Opinion – The Golden Goose: It’s Our National Championship

I had the pleasure of being present at the recent Golf Journalists Association of Canada Golf and Awards Day.  The evenings most prominent award went to Ontario Golf Hall of Fame member and accomplished author/writer John Gordon, recipient of the Dick Grimm Award, provided annually by the GJAC.  The award recognizes lifetime contributions to the game of golf and John is a most worthy recipient.  In his acceptance speech, he shared a story which really resonated with me about the importance of Canada’s national open.  John mentioned that the late Dick Grimm referred to the Canadian Open as the ‘golden goose’ because it provided so much for the game in Canada, ‘golden eggs’ if you will.

This gave me pause for reflection around the significance and true importance of our national championship.  Let me fully disclose here, I have never attended an RBC Canadian Open but I feel I can appreciate how important it is for golf in this country.  So much so that perhaps I need to give our Open more support.  Understand, this is not to say I stand on a soap box and rail on this historic and prestigious event on the PGA Tour schedule; I don’t.  If anything, I am guilty of being too quiet and almost dismissive of the event.  My focus of my interests in the game are around public golf.  But Glen Abbey, for example, is a publicly accessible venue.  I have played it many, many years ago and practice there more often then maybe I should. It is also on my Bucket List of top public Canadian courses.

 

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For Golf Canada, and numerous sponsors – like title sponsor, RBC – it is a platform to showcase the game of golf in Canada and all that is good about it.  I am not going to say that golf shares a level of passion across this country like hockey, but for many of us the passion is similar.  I read the regular criticisms about Glen Abbey – it renders scores too low, it’s too close to Toronto, and so on.  And I also read people argue why the Canadian Open doesn’t rotate around more around the country.  Fiscal reasons are a significant driver for this along with a less than ideal place on the PGA Tour schedule.  These are items which merit constructive discussion and debate.  But I for one will not let these detract from all that is good about our national championship.  I will heed John’s lesson from Mr. Grimm and focus on the many positives of this event.

Seventeen Canadians are participating this year.  This event showcases the strengths of Canadian golf, notably PGA Teaching Professional Bryn Parry and amateur golf champion and NHL referee Garrett Rank.  The coming out party of then amateur and now professional Jarred Du Toit in 2016 is a success story which will be told for many years.  Annual junior clinics around the tournament site give aspiring Adam Hadwin’s or Brooke Henderson’s access to PGA Tour professionals which can only add to the spark of their own growing interests in the game.  I love junior golf and gravitate to great initiatives which help introduce and grow the game and the Canadian Open plays a significant role in supporting and enabling these (She Swings, She Scores; Fairways; Golf in Schools; Drive Chip and Putt; and so many more).  Also, local charities benefit from the PGA Tour’s charitable arm and the economic boost from this event is significant.  I am sure I could go on, the impact of this event is significant and far reaching.

So John, congratulations on your fantastic achievement on receiving the Dick Grimm Award.  Getting to know you over the last year or so has been a genuine honour and I want to thank you for the lesson you shared with me, likely without realizing it.  I will set a default of greater and more significant support for the Canadian Open, and maybe soon venture out and experience professional golf first hand.  Like so many golfers in this country, maybe it will drive my passion for this game even more.  In closing, the Canadian Open, like the state of the game of golf in 2017, has more positives going for it then we tend to give it credit for.  It’s an event worth celebrating and enjoying.

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I only posed with the trophy…I didn’t touch it.

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Lakeview Golf Course – A Unique and Historic Municipal Course

Lakeview Golf Course – A Unique and Historic Municipal Course

http://www.mississauga.ca/portal/discover/lakeviewgolf

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Standing on the first tee at Lakeview Golf Course

The uniqueness starts once you pull in the driveway…and enter carefully as your drive bisects the 11th and 10th holes.  Quickly you see the great quality of this course, exceptional for a municipal track.  Conditioning is a strong asset for Lakeview, maybe not its strongest asset but a significant one.  For me, the allure of this course is its history and along with its conditioning it is why it made my personal Bucket List.  The plaque outside the clubhouse shares an overview of the rich history of this course.  The scorecard also provides insight to some of the legendary names who walked the same fairways – Armour, Sarazen and Hagen.  Lakeview hosted two Canadian Opens, in 1923 and 1934.  The City of Mississauga actually provides some dedicated space on the course website to share more of its history.

