That seems to be part of the thinking behind the recently announced re-do of Angus Glen’s South Course, which will close on September 1 to have its greens regrassed (and in some instances recontoured) and reopen the following June (which seems aggressive to me). The work on the course, which held the 2002 Canadian Open, includes the addition of several new ponds as well, specifically on the 11th and 15th holes, as well as significant adjustments to the 3rd hole as well.The tees will also be expanded.
The question is why? This is a course that was once Golf Digest’s Best New in Canada — at a time when there were enough new courses opening each year that it meant something. In 2002, SCOREGolf had it ranked #18 in Canada. It was the course that I spent a lot of time playing when I first moved to Toronto — I know it well. Despite some remarks to the contrary on a recent post, I’d say there were several very good holes, particularly #2, #4-7, #10, #12, and #18, where Carrick does a nice job of utilizing the best land in interesting ways. Yes, there are some inconsequential throwaways (#3, #11, #15), but by and large it is a good — but never great — course.
In recent years houses have encroached on a number of spots. That’s really hurt some of its appeal. And a couple of years back the man who put the place on the map, Kevin Thistle, left to join nearby Coppinwood GC. The course was never as visible once Kevin departed.
This all contributed to the course falling out of fashion. But I’d argue there were other reasons as well. The course was assailed in 2002 at the Canadian Open by the likes of Richard Zokol, who said it was too easy to hold the country’s national open. Most weren’t as outspoken as Zokol, but many didn’t have much affection for the place. Then five years later the North course at Angus Glen was hammered by basically everyone when it hosted the second Canadian Open for the facility. By that time the perception of many had changed on Angus Glen. By that time SCOREGolf had Angus Glen South at #69. That’s a significant slide in six years.
Part of the reason for the deterioration of Angus Glen South’s reputation had to do with what grew up around it. Eagles Nest, another Carrick course, was a better design on more intriguing land (with a bigger budget) and redefined the high end of public golf. Copper Creek, also a Doug Carrick creation and again just off of Major Mackenzie (though on the opposite side of the city) was more picturesque and likely a better course for a majority of players as well (wider, with more interesting tee shots and the land through the valley is terrific). That hurt Angus. Thistle’s departure hurt its reputation and it lacked the exposure after.
All the same, Angus Glen is likely one of the most successful facilities in Canadian golf history — and quite possibly one of the most profitable.
Will a facelift change halt its reputation’s slide? Likely not. Angus Glen has hired Martin Ebert and Tom Mackenzie, who created their ultra-private Goodwood course, to do the work. Ebert is a solid designer, but not a guy with a ton of wow factor, assuming that’s what Angus was gunning for. And they can’t pull back on the houses that line many of the holes, diminishing their aesthetic appeal.
The truth is once a course — especially a modern design — goes into a decline, it is a spiral that can’t be broken. It isn’t like a classic course that can receive a renovation or restoration and suddenly be reconsidered. The truth is the houses that now surround Angus Glen hurt the appeal of the golf course. There’s nothing that can be done to change that, even if the renovation by Ebert and Mackenzie is successful.
Five courses in Canada that have fallen out of fashion:
1) Lake Joseph Club. Once SCOREGolf considered this among the best in Canada. Now it doesn’t crack the Top 100. Why? This one has always perplexed me. Perhaps the courses that followed in Muskoka — Bigwin Island, and Muskoka Bay — were just better.
2) Taboo. See Lake Joseph comment. Nigel Hollidge has recently left Angus Glen to try to reestablish Taboo.
3) Glen Abbey. Perennial home of the Canadian Open. Once sold for a fortune as the flagship course for ClubLink. Most people now think it has a handful of excellent holes, some very plain ones, and that ClubLink charges too much to play it.
4) Heritage Pointe. Once considered the Angus Glen of Calgary. A Ron Garl design, it was never a design that warranted the attention it initially received, though it is likely still one of the best overall public facilities in Calgary.
5) Magna. Opened to a lot of hype given its exclusive status. Turns out the golf course was good — but not great.