The Cutten Fields club in Guelph, Canada, has voted overwhelmingly in favour of a project led by golf architect Jeff Mingay that involves rebuilding all eighteen of its greens, principally to convert putting surfaces to bentgrass.
The existing poa annua greens at Cutten Fields, which opened for play in 1931, have not well over the past several years winters, resulting in significant turf loss and damage in the spring. Golf course superintendent Bill Green, who has been at Cutten Fields since 2015, has selected 007 bentgrass to plant on the reconstructed green surfaces which will significantly reduce, if not entirely eliminate, the turf issues.
While the main focus of the project is greens re-construction, using the California green construction method, and grassing to 007 bent, it will also include a comprehensive bunker remodel, work on some tees and related tree removal. Tree removal will be key to turf health on the planned new greens. Former USGA agronomist Dave Oatis has been working with Bill Green as a consultant to the project, advising on tree removal and green construction. Along with necessary tree removal, more than 200 indigenous species of trees are planned for be planted.
A first phase of work is already underway, involving construction of three new holes to solve routing issues relative to safety and the overall connectivity and flow of the incoming nine holes. A new par five fifteenth hole was built and shaped in spring 2019, instigated by the necessary removal of a significant number of declining and deceased ash trees. The new fifteenth opened for play with a new bentgrass green and bunker scheme in early October 2019. Construction was orchestrated by Bill Green’s assistant Mark Hughes, who has two decades of previous experience as a golf course construction manager and shaper on projects throughout Canada and the United States.
Construction of new par four thirteenth and sixteenth holes began the week of October 21. “We’re hopeful to complete rough shaping of those two new holes over the next month, prior to winter and snowfall,” said Mingay. “Those holes will be completed and planted in spring 2020, with a targeted fall 2020 opening, when construction of the remaining greens, along with bunker and tee work, is scheduled to begin. The club has a plan to keep nine holes open play next year while construction progresses.
“The routing of the back nine at Cutten Fields was changed years ago to accommodate developing a section of the club’s property into residential. Many golfers agree that the incoming holes don’t measure up to the front nine. This greens reconstruction project presented opportunity to significantly improve the quality of the back nine by re-routing the thirteenth and sixteenth holes, which will also reduce – actually, hopefully eliminate – potential liabilities relative to errant shots leaving the course.”
Mingay says that while this project is not strictly restorative, his planned redesign of the Cutten Fields course is respectful of and definitely inspired by the original works of Stanley Thompson and Chick Evans’ involvement with the layout. Thompson’s 1930s plan and historic photos have been used as a reference.
“A significant number of Canadian courses originally designed by Stanley Thompson have been restored in recent years,” said Mingay. “But this opportunity at Cutten Fields is unique. Studying historic materials and existing features on the ground suggests that Chick Evans definitely had an influence on the original design. Greens like the first, third, thirteenth and eighteenth, and a number of original bunkers seen in historic photos, are geometric, similar to greens and bunkers at the Chicago Golf Club. Evans lived in Chicago, and we know the Chicago Golf Club was one of his favourite courses. Along with restoring some Thompson-esque features, our intent is to enhance some of that Chicago-like character, here and there, at Cutten Fields, too.”
Eight of the course’s green surfaces will retain existing characteristics designed by Thompson and Evans, but will significantly increase in size. The other 10 green surfaces will also significantly increase to better handle traffic and associated wear, and present a variety of pin positions. Those greens will be redesigned in a style to match the original greens on the course. The fifth, thirteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth will be relocated as part of improving the routing of the back nine and placing greens in the best growing environments. Overall, green surfaces will increase from an average of 5,000 square feet to more than 7,500 square feet.