Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Mentioned in Golf Architecture Magazine

Adam's Image of the Dragon and Fireball

"The two year project has seen Andrew, assisted by the course's in-house crew, rebuild most of Thompson's original bunkers, plus a considerable amount of tree clearing and green space recapture.
Andrew completed the project in early September by restoring Thompson's bunkers on the par five sixth hole, known as 'Mucklemouth Meg', and by returning the two bunkers on the right side of the par three fifth green to Thompson's vision of a dragon and a fireball."
Adam Lawrence has written a small piece for Golf Course Architecture magazine that sums up the completion of the bunker work at Highlands Links. The rest of the article can be found here: Golf Architecture Magazine Article
I spent a wonderful couple of days with Adam that included this funny Facebook post: Facebook Link. We played golf, had a couple of dinners and he was even kind enough to buy me a bottle of wine for my birthday.

Monday, 24 September 2012

18 Holes at Highlands Links by Photos

1st Hole

2nd Green

3rd Hole

4th Green
5th Hole
6th Hole
7th Hole
8th Hole
9th Green
10th Hole
11th Green
12th Hole
13th Green
14th Hole
15th Green
16th Fairway
17th Hole
18th Green



Friday, 21 September 2012

18 Holes at Laval in Photos

1st Hole - 540

2nd Hole - 415
3rd Hole - 175
4th Green - 575
5th Green - 455
6th Hole - 235
7th Hole - 310
8th - 425
9th - 475
10th Green - 485
11th Hole - 455
12th - 360
13th - 575
14th - 145
15th - 455
16th - 370
17th - 200
18th - 475

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Highlands Links Retrospective – Part 8 – The Future

15th Hole yesterday morning

Early in the week I was told there was a rumour that I was going to be part of a team that will lease and operate the course. I only laughed and said I wish I had the money that others think I must have.

It’s common knowledge that Highlands Links will be part of an RFP process where Parks Canada will look to create an arrangement where a private operator runs the golf course. This was done recently with Green Gables recently in PEI. It is also the same model at Banff Springs, Jasper Park and Waskesiu to name a few other courses found in National Parks.

In preparation the staff was informed told they will either be laid off or re-assigned. I also have no idea whether I will continue to work at Highlands Links, but that pales in comparison with the others from the local area.

There is the possibility that a new operator may bring everything that the course needs, from additional key people right through to capitol to deal with all the drainage issues that plague the golf course on a regular basis. They may keep key people and provide a greater level of support required to succeed. Many see this as essential and a very important step to bring the course up to the conditioning they expect.
This makes me smile still

The other side is the new operator “has” to make money. They may cut staff to a minimum and try to operate without any capitol investment in the course. This may stop tree removal, drainage and other restoration projects that have created the recent turnaround in the conditions.

The RFP has been delayed. We are all curious to see what the terms are and find out if the hotel is attached to the course or whether its allowed to go out independent. That condition alone may be the difference between a positive outcome and a disappointing one.

All any of us can do is wait to see the terms of the RFP and find out who the successful entity is. That’s when we will all begin to understand how it impacts the people currently connected the golf course and the course itself.

I was lucky enough to be the consulting architect for the last five years. We have made strides with the golf course, but lots more needs to be done still. I hope get the opportunity to fix the remaining problems and bring the course to a place we would all like to see.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Highlands Links Retrospective – Part 7 – Working on the Course

3rd this morning

Well I decided to work today … because. I actually raked every bunker on the course with Graham (and for the last three holes help from Dale and Greg). I spent the remainder working on the fairway bunkers.

We had a middle-aged regular golfer from the area hit behind where we were working today. When he came up I said it would be helpful if he picked up and played from twenty yards away to avoid hitting over us. He was twenty yards away from where Greg and I were working. Instead he hit the ball over our heads. 

6th fairway bunkers as of today
To which point I said, “Are you a complete asshole or what, you could have hurt one of us. ”

He replied, “That’s your risk for working on the golf course.”

