2005 Golf Digest Best New Course In Canada
1. Dakota Dunes G. Links, Saskatoon, Sask., Graham Cooke and Wayne Carleto.
2. Georgian Bay Club, Collingswood, Ont., Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry and Jason Straka.
3. Eagles Nest G.C., Maple, Ont., Doug Carrick and Cam Tyers.
Let’s start with making a bold statement — Dakota Dunes has one of the best natural sites for a golf course found in Canadian in a long, long time. Low lying sand dunes dominate this site near Saskatoon and make a very dramatic, exciting setting for golf.
On the other side of the equation is Doug Carrick’s Eagles Nest. Only a couple of holes at Eagles Nest have any natural features, since it is largely built on a former aggregate pit.
So how did Dakota Dunes become a course that is only slightly above average, good, but not great, while Eagles Nest has largely been praised as one of the best in the country? Because the devil is in the details, and though Carrick’s course is far from perfect, it achieves something that Dakota Dunes does not — it is memorable, full of holes that stick in one’s head long after it is played. Dakota Dunes is a far less memorable course, despite a better site, and has several holes that don’t work strategically. Carrick simply out-designed Graham Cooke and Wayne Carleton who created Dakota Dunes.
Where it Ranks: Dakota Dunes will be up for Score’s Top 100 this summer, but came in as runner up to Eagles Nest for Best New in the 2006 magazine.
Time Will Tell:If enough people venture to Saskatoon to see Dakota Dunes, they’ll come to the realization that it is a good course. At its green fee – around $50 – it is surely one of the best values in all of Canada. But it comes up short of being a great golf course because on numerous plain holes that appear on an outstanding site. Strangely there’s an odd mix of bunker styles — natural blowouts versus clean-lined oval bunkers. It is mistakes like this that separate Cooke/Carleton from more exceptional designers. Imagine what Tom Doak or Bill Coore could have accomplished with this site? Carrick’s Eagles Nest suffers from the same split in bunker styles — he uses sodded bunkers and blowouts — but the holes are more memorable and the strategies are sharper.
Should it Have Won? In my mind Eagles Nest is the better course. Jason Straka’s Georgian Bay Club is in the mix here too — and it has several fine holes, but is more of a good members’ club than either Eagles Nest of Dakota Dunes.
What Was Overlooked?Thomas McBroom’s Oviinbyrd should have had a shot at this award. But after the disgust at The Rock’s assention to the top the year previous, the owner of Oviinbyrd decided he didn’t want to participate in the ratings game and withheld nominating the course. It was one of the first in recent memory not to try for the award — but it turned out not to hurt the course at all. It filled its membership almost immediately.
Next: A course’s business fails, but it wins anyway.