The revitalization of municipal golf is well underway in the United States. Projects like Winter Park, Charleston Municipal, West Palm Golf Park, Memorial Park, and forthcoming projects at Cobb’s Creek, East Potomac, and Rock Creek are an exciting prospect for not only residents of Orlando, Charleston, West Palm Beach, Houston, Philadelphia, and DC, but golf architecture fans.
With recent articles on Lakeview and Cooke Municipal on this website, as well as seeing Winter Park and Charleston Municipal last winter, it had my mind racing: which municipal golf courses in Canada would most benefit from an upgrade? Here are my selections, with a twist: I have included architects I think are best suited for the job, without any repeat selections and an all-Canadian roster.
Cedar Hill Golf Course — Victoria, British Columbia
At just 5100 yards par 67, Cedar Hill will never be like Memorial Park in Houston hosting the PGA Tour, but honestly, it is better that way. The gently rolling property lends itself to the prospect of creating a very unique way to enjoy golf in such a short dosage, but with a par 5 and 11 par 4’s, there is still enough variety to project a best-in-class experience. To me, projects like this are the most interesting… 5100 yards generally falls under the criticism of not being a “championship layout,” but the opportunity to change that narrative to create something sporty, enjoyable, and most importantly, fun is an opportunity to change the general outlook on smaller-scale golf.
Who should do the work? I think this is the perfect job for Jeff Mingay to showcase what he can do. He is well-known in Victoria, working at the namesake golf club of the city and Uplands, as well as numerous other Pacific Northwest designs. Jeff’s local expertise with soils, A.V. Macan and more would serve him well, but we would be most excited to see Jeff’s vision come to fruition with little boundaries.
Shaganappi Point Golf Course — Calgary, Alberta
Originally designed by Tom Bendelow, Shaganappi Point benefits from having one of the best properties in Canada. The golf course overlooks the Bow River and downtown Calgary, yet the golf couse does not mirror the potential here. Perhaps not a restoration candidate like Lakeview because most of the Bendelow is lost (and there is an argument if the Bendelow stuff is even worth looking to restore), but turning this property into a properly utilized golf course, capitalizing on the prairie landscape and views of Cow Town is something I can get on board with.
Shaganappi Point is likely the most aggressive renovation on this golf course, at least when you consider what is there and what could be there, so I am going with a bigger firm with the imagination to pull it off: I want to see Whitman, Axland, Cutten do it. After all, Rod Whitman is a born-and-raised Alberta boy, and knows the golf scene well with three of his own introductions: Wolf Creek x2, and Blackhawk. Having seen Algonquin and Brantford, I think they might be sneaky underrated on renovations because their bread and butter is new builds like Sagebrush and Cabot Links.
Canmore Golf & Curling Club — Canmore, Alberta
Down the river from Banff Springs, and often a great choice for budget golf trips to the area, Canmore Golf & Curling Club is an idyllic setting and already a pretty good golf course. Small revisions and updates could really put this on the map and the property could benefit greatly. This is already one of my favourite budget-friendly visits to the Rockies even with Les Furber’s butcher shop slicing this place up in spots, but with some slight modifications, this could be a true heavy-hitter in a very solid buddies trip location already.
This is an easy choice for me. Riley Johns, known for his work at Winter Park alongside Keith Rhebb, is local, living in Canmore. To me, this is a no-brainer. Get Riley Johns his big splash into Canada (other than 3 holes at Point Grey and helping Urbina at St. Charles restoration), and let him turn this into the best bang for your buck potentially in the country.
Fraserview Golf Course — Vancouver, British Columbia
This old A.V. Macan golf course has recent-ish touch ups from Thomas McBroom, but he did not exactly honour Macan’s original vision for this splendid property quite literally overlooking the Fraser Valley. The land here is quite exceptional, gently falling towards the valley that provides everything necessary for great golf: downhill, uphill, side hill, and a whole array of combinations. Additionally, some beautiful arroyo-esque valley’s run through the property to create some drama.
One would assume Jeff Mingay would be the guy to call for Fraserview given his international track record with A.V. Macan, but McBroom’s heavy-hand has taken out most of Macan’s greens, and from there, the layout is merely salvageable from a tee-to-green standpoint (once you lose greens, you can never truly get them back). Instead, I am going with an up-and-coming solo architect who has established himself as a go-to Coore & Crenshaw shaper: Trev Dormer. Dormer’s work at Purcell seems interesting, and when partnering with Dan Philcox like he did at Rosetown (SK), I would be very intrigued by this combo on such a great piece of land with historical pedigree.
Humber Valley Golf Course — Toronto, Ontario
I have had the pleasure of playing Humber Valley numerous times since moving to Toronto in 2019, and there is some very interesting stuff to be found through the overgrown trees and shaggy fairways. What I think Humber Valley needs, however, is not a full 18 hole renovation, but a combination of repurposed land and some interesting golf to remain. Let me explain. Nine holes stay, preferably the holes down near the Humber River, which includes the excellent 15th-17th and likely the 14th, though it needs some width, and those holes become reimagined a la Winter Park. The rest of the property is repurposed with a Top Golf or something alike, with some disc golf in the remaining land and some walking trails for the general public. The City of Toronto is already fighting battles about their municipal golf, and some form of compromise could be useful for golf’s longevity in Canada’s biggest urban centre.
Who has the vision for this? Canada’s architect’s have not exactly gotten the chance to explore such creativity, often being pigeonholed into subtle renovations over long periods of time. I am going with Alex Hay and Oliver Tubb of LOBB + PARTNERS, who established the BC office of the UK-based firm in 2017. Young, aggressive, and fresh perspectives often mix well with unique, out-of-the-box projects, and I think this could mess well.
Which municipal golf courses in Canada do you want to see evolve?