Which I replied, “If you had any common courtesy or decency then the risk would have been a hell of a lot less.”

He then said, “I’m a lawyer and I know that it’s your assumed risk and not my responsibility.”

“You’re still an asshole, get out of my sight before I come give you a reason to sue me.”

7th this afternoon

I worked six days on the crew. You run the risk of being hit on a regular basis. Even I understand the risk. But people make it far worse than it should be by not simply moving over to avoid the staff when they can.

Most people are excellent, but there are lots of people who consider the golf course staff “the hired help” and show no respect for their well being. I thought golfers were supposed to be better class of people, but after this week I’m not so sure any more.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Highlands Links Retrospective – Part 6 – It’s Over!?

The Muddy Man - taken today
Daily Update: Well the 6th hole fairway bunkers have drainage despite being built only 6” above high tide. We had to set a very shallow drain and use a backflow preventer system to make this all function. The bunkers are not done, but everything at this point is simply detail work and finishing. The bunkers are formed and obvious.

The morning is ideal for seeing wildlife

I’m finding today has made me slightly sad.

I love coming here. Nothing is more enjoyable than heading out onto the golf course as the sun comes up. The mountains begin to emerge from the shadows and the ocean sparkles in the suns rays. It’s a beautiful way to start a day.

The morning involves organizing what we want to get done with the day. There’s a lot of teasing and laughter in the morning as we make sure everyone gets taken down a notch. Guys being guys. I have enjoyed every single hour that I have worked with the staff and the bunker boys in particular.  The bunker boys have worked their rear ends off to help me get the bunkers restored.

It's fun building bunkers like these

I actually enjoy labouring. I particularly enjoy working with an edger, shovel and rake to try and get the shapes and details I want. But I’ll lay pipe, compact the bunkers, spread sand, sod, essentially whatever it takes to get it done. I like all of the work and I really like the way I feel at the end of the day knowing we got a lot accomplished. The best feeling is when a bunker is completed and I can look at the fruits of our labour.

I’m not sure what the future will bring when it comes to Highlands Links. I don’t know if any of the bunker boys will remain working at the course. I don’t know if this was the last day I’ll ever work here. I find that very sad on both accounts if that's the case. While I should be happy we are pretty much done the restoration, I'm sad all the same.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Highlands Links Retrospective – Part 5 – The Work

Dragon and Fireball

 Daily Update: I found everyone struggled to find the enthusiasm with the biggest factor being an unusually hot day that took its toll on everyone including me. We have a long way to go and only a day left to get there. Sod and sand will be next week. The good news is everything is shaped, generally edged and one great push will get the necessary work done.

There are holes that are great. The 17th, for example, clearly looks like the old image. I’m proud of how much we were able to return many of the holes to their original form. A few could use some more tweaking to be better.

The 1st is rock solid although the sand build-up on the faces worries me. The 3rd is fine but would have been better if we had more soil available to blend the forms back into the existing grades. We now have the soil, but I don’t see us going back. The 4th is really good and I’m still pleased at the results. The 5th is great out front with the work on the Dragon and Fireball being super fun, the back bunkers seem a little out of scale, but the building foundations on the right and access requirements on the left were an issue for the back bunkers.

6th Hole Progress
The 6th, 7th and 8th are all really good. The 11th may be accurate but I find the bunker really bland and wondered whether that one bunker should have had a different look to add something. The 13th is the one place where I worked with what was there and perhaps should have rebuilt the entire area. It’s the place I would like to go back on and touch up a bit. The 15th and 17th have some of the best work and only a bit of dead sod holds them back from being super impressive. The 18th is pretty damned good too but all the dead sod hurts the overall impression.

The work was built largely by hand, just as it was before. It’s not perfect, but we also lacked the advantages of earthmoving equipment, a trencher, topsoil, sod, etc. A good construction team would have done a bit better by having all the ideal equipment. Having all the materials we needed would have made many steps easier and faster. But given what we had to work with, I think we did a petty damned good job. 

