Lush Shaughnessy Course knows no favourites

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- If golf course design is an art form, then this Canadian Open is to be played on an agronomist's version of the Mona Lisa.

Not only is Shaughnessy Golf Club blessed with a lush, magical setting -- ocean views on one side, mountains on the other -- it is a stunningly durable test of golf, immune to the vagaries of technology.

"I love this," Jesper Parnevik said. "It just shows you that today's architects are pretty sad. They're building golf courses that are approaching 8,000 yards and it takes 15-under to win. Then we get these old traditional courses and no one can break par."

After he played a practice round here this past spring, Mike Weir spent his summer singing Shaughnessy's praises to anyone who would listen on the PGA Tour. The fact so few of the top players chose to come to the left coast -- most citing inconvenience -- is their loss.

"I think we can learn a lot from the setup of Ancaster (in 2003) and the setup of this course; how to make challenging golf courses without adding 50 yards every hole," Weir said.

"You can play a 6,800-yard course like Ancaster or this course at 7,000 yards and it is going to be as tough as anything at 7,600 yards."

What Weir didn't say is that Shaughnessy, at 7,000 yards, permits a true shotmaker to win as opposed to favouring the grip-it-and-rip-it crowd.

"I wish we could play a course like this every week," John Cook said. "So much of the game has been lost because kids get up today and just bomb it.

There are several equalizers that make Shaughnessy, the crowning glory of West Coast architect A.V. McCann, such a fair test. Few of the holes are dead straight, for example. The subtle doglegs make it dangerous for long hitters to let out shaft if they're going to hit it through the fairway into the penal six-inch rough.

This being a seaside course, perfect for growing lush grass, the rough is not only long but it is tangled and juicy and, in places, inconsistent. No two shots out of the rough are going to react the same.

And if the rough doesn't get you, the trees will. Virtually every fairway is lined with 60-foot-tall trees, both evergreens and deciduous that create even more incentive to hit the ball straight.

"The beauty of this course is that it doesn't favour anybody," Canadian Ian Leggatt of Cambridge said.

"There are some really long holes out here but it doesn't necessarily favour a long hitter because the fairways pinch in and the corners run out.

"In that way, Loren Roberts or Fred Funk can hit their normally straight, short drives and be in the same place as Vijay (Singh) who would have to hit a 2-iron. Some weeks (Roberts and Funk) are giving up 50 or 60 yards to the longer hitters.

"That's why I think we might see a straight, short hitter who has a really nice short game win this week."

Since he is the highest-profile player in the field, Singh is the guy everybody mentions when they talk about the advantage that big hitters have most weeks.

Yet, even he has a powerful appreciation of what Shaughnessy is going to demand of everyone in the field.

"This is not a short golf course by any means," Singh said. "It has a lot of long holes and it's tight. It is probably one of the best courses we'll play all year; very demanding off the tees, small greens, incredible condition. Par is a good score on every hole. I'm just glad I'm here to play this thing."

The reaction of virtually all the players in the field should be food for thought for the one-track minds who can't seem to come up with any fresh answers to the problems that technology has created for many golf courses.

Instead of just creating more and more monster courses, architects should take a long, hard look at many of the traditional layouts that demand shotmaking, not just length.

Not every golf course can be placed on a breathtaking piece of ground such as Shaughnessy. But no matter the setting, there's no need to put length ahead of shotmaking. You'll see the proof of that this weekend.


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