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Tri Par course in Northern Ontario finally opens

I noticed on a golf posting board that the Maples Golf Club near Noelville, Ont. has finally opened. I’m intrigued at the course because I actually never thought it would open and it uses a concept I’ve written about a couple of times. The idea is called “Tri Par” and it allows holes to be played from a variety of tee decks. I toured the course in 2003, and land had been moved. Now, three years later, apparently the course finally has holes open. The course’s website is here.

Here is a story I wrote in 2003 for PGATour.com about the club:

On Tri-Par courses, par-5 holes magically become par 3s

Jan. 24, 2002
By Robert Thompson
GolfWeb contributor

Imagine a golf course where every hole plays differently every day. Now imagine a golf course that actually has three combinations for every hole, and changes its par every day. The first hole on this course is a 490-yard par-5 on Monday, but morphs into a 120-yard par-3 the next.

Sound bizarre? It may well be, but it is also the notion behind Tri-Par Golf Courses, a company with an office in Sudbury, Ontario, with an expansion already planned for Reno, Nev.

Tri-Par is the creation of two brothers, Ed and Scott McBride, who grew tired of playing the same course every day.

“One day I was playing and came to the conclusion that it seemed like I was playing the same course over and over,” Ed McBride said. “I thought, ‘What if someone could make a course with a hole that played as a par 3, par 4 and par 5. Now that would be something.'”

What the brothers came up with is the Tri-Par concept — golf holes where lengths can be altered to allow them to be played as a par 3 one day, and a par 5 the next.

“Golf courses have always been the same,” Ed McBride said. “But we’ve come along with what we call the ‘millennium golf course.’ This is the golf course for the new century.”

The McBrides have already obtained patents on the Tri-Par idea, and managed to get an owner to take a chance on the concept. The first Tri-Par course is currently being built in Noelville, Ontario, a small town about four hours north of Toronto. The course should open in the summer of 2003.

So what are the defining characteristics of a Tri-Par course? First, it needs significantly more land and is a lot longer than a traditional course. Tri-Par courses will play up to 9,000 yards long, which is essentially the length of the 18, 500-yard par-5s that make up the basic course.

The concept is that course owners would “set” the course each day, dictating which tee-blocks players are to use on each hole on a specific day. Having players choose the par for a hole they wanted to play would simply be too dangerous and difficult, Ed McBride said.

Though the McBrides may be the first to patent what they call the “Tri-Par concept,” the idea of a course where holes can play to multiple pars has been discussed in the past. In 1997, a Canadian company based in Quebec called Multi-Link attempted to build a business around the concept.

The reality is there is some debate about whether the idea actually will work when it is taken off paper and put into practice.

Doug Carrick, one of the best Canadian architects and a member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, said the logistics of setting up a course where every hole can play from a par-5 to a par-3 will be difficult. Despite having some reservations about the notion, Carrick admits it might work.

“You could make the greens work for every shot, but it wouldn’t likely be ideal,” said Carrick. “Still it is an interesting concept.”

There may be issues about approach angles to holes, Carrick said, since the tee blocks will have to be set off of the fairways. That means each hole will have to have at least two approach angles, one for par 4s and par 5s, and a second angle for par 3s. Bunkering could also be tricky.

Hesitancy on the part of some course designers will be par for the course, said Ed McBride. But if only a few come on board, it will make the project a success. Tri-Par is an exclusive arrangement with course owners in regions of 100,000 people.

The company offers two arrangements for owners interested in tackling the Tri-Par idea. First, Tri-Par will take 5 percent of the gross revenue for a course in exchange for allowing owners to use the patents the company has developed. Courses can also pay $1 million to simply buy Tri-Par out of the deal, McBride said. The brothers will be at the PGA Merchandise show in Orlando this week in an attempt to get the concept out to potential course owners.

“The important thing to note is that we’re not looking to have 5,000 of these,” said Scott McBride. “If we managed to have two of these per state, the business would be wildly successful.”

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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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