St. George's Third Green: A Disaster in the Making?

St. George's Third Green -- Unputtable?

St. George's Third Green -- Unputtable?

The third hole at St. George’s Golf and Country Club, which will host next year’s Canadian Open, might be a disaster. That seems to be the point raised by Lorne Rubenstein in today’s Globe and Mail:

The green on the par-three third will pose the most problems to tour staff, players, and Keith Bartlett, St. Georges superintendent. Its so severely sloped that it will be very difficult to find a reasonable pin position any day, let alone four days “ if, and this is a big if “ PGA Tour officials insist on greens as fast as they usually mandate.

Bartlett spoke about the third green during a telephone interview yesterday while he was working on the course. He said that the slope is about 4 per cent to 5 per cent, while 2 to 3 is ideal. Brad Klein, Golfweek magazines architecture editor, has studied green speeds over the years and said yesterday that when slope gets above 2.5 per cent, a green is essentially unpinnable.

Well have to watch that one, Bartlett said. At the same time, he believes it will be possible to find pin positions on the other greens, at tour speeds of 11 feet to 12 feet on the Stimpmeter. The device measures how far a ball rolls off an inclined bar across a flat portion of a green. There arent many flat spots on the third green.

The result could be that the third green will be mowed to a slightly different height than the other greens. The PGA of America had to do this on the 18th green for the 2001 PGA Championship at the Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla. During practice rounds balls hit into the middle of the green were rolling 40 yards back down the fairway.


Of course the intriguing and ironic bit is that the third green was rebuilt (by Robbie Robinson) to make the course more challenging for the 1968 Canadian Open after St. George’s was deemed “too easy” during its previous hosting of the touranment. I spoke with Bartlett at a charity event on Thursday and raised the same question. Truth be told the green should have been rebuilt years ago, but Barlett says “our members love it.” Odd that — how do you love a green that has no pin positions on it that are even remotely fair? This is like a wart on the face of Megan Fox.

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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.

16 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Here’s hoping the club, at some point, restores the 3rd back to the original Thompson design.

    On a related note, the back tee configuration at St. G these days means that all the par 3’s play about the same effective playing length. Last time out I hit 4 iron four times, and hybrid once.

    Considering Thompson was known for outstanding par 3’s, IMO the 3’s at St G don’t stand up to the outstanding set of par 4’s and excellent set of par 5’s.

  • Jennifer Fox? Don’t you mean Megan Fox? 😉

    To be honest, you’re not giving St.Georges enough credit by comparing her to teen-bop Megan Fox.

  • Jeremy. My bad. Can’t keep up with 20-something pinups now that I’ve got two kids in the house, though I did read an entertaining interview with her in the Globe. Hmmm – would it be more like a wart on January Jones then? She’s more my cup of tea anyway…

  • Take another look at the picture above and then imagine the hill between the tee and green eight feet higher.

    Before Robinson and Bill Hynd did the work on this hole, that hill obstructed the view of the entire putting surface, which was tiny, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 2500 square feet. You could only see the flagstick.

    The design that they had in mind was to build a redan, but ran out of soil from the hill (either that or the budget stopped them short of their target)

    I gave Ian Andrew a set of pictures of this hole under construction as well as pictures of a plastacine model, I believe he gave them to Karen Hewson at the RCGA

    I agree that the green is severe, but I think the pros will average par or better on it.

    Hopefully, when it does get rebuilt, as I am sure it will, I hope that the nearness of the creek does not cause a problem with permits.

  • Rubs’s article pointed out that there were no pin positions at PGA Tour speed, in the normal set-up (slower), you could see the members liking it just fine.

  • If the PGA thinks that this will pose difficulties, I can’t wait til we get closer to the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.

    The greens typically play at about 8 on the stimp, which is terribly slow.

    However, many of these greens are extraordinarily mounded and sloped. Anything resembling PGA speeds on these greens will mean that putts cannot stay on the green.

    Of course, with that much time, they will have time to reshape the greens, if they wish.

    As for St. George’s, let the big boys struggle on one hole.

  • Rob, for those of us who haven’t had the good fortune to play at St. G’s, can you explain where the problem is with the green’s shape? The photo above doesn’t convey the difficulty.

  • The slope is remarkable back-to-front, with nothing nearing a flat(ish) area. Oh, and the hole is 200 yards+. I played there in July and a good player in our group hit a solid 4-iron to the back right corner only to see the ball roll all the way back off the front. And it wasn’t like he was spinning a 4-iron.

  • Nick — Even at 9 or 10 on the stimp — pretty average for St. George’s — the green is basically unputtable.