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I wish more courses promoted the celebrated their history the way Mississauga does with Lakeview.

I played the course in early July and the conditioning was superb.  And while conditions have been wetter than usual, the course has been well kept.  For a municipal course, it dispels so many of the stereotypes around condition.  Greens were consistent and rolled true.  I found surprisingly few ball marks.  The rough was not as penal as it could have been and fairways were excellent.  Bunkers were fair and had sufficient sand, some of the best I’ve played in all season.  It’s a course which its regular players are proud of and it shows.

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Hadn’t even teed off on 1 and someone wanted to play through.  Coyotes can be a common sight at Lakeview.

Yet pace of play was an issue and this was consistent with my previous experience at Lakeview, an issue I acknowledge is not exclusive to Lakeview.  My playing partners, a group of three seniors playing a skins match more than offset the delays and made my visit a real delight, as they needled each other in a lighthearted way which shows the extent to which Lakeview is a true meeting place for many local residents in the season, similar to private courses.

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Some of the best bunkers I’ve played this season are at Lakeiew as seen at the par 3 9th.

The layout is where I feel this course has both tremendous strengths and glaring weaknesses; the back nine closes strong with a stretch from 6 to 9 with great variety and challenge.  The par 4 8th is a risk/reward short hole which can be played conservatively with a precise shot to a smaller landing area, or, aggressively to the left part of the green which is well guarded by bunkers.  The 9th hole is a long par 3 which looks like a thin sliver off the tee but has more surface area then it appears.  Other good holes, like the closing stretch of 16 to 18 reflect good diversity of shot making needed to score well.  The par 5 16th allows big hitters to go for it in two but with a creek meandering short and left it requires precision.  Like others, I have serious issue with the par 4 12th hole.  A true target golf hole, the tee shot needs to be longer than it appears to have any real shot to play up to an elevated green, but too long and you’re in the creek. If you’re a guest, ask your playing partners for a yardage but I think a 190-200 yard shot is ideal.  That hole simply doesn’t flow with the rest of the course.  One other critique is a very high number of errant balls which enter into other fairways.  While the fairways are generous, often there is not much rough available before trees (which help separate one hole from another) come into play.  And for a course which gets considerable play, the risks of balls coming into play from other fairways is high.  Still, the layout has some significant merit, uniqueness and ensures Lakeview is no pushover.

Playing at about 6300 yards from the tips, the course offers three sets of tees.  As some other courses have done, I’d like to see the City incorporate a set of Family Tees, allowing juniors and first timers an opportunity to experience this beautiful property at a yardage inside of 4900.  As a municipal course, this could provide greater access to a future generation of players.

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The par 5 16th provides a narrow opening on the approach.

I left Lakeview satisfied with my golf experience and hopeful that I can enjoy this game well into my senior years as my three playing partners did on what was a rare, truly sunny summer day in Ontario this year.

Aura – 7 out of 10 – And I am likely being generous here.  But it’s too bad.  The course is unique and is well designed and maintained to a very good quality.  If you appreciate the history of the game, this course should be on your must play list.

Value (cost / experience) – A peak fee of $68 +tax to walk in the Greater Toronto Area is very good value.  Manage expectations around time – this will not be a three and a half hour round – and you can leave feeling you’ve had a great experience, as I had.  Greens fees can be found here.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 8.5 out of 10.  It has been a damp spring and summer in Ontario and no surprise, the course was in superb condition.  Many of the holes are very intelligent in their design and pose a true challenge in strategy and shot making.  The fairways and greens are very good and bunkers may be some of the best I have played all season.

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Great golf in the heart of the GTA.  The parkland layout at Lakeview is easy to walk.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – My experience was very good, the City of Mississauga has made some excellent investments in the maintenance of this course and I would return again…for no other reason than to seek out my three playing partners for another 18! – 7.5 out of 10

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – This is an easy one.  Let’s change up the 12th hole, even if it made into a longer downhill par 3, that’s fine.  This blind downhill tee shot and a challenging uphill approach doesn’t fit within the layout and feel of the other 17 holes.  But it does detract from the overall playing experience.

