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Canadian Golf Architecture Review: Ted Baker

The second day of a series observing and commenting on Canadian golf designers.

Architect: Ted Baker

Years in industry: 20+

Past and Present Associates: Bo Danoff, Mario Patitucci (both former associates)

Key Courses: Lionhead Legends, Masters (Mississauga, Ont.); Royal Niagara (Niagara-on-the-lake, Ont.), Braeben GC (Mississauga,Ont)

Recent Projects: Stone Ridge GC (Elliot Lake, Ont.)

Quote: “A great golf course should come out of the landscape effortlessly, as if the holes were already there. I design good golf courses. Once every ten years I get to design a great golf course.”

Strengths:

  • Lifetime client in developer Iggy Kaneff, who has given Baker the opportunity to work regularly over the past 20 years.
  • Links to Stanley Thompson through Bakers earlier work with Howard Watson.
  • His work on a landfill in Mississauga where he created Braeben has been well received.

Weaknesses:

  • Lifetime client in Iggy Kaneff, who has given Baker the opportunity to work regularly over the past 20 years — but insists on a certain style of course.
  • His courses often are too penal for the average player, while others feel like too many holes were forced onto land that wasn’t suited for more than 18.
  • His key design, Lionhead Golf and Country Club, has not aged well. The courses key strategies and small greens make it difficult for all but the best players to enjoy.
  • Some hole concepts simply do not work when played.

Overview: Bakers work has largely been done for a single client “ Lionhead owner and developer Iggy Kaneff. Since opening his first course for Kaneff in the early 1990s, Baker has built several more using the same model, including Royal Niagara and Royal Ontario. These courses are often one-dimensional, requiring players to hit high soft approaches in order to hold Bakers small, difficult greens. Often these greens are not receptive to the clubs that are required on a specific hole (see Lionhead Legends opener, for example), rendering some holes dysfunctional. Baker has branched out from simply working under the Kaneff banner in recent years, including a well received design for the city of Mississauga called BraeBan.

Whats possible?: More of the same. However, with rumors that the Kaneff courses are for sale, and Iggy getting up in years, it is possible Baker too slows down any new projects.

Overall rating: C

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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.

9 CommentsLeave a comment

  • rt,

    i like the profile idea.. but i’d like to see a bit more concrete backup for your statements.

    such as: “Some hole concepts simply do not work when played.” can you give examples of holes/concepts?

    cheers, big P

  • oh.. and why “grade” them? i dont think we need to quantify, even with a letter grade. the depth of analysis doesn’t lend itself to quantification… plus, we can likely draw our own conclusions from the brief profile, combined with our personal experiences of place (place being their courses).

  • I’m with Phil. I don’t think this grading idea is a good one. It’s a jury of one and bias is inevitable.

    On Baker’s Lionhead, I think they are 2 fine courses that have stood up well to the modern onslaught of new developments.

  • Rob I agree totally with your review of Teds work. Visually his courses are great but the playability is just not there for the average player.

    Also I do agree with phil x2 that examples of why the work is strong or weak is needed to back up the review. The grading idea is interesting, now I don’t know how you got to the final grade though. Breaking down the final grade into the different areas of course design would give a greater understanding of your process to the final mark.

  • I like the grading system and it is YOUR grade! We might have different opinions. I also liked Ted’s quote about every ten years a great course, he’s overdue!

  • So he gives them a grade – it’s one man’s opinion and he’s entitled to it. If Baker is a “C” I’m curious as to what an “F” is.

    Actually my biggest beef with Baker’s stuff (besides Royal Ontario – which is a complete joke) is the landscape architecture of his parking lot, clubhouse, practise area, and first tee. It’s like he didn’t consider traffic and human flow at all. Then look at someone like McBroom who has a degree in landscape architecture from Guelph and some of his work – e.g. National Pines is the best designed parking lot to first tee (including practise area) that I have seen anywhere in the world.

    You’ve got to get to Lionhead or Braeben 2 hours early if you want to hit 20 balls before teeing off.

    Getting on flight at Pearson is more enjoyable than getting to the first tee at the Legends course.

  • no one said he wasn’t entitled to an opinion.. quite the opposite. i’m not sure it adds anything to the analysis is all.

    craig, not all site planning is done by the golf arch.. sometimes, the masterplan is handed to him/her. i’m sure mcbroom’s LA degree helps in this regard, however, i’d be wary of judging unless you know the whole story… which i don’t either btw.

  • Lionhead was a greenfield site. Surely placement of parking lot, clubhouse, practise range etc was part of the routing process and layout done by Baker.

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    We know Chinese golf market quite well, having some established connections in the industry. Our team is capable for full production and site service assistance .

    If you are interested in developing your business in China, please feel free to write to us.

    You will be welcomed to quote us your 18-hole’s conceptual / routing plan design fee, including 3 – 4 times of site service costs. Your name will be the architect in the contracts we sign with customers, and the golf course will be with either your own signature, or with the co-signature with us once the project done.

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