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.