The word venerable is used fairly frequently in golf. I’m guilty of perhaps overusing it. It’s easy to – golf is that kind of game. It’s old-school by nature.
By definition, venerable means “accorded a great deal of respect because of age, wisdom, or character.” It was the first word I thought of while looking for a descriptor for the Saskatoon Golf and Country Club, the course I had the privilege of playing today on another perfect Saskatoon Summer’s day.
Saskatoon G&CC is a private club located a mere 10 minutes from the downtown core. It has a wealth of history, as you would expect from a golf course built in 1907.
Originally there were two golf courses that made up Saskatoon G&CC; a public 18, and a private 18. As years passed, it became more evident that a compromise needed to be made, and so they redesigned the entire layout. Canadian architect Ian Andrew had a hand in the recent redesign process.
The golf course now is actually 21 holes. 18 holes on the championship course, plus three holes of “practice” golf (a par 3, a par 4, and a par 5) that I thought was a great idea. I’m sure there are more facilities that do this, but the only one I knew of prior to Saskatoon G&CC was Coppinwood, just outside of Toronto.
The front nine is all new, as of 2011. It was formerly part of Saskatoon G&CC’s “West” course (the public course). The back nine is part of Saskatoon G&CC’s “East” course (the original private one) and it didn’t receive a facelift in the late 2000s.
The nines are distinctively different, which allows for two different playing conditions. The back nine has a lot of the charm that an old-school course would have: mature trees and small greens for example. The front nine had a modern feel to it. There aren’t any tricks at Saskatoon G&CC, and I liked the fact that the golf course was there for the taking. The less quirks the better.
I had the opportunity to play with Todd Brandt, the President & CEO of Tourism Saskatoon, along with his friend and fellow member George, the owner/operator of a family-run Greek restaurant in downtown Saskatoon.
Brandt was thrilled to say how much Saskatoon has changed in the last six years. There has been such a boom in research engineering that a local company invested $30M into a program at the University of Saskatoon in order to encourage local students to remain in the province once they graduate.
Sports are a huge part of Saskatoon as well. Golf aside, the residents thrive on the success of amateur and junior sport. Market research has been done to prove that a CFL franchise would be successful in Saskatoon as well (in addition to the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who are based out of Regina). “All we need to do is build a stadium,” said Brandt.
Easier said than done, though. It’s not Field of Dreams.
The city is going through growing pains – developmentally – right now. “Traffic is becoming a problem,” said George with a laugh. It was slightly comical to hear (I think I drove past may 15 cars total on my way out of the city at 9:00 a.m.) but I understand what they mean, and how it will affect the city long-term.
That said, the golf course was fantastic. It was in wonderful condition, and the combination of mature course with new-school design made for a pleasant golf experience. We rode today, but it would be a fine location for golf wandering.
A good location for some golf “wondering” as well.
Wondering how the golf course would have looked in the 1920s. Wondering how the private and public dichotomy would have worked. And wondering what it would have felt like to hit a shot over a moving train (one of the old tee-boxes actually called for a shot over train tracks… most of the time while a train was coming).
Although Saskatoon G&CC is a private club, a lot of members choose to bring guests with them for various events and tournaments. The membership base is strong, said Brandt, with a large percentage of women. The fees were inexpensive (to me, at least for a course of this calibre) with under $3500 as initiation, and about the same for a full adult membership. The club is making some changes to encourage youth memberships as well, which was good to hear.
My favourite hole on the course was the par-3 12th. I say this in part because I knocked a 7-iron to two feet from 162 yards (#humblebrag) but also because the design of the hole was pleasing, despite it’s difficulty.
Brandt says that the new marketing tagline for the city is “Saskatoon is calling.” I’m a big fan of what it stands for, and what it will hopefully do for the city. If it’s Saskatoon G&CC calling for a return round, then I will surely answer.
In the morning I went to the opening round of the Dakota Dunes Open for a couple of hours. The big news of the day from a PGA Tour Canada perspective is that the previously cancelled ATB Financial Classic will be rescheduled for August 6-9. The tournament was cancelled in the midst of the Calgary flooding, but will return to the city next month. A great story all around.
I walked a few holes with Team Canada’s Justin Shin – who shot a 4-under 68 in his debut PGA Tour Canada round – with former Big Break PEI champion Derek Gillespie, and with PGA Tour Canada veteran Darren Griff. I also had a chance to see Mackenzie Hughes up close for the first time. Hughes, who qualified for the U.S. Open a few weeks ago, seemed to be in fine form.
Interestingly enough, after I took a photo of one of his tee shots, he called over to me, shook my hand, and introduced himself. What a beauty.
He was still wearing The Score logo on his shirt, so I’m meaning to ask if his sponsorship agreement with them is still in place.
Hughes was also given an exemption by Golf Canada into the RBC Canadian Open Thursday. A lot on the horizon for the native of Dundas, Ont.
Despite the forecast, tomorrow is the part of the trip I’m most looking forward to. In the morning, I’m off to the town of Kerrobert (pop: 1,000) for a round of golf of their local nine-hole course. It’s not much on the surface, but my Grandfather was born and raised there, and played on that exact course during the 1930s and 1940s. I’ll likely attend the afternoon round of the Dakota Dunes Open as well, to see who will be around on the weekend.