Doug Carrick and other homegrown designers are changing the way Canadians play the game
Doug Carrick and other homegrown designers are changing the way Canadians play the game
Doug Carrick gets paid to stand 'in farmers’ fields, knee-deep in cow pies, and imagine a golf course. His is an unusual perspective, derived from training as a landscape architect and golf course designer-not to mention his love of the game. Where other people see only furrows or crops, he sees the routing of a fairway, the undulations of a green and the tactical placement of bunkers. If necessary, he can also imagine all of those things while sitting at a desk. Last winter, when southern Ontario was still cloaked in snow, the 39-year-old Carrick was busy manipulating computer simulations of new projects as near as Aurora, Ont., 30 km north of his office, and as far away as Austria. “We’ve had this for a year,” he says, pointing to the screen, “but we’ve been so busy lately that we are only just learning what it can do.”
That Carrick has new commissions is no mean feat. The recession abruptly interrupted a 1980s boom in course development, forcing designers to search for smaller jobs—principally renovations and redesigns of existing clubs. Internationally, Canadian design firms are dwarfed by U.S.-based companies headed by the likes
of Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Pete Dye and Tom Fazio. And rather than hire the homegrown, some Canadian developers succumb to the lure ot those namebrand American architects. Why? The construction of a top-flight course can cost between $8 million and $30 million—and big names sell.
But increasingly, designers such as Les Furber in Western Canada, Tom McBroom and Carrick in Ontario and Graham Cooke in Montreal have made the case for made-in-Canada courses. All of them have layouts ranked among the country’s top new courses. “Most of the work out there right now is being done by Canadians,” McBroom says.
Some of that new work is about to come on stream. Angus Glen Golf Club in Markham, Ont., is expected to open this spring, and it may well be the course that makes Carrick a clubhouse-hold name. If nothing else, it is certain to get the attention of magazines such as Golf Digest, which annually ranks courses. Early reviews by golf insiders suggest that the sprawling 7,280-yard Angus Glen will vie for Golf Digest's coveted best-new-Canadian-course title.
The irony is that Carrick nearly didn’t get the job. The course was the dream of the late businessman Art Stollery, who interviewed a variety of bidders in 1991 and 1992, including some high-powered Americans. “We had talked to Bob Cupp and the Nicklaus Group,” says Don McIntyre, vice-president of development for Angus Glen. “But then we asked Doug to make a submission, and we really jelled.” The fact that Carrick lived nearby and could oversee the $ 10-million project was important, but there was something else. “We had a great piece of property to work with,” says McIntyre, “and Doug is a real artist.”
Ron Whitten, architecture editor for Golf Digest, is well aware of Carrick’s work. Two of Carrick’s courses have already finished in the publication’s Canadian top three in recent years. “I admire what Doug is doing architecturally,” says Whitten. “It is very traditional, even timeless, in its presentation.” But admiration alone will not win any rankings. Angus Glen faces stern competition from other new entries—including a new Jack Nicklaus design at Whistler, B.C., and McBroom’s new resort course at Mont Tremblant, Que.
Carrick, a quiet, modest Toronto native, possesses a distinguished course-
THE TOP 10 NEW PUBLIC COURSES
Arenar informal selection of the 10 best new layouts:
Over the past four years, Canada has been blessed with a range of challenging new public golfcourses. In part, that’s because the recession forced developers of some recently completed private clubs to open their pro shops to greens-fee players. But course-builders are also beginning to recognize that most golfers in Canada are public-course players. Here,
1THE LINKS AT CR0WBUSH COVE, Morell, P.E.I. Architect: Thomas McBroom. Opened 1993. 800-377-8337 or 902-961-3100.
The nearest thing in Canada to California’s Pebble Beach, Crowbush is nestled among the dunes along P.E.I.’s north shore. The Atlantic is in view from the sixth to the 18th, a string of beautifully designed holes. On many of the tees and greens, players will feel the ocean spray in their face.
2 CHATEAU WHISTLER GOLF CLUB, Whistler, B.C. Architect: Robert Trent Jones Jr. Opened 1993. 604-938-2092.
Whistler has a growing reputation as a hot golf
4 HERITAGE POINTE GOLF AND COUNTRY CLUB, Calgary. Architect: Ron Garl. Opened 1992. 403-256-2002.
Heritage Pointe has three nines and the developer has plans to add nine more to make two 18hole courses. Situated in the Bow River Valley, the Pointe has just about everything, from an island green to a hole modelled on the 12th at Augusta National.
destination, and the Chateau course may be the prime drawing card. Using an exceptional piece of property that made this job all the easier, Trent Jones Jr. created a mountain masterpiece in the tradition of Stanley Thompson’s Jasper and Banff Springs courses.
DEERHURST HIGHLANDS GOLF CLUB, Huntsville, Ont. Architects: Robert Cupp & Thomas McBroom.
Opened 1991. 705-789-2381.
Perhaps the quintessential Canadian course, the Highlands is cut through a section of the Canadian Shield. There are only a few weak holes, and a par on any one is well-earned. The short season, as well as black flies, can detract from the experience.
