Tom Doak and Ian Andrew to rebuild all greens at St George’s this summer

Tom Doak and Ian Andrew to rebuild all greens at St George’s this summer
Sean Dudley
By Adam Lawrence

St George’s Golf and Country Club in Canada is embarking on a greens reconstruction project in July.

More than 95 per cent of the club’s members voted this week in favour of rebuilding all the greens to USGA specifications, as well as reconstructing the fifth and ninth fairways.

The Toronto-area course, ranked thirtieth best in the world by Golf Digest, will remain open throughout the renovations. The course will operate with temporary greens and a series of rotating hole closures while reconstruction on the greens takes place. Seeding of all new greens is expected to be completed in early September to give the putting surfaces time to grow in, with a projected reopening date in June 2015.

Consulting golf architects Tom Doak and Ian Andrew, who were retained by the club last September to review the greens complexes, as well as other potential capital projects, spoke to the club this week along with superintendent Keith Bartlett, as members voted to accelerate the project to this summer. Doak’s longtime associate Eric Iverson will also play a key role.

“When we were here last fall I certainly didn’t think we’d be looking at doing the greens this summer, but the winter storm and ice damage pushed the decision forward,” said Ian Andrew, who is also supervising construction of new greens just down the street at Islington G&CC for similar reasons. “Across the Northern United States and throughout Ontario and Quebec ice damage to older poa annua greens and fairways has been extensive at many clubs. The issues surrounding the viability of the poa greens at St George’s that we talked about with members last fall came to fruition this spring.”

“These greens projects that I get involved with are because I don’t like to see old golf courses making changes to the greens without some thought for the original design and the character of the course. Many architects I know go in there and make changes and it doesn’t bother them a bit to tear up original green sites and build whatever they want,” said Doak.

The goal of the project is to rebuild all greens based on the original design by architect Stanley Thompson who created St George’s in 1929. A detailed plan outlining changes to individual greens has been provided to members. This addresses poor drainage, shrunken green sizes, slopes within greens, increased pin areas and other issues.

“This is meticulous work, and we are playing with the smallest percentages,” said Doak who compared it to the exacting detail and pressures of being a surgeon performing open heart surgery on a living patient. “Somebody has to get in there and do it, while all of the time you have to take into consideration the overall condition of the patient.” He told members the key for a successful project is not to overreact when making changes, but to focus on ensuring that the greens continue to play as they did in the past.

Andrew told GCA: “Tom is the lead on this project. He will have the final call on grades. Eric will make modifications where required, while I’ll be working on the preservation of grades in advance for Eric. Using a baseball analogy I’ll pitch the seventh inning – contracts, planning presentations – Eric will pitch the eighth – modifications – and Tom will pitch the ninth, the final call.”