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Lionhead – nice shape, still marginal; Private course troubles; Sideways in California

So I teed it up at Lionhead, four years after the last time I played the Legends course. This was for a media event aimed at promoting the “new look” of the course and getting course raters to reconsider Lionhead, which has been critically assailed in recent years.

What did I discover? The new superintendent has done an exceptional job of keeping the course in top shape. Everything was largely just right, including the “Britain buttons,” (so named for the former superintendent who came up with the concept) the domed, Yarmulka-like areas of uncut rought that rest on the small bumps that Ted Baker built throughout many of the fairways. In other words, in the middle of the fairway is a small knoll, and on top of it rests some fuzzy grass, like a kid in need of a haircut. They may be the most ridiculous feature I’ve seen on a golf course.

The other thing that struck me was just how penal the greens are. In places like four, a par five, the green is no more than six paces wide and, as far as I can see, isn’t receptive to ANY shot. Hard is one thing — but impossible is an entirely different deal. In many places it just looks to me like Ted Baker doesn’t understand the game of golf.

So the verdict is this — nice shape? Yes. Fun to play? No.

In one of those rare instances, you can actually read something I’ve written for the National Post without buying the paper. Last Saturday in the FP Weekend section, the paper published a piece I wrote about the plight of private golf clubs in Canada.

“Like everything else, private golf courses need to be in step with the expectations of the marketplace,” says Rob Dawes, general manager of Thornhill Golf and Country Club, just north of Toronto. “We’re seeing what I call ‘lifestyle attrition.’ People who typically held private club memberships are moving away from the city, and we’ve got to do everything we can to attract new members.”

Across Canada, private clubs are struggling to replace members who die or move on. In the Toronto area, for example, Mr. Dawes says there are only 300 individuals on waiting lists to join clubs, significantly lower than a decade ago. And new clubs opening in urban centres are diluting the available golfers even further. Meanwhile, rising fees and other factors, such as family and business commitments, are keeping prospective members off the fairways and in their homes or offices.

The full story is here.

Like the movie Sideways? Travel and Leisure Golf has an interesting article with the author of the book the movie was based on talking about the Santa Ynez Valley and golf. Worth a read.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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