Highlight (what is great about the course) – Convenience.  Affordability.  History.   The course is very close to the QEW in the south west end of Mississauga.  The price excellent and to walk the fairways of legends and appreciate the history of this course provided me the value and experience I was craving.  The closing three holes were surprisingly challenging and beautiful.

 

The Briars – Classic, Iconic Canadian Golf

The Briars Golf Club – Classic, Iconic Canadian Golf

http://www.briarsgolf.com/

The more I play Stanley Thompson designed golf courses the more I appreciate his work. The Briars is a prime example, with the Thompson-designed opening nine holes set amongst the pines of the resort town of Jackson’s Point. Take the final turn onto Hedge Road and it feels like you’ve gone back in time. And while the cottages have been modernized, the feel is of a resort community golf course set close to the Lake providing solitude and isolation, allowing players a tranquil golfing experience. Stanley Thompson designed the original nine holes in the 1920’s and fifty years later, his protégé Robbie Robinson completed the back nine. Together, the two nines are complementary and create a seamless routing that players of all skill levels will appreciate.

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Standing on the first tee at The Briars.  Course is in mint condition.

Playing on an overcast summer morning with a member (it is a private course) the location exudes a calm, relaxed feel which staff embody (mixed in with a commitment to service and professionalism). The clubhouse is large and comfortable, the pro shop well stocked. The 1st and 10th tees are in close proximity, the back nine taking a longer route away from the clubhouse than the front. Standing on the first tee, it was one of the more relaxed opening shots I have enjoyed in some time. The opening par 4 has a subtle dog leg right but it’s an otherwise inviting tee shot. The holes on the front are straightforward in their layout, cut from the forest and with sloped greens back to front and well framed bunkering, both tee shots and approaches are manageable for players. Errant tee shots are relatively easy to find as the course has done excellent work clearing growth below trees.

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Crossing the Black River heading to the 11th tee.

The Black River cuts the course, almost in two, with holes 11 to 17 playing on the south portion of the property. Here, the course has a slightly more open feel and the terrain is more undulating but make no mistake, this course is very walkable. And at only 6300 yards from the tips, playing 27 or 36 are entirely possible. The course offers four sets of tees which are inviting for players of all skill levels.

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Staring down the 14th fairway.

I was particularly impressed with holes 1, 5 and 14. The opening hole provides players an excellent sense of what to expect on the opening nine. Tree-lined but with generous landing areas and approaches that allow for players to run the ball up but with bunkers framing holes to capture errant shots, it represents the brilliance to Thompson design; the natural terrain is showcased. Hole 5 is a beautiful short par 3 with a large green and bunkers framing the hole short and left. The 14th was a Robinson design and I found it to be the toughest hole on the course. A stout par 5 requiring a long and straight tee shot and a strategic lay up (for hitters who can’t get there in two anymore). An old farm silo is set off to the left on the fairway and provides both character and a reference from where to aim on lay ups. The sharp dog leg 17th is stunning also, with the green protected beautifully by the river behind it.

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Going long or left on the 17th will bring you face to face with the Black River.  The tranquility of this course is captured well on this green.

It is a course design I love and could play over and over again. I invite you to view this course video developed by my playing partner and head of Eat Sleep Golf who provided https://player.vimeo.com/video/141221227“>aerial footage for his home course. Thompson and Robinson partnered on a Classic which ranks up as one of my more underrated favourites in the country.

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Cottages off the first green.  And across the road is Lake Simcoe.

Aura – 8 out of 10 – I love the sense of history here which is so pervasive at the Briars Golf Club. The drive down Hedge Road was one I hope to experience again. The Briars Resort and Spa (same name but no formal affiliation with the course), provides resort guests access to the course, so that is one option for non-members to access this gem.

Value (cost / experience) – Golfers should seek opportunities to play this Thompson design. While a private course, one other opportunity for access is through a reasonable membership within the Stanley Thompson Society. A course ‘passport’ of all his designs across the country makes courses accessible for public players. You will see this is an impressive, historic track. I am not apologetic nor shy about my bias of Stanley Thompson designs. Intrigued? Membership information can be found here.

