TORONTO — After suffering devastating greens damage from last winter’s ice storm, St. George’s Golf and Country Club has made a full and triumphant recovery.
The membership at the Stanley Thompson design elected not only to reseed all of the greens, completely changing the soil composition from poa annua to bentgrass, but also to entirely rebuild the putting surfaces.
That massive undertaking was led by a combined effort from renowned course architects Ian Andrew and Tom Doak, Craig Mortimore, of Evansgolf, and Property Superintendent Keith Bartlett.
“This project has only made this a better golf course that can be ramped up for any event when required,” said Bartlett. “There are a lot more challenges and with the increase of short rough leading to the rough and bunkers, the ball will roll more into hazards than before.”
Many of the greens had lost the original pin locations that Thompson had intended when he first designed the prestigious track in the late 1920s. The result of the green reconfiguring, according to Bartlett, is that the course looks more like the original layout than it ever has in the modern era.
“Members will struggle when they miss the new pin locations because they have never had those pin locations,” said Bartlett. “(The redesign) brings the challenge of the property back into play.”
The 3rd hole — a deceptive 213-yard par-3 — demonstrates this point well.
“From a purist’s perspective, No. 3 was always the weak spot of the course,” said Andrew, who added historical knowledge of the course as architect Tom Doak recreated what Thompson had initially planned for this hole.
By adding two large bunkers in front of the green and a hidden fairway directly behind them, the misleading tee shot will certainly provide all sorts of new adventures for players.
“The hole now is strong with a challenging, fair green that provides options for all levels of players with the new fairway,” said Bartlett. “It is special because it is what Stanley built. I think it will easily become one of the new favourite holes.”
Bartlett added that during construction on the hole, a hawk appeared on a nearby spruce tree and squawked for the duration of the process. When the hole was finished, the hawk flew off.
“We believed it was Stanley Thompson telling us that we finally got it right,” said the superintendent.
Hole No. 3 at St. George’s Golf and Country Club (Brent Long)
Many of the area’s superintendents convened this past winter to discuss the ice damage and to offer advice and help.
“The superintendents in Toronto’s west end are a great group of guys who are very willing to offer support,” said Bartlett. “Ian McQueen at Islington has been exceptionally helpful to me during this project since he has grown-in over 60 or 70 USGA greens in his career.”
The venue last hosted the RBC Canadian Open in 2010 when Carl Pettersson captured the title after firing a 10-under par 60 on Saturday.
Carl Pettersen (Golf Canada/ Bernard Brault)
Joe Murphy, St. George’s General Manager and CEO, says that while the course would like to host the event in the future, the priority at the moment is getting the club’s patient members back on their favourite track.
“Nothing has changed,” said Murphy. “We will continue to have conversations with Golf Canada and the PGA Tour about hosting another Open, but it’s not going to be any time soon.
“Our members are busting at the seam right now. They had to pay full dues and we couldn’t give them a full golf course this year so the priority will be on getting our membership out to play next year for sure.”
Bartlett expects the greens will be fully operational and ready for play next June.