I spent most of Monday at a media day for Mississaugua G&CC. It is a venerable old club, but its course felt a bit like a Frankenstein. More than a half dozen architects had taken a go at Mississaugua over the years, ranging from the likes of Stanley Thompson and George Cumming, to Graham Cooke and more recently Doug Carrick. Carrick’s work largely started like the others — piece meal, without a focus on what was really plaguing the course. The problem was that Mississaugua was like a B-list Hollywood starlet who had one too many plastic surguries. Most of the course’s character was gone admist continued tweaking, especially to its greens. Which was a shame, because this is a club with an almost unparalleled history, including Canadian Open wins by the likes of Walter Hagen and Sam Snead.
But the course had fallen out of favour in recent years, despite a terrific location and prestigious membership. It almost out of the Top 50 in Score’s ratings in 2004, only to move up slightly to 41 in 2006. One of the major problems was its putting surfaces. Many had been rebuilt over the club’s 100-year history, leaving a mish-mash of greens with surfaces that were different, built on different soils and which each had its own unique characteristics. It meant the greens not only putted differently from one to another, but they also were very difficult to maintain.
That apparently wasn’t good enough for the course, which determined something more drastic had to be done to right the ship. That decision was decisive and extreme — close all 18 greens and rebuild them from scratch, creating new putting surfaces that were larger and utilized the same surfaces. Carrick was hired to do the job.
Last August the greens were closed and members began playing to temporary surfaces for the remainder of the year. It was a gutsy move. I ran into the head of the greens committee who pushed for the shutdown yesterday. He said if the plan hadn’t worked, he’d have had to leave the club. He laughed as he said it, but I doubt he was joking.
He was breathing a sigh of relief yesterday after playing. The greens, which have had only a few months to grow in, are among the best in Canada. Why? Whereas most new courses seed their greens, Carrick and Mississaugua decided to try a unique process. They grew the sod for the greens off-site, growing them in on the same soils as would be present at the course. When the greens were shaped and structured, this new sod, which had been growing for a year, was stripped off and moved to Mississaugua.
The result? While most new greens are rock-hard and result in balls bouncing off only to disappear in the rough, Mississaugua’s held nicley. They were firm, but not unreasonable, and they putted like glass. A fairly remarkable transition, the greens rivaled any I’ve played this year, including those at Coppinwood.
For Carrick, the process demonstrated a possible new way of creating greens. Though slightly more costly, Carrick said it would be possible to grow grass for new courses in the same way the firm did at Mississaugua. That would mean new courses that have great putting surfaces right out of the gate, as opposed to the typical practice today that results in greens that take a year or two to mature.
Is Mississaugua a great golf course? I still think it is a good members’ course, not in the league of St. George’s or Toronto GC. But it is a better course than it was before. Expect to see it move up the Score ratings this year.
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Many of the private courses in Toronto have recently made substantial changes and there are also some good new courses such as Coppinwood. How much room is there in the Score rankings for all of these courses or will some of them be penalized by the problem of so many good courses in Toronto and the desire for some to have courses from other parts of the country also in the ratings?
Mississauga should move up as should Scarboro. There is the addition of Eagle’s Nest to the list and perhaps Coppinwood (is it eligible for the top 100 or just best new?), either now or in the next ratings. Arguably there are courses in the list from other parts of the country that would not get consideration if they were in Toronto.
To stir up some controversy – if Crowbush Cove were in Toronto then I don’t think it would make the Toronto top 10, never mind the Canadian top 10.
In Ontario Golf’s Top 50 last year Mississauga ranked #22 a drop of just one spot from two years earlier despite new courese like Eagle’s Nest, Muskoka Bay and Coppinwood breaking onto the list.
You can check out the list here http://www.golfontario.ca/sitepages/?cid=58
Note: RT is on the panel for this top 50 ranking.
rt (or anyone),
do you know anything about how they assured the soil conditions at the mysterious sod farm replicated that at Mississauga?
Phil: They are USGA spec greens, so I assume they know exactly what conditions they are growing the grass in…
right of course. silly me for thinking some native soil might be involved.
The sod was ordered more than a year in advance of it being required for the project. When it was ordered there were specific requirements for the growing medium to be used. The sod was grown specifically for this project, and was inspected periodically by a turfgrass expert from the USGA who was hired by Mississaugua Golf & C.C. When the sod was shipped in to be installed on the greens there was no topsoil (or native soil) in the root zone at all, it was pure greens mix(sand), which resulted in it having to be handled a bit more gingerly than normal sod but payed huge dividends in getting the greens established. If you order your sod products early enough and are willing to pay the associated costs, you can have it grown in any soil you like.
Carrick Design Inc.
thanks for your obviously well informed reply… that makes sense… but i can imagine that this process must be cost prohibitive to many or most!
Phil – the alternative is no greens for a year – so the club decided it was worth it!
To be honest, the extra costs associated with the sodding option are not that substantial relative to the overall cost of the project. What may be more difficult for some projects is to plan a year and a half or two years in advance to be able to order the correct amount of sod. It requires having most of the design work done that far in advance and feeling comfortable enough about the project to be able to put down a sizable deposit with the sod grower.
Wayne, I agree Crowbush would not make Toronto top 10.
Unfortunately neither would The Carrick in Loch Lomond.
I have worked at the course for 2 years. Some members of my family work in the proshop as well. To be honest I think this course is very under-rated. Relating it to frankenstein or someone with too much plastic surgery is harsh. The work that has been done over 100 yrs does not make the course look un even. The greens were very small and still are but that adds difficulty. The greens are fast and the fairways are hilly and thats what makes it great.
p.s. The picture titled hole #4 is really hole #3