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Scarboro G &CC: A Confused Club?

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One of my favourite golf courses, Scarboro Golf & CC, has spent much of the last year trying to ascertain the architect who is going to restore their course. Initially three Canadians were involved — Graham Cooke, Rod Whitman/Jeff Mingay, and Ian Andrew. That was narrowed to two — Andrew and Cooke — and then… nothing.

Apparently a Canadian architect isn’t enough for Scarboro, which has gone seeking an American to do the job. This is referenced in a story by Lorne Rubenstein in his column in today’s Globe:

Crenshaw is in his element as a designer, as is Coore. They’ve focused on doing courses in the United States, although, oddly enough, a call came to their office just the other day from the Scarboro Golf and Country Club in east-end Toronto. They were honoured to be asked to consider restoring the A.W. Tillinghast-designed beauty. Coore said they aren’t doing restoration work. It will be interesting to see whom Scarboro hires.

This sounds like a club that isn’t sure what it wants — a key determining factor when proceeding with the restoration of a significant AW Tillinghast design. But the key factor in any restoration is the actual work — not the name associated with it. It never fails to boggle my mind when a course wants a modern golf name associated with its classic design. Isn’t AW Tillinghast enough? Is anyone going to join Scarboro because Bill Coore restored it? Do Canadians even know who Bill Coore is? No. The answer is that new members will join Scarboro because it is a historic, interesting course located in an urban area. The club, as opposed to chasing names, should simply embrace its history and restore its Tillinghast design — the only one in Canada. Isn’t that marketable enough?

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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.

12 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Rob. Most Canadian (golfers) may not know Bill Coore, but the same lot are unlikely to know AW Tillinghast either.

    If the club wants a historical restoration to match the original design it’ll be pretty tough with that road running through the middle of the property. I don’t think Tillinghast had to cope with that.

    If the club wants a Tillinghast expert they should be free to look anywhere, including outside Canada. If Ian is the local expert, I’m sure that’ll help him, but don’t stir up the pot and put him at a disadvantage. He’s liable to hit you over the head with his 5 iron the next time he sees you.

  • Henry
    A Tillinghast restoration is difficult. The course does not have alot of material on the original Tillinghast layout. Several people have worked on the course since including Thompson and Cooke who both designed completely new holes. Combine that with the fact that Tillinghast “style” was actually quite varied so which Tillinghast bunker style would you choose?
    I think the road, which only effects one hole, #18 is the least of the problem.
    One of the first things that should be done is getting rid of the cumlative changes that are definitely not in character with the course. The 4th green, the style of #17 among others.
    I for one would love to join Scarboro but I will not make that decision until I know the direction they are going.
    But I fear for which American they may be calling.

  • Robert
    I understand the point you’re making, and agree with the intention, but I think you’ve overstated the case. I’d imagine that any golfer who has the 50K (more or less) to join a private club would be very familar with Golf Digest-type rankings, and with the esteem afforded to Coore and Crenshaw designs; and I’d imagine that if he/she were the type able to pick and choose between various clubs, the C&C association might very well influence their decision. I don’t know any of the parties involved, but I think it would be great (and right and fair) if Ian Andrew got the assignment; but you must know that it doesn’t often work out that way…anywhere.
    Peter

  • I actually don’t think it matters whether Ian gets the gig or not. It is more the point that good clubs shouldn’t have to chase names just for marketing. Did anyone join Weston because of the restoration work was done by Carrick Design? I doubt it. They joined because the club was better.

  • When a club such as Scarboro is choosing a restoration architect, are they choosing the architect or the plan that the architect presents to them?

    I would think the actual plan would be more important than the architect when it comes to restoration work. The end result should be what matters, not whose name is attached to it.

    5 years down the road, when looking for a club to join, I could care less who did the work at Scarboro, I’d be judging the results.

  • Robert,
    of course good clubs shouldn’t have to chase names just for marketing, but they have, and they do, and they’ll continue to do so. I’d also like film producers to try to get the best actors, and book publishers the best novelists, but it doesn’t often happen that way. I like Carrick designs very much, but C&C would carry more weight, I think, for the type of person for whom such things tend to carry any weight at all. Are you actually surprised that a club, any club, would try to market itself in this way? It might be wrong-headed, but it shouldn’t really be a surprise. For all I know, it isn’t even new memberships the club is interested in, but in spending a great deal of money on name-brand restoration work as a way of justifying a serious hike in their initiation fees and yearly dues.
    Peter