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The par 3 13th hole.  Robinson builds off Thompson’s bunkering work to frame the hole.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 8.5 out of 10. It has been a damp spring and summer in Ontario and no surprise, the course was in superb condition. The rain held off allowing us to enjoy and appreciate the sensational work of the superintendent and grounds crew. Tee boxes which were well mown, fairways that were clearly identified, rough which was not too penal, and greens which were true and not overly fast. A shorter course, accuracy off the tee of more of a need than length.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – I loved it. I could play here every day. It was a comfortable, relaxed yet respectful golf experience – 9 out of 10

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Standing on the 2nd tee.

Highlight (what is great about the course) – There are three things that stand out for me with my experience at the Briars: The drive to the course was heavenly; it is only an hour north of Toronto but feels a world away. Two, the staff and members create a relaxed feel and that translated all the way to the opening tee. Last, the course provides sufficient diversity of play which I cherish; I used all 14 clubs and can’t always say that.

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – There’s a part of me that wishes this was publicly accessible…but in doing so it would change the character of the course. I have provided two options for public players to access The Briars Golf Club. Perhaps it’s best to leave it at that and maintain the tranquility of this course which is such an asset.

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A break in the clouds as we head up the 18th hole.

Tower Ranch – An Awe-Inspiring Mountain Golf Experience

Tower Ranch – An Awe-Inspiring Mountain Golf Experience

Course Reviews – Tower Ranch – An Awe-Inspiring Mountain Golf Experience

http://www.golftowerranch.com/

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My approach shot on the first hole at Tower Ranch.  Hard not to get distracted by the view.

For anyone who’s played golf in the Okanagan Valley in B.C., you may see some similarities to Tobiano when you visit Tower Ranch.  It is hard to avoid the comparisons; really, given the ruggedness of the landscape and the fact that Canadian course architect Thomas McBroom designed both Tower Ranch and Tobiano.  Journalist Robert Thompson has stated Tower Ranch is like Tobiano but without the majesty.  But having experienced them both now I would contest that Tower Ranch has its own unique majestic beauty and a brilliant back nine which allows the course to finish strong and leave players wanting more.

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Looking high up from the second green.

Set in the eastern hills of Kelowna, set very high over the city and Okanagan Lake, Tower Ranch was built in 2008 and is certainly one of the finer championship courses in the region.  Complementing the excellent golf options in the Okanagan, Tower Ranch is worthy of its place on Canadian course ranking lists.  Canadian Golf Magazine placed this in the Top 50 Public Courses in 2016 and it is certainly worthy of its place on that list.  I was fortunate to visit on a sunny spring morning, and feel McBroom was fortunate to have access to such a great piece of land to work with. The views of the opening holes and the city and lake below create a great first impression and I knew my golf game and my camera would get a good workout.

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Holding my finish on the par 3 5th hole.

As had been mentioned by other reviewers I read leading up to my visit, one critique is the lack of a practice range.  But working on the short game and getting used to the speed of the greens and the effect the slope has on the ball was worth the extra time.  Checking in was easy, as the staff were courteous and professional and made me feel most welcome.  My bag was loaded onto a cart – it is a course one needs to use a cart.  While I prefer walking I can appreciate the need for some courses to be cart only and this one certainly warrants that policy.

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The par 3 7th hole shows the challenges of this Tom McBroom design.

The layout is such that McBroom manages the significant elevation changes more directly on the opening nine with the first three holes playing significantly downhill.  Of course, heading back to the clubhouse at the turn, this makes the 8th and 9th even more challenging as stout, uphill holes to end the opening nine.  The course was in immaculate condition.  Even for early in the season the tall grasses which guard many of the holes set off from the generous fairways were high and thick.  Playing off an appropriate tee box will help make the round more enjoyable.  Make no mistake; this is a challenging championship layout.

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A tough set of bunkers short of the 9th green.

I felt the back nine was one the most enjoyable and challenging I have played in some time.  The mastery of McBroom’s work is seen a stretch from 11 to 15 where a stretch of 4-3-4-3-5 showcase the rugged landscape and his design brilliance.  The par 5 15th invites players to challenge the dogleg and bite off as much ground as possible; it is a stretch of holes I’d love play on a more regular basis.  And it certainly reinforces the need for a cart-only policy.

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The 11th tee starts off my favourite stretch of the course.  This is my favourite hole on the course.

