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What is in a name?

Lorne Rubenstein has an interesting column in Saturday’s Globe and Mail about the naming of Angus Glen Private, as I like to refer to it. Apparently Lorne had dinner at the club with someone unnamed and had this to say:

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but is that also true for a golf club’s name? Such weighty matters are often on the minds of the folks involved with new clubs, as was evident during a lively dinner the other night at the Angus Glen Golf Club in Markham, Ont. Perplexing doesn’t begin to describe the search for a name.

The subject was the new course that Angus Glen owner Gord Stollery is building in nearby Goodwood. English architect Donald Steel designed and routed the course a few years ago, and his associate, Martin Ebert, has since taken over the work. Steel, the president of the English Golf Union, is still doing some design work and is the architect of record on what promises to be a stimulating 27 holes on an ideal, sandy property full of ridges and valleys.

Lorne has sure spilled a lot of ink on this club, considering it hasn’t even opened yet. That he is raving about it says a lot about his hopes that Ebert will turn this into the best private course to open in the area in some time. We’ll know by next summer, when the course opens to its members.

But the story is really about the difficulty in branding a new golf course. So many new courses have genericized names, like Muskoka Bay, for example. It surely is in Muskoka, but the closest one gets to the bay is on the drive up the road to the club. And it isn’t a name that suggests anything in particular about the course. Coppinwood is nice and simple (and makes sense, as Rubenstein explains in his piece), and Oviinbyrd, the clever name for Peter Schwartz’s private golf retreat near Port Carling is smart and sports a great logo.

Making a course’s name distinctive and unique without it being quirky is the challenge. Rubenstein points this out when he references the notion of calling the Angus Glen Private course, “The Honorable Society of Goodwood Golfers,” which is ridiculous and pretentious, even while it is a nod to Scotland’s Muirfield. Too many Canadian courses have felt you could simply add the tag “Royal” to their names and somehow they’d have added gravitas. Others are just too vague to be interesting (Osprey Valley’s stupidly named “Hoot” and “Toot” come to mind.

However, as golf courses increasingly turn to outside marketing consultants and individuals to make logos for these clubs, don’t expect to see more imagination. That said, I think the simple — and precise — Goodwood Golf Club is a good moniker for the new club. Let’s hope they leave it at that.

The rest of Lorne’s story is here.

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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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