Going for the Green

Robert Thompson's comments, criticism and opinion on the world of golf.

Year in review: Old Course, Williams’ win, and Cabot Cliffs

Twenty fourteen was a busy year, full of considerable travel, a return to Scotland and England, several golf tournaments, a couple of caddying experiences and my continued work for SCOREGolf, Globalnews.ca, Global Golf Post and the PGA of Canada.

Here’s my overview of the year:

Caddy tales: For the third yFourth Roundear in a row I caddied in PGA Tour Canada’s Tour Championship. This time it was for my friend Ryan Williams, who missed a handful of cuts coming into the event. He brought his friend, and fellow tour player, Adam Cornelson with me. “He has the Mike Mezei seal of approval,” Ryan wrote. Okay, that’s good enough, I thought, registering the notion that if Mezei, a former tour pro and all-around good guy, liked Cornelson, then it was good enough to have him stay in my house.

It turns out it was a breakthrough week for both Cornelson and Williams, as they finished runner-up and winner respectively. It presented me with the opportunity to see what it takes to win first-hand. Was I nervous on 18? Let’s say I was pleased it wasn’t me hitting a 7-iron into the green.

Best Old Course I saw in 2014:

I balloted the Old Course when I was in Scotland in April. Sure, it cost $330, but as I hadn’t played in a decade, it was worth every

Golf in the kingdom: The 8th at the Eden as the sun retreats.

Golf in the kingdom: The 8th at the Eden as the sun retreats.

penny. On a glorious day we were joined by two Americans with big leather carry bags. Not the best start, but it turns out they were both great guys and my latest tour around the Old Course was as fun as the first. I always take something away from the experience, and hope it won’t be my last.

The 17th at Cabot Cliffs: Not quite as daunting as it appears. (photo courtesy of Keith Rhebb).

The 17th at Cabot Cliffs: Not quite as daunting as it appears. (photo courtesy of Keith Rhebb).

Best New Course I saw in 2014:

Next year will be the season of Cabot Cliffs. It is without peer in Canada, and most are already recognizing it. How good is it? Best course in the country and it hasn’t opened. Golf Channel’s Matt Ginella says it might be Top 10 in the world? Hyperbolic? Maybe. But it is in that discussion.

Best value:

I continue to play at Tarandowah Golfers Club, which I contend is the best value in Canada. That said, for the first time in 20 years I played Thames Valley, an old school muni in London, and came away impressed. A couple of clunky holes on the back keep it from really rising to the top, but I paid $20 to play it in the fall, so maybe I should just keep my complaints to myself.

Most enjoyable round of the year:

With some of the best greens in Canadian golf, Laval's Andrew/Weir course can only get better with time.

With some of the best greens in Canadian golf, Laval’s Andrew/Weir course can only get better with time.

In July I tipped it up with my friends Ian Andrew, Kevin Smith and Chethan Lakshmann for a pre-Canadian Open round at Laval’s new Weir/Andrew course. The golf course is exceptional – and exceptionally enjoyable – and the company was outstanding. Laval is one of Canada’s great private clubs – they get it right.

Equipment:

I played Callaway RAZR irons for most of the year and was pleasantly surprised. Vokey wedges hung around after a fitting in the spring, and a new TaylorMade counter-balanced putter went in around the end of August and never came out. Ping’s G30 driver was the best driver (for me) that I hit over the course of the year, and their small carry bag came with me from Scotland to British Columbia. Footjoy’s DNA shoes were outstanding, as were Nike’s Lunar Control offering. Never been a fan of Nike shoes – until now.

Stories of the year:

  • York Downs up for sale and might garner $400-million. A stunner.
  • Canadian Open struggles in Montreal.
  • Mike Weir’s near miss in Texas.
  • Nick Taylor’s win.
  • Adam Hadwin’s huge Web.com Tour year.
  • Cabot Cliffs prepares to open.
  • The overblown “death” of golf stories that appeared to eat themselves.
The super cool short par four on Hunstanton's front 9.

The super cool short par four on Hunstanton’s front 9.

Travels:

  • PGA Merchandise show. Interesting as always.
  • Royal West Norfolk was as cool as it gets, but Hunstanton stole my heart.
  • Castle Stuart, Elie and Aberdeen were the standouts. Trump was better than expected.
  • Nova Scotia. Highlands Links never gets old and Cabot Links keeps getting better. Caddying for Gary Woodland was an interesting experience.
  • Mount Bruno still delights, and Ian Andrew and Mike Weir’s work at Laval was exceptional.
  • What’s not to like about Predator Ridge? And Tobiano is still the most visually spectacular course in Canada.
  • I made a quick trip up to see Banff/Stewart Creek. Banff is still a great deal of fun to play, and still needs some bunker work. Otherwise, it is delightful, and Stewart Creek, with its reworked 9th hole, is one of the best in the country.

 

Tournaments:

  • Canadian Open was a bit of a snooze.
  • CP Women’s Open didn’t seem to have the buzz of the last time it was in London.
  • PGA Tour Canada Tour Championship. Small crowds, good course, well done.
  • Manulife. Every year it seems to lose a little bit of its luster.
  • Shaw Charity Classic. Fred Couples’ Sunday, including an eagle to get him into a playoff, is the best round I’ve seen by a golfer—ever.