The tee boxes were immaculate and very flat.  Greens were pristine and I stopped looking for ball marks after about 5 holes, not finding any; it is nice to see players and staff take such pride in their course.  The bunkering around the greens are demanding but fair.  The greens are not easy, with slope and in many cases false fronts which will make approach shots and greenside shots more challenging.  The pictures help tell the story and provide a compelling case for Tower Ranch as a must play when visiting Kelowna and the Okanagan region.

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The par 3 12th hole shows off the dramatic landscape and the rugged beauty of the area.

Aura – 9 out of 10 – The drive up to the course created that this was going to be a special experience.  The clubhouse is large and is located to provide convenient access and stunning views.  Having experience the course for myself it is possible it may even be somewhat underrated in its beauty.  I appreciated the solitude of the golf experience on the back nine.  Holes 12 and 13 were two of the most peaceful and enjoyable I have played, set at the farthest reaches of the course and away from any development.  It lacks the profile of some other excellent Canadian public courses more highly rated but holds its own as an excellent public course.

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Love the views from the back nine.

Value (cost / experience) – 7 out of 10.  Peak fees are $123 are not going to attract the highest marks as a value play, but value is defined relation to quality and this is where this course is strong.  Membership is $3250 for an individual with unlimited access and this includes cart access.  Make no mistake, this is a very high quality course and it’s well worth a visit.

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The par 5 15th was so exciting to experience.  A brilliant design and fun to play.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 9 out of 10 – In a word, exceptional.  The attention to detail from the superintendent and staff is seen throughout.  The course is well designed, exceptionally maintained and McBroom has added another gem to his course of Canadian designs.  While not a fan of tall grasses which can over penalize misses, the contouring on many holes help kick balls back to the fairway.  On the opening stretch of holes this was appreciated.

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The par 5 17th.  Exceptional sight lines off the tee.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – 8.5 out of 10 – Tower Ranch provides a unique and high quality golf experience that reinforces Kelowna and the Okanagan as an exceptional golf destination.  With a strong closing nine and a staff whose commitment to service and a quality golf experience, I look forward to when I can return and play again.  The round capped off a truly memorable 24 hours in Kelowna, having played Gallagher’s Canyon the afternoon before.

Highlight (what is great about the course) – I like the feel of the elevated tee shots on 1, 2 and 3.  But the experience on the 12th and 13th tee, feeling I have the course to myself and not seeing anyone else around was a feeling I won’t soon forget.  Add the countless views of the city and lake below and there is much that is great about Tower Ranch.

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The view from the 17th green over Kelowna and Okanagan Lake.  I’ll be back!

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – I lost a number of balls in the tall rough on the front nine…but if you’re asking what I’d change, first, I’d say a straighter game for myself off the tee.  The course is fair and tough.  If pressed, I’d lower the rough along the mounding on the elevated holes on the front but Tom McBroom places a premium on accuracy and I wouldn’t change that.

My Best Shot – My approach on 15 was blind down to the green set below and I hit a wedge shot that I felt was good.  Well, as it turned out, it released and slowly rolled closer and closer to just outside of 4 feet but still on the high side.  Unable to get the delicate putt in for a birdie, my par on 15 (as with the few others I had) was one of satisfaction.

Conversation with Tiffany Chaisson

A Quick Nine with Fairways Fund CEO, and golf blogger Tiffany Chaisson

@36aday is pleased to introduce interviews with leaders in the game of golf in Canada. Nine questions are presented to probe important issues of the game, personal experiences, stories and insight. Just like 9 holes of golf, I hope you find this enjoyable and that it leaves you wanting more.

Fairways

  1. You haven’t been playing golf for too long but you’re becoming well known as an avid player who travels the world and plays the game.   So what’s the story…how’d you get into the game and who should get the credit for getting you interested in the game?

I played 9 holes in August 2013 when I was visiting PEI Canada and renovating my house there. I shot 118 for 9 holes (yes I counted). My friend Jenny, asked if I wanted to learn to golf the following year when I moved to Canada. I love sports and needed a new sport as couldn’t play my usual (netball, touch football, surfing, or indoor rock climbing) so golf it was. I also hate being bad at anything so I was determined to improve. I started in July 2014 and by the time I left Canada I had shot 54 at the course I shot 118 on the previous summer. I was addicted and loved watching my improvement. This July I am celebrating my 3 year golf anniversary and as per the last two years to celebrate, I will play in the Club Championship.