BIG SKY GOLF AND COUNTRY CLUB, Pemberton, B.C. Architect: Robert Cupp. Opened 1994. 800-668-7900 or 604-894-6106.
In the beautiful Pemberton Valley, 20 minutes north of Whistler, Big Sky is playable for highhandicappers without making things easy for scratch golfers. And unlike many new courses, where developers insist on the use of motorized carts, Big Sky encourages players to walk.
6 CLUB DE GOLF LE MIRAGE,
Architect: Graham Cooke.
Opened 1993. 514-477-4288.
This 36-hole development northeast of Montreal boasts two challenging and completely different courses. Caledonia is an old-style layout, tree-lined and long. Arizona is a target-style
Continued from page Al 1 design pedigree. After studying landscape architecture at the University of Toronto and the University of Georgia, he apprenticed under Canadian Robbie Robinson, who himself had worked for the dean of Canadian course architects, Stanley Thompson. It was Thompson who built the famed mountain courses at Banff and Jasper in the 1920s, and the stunning Capilano Golf Club in West Vancouver. Carrick’s respect for his predecessors is reflected in his designs. “I am influenced more by the old, classic courses,” he says. “That is not meant to slight modern design—there is a lot of good work out there. But I grew up playing on old courses, and I think those designs have a lot to offer.” Some of those old architects—Donald Ross, Alistair Mackenzie, Thompson—were well-known in their day. Carrick, by comparison, seems an unlikely candidate for celebrity. He is no Mr. Neon when it comes
design in the manner of the Southwest’s desert courses—islands of green fairway surrounded by menacing waste areas and tricky grass bunkers.
7 TRICKLE CREEK GOLF RESORT,
Architect: Les Furber.
Opened 1993. 604-427-5171.
Trickle Creek is a scenic beauty with majestic views of the Purcell Mountains. A resort layout, it is highlighted by dramatic changes in elevation. Some tee shots will drop off as much as 80 feet, making club selection difficult.
8 OSPREY VALLEY HEATHLANDS COURSE, Caledon, Ont.
Architect: Doug Carrick.
Opened 1992. 519-927-9034.
Osprey Valley mimics the inland courses of
to self-promotion; he prefers to let his work speak for itself. That can be a liability in such a competitive business, but Carrick’s courses speak volumes. His very first solo design, King Valley Golf Club in tiny Snowball, Ont., north of Toronto, was hailed by Golf Digest as the second-best new course in Canada in 1991, behind Devil’s Pulpit in Caledon, Ont. A private club, King Valley was popular with members right away, particularly because the course looked like it had been there for generations.
That talent for making the new look old also shows in such designs as Greystone Golf Club in Milton, Ont., and Twin Rivers Golf Course in Terra Nova National Park, Nfld. Using a bulldozer the way a painter wields a brush, he manipulates the land to create something that looks as though it had occurred naturally. Carrick routed Greystone alongside the craggy limestone cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment. Holes at Twin Rivers cut across salmon
Scotland and Ireland—open tracts of land on which mounds and tall borders of fescue grass provide impediments to scoring. Wind, however, is the greatest hazard; there are no trees to slow the westerly onslaught. While the course is well-built, other facilities are minimal.
9 ROYAL WOODBINE GOLF CLUB,
Architect: Michael Hurdzan.
The least attractive feature of Royal Woodbine is its location. Built just a drive and a wedge from Pearson International Airport, the course is often beset by the noise of incoming planes. That aside, Royal Woodbine is a strong target-style layout. Greens roll and swoop, sometimes to extremes, but do not take away from the enjoyable design.
THE LINKS AT QUARRY OAKS, Steinbach, Man.
Architect: Les Furber.
Opened 1992. 204-326-4653.
Crafted on the site of a former gravel pit, Quarry Oaks consists of two distinct parts.
The first seven holes are more traditional, while the final 11 are bordered by massive waste bunkers and plenty of water. Accuracy, therefore, matters more than distance. □
streams and butt up against the roaring Northwest River. “He engages in fewer gimmicks than other architects,” says Whitten. “And although he reshapes the land—they all do—it doesn’t look that way. He uses broad strokes and soft lines.”
Thanks to a $30,000 piece of software, Carrick and his associate, Ian Andrew, can draft and manipulate three-dimensional versions of designs. On the screens these days are two planned private courses: one in Austria, 30 km south of Vienna, and the other near Aurora, Ont. Frank Stronach, head of auto-parts giant Magna International, commissioned the two designs to be located close to his company’s Canadian and European headquarters.
Although neither project will see a shovel until later this spring, Stronach has made it clear that he expects a lot. “He said he wanted us to build the best golf course in Austria,” the designer said. “I think we can do that because, frankly, there are not that many courses there.” The greater challenge is that the businessman gave him the same mandate for Aurora. Carrick is under no illusions; he has too much respect for the great courses and the designers of the past to think he can easily surpass them. “In Canada, that’s a tall order,” he says. Still, the thought leaves him smiling. □
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.