Top 10 factors about new golf courses that bother me

I’m a bit caustic today, and rightfully so if you ask me. My car accident on Sunday meant I spent a good part of the week dealing with lawyers and insurance adjusters — enough to make anyone hate the world. Of course, now I have a cold to boot.

With this in mind, here’s the first of my Top 10 golf lists. I’m going to do this every Friday until I become bored with the subject, or until someone comes up with a Top 10 list of Thompson’s worst Top 10 columns. Then I’ll stop.

This week I’m listing the Top 10 factors about new golf courses that make my hair (what little of it is left) stand on end:

  1. Who in their right mind would pay Jack Nicklaus $2.5 million to build a golf course? You’d have to sell a lot of houses to cover those costs. How can he possibly be worth that? Has anyone actually played Northern Bear, a so-called “Jack Nicklaus” signature course in Edmonton? No one that I know of.
  2. If you are going to overpay Jack because he won a bunch of majors (which assures you of nothing), don’t use the name “Bear” anywhere in your course’s moniker. Golden Bear. Northern Bear. Young Chubby Bear. Old Chubby Bear. Lost Bear. The Bear. Gold Bear on a Hill. They’ve all been used.
  3. What the hell is a “signature” golf course, anyway? Does that mean the architect has his signature on the score card? Did he simply sign something that can be hung in the clubhouse? If that’s the case, I can sell you a Jack Nicklaus signature for a lot less than $2.5 million. The one on my wall might only set you back $250. And with the money you saved, you can still hire Tom Doak.
  4. Think about a course name and logo for more than five minutes. I’m tired of courses called St. Andrews this, or Pine Valley that, or St. Pine or Andrews Valley. I also don’t want another course with the name “National” in it.
  5. But don’t call your course something ridiculous like “Hoot” and “Toot,” either; I don’t want to play courses that are named after a noise one makes after dinner. It is off-putting, even if the course is great (like Hoot and Toot, part of Osprey Valley).
  6. Don’t call your course a “links” unless it is actually built on the ocean. Muirfield is a links. St. Andrews is a links. Heron Point Golf Links is a fine course, but it is near Brantford. And unless global warming truly gets out of hand, Brantford is no where near the sea.
  7. Come up with a unique logo that represents your course. How many courses in Ontario have used the same graphic designers that seem to like a “C” as their logo (think Copper Creek, Coppinwood)? And Wooden Sticks in Uxbridge might be partly an homage to Pine Valley, but did they have to steal that course’s logo as well?
  8. Don’t call your course “Royal” anything. Neither the Queen nor her kids ever stopped by, so your royal status is just bogus. Royal Ontario? Come on. I don’t even think Prince Andrew stopped to have a leak on that site.
  9. Additionally, don’t have your designer tell anyone that “this is the best course on the best land I’ve ever worked with.” He’s lying. We all know it. It is probably the best piece of property he’s worked with this week — and even that might be a stretch.

And finally…

10. Don’t try to tell me your course is “industry leading,” or “the first of its kind,” or “the best” anything in the press release that you put out to announce the opening. And please don’t tell me it is part of a “master planned” golf community. All that means it that my hook on #11 is going to hit Mrs. Jones’ porch — and hard. Hopefully she’s not out there sipping gin and tonics with her pooch when that occurs because neither your course nor I want to have to deal with the legal obligations that follow.

Enjoy your weekend — it might be the last chance to play in Ontario this year.

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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.

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Wow….you sound like an really angry version of angry Alfie.

    The only item I would quarrel with is number 1. I believe Jack is an accomplished architect. When you hire Jack you are buying a brand, not as well as a designer. I think he is worth his $2.5 million. How do I know that? The market says so. If somebody will pay it, he is by definition worth the cost.

    I can’t argue with the rest of your points, though.

  • Dear Alfred,
    That definition of worthy needs some work.

    The larger point Mr. Thompson was making is not missed on the students of golf course architecture. Take Valhalla, 20 years old and it is blowing up 6 of it’s greens inorder to hold a major event. Or, Recently, JN was over heard muttering how things needed changing after walking off his inaugral round on one of his newest designs.

    Do you really believe the owner who has to foot the bill for all the re-do’s thinks $2.5m was worthy?

  • I don’t care how many (major) tournaments you’ve won, how long you hit the ball, or how many courses you have played, it doesn’t make you an architect. I’ve been in thousands of houses and some magnificent buildings but I wouldn’t dare to call myself an architect. Would you construct a $20 million landmark building or your own home without hiring the best architect possible? I think not. The course architect is the single most important decision (often underestimated) in the overall course development. I can never understand why a course developer would hire a local guy for $350,000 when a top five architect in the world can be hired for an extra $650,000, a fraction of the overall investment.

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