  1.  I’ve lost track, how many courses and how many countries have you played?

I have now played 120 courses in 11 countries in less than 3 years.

  1.  I’m sure there are countless memories but is there one moment for you playing the game that stands out?

I have been very lucky that I have golfed with hundreds of people around the world and have so many fantastic memories however there is one that pops into my head. I was playing a solo round on the Costa Brava at Golf Platja de Pals in Spain and chipped it in for the first time. No one was around and yet it was sublime.

4.  You’re CEO of Fairways Fund.  An impressive title for certain but what is this organization and what is its mandate?

Fairways Fund is a nonprofit sponsoring underprivileged junior golfers all over the world. Our mission statement is Golf Without Bounds and we pay for membership, lesson packages and range access for underprivileged juniors to help develop golf at the grassroots while supporting golf businesses and professionals. We currently have 20 juniors in four countries, Canada, India, Nepal and Bolivia and in future we will also help our interested juniors transition into employment within the billion dollar golf industry be it as a professional, greenskeeper or hospitality. We want golf to be inclusive and any child to be able to play regardless of their financial limitations.

  1.  Where do you see the organization in 5 years?

I will be working for Fairways full time and I would like to have one of our Bolivian juniors secure a scholarship in the USA, see Pratima Sherpa in Nepal play on the LPGA and have expanded into many more countries supporting juniors who love the game but cannot afford to play it.

  1.  Is there a story from this work you can share?  Are you having any success?

How do you define success? Is it helping a junior transition into a pro golfer or is it watching young Tomy in Bolivia win a second hand shirt and pair of shoes in a golf tournament?

This week I have had three things happen which make me very happy and give me the knowledge I am doing what I am meant to be. Edwin in Bolivia sent me a message saying golf is growing in Bolivia because of me and my visit (I was there for 9 weeks helping with a junior clinic and getting our juniors into golf tournaments), I connected with Pratima in Nepal who has just been granted a visa so she can go to golf school in the USA for two months and I golfed with one of our Canadian juniors who was so very excited to meet me. His mother advised that he was delighted to have been invited to the winter lessons I had arranged and had been watching all my YouTube videos and had really come into his own through golf. He is currently 13 and he told me he would love to become a teaching professional and would like to travel and help teach golf to juniors in other countries through Fairways.

  1.  How can people get involved to help and support Fairways?

We have online sponsorship options available however this month we will be launching Awesome Foursomes, an online auction of donated four ball green fees from golf courses all over the world starting at 50% of the value. If you are a member at a golf course you can ask if they would like to support underprivileged junior golfers globally by donating four green fees that we can auction off while advertising and promoting their course via social media or you can bid on a course you have always wanted to play and get a discounted price knowing the money will help children play this wonderful sport.

  1.   What drives your passion for the game?  You play.  You travel.  You have a socially driven business.  What keeps you energized to do this?

I am not sure to be perfectly honest. I hear my voice raise in excitement when I talk about golf and I wonder who I am. I just love it. I am unreservedly happy with a fairway under my feet and while relatively new to the sport; if I can share my passion and help children continue golfing I will be satisfied.

I have always had a lot of energy -my family seem to think I have undiagnosed ADHD – and I have always been able to get a lot done while juggling numerous projects.  My background is project management.

We would not have been able to be so far advanced with the nonprofit in such a short time if it wasn’t for our COO Jeremy White, who I wrangled in to be my co-founder in April last year. We work very well together and at times he channels my passion but I enjoy meeting new people, traveling, helping people and now I happen to love golf. I just made myself a job where I get to do all of it.

  1.  What course tops your Canadian bucket list and what is your dream foursome you’d love to tee it up with?

What province? There are so many good golf courses in Canada. Around here it would have to be Cabot Cliffs/Links as I continually hear how good they are, however I am sure I will find a hidden gem others consider a goat track that I will fall in love with and play golf for the soul.

My dream foursome?  Hmm well Jimmy Fallon would be fun to golf with, Seve would be interesting golf chat (and I could practice my Spanish) and Hogan would be wonderful to watch. You didn’t say they had to be alive right?

