the Publisher of CanadianGolfer.com.

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Rob ~ thank for the review; I’m anxious to see this new course.

    Just wondering ~ you say the bunkers are unlike anything you’ve seen in Canada. Looking at your pics, they kinda remind me a bit of St. George’s. What’s so ‘different’ about them in your view? Just curious,

  • I agree with Jeff’s comments. And the bunkering appears somewhat repetitive in location, style, capes and surrounds; although mounding framing the bunker complexes seems to be excellent. I believe fairway bunkers (properly located) add
    a great deal to a golf hole, and need not, necessarily, be a hazard.

  • Jeff: I’d say in terms of shapes it isn’t that far off of St. George’s, but I’d add Ian did those a decade ago. Now everyone (Whit, McBroom, Carrick) have done raggedy edged bunkering. This is a parkland style and fits with the site. What makes it unique, to my way of thinking, is how the bunkers have a narrow band of blue grass around them and are tied into the grass swales that surround the greens. It is a look I haven’t seen in Canada — or don’t recall seeing.

    Bill: Repetitive? Interesting. There aren’t any that are right in front of greens, but I won’t say repetitive. I think the bunkers emphasize the strategic value of coming into the green from one side or another. As for fairway bunkers, I understand your perspective. However, I think Ian and Mike are trying to make a point — that a lot of fairway bunkering is unnecessary, redundant and expensive to maintain. In this case the bunkering is very carefully considered and the strategies tie in the approaches with the green complexes. Quite sophisticated to my way of thinking.

  • Thanks for your response, Rob. I understand your point; but, sounds like the point you were trying to make was more about unique grass lines – which is cool – than unique bunkers. Sorry, not trying to nit-pick! Was honestly interested in your perspective, ’cause I’ve been interested to see what was going to become of the bunkers at Laval. Frankly, I don’t think ‘ragged edge’ bunkers would have fit that site either.

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