Apparently, for a reason that makes no sense to me, Lionhead made alterations to its Legends Course under the guidance of the inimitable Ted Baker, to make is course harder. That’s right — you read it correctly — a course that had a slope of 153 made changes to up it to 155, which is apparently as high as it goes, with a course rating of 77.5. That means, for those that don’t quite get such things, that a scratch player would be expected to shoot five and a half strokes higher at Legends than par to maintain his scratch handicap.
Remarkable is the only word I can think of that describes the situation. Following a season where many clubs struggled with significant rain, many courses are thinking about ways to make themselves more attractive to more consumers. But the Kaneff Group, which owns Lionhead, Royal Ontario, Royal Niagara and others, has spent money making its already too difficult course even tougher.
I have a hard time following the logic.
I like good golf courses. But ultra-hard golf courses typically appeal to only the best players. Everyone has heard the stats — that low handicap players account for only a small percentage of overall golfers. But even the low handicaps I know were not fond of Lionhead — and making it tougher isn’t going to attract them.
It wasn’t that long ago that Lionhead was considered the pinnacle of Toronto-area golf. It was the first of the high-end public facilities, opening before Angus Glen redefined the market. But these days it is lost among courses that are just, well, better. Eagles Nest. Copper Creek. Angus Glen. Even Wooden Sticks. All better courses offering a better experience. Heck, I’d even throw in the likes of Piper’s Heath and Dragon’s Fire as courses that are cheaper — and better — than Lionhead.
So what is the concept behind making the course tougher? I guess that way it can fill a niche — but I wonder what if that niche has much value these days.
It strikes me that a golf course — be it Copper Creek or Angus Glen South — can be made difficult simply when golfers play it at a longer yardage. That’s sort of what Lionhead did, but designer Ted Baker — who I’m not sure actually understands golf — made the course artificially difficult by crafting slight, narrow greens that won’t hold the approach shots, unless you are Tiger Woods or Anthony Kim or such.
In fact I’ll go this far — Lionhead represents what is wrong with modern golf: too difficult, unyielding and which takes too long to play. Now the powers-that-be at the club have added yardage. Why? To have something to crow about. If only it were something worth bragging about…