MJ – no, not at all.  Thank you for your time and I wish you all the best with Fairways and expanding your course count.  Have a great summer.

You can learn more about Fairways by visiting their website here or their site on Facebook.  And you can follow Tiffany Chaisson and Fairways Fund on Twitter

Gallagher’s Canyon – A Brilliant Championship Layout

Gallagher’s Canyon – A Brilliant Championship Layout

Course Reviews – Gallagher’s Canyon – A Brilliant Championship Layout

http://www.golfbc.com/courses/gallaghers_canyon

 

It is fitting that this review is being written as Kelowna and Gallagher’s Canyon are set to host the GolfBC Championship on the Mackenzie Tour (PGA TOUR Canada).  I had the pleasure of playing Gallagher’s Canyon in early May on a quiet afternoon, seemingly having the course to myself which allowed me ample time to appreciate this Les Furber and Doug Robinson designed gem.  The course was designed in 1980 and I actually played it over 25 years ago.  Staff were kind to point out there has been some routing changes but the prominence of the Canyon remains a focal point.

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Teeing off on the first hole.  Set for my own ‘championship’ experience.

This mountain course, which one article cited as “rugged yet refined” is walkable but does come with some significant elevation change in places.  The front nine begins with a bold start.  The Tour tees measure at over 6800 yards and I was able to tee off just behind the pro shop, set very high above the fairway below and providing a majestic view of the hole.  Stout, at over 430 yards, this hole will demand players’ attention.  However for me the course reflects the intelligence of its design on the next two holes.  A shorter par 4 provides an element of risk and reward for players.  And while not necessarily drivable, the options of how much of this hole to bite off from the tee provide players decisions to consider early.  The third hole is also an attention grabber.  Missing short and left is simply not an option as the elevation changes of Gallagher’s shows itself once again.

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Such a masterfully designed par 3, the third hole at Gallagher’s.

I love the routing of this course.  In fact, the only place where the course seems at all tight is off the first tee but it simply isn’t the case.  The layout is masterful and Furber and Robinson use the natural terrain to create appropriate vistas off the tee and subtle uphill holes for players to take on.  As one would expect with a Tour-caliber course, the greens were spectacular.  They rolled true and consistent.  As one may expect, uphill putts needed an aggressive hit whereas downhill putts required a delicate touch.  I loved the stretch of holes from 4 to 7; brilliant use of terrain to create a 4-4-5-4 combination which I place up against any public course in the country.  The ninth closes off the front with the canyon hole.  The drop off left is staggering but fortunately it does not really come into play as the fairway frames the hole nicely.

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The downhill 5th hole.  My only birdie of the day.

The course offers four unique tee blocks with a hybrid combination providing five play options.  Something which I did not experience back in the early 1990’s was a housing development running adjacent to many of the holes on the back nine.  I felt the back nine was not as challenging as the front but still brought the attention to design detail.  The subtle doglegs on 10 and the steady uphill challenge of 11 provided further appreciation to Furber and Robinson’s work.  I would have liked to have seen more from the closing two holes, but making providing birdie opportunities on a closing hole of a championship course will always create excitement, even from this 10 handicapper.

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Just left off the 9th tee is this sign…and this view.

Add to this courteous and professional staff, a fully stocked pro shop and a sensational clubhouse and my return experience at Gallagher’s Canyon proved to me I should not wait another 25 years to come back and experience this great course.  Also, combine the golf experience with a growing food culture, exceptional recreational opportunities off the course and one of Canada’s best wine regions and Gallagher’s reflects all that is excellent in Kelowna.

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On the tee on the par 4 11th.  A stout uphill hole.  Great to see the sun shining.

Aura – 8.5 out of 10 – Playing a course where professionals play is always a special experience.   This is one of the more unique and enjoyable courses I had played in some time.  Excellent conditions combined with the scenery – in and around the course – made more a memorable golf round.

Value (cost / experience) – 7.5 out of 10.  Peak fees are $125 but include access to practice facilities and a cart.  However, there is greater value to be had with a later tee time or play in the shoulder season.  Membership for a single player requires annual dues of only $2400 after a one time initiation payment.  For one of the province’s best courses and a championship layout this is worth a visit.

