Response to Tarandowah preview and Mystic Golf Club issues; Redtail revealed

It has been an interesting weekend. While spending some time at Redtail Golf Club on Saturday, and coming to the conclusion it is far better and more subtle than most people give it credit for, G4G was ripe with debate.

The first note came from Roland Berger, the owner of Mystic Golf Club near Ancaster, and a course with rumours circulating about it.

Dear Mr. Thomson,
since I could not reach you by phone today and you did not try to get in touch with me directly, but called Mystic’s reservation # 905.304.3344 instead on behalf of ScoreGolf and The National Post I prefer to write this open letter.

I find it odd that calling the main course number and speaking twice with the now head pro seemed like an unusual way of trying to get a hold of Mr. Berger.

John Hayward’s termination of employment as Head Professional at Mystic was a professional decision which does not require to be discussed in public. Mr. Hayward got a 14 days notice under regular terms. We would appreciate if Mr. Hayward accepts this as an unfortunate part of any business.

Interesting that when a club loses a GM, a head pro, an assistant pro (who then returns), two assistant supers and a superintendent, that someone would think those in the industry aren’t going to take notice. For the record, I don’t know why John Hayward was fired. Hayward says it was a cost cutting measure.
Ryan Wilson, CPGA, is in charge of golf operation. I’m convinced Ryan, a class A golf professional for several years, will be running Mystic’s golf operation to the full satisfaction of Mystic’s patrons.

Ryan seems like a nice man and I wish him well, especially after dealing with both Thundering Waters and the Mystic issues in the same year.

Although it is not Mystic’s policy to release confidential information I may assure you Mr. Thomson so far we are well over 2500 rounds. It would not be realistic to expect 25-30000 rounds for the first year of operation. The 1. and 2. year are usually in any business considered as start up. A golf club is no exeption. Besides, with 15 minutes tee time interval it would be mathematically impossible.
An outstanding golf course as Mystic will prove to be a successful operation as well; wait a year!

The 15 minute tee time concept seems flawed from the start, unless a) you don’t have many rounds or b) you can charge a big buck. The top public courses in Ontario, including Glen Abbey and Eagles Nest, both have intervals that are more frequent. I too hope Mystic will be a success. But by all accounts, few people are playing the course. Mr. Hayward estimated 2,700 rounds have gone through the club; that might mean it will finish with 8,000. Even if the club managed an average rate of $125 per round, that would only account for $1 million in revenue. I hope Mystic has enough cash in reserve to deal with the losses as rounds grow, as Mr. Berger says.

As a young course with dramatic elevation changes, wetlands and lots of mature woods Mystic finds its lovers not only among the serious golfers but also a variation of wild life.
Under the direction of Golf Course Superintendent Brian Taylor Mystic’s highly motivated crew deals with this challenges on a daily basis. As a result, the course is constantly improving and leaves the majority of golfers with the wish to come back asap to challenge their skills again.

I also hope this is true. However, during my visit, the course was in questionable shape, though the greens were excellent. Several fairways, like the second, were a near disaster — partly because of drainage. Others on the back nine, did not have adequate turf coverage.

I do not no of Club Link buying any debt of Mystic; as to their own comments neither does Club Link.

Sources have confirmed that ClubLink has approached a turf company involved with Mystic about acquiring its debt. The source added the debt holder has turned down the offer to this point.

Most important:
Mystic NEVER announced a rate of $ 175. This wrong information was originated by an uninformed insider of the media industry.

A letter writer to this site wrote this. I fact, last year the club was saying the rate would rise over time. I don’t recall whether a figure of $175 was tossed about.

The rates are:
Member for the day: $ 125,- includes cart, bag tags, tees and unlimited golf including Nike one black unlimited range balls and replay. Many golfers especially of the GTA enjoy this feature.
Regular rate: $ 85,- includes cart, bag tags, tees , 1/3 hour practice range and 18 holes.
Monday “EARLY BIRD” 7 to 11 am: $ 75,- included as above
Twilight: $ 65,- included as above
all rates include complimentary continental breakfast until 9:30 am.

Last but not least Mr. Thomson why do you use the same old photo over and over again (dated back to Mid Novemver 2005). We will be very happy to send you some actual professionnal photos.

“Actual professional photos?” Ouch. Oh, and it is the wet Thompson — the one with a “p”.

Always available for you,

Roland Berger

I do honestly hope Mystic is a success; but there are lots of industry insiders who think the course will continue to struggle to find a market. Some, like Bond Head, look like they can be turned around. Mystic could have the same success; only time will tell.