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Highlands Links Retrospective – Part 4 – The Weather

Tuesday Afternoon working on the 6th fairway

Daily Update: Beautiful summer day. The fairway trenches we added yesterday helped get rid of all the duck ponds on the 6th hole overnight.. We finished a couple of bunkers and hand dug a major drainage line to deal with the water in the fairway bunkers. In fact it the drain was still running steady two hours later when I played golf.

The weather here can be really trying.

My first visit was spent dealing with the impact of the brook bursting through its banks and depositing a massive amount of sand and gravel on the 11th fairway. The cleanup took close to a month. The 6th hole was also inundated with silt and sand, but the cleanup had to wait for the work on the 11th and much grass was lost.

The Clyburn Brook is a major problem. It runs through a narrow steep valley that drains a massive area above in the open highlands. Because of the shape of the valley the golf course suffers through very quick high peak flows that often leave the banks of the river. The river mouth has major siltation issues that have caused the river to rise in elevation along the 6th hole leaving problems after every storm. And boy do they get a lot of storms here.

I have been here for two hurricanes in the last two years. I have seen the 6th fairway underwater because of spring tides, a full moon and storm surge. I’ve seen the 12th green covered with water a dozen times now since the water leaves the banks every major rain event. They face these problems regularly.

It’s tough to build bunkers and grow turf when the course is consistently under water. The course desperately needs a major drainage network designed to remove the water from all low lying areas as well as capture the flow off the mountains before it reaches the playing surface. No matter who runs the operation, drainage should be the number one priority going forward.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Highlands Links Retrospective – Part 3 – Construction

The 18th Left Bunker

Daily Update: Odd day, it was raining hard enough at 6:00am that most of the crew went home at 7:00am tired of waiting for a break in the weather. Graham and I took shovels to the 6th to see what we could do with a fairway covered in water. After creating a series of outlets the weather took a quick turn to the better. We were joined by Dale and Jason later that morning and hand dug drains for the rest of the day.

All the work at Highlands Links has been done in house. I must admit I wasn’t sure what to expect when I found that I would be working with a union crew who had not built bunkers before. I arrived late in the day spent the first afternoon laying out the work on the 18th green using images and aerials to create approximate lines. I also made a rough plan with Graham for the next morning.

The first day involved some quick introductions where they met me, I explained what we were trying to accomplish, and how I wanted to build the bunkers. We began by removing sand and then got to work building the bunkers mostly by hand. The work progressed fairly well since everyone was enthusiastic and worked hard.

To the crew’s surprise, after explaining what to do, I simply grabbed a shovel and went to work with them. I’ll confess I worked as a hard as I could because you can’t ask anyone to work hard for you when you don’t work hard yourself. The first night my muscles ached and I wondered if I was crazy.

The 4th Green Bunkers w/ new technique
I think this was essential. After a while I was probed with questions about myself and I too asked questions about each of them as well. I learnt the dynamics between different people, their humour and most importantly began to understand these were great people trying to do the best job they could.

I shared all my construction experiences from ropes to buckets to how to use a laser. We experimented as a group with different techniques for bunker construction and found an easier ways to build and go faster.

The work is not perfect. But we had quite a few issues to deal with: lack of proper equipment, with other conflicts often the work involved a small crew, some of the circumstance we worked under was not ideal, the lack of outside materials (needing to find everything on site was tough) and irrigation problems that cost us turf on occasion. There was also the amount of rain that always seems to fall when I go to Ingonish. They call me the Rain Witch.

All in all the work is still very good. There are a few greens where I wish I did a little more earthmoving on the bunker like the 13th, but there is some outstanding work at the 15th and 17th too.

I always assumed the thrill would be restoring what is arguably the most important Stanley Thompson course of them all. But I've loved using my hands to rebuild the bunkers. I love that I can look at every bunker and remember how it was built and the funny things that happened while we worked. I also loved being one of the guys each time I came, the abuse we love to give each other and I truly appreciated the long hours they put in and dedication they had for the work.

But I also became far more aware of the link between the town and the course. I went from doing this for me to do this for them ...