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Fabulous green complexes at Gallagher’s Canyon.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 9 out of 10 – This is one of a handful of courses I could play every day.  The layout is exceptional and the designers utilize the terrain exceptionally well.  Tee boxes were fabulous and the fairways well framed off the tee.  As a public course, the rough was not too penal and the greens were in outstanding condition.  In rare form, I did not visit the bunkers at Gallagher’s so I cannot offer any comments on their condition.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – This is an excellent golf course and worthy of its high rankings for public play in Canada.  Following a 4.5 hour drive from Vancouver through snowy mountain passes, the chance to walk Gallagher’s and appreciate this mature layout started my quick visit to Kelowna perfectly well.  I certainly hope to return again soon – 8.5 out of 10

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Standing on the 17th tee and facing a sharp dog leg.

Highlight (what is great about the course) – Reminiscent of other courses in Canada which bring uniqueness, challenge and enjoyment, Gallagher’s Canyon is truly unique.  From the opening tee shot, to the awe of looking down from the 9th and a chance to enjoy time in this relaxed clubhouse following the round, the entire experience was a highlight.

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – The abruptness of 17 and its strong dogleg design could benefit from some additional work.  But I feel I am splitting hairs here as the course is well designed and it is one round I have replayed in my head this year again and again.

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My round complete, looking back on the 18th fairway.

My Best Shot – Having spent the first four holes scrambling, the downhill 5th hole allowed me a chance to attack the pin on my approach.  My 8-iron almost hit the pin leaving a short four footer for birdie.  My only one on the day, mind you.  Let’s see the pros match that this week!

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Upon Further Review – Addressing the Rules of Golf

Sitting on my couch eating ketchup chips and crushing pints of Triple Bogey beers should not give me, or anyone else outside the ropes, the authority to influence a golf tournament.  It doesn’t pass the common sense filter.  And while it’s been nice we’ve had a nice stretch of a few weeks without a serious rules incident in golf, allow me to wade into the murky waters of rules in golf.  Because like everyone else, I have an opinion on this and it needs some unpacking.

Rules matter.  I like the self-regulating nature of golf and I like the principle of play the ball where it lies and I like that many golfers will tell their partner they got a 6 instead of a 5.  In competitive play this becomes even more important.  But I also play for fun with family and friends and we don’t get all caught up in stroke and distance penalties, putting out 18” putts and we may even allow ourselves a chance to remove a ball from a bunker which resembles a parking lot more than a sand trap.  Relaxed rules, at times, are appropriate and keep the game fast and fun.

And that matters.  I can’t imagine what would happen if during the two or three times a year my wife plays that I went all ‘USGA’ on her and told her 6 holes later that her 8 was really an 12 because she didn’t place her ball appropriately back on the green after marking it.  You can kiss her participation goodbye from that point on.  And this is not to be hypocritical, she wants to play well and play properly but within the context of an afternoon out with friends.  I am a huge proponent of Relaxed Rules which I first saw on Golf Channel some time back.  The game is meant to be fun and played appropriately.  To her and our group, what is proposed here is most appropriate.

Now, getting back to the USGA…and the official rules of golf; I still believe we can allow for a greater filter of common sense to govern rules.  Pace of play and participation are issues facing the game.  For sticklers of rules a couple suggestions:

Stakes – more red stakes on courses.  Let’s simply take a stroke, drop a ball and be on with it.  The humiliation of going back to the tee to hit again does nothing positive for the game (and I know we should all be more mindful of hitting a provisional but you get my point).

Penalties – all one stroke, easy to understand and avoids confusion.

Phone-in rules infractions – Eliminated.  Simple as that, we’re liberated from this in my world.  Once a scorecard is signed, it’s good.  Phew, solved that one easy enough.

Common Sense – if in doubt…after all, very few of us have mastered the rules book, let’s use consensus among our playing partners and common sense prevail.

In closing, I love the game of golf.  But I am finding myself watching some tournaments with an impending sense of doom that my HDTV lacks the clarity of someone’s 80” 4D to see the most subtle of infraction which had zero impact on the integrity and outcome of the hole but cause a player to lose a tournament.  Golf is a game.  Golf is fun.  Let’s keep it that way.  And when appropriate, let’s honour the full set of rules but more so the integrity of the game which the rules are built upon.