Continuing on the Mystic theme, reader Fred Taylor says (I’ve edited this for space):

Mr Berger, I think you have it wrong.
Mr Thompson has given your course favorable reviews. I am sure he is just looking to clarify rumors that have been circulating for weeks. I had heard the same thing 3 weeks ago while playing a nearby course.
The course definitely needs to mature some, although to be fair, most of the greens were in very good shape.
I would suggest to you that Mr Thompson and this website should not be considered your enemy. In fact they have probrably brought you a significant portion of your business to date.
Your clubs problem lies strictly with its marketing…. Local newspapers and opening specials (making up for some poor fairway conditioning) would go a long way in promoting your course.
$125+ golf courses are having a tough go of it now (although your $125 concept of member for a day is somewhat unique), as the average guys entertainment dollar is getting swallowed up by the Gas and Energy companies. Thundering Waters has dropped their price to $99 (from $149), Grand Niagara can’t draw anybody and the Legends of Niagara has offered some great deals to get people out.
An empty tee time is like an empty airline seat or hotel room…worthless to its owner.
Be creative offer some deals to get people out. Be honest about the conditions and open up the range so someone can drop by and practice once in a while.
In a couple of years the market will find itself and you can adjust accordingly.

Interesting points and Fred addresses the issue that many are talking about — the number of public courses in the Southern Ontario market that are struggling.

Now an interesting note on my preview of Tarandowah, the Martin Hawtree design near Putnam, Ont.

Rob Cuncic Says:

Just a few notes on the Tarandowah Golfers Club. No one will dispute the fact that there have been problems in completing construction and opening this club. Nine holes will be open in September without a clubhouse. Dan Lavis, formerly of the Ingersoll Golf Club, is the golf course superintendent and has been involved with the project from the beginning.

Interestingly, I really like the range at Taradowah and was there today. The course looked to be exactly in the same grow-in condition that I saw three weeks ago. Maybe this will improve in the coming month.

It is important to note that most of the seeding was done late in the fall last year and early in the spring this year, never having optimum grow-in conditions until after this spring had passed. This project takes many positive strides each and every day and should not be judged until it’s completed.

I will be waiting….

This is not a faux links… Martin Hawtree does not do faux links. I don’t think he knows how.

Actually, unless the course is built on sandy soil along the ocean, this is a “faux” links. A real links needs links land. Sandy soil is great for golf courses and surely the folks at Tarandowah want this to play like a links — but it will never be a true links golf course.

It is unlike any other, not just in Southern Ontario, but in our part of the world. This property is not largely flat, as a matter of fact it’s consistently rolling with many elevation changes. At a par 70, and over 7000 yards, we will all be tested. Yes this project is slow in developing but it will be well worth the wait.

I hope the course is exceptional and look forward to seeing it and playing it frequently — it is only 15 minutes from my parent’s home and I’m also looking for a new and intriguing golf experience… I must admit, having picked up a brochure on the club today that I found the par 70, with only two par fives to be interesting. That is very links-like.

Lastly, I played Redtail on Saturday. The course, as always, was in exceptional condition. But after having played it a handful of times over the past six years, I find the course more interesting, with more intriguing elements than ever. Some of it is just hard — but I like many of the subtle facets of the course and think that much of the difficulty rests in its visuals. I’ll post a full review in coming weeks…

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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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  • Actually to not be a faux links you must be located near a signicant body of water as links is land that ‘links’ the sea to the land and is generally not useful for other purposes such as farming. I haven’t been to Tarandowah but it is not near the ocean, nor is it near the Great Lakes, ergo it is, at best, a faux links or ‘links style’ course and not a true links.

  • It’s about time someone built a course like this around theses parts.
    The back nine portion of the course was played twice two days ago (August 20,2006).
    The layout is not like anything I’ve seen except perhaps in photographs from Portmarnock in Ireland.
    The course was played from the tips and it is refreshingly quite a challenge. All the clubs in the bag come into play. The revetted bunkers are a definite treat. They have a visual appeal that creates a framework around which to shape your shots.
    Even though the course is immature at this point, it is by far the most pleasureable and challenging course I have played (which includes Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines (South), Glen Abbey, Firerock and Forest City National).
    The holes on the front side are not ready for play but I did have a look at number 8 and it will be one fine 451 yard par 4, slight dogleg left framed by those beautiful bunkers.
    My most pleasureable moments here was when I parred the 478 yard par 4 11th (seemed like an eagle given it was into a stiff wind).
    The course is not rated by the OGA yet but I can forsee a 75 rating on par (which is nominally a 70) with a slope well over 140.
    When the course has fully matured, this will be the toughest challenge in the country, no doubt in my mind.

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