Saturday, December 27, 2014

Ho Ho Ho!

Well, there is no sense beating around the bush - this has not been a banner year for yours truly as administrator of this blog.

Seven lonely, pathetic posts thus far in 2014.

Life has definitely changed (for the better) since I started this blog many years ago as a single man without children but there is no question I'm in a place where finding free time to write has become more and more difficult. But that's not what you've come here to read...that is, if you are still checking in on the site in the first place!

So, how about a quick update?

Some November snowstorms ended the golf season in Niagara a bit earlier than normal but as usual, it didn't affect me at all, as I continued my practice of hanging the clubs up for good on Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.

On Monday October 13th, I made birdie on the 18th hole at St. Catharines G&CC, my home course, to finish out the year in style. This final round was part of the fourth annual "Turkey Two Ball Invitational", which would be the signature event that I run for a group of low handicappers at my club.

I chose my buddy Bucky to be my partner a few days earlier at the draft party we run for the event but we would just finish outside the money positions, crowning new champions in Brad Graham and Willie Ormerod. They'll get the chance to return to defend their title in 2015 and everyone else will be thrown back into the draft pool. I'm already looking forward to next year's tournament.

Since that final round, I've been curling two nights a week and have put my "hockey dad" hat on, as my six year old is in his second year of tyke. Adding to the fun is the fact that I'm now on the ice with him during Saturday practices and behind the bench on Sunday mornings for his games, after being asked to join the coaching staff! I recently earned my Hockey Canada trainers certification and am finishing off a couple of other mandatory courses and I must say, it's absolutely the highlight of my week to be out there helping 13 wonderful kids learn about the game.

That said, there are plenty of things to look forward to next year on the golf course and I'll write about some of them next week in my annual "Year in Review" post. I've got two trips tentatively planned for the first quarter of the year and I'm very excited about both - I just hope I can pull them both off.

There is also plenty to look forward to at my home club, as our shareholders recently voted in favour of making many improvements to both our golf course and the clubhouse.

While I wasn't necessarily a fan of ALL of the changes/additions, it was delivered to the shareholders as an all-or-nothing proposition and ultimately, I felt that we needed to act on this proposal to position our club as an attractive option not only for those that play golf, but their families as well.

Here's a quick rundown of the work we're doing, along with some photos of the work-in-progress:

Fitness Facility

We're converting our "19th Hole" men's bar in a full membership fitness facility, with state-of-the-art equipment, training programs and all the other bells and whistles.

The 19th hole was a relic from the past, a little-used area that once was a hub of activity at the club. Changes to smoking bylaws would eventually force cigar and cigarette smokers outside to our patio and the 19th hole simply wasn't needed anymore. I'm a bit skeptical about changing it to a fitness facility but hope the powers that be are right about attracting families looking for an all-in-one facility that we will now be able to provide to members.

Estimated completion date: Early February 2015

A look at the 19th Hole bar as it's about to be removed

A more recent photo, with the old 19th Hole essentially gutted. The room is being converted into a full 2000 square foot fitness centre; walls have come down, new windows have been installed and new lighting, A/V equipment and fitness equipment will arrive soon

New Central Bar

Now that the 19th Hole is gone, the club realized that the existing main bar needed to be expanded and relocated.

Construction will soon begin on a new central bar, located right in the main dining room overlooking the 18th hole. The current main bar will be taken out and more tables will be added for casual dining. There will also be a wall built to separate the new central bar from the current curling lounge, which will also transform into a "member lounge" as part of these improvements. There will be new flooring, new furniture, bar stools and an upgraded A/V system.

Estimated completion date: Mid February 2015

Patio Expansion

Our patio overlooking the 18th green is being expanded and will approximately double the seating capacity. The new patio will contain two gas fire pits, brand new furniture, a cooking grotto, handicap access and a retractable Pergolino awning. It should be a pretty cool spot to hang out after rounds and even into the evenings.

Estimated completion date: Early January 2015


A couple of photos taken early on in the construction phase of the new expanded patio

Most of the patio work has now been completed, with final detail work required along with adding a retaining wall and glass railing

New Pro Shop

In early January, construction will begin on a brand new pro shop, which will be located right behind the first tee where our small practice putting green currently sits. The 1500 square foot facility will have a full basement for storage, mens and ladies washrooms, a drinking fountain and will allow the club much better control over both the 1st and 10th tees as well as all practice facilities. Our bag drop area becomes centralized both for members and guests and there will be staging areas both for bags and golf carts.

Estimated completion date: May 2015


The new pro shop will be built in this area, essentially on top of the small putting green; there will also be some new paving in front of the pro shop to facilitate a proper bag drop area

Golf Simulator Room

The old pro shop is currently being gutted and will be transformed into an all-season golf simulator room, with two state-of-the-art Trackman systems. This will allow members to not only work on their game with our club professionals, getting all of the most accurate ball flight data available but members will also have the option of playing rounds of golf on the system, with a large number of the most famous courses in the world available to play at a moment's notice. The Trackman system is easily portable and will often be used on the driving range as well by our professional staff while giving lessons. I'm under the impression that we will be the only facility in the Niagara Region with Trackman units.

Estimated completion date: Mid-to-Late February 2015

Our old, cramped pro shop

The old pro shop with all of the gear taken out

Walls have been taken down and there is more to come, as we look to add more space for the simulator facility

Locker Room Upgrades

The men's locker room is being completely refurbished, with new wood lockers, new carpeting and paint, upgraded individual shower facilities, a brand new card room with HDTV and controlled access doors. There will also be new flooring added to our administrative offices, the pool change rooms, the women's locker room and some touchups in the Junior boys locker room.

Estimated completion date: February 2015


A look at the old metal lockers before they were removed

The gutted men's locker room, with all of the old, antiquated metal lockers removed; this photo was taken from the same spot as the photo above it

Course Improvements

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, are improvements being made to the golf course. We're rebuilding and realigning our tee decks on #4 and #8, with the work on the par three 4th being most notable. We will take down most of the trees that line the hillside down the entire right side of the hole, showcasing this interesting land while opening things up so the hole plays the way it was intended, kind of like a reverse redan.


Two photos of the work on the par three fourth hole; the tees have since been sodded and the only work remaining on this hole is to remove a few more trees down the right side

The rebuilt and realigned 8th tee; again, like the 4th, the sod work was completed in late October and this hole will be ready for play upon reopening

We are also rebuilding and enlarging our green tee decks (senior women tees) on #1, #6 and #13.

The new green deck on the first hole, prior to sodding

The biggest project was completing all of the work on the par four 2nd hole, according to the club's Master Plan. Architect Ian Andrew came down in early October to help locate the two new greenside bunkers, a year after we built a new carry bunker in the fairway. The strategy of the hole is now fully realized and all of this work was completed in house in late October.

The Master Plan for our second hole, as designed by golf course architect Ian Andrew


Construction from 2013 on a new fairway bunker

The completed fairway bunker, which was in play for the first time in 2014


St. Catharines G&CC course superintendant Dennis Piccolo (left) and golf course architect Ian Andrew (right) laying out the new greenside bunkers during an early October walkthrough

A look at the completed work in November 2014

There will also be extensive work done to cart paths throughout the course, with most of that work taking place in the spring.

It's an exciting time to be a member at St. Catharines and I'm very much looking forward to seeing some positive change as we move into 2015!