Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Rock #1 New Course in Canada?

Though I haven't seen it yet, apparently The Rock in Muskoka has won Golf Digest's Best New Course in Canada.
This is incredible for a number of reasons. Mainly, it is remarkable for the course that didn't win -- Rod Whitman's Blackhawk . But first, let's talk about The Rock.
I've seen the course several times, including a preview in late 2003 and again at the media opening with Nick Faldo (who shot 73 on his round there) in June.
The story behind the project is that a developer decided Muskoka, which is overbuilt, needed yet another golf course. He hired David Moote, an architect used to mainly working on low-budget projects. He routed the course, despite several problems, mainly with water-related issues. It seems residents of cottages near the course site were concerned about water quality. To placate them, the developers decided it would be necessary to put in a series of holding ponds. The problem was, given the limited land to build the course, the ponds are almost always in play and not in a good way.
Once the Mariott hotel chain became involved with the project, Moote was cast aside and Nick Faldo, and IMG in-house designer Brit Stenson, were hired. However, given time limitations and zoning, Moote's routing had to be used. The routing made many of the holes very tight and very difficult.
The best, like the lengthy par five 9th and the short, but interesting 11th, are still terrific, despite the routing issues. The worst, like the truly awful third hole, are difficult and not particularly fun to play. It is a damning combination.
All of this makes The Rock's win over Blackhawk (which I've written about extensively in an article elsewhere on this blog) that much more astounding. Blackhawk is a throwback to classic Canadian designs. It is a clever, nuanced design that time will be very kind to. I'm not sure the same can be said for The Rock.

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