  • Robert,

    Last time I looked, the PGA Tour runs three Tours, and numerous other events, such as qualifying rounds and Qschool. In an average year, their staff likely sees 150 courses per year, if not more, in all sorts of weather-wind, rain, cold, and heat. Last time I looked, I don’t remember any single green being described as a Disaster. They find a way to play the event, and make it successful. To describe this issue as a disaster in the making really demonstrates that you don’t really know what the heck you are talking about. Put this issue in the larger context of what the PGA Tour staff does tournaments, week after week, and do you really think this will be a disaster? Get a grip my friend.

  • Ivan, you are correct that the Tour works with over 150 golf courses a year but they have many staff members. No doubt they have seen this before and I also believe they will have to do something.

    They might even increase the irrigation (but this could be a problem also), skip a mowing, mow at a higher height, etc.

    Bartlett’s comment at 4-5% IMHO is being conservative and what I would expect from a staff member trying to down play the issue. FYI, I have played there many times over the years.

  • With my untrained eyes, there could be possible 2 solutions:

    1) Move the tee up so that the players have shorter irons in their hands

    2) Grow some rough in place of the run-off area in front of the green

    Just a thought…

  • Robert, it is columns like this that make people laugh at you. Virtually everyone agrees that St George’s is a great golf course, including yourself. Now, suddenly, you write that a particular hole is a disaster. You really don’t have any clue about anything. Please please for the sake of your dignity, take up another profession. The only disaster in the making is your writing. It makes no sense, and this last column just illustrates how shallow your thinking is. Please stop embarrassing yourself. We in the industry do nothing but laugh at you. Please consider another profession. Please.I really pity you that you continue to tortue your dignity with your nonsense that you write. Do you want the industry to take up a collection on your behalf which you can use to feed your family while you take up training to do some other work? How many of your readers will donate to the “RT alternate profession fund”? Fellow bloggers are you willing to support the cause?

  • Jim (Ivan): You’ve posted twice under different names. Thanks for that. Same IP address — that’s a giveaway.

    Secondly, this isn’t exactly my opinion, though it is one I share with Mr. Rubenstein. I was simply commenting on Lorne’s article. I’d been wondering about this matter, and he raised it directly. Is the third green a problem? It could be though I sure hope it isn’t.

    More learned people on this site — and Keith himself — have pointed out this could be a problem. Mike Weir said it could be an issue. Will St. George’s find a solution? Let’s hope so — I think Keith mentioned cutting the green differently so it plays at a pace that is separate from the other greens — artificially fixing the problem. But a potential issue exists — even the club knows it.

    All I’m saying is that St. George’s is a fine venue and I hope one issue doesn’t tarnish it.

    As for your other remarks — get a life. If you dislike me so much, if my opinion is so lacking in value, then feel free to bugger off somewhere else. At the very least please learn to type in some sort of comprehensible fashion so that your insults are more easily understood. Right now I get the same thing over and over — “Robert is horrible, he needs to find a new occupation.” Repeatedly. That’s called being redundant, moron. Please come up with something clever to at least entertain me.

  • JimIvan must have found a sale on periods…each comment has about 17 sentences in it!

    As for the third green, it’s goofy. At TOUR speeds, it will be ubergoofy.

    It’s a great member course, but it’s not world class.

    -3rd green is severe. I played it last year, and wasn’t too mad at it…but the guys in my group were near tears. My tee shot with a 4 iron landed about 30 feet…and dribbled all the way to about 3 feet from the front pin. The next guy was teeing up his ball and done his routine and my ball hadn’t stopped dribbling. Insane.
    -5th fairway all good tee shots funnel into a tiny little area…to be known as divotsville when the TOUR gets there
    -8th green is partially hidden behind a hill. Stupidest thing ever.
    -10th – see 5th hole for problem. Even worse here.
    -12th – that green being elevated 10 feet on a flat flat hole seems super tricked up to me. The green itself is no joy either…I watched 3 chip shots roll off that green in my group alone.
    -15th tee shot had way too many overhanging limbs when I was there last year…and the layup is blind, as is the green surface. TOUR players hate that.

  • I played St.Georges in August with two staff members and it was interesting to see the course and hear commentary on some issues concerning course set-up.
    KC’s suggestion of moving the tee up on #3 would only magnify the problem ten-fold as tour players would not be able to keep the ball on the green with the added spin. As for growing in the chipping area, with 40-65 shots/ day played from the same area would cause some nasty lies and more quips from the players.
    The 10th hole now has rough in the valley at the bottom of the hill. Look for players to be hitting a lot of 3/5 woods or hybrids off the tee to leave them a short iron in instead of a flip wedge.
    As for #15, strategy will be very interesting. We were talking while playing this hole and pondering how many pros will try to get as close to this green as possible with thier second shots. The front half of this green repels balls 30-50 yards down the fairway. If players lay up to 110-150 yards they wont be able to get close to a middle or front pin.
    A new tee is being built on #18 farther south (towards #11 fairway) to make the tee shot require a draw.

    One last thought: Spectator viewing on #8&9? Good Luck!

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