Glen Abbey's traffic cop

KEN FIDLIN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:20 AM ET

OAKVILLE -- Return visitors to Glen Abbey Golf Club this week, both players and fans, may find themselves a wee bit disoriented until they get their bearings.

For this, the 100th Canadian Open -- and 25th at the Abbey -- the routing of the golf course has been radically altered on the front nine.

For the better, we might add.

The opening holes have always seemed awkwardly linked, creating traffic jams outside the ropes and some consternation inside them.

The 200-yard disconnect between the old ninth green and the 10th tee always was a glaring flaw, especially when large galleries were following key pairings around the course. Likewise, the long trek from the practice area to the first tee, right through the main spectator thoroughfare always has been a logistical weak spot.

No more.

Essentially, the traffic problems have been solved by starting the golf course at the old fourth tee box, which happens to be just steps away from the practice area.

So, the old fourth becomes No. 1, No. 5 becomes No. 2, No. 6 becomes No. 3, and so on, until you get to the old ninth green, now No. 6. From there, the players head for what used to be the par-3 third hole, now No. 7.

From the new seventh green, it's just a short walk back around the pond to what everyone will remember as the old No. 1 tee, now No. 8, which plays to a green just inside the Abbey's front gate.

The old second hole, heading back to a green just in front of the clubhouse, becomes the final hole of the outward nine. Coincidentally, that No. 9 green is just a few steps from the 10th tee. The solution was so simple, you have to wonder why nobody figured it out a long time ago.

Truth is, tournament director Bill Paul had it figured out years back.

"When the RCGA owned the golf course, they wouldn't let me do it," he said. "They said that if I did it for the tournament, they would have to leave it that way. And they just didn't want to do it.

"To me, it makes a lot of sense."

Last year, after witnessing all kinds of congestion problems on the holes near the clubhouse, Paul presented the new routing plan to a sampling of 24 players and, to a man, they saw the merit of his blueprint.

The back nine routing remains the same.

The only change there is that the 16th, which, over Glen Abbey's history, has gone from being a par-4 to a par-5 to a par-4, and now is back to being a short par-5. It's a scoring hole that could have major implications as the tournament progresses.

"We've gotten a lot of positive feedback from the players on that change," Paul said. "From our perspective, it's just a matter of adding some excitement to the finishing holes. I've gone over the statistics from the past few years, and I think it's going to add something to the event."

As is the case with most golf courses, Glen Abbey's 7,253-yard layout has slowly yielded to technology over the years. Last year's Open stroke average of 70.83 is the lowest ever at the Abbey, helped along by monsoon conditions that forced tournament officials to allow lift-clean-and-place most of the weekend.

Course superintendent Scott Bowman, who had been in charge for only a few months when the Open was played here last year, says he remembers almost nothing about last year's tournament.

"It started raining on Sunday (before the tournament) and never stopped. We were in survival mode," he said.

Until the skies opened up yesterday afternoon, the golf course had been firming up under relatively dry conditions. With more weather in the forecast later this week, Bowman's staff could be challenged once again.

And so could the galleries. You'd best bring some waterproof footwear, an umbrella and, most importantly, an updated course map.


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