  • I would think that if Scarboro is restored as closely as possible to Tillinghast’s finished work that it would receive further esteem. Who is qualified to determine what that looked like? It by no means an easy decision.
    But if they are looking for a brand name to associate with that restoration, I fear they will settle for something other than a “restoration”. Some of the work Cooke and others have done is not in keeping with the course’s themes or Tillinghast.
    I understand Ian and Stu may have made presentations that did not appeal to the Board at Scarboro. But I believe both of them would respect the true history of the course.
    I care very much who will get the job because it is a jewel that needs respect. Too many architects get resoraton work and restore very little. They “interpret” that the original designer would have wanted their style of bunker, a 480 yard par 4, no reachable par 5’s and generally make the course more difficult.
    Robert’s example of Ian at Weston is very good. Ian’s research into the bunkering at Weston is telling of his dedication to the original.
    For the record, Ian and I do not agree on everything at Scarboro but I can trust he would not leave his own design on the course.
    As for Peter’s assertion that it is money driven, I seriously doubt significant increases can be attained for that course, especially where it is located. But it can assure itself of a full membership for generations.
    I dread to think what will happen if they complete anything other than a sensitive restoration. The course would suffer greatly if it is panned in the press. And they will be watching!

  • Having played Scarboro twice in the past 2 falls I cannot believe the interpretation of people who believe C&C would be a better choice. I emphasize better choice for they are all talented designers. But please tell me the number of C&C courses you have played, I have played 4, and how they reflect the history of Tillinghast. They do not at all. When I speak of Scarboro to my western friends the first thing I mention is Tillinghast ,
    then Bethpage and Winged Foot, Baltustrol and many others. It would be a shame to believe that a modern “name” could improve upon this. In fact I fear the name needing to “improve and impress” the design in order to justify their involvement. Here is to hoping that Scarboro see’s the wisdom of finding a skilled historically relevant artisan. Please everyone tell me the last restoration that C&C has done.

  • BC Golfer
    No one here has said that C&C is their choice for the job (in fact, C&C have already told Scarboro that they don’t do restoration work). And no one here has said that a ‘modern’ would improve on Tillinghast. Scarboro has apparently broadened their search for potential designers to do work there; probably like most others, I’m only guessing at the reasons why. But my point was a basic/simple one: why anyone is SURPRISED is what surprises me. It doesn’t seem surprsing to me that SOME (maybe only a few) at Scarboro had that idea the MAYBE Coore and Crenshaw MIGHT be the ones to go with, perhaps for all sorts of reasons, from the noble to the crass. I’m sure Scarboro has a relatively informed membership, but that doesn’t mean they all (or at least the key decision-makers) pray at Tillinghast’s feet, or at the idea of “pure restoration”, whatever that may mean.
    Peter

  • My apologies Peter. My limited experience with Greens commitees etc is that they sometimes have different motivations and are not all “pure” in their interests. That can sometimes be a shame, here is to hoping that a true Canadian Gem is treated, by whomever, with the respect it deserves.

  • No apologies necessary, BC – especially since you probably know much more about green committees and about Scarboro than I do. I agree with you completely, and with much of what the other (very knowledgable) posters have had to say here, and your true appreciation for the golf course shines through. I’m just not sure that asking/expecting any institution to act out the same kind of appreciation is the best way to get the results we want.
    Peter

  • Scarboro May be confused about their renovations but until they fix their management structure employee’s and members won’t be pleased. In the members only bistro each employee has at least 2 bosses to answer to. They don’t know whether they want you here or their with managers giving multiple duties to one employee. Being an employee there for 6 months I began to understand how things worked. No matter what went wrong, the manager had nothing to do with it. While working in the Bistro I would be told by one manager to take a section while told by another to set-up for an event. When choosing in what I thought best it was a loose-loose for me. Getting **** from each manager for ‘not doing my job’. Well give me one job and ill do it but give me four orders from four people and what do you expect. I was terminated from the club without any notification as i called in to check the schedual and was continuously told ‘no shifts this week’. Until i took it upon myself to ask if i was even still employed i was told “no”. This clubs members I can tell you are not to happy with the service they recieved this summer and i can tell you it’s a problem in the management structure. Ask some people they’ll tell you the same. Every employee I worked with for the summer was unpleased with the way things worked. The managers were rude and ignorant to any employee below them and even when they (managers) miss a BIG mistake when they should have seen it…there they are yelling at supervisors who were told to do different things in the evening. Tell me that if there is 10 employees, 3 supervisors and 2 managers ‘working’ how it is the subordinates fault that things arn’t done when the manager has not made things clear. In a very confusing work place the design is one thing but for the money they pay the members should be recieving better service. It’s not our fault….talk to the managers.

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