Canadian golf course architect Jeff Mingay may not have the same name recognition as Alister MacKenzie, Donald Ross or the legendary Stanley Thompson, but give him time. He just turned 40 this year.
Born and raised in Windsor, Ont., Mingay’s passion, some might even say, obsession, for his chosen career has helped him carve a niche in a profession that demands excellence and shuns mediocrity.
His star has certainly been on the rise, having worked on high-profile projects such as Cabot Links (ranked as one of the best courses in the world by Golf and Golf Digest magazines), Sagebush Golf and Sporting Club, The Derrick Club, and most recently, the Victoria Golf Club.
Canadian Groundskeeper sat down with the up-and-coming architect to discuss his passion for design, his proudest achievements thus far, and what it is like to be away from your family 200 days a year.
A greenside bunker under construction at the 418-m (457-y), par-four 12th hole in May 2013. Photo courtesy Jeff Mingay
By Jeff Mingay
Tastes in golf course architecture are subjective. There will inevitably be a hole (or three) at the new Derrick Club course some golfers will consider too difficult, and, of course, a few others will criticize as being too easy. There is no way to stop this, as people are always going to have different opinions on golf holes (and courses). However, this is a good thing—without criticism, an art form like course design cannot advance and flourish.
The inevitable criticism of certain holes and specific features at the new course will not bother me when all 18 holes open for play in the summer of 2015. However, I will be disappointed if the new course does not genuinely provide golfers with a sense of place that clearly suggests there is indeed only one Derrick Club.
Non-indigenous plantings are too often used to try to screen views of outbuildings on golf courses. Here, at this unnamed course, formal cedars and other ornamental plants actually draw added attention to the pump house they are trying to ‘hide’ behind the 18th green. Photo courtesy Jeff Mingay
By Jeff Mingay
Pump houses, restrooms, rain shelters, halfway houses, and other outbuildings are necessary at most golf facilities. Their appearance is also very important to the overall presentation of any course. At the Derrick Club, the existing pump house is highly visible, but not very attractive. It is located immediately adjacent to the teeing area at the new par-three 16th hole and cannot be moved for practical reasons. In its present condition, this pump house detracts from one of the most beautiful areas on the new course, where holes 15 through 17 are routed around a small lake and long views abound.
At too many golf courses, landscape materials are used in an attempt to screen the view of unsightly outbuildings. However, such plantings usually draw more attention to the structures they are trying to hide. Instead of planting around the pump house at the Derrick Club, the existing building’s exterior is being refashioned with cedar siding and a new roof. A matching wooden fence will also be erected around its south side to hide an existing transformer. All other outbuildings, including new restrooms and rain shelters, will be styled in similar fashion to match the appearance of the pump house.
Golfers feel this sense of ‘place’ at all of the world’s best courses, which are all incredibly distinct. The great courses of the world are my inspiration. Creating a sense of place is a very important element in golf course design that stems not only from course architecture, but also its eventual presentation. For example, take the wicker baskets at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. These distinctive accessories greatly enhance that revered course’s distinctiveness. So, too, do the tattered red pennants on the flagsticks at Los Angeles Country Club in California. By comparison, too many golf courses seem to put little thought into using distinctive course accessories. Flagsticks, ball washers, and garbage cans are frequently the same at different courses.
With golfers scheduled to begin playing the 10 new holes at the Derrick Club this summer (the first through third and 12th through 18th holes), there is a lot to think about and consider over the coming months relative to how the new course will be presented. My advice to the club thus far is simply the new course’s presentation must match its architecture, which is purposely subdued and old-fashioned. In fact, one of the principles guiding the design work at the Derrick Club is to only build features actually necessary to create an interesting, beautiful, and distinctive golf course. The same principle needs to guide the selection of tee markers, flags, benches, and other accessories.
This bunker at the front right of the green at the short par-four first hole illustrates the distinctive, old-fashioned style of the sand hazards at the new Derrick Club course in Edmonton. Photo courtesy Jeff Mingay
By Jeff Mingay
During phase one of the complete rebuild of the Derrick Golf and Winter Club’s half-century-old course in Edmonton, 10 new holes were completed between early May and late September of 2013. Club members will be able to play these new holes this summer while the remaining eight holes and new practice areas are completed in the project’s second phase.
These new holes are distinctive in the Edmonton golf market. The new Derrick Club course features a collection of grass-face bunkers designed to appear ‘old-fashioned’ and located to be in the way of golfers. Most of them jut into the direct line of play from tee to green as opposed to being peripheral. Fairway widths at the Derrick have also doubled, so there is plenty of room to play around these new hazards. There is also an abundance of short grass around most of the new greens, which not only assist with presenting a distinctive looking course, but also add to the diversity and interest of recovery play throughout the course.
Golf is a game that ideally requires open space, and members who have toured the 10 new holes have been most impressed with how much more spacious the club’s property looks and feels. The club’s old course featured incredibly narrow fairways constricted by trees at most holes. It was too cramped, and there was not a single long view to admire and enjoy on the property. By re-routing parts of the course and removing some 500 trees during the first phase of this project, the club’s 59-ha (146-acre) property now provides plenty of room for a 6126-m (6700-y) golf course. Room was found for a short game practice area, featuring a three-hole loop of 27 to 45-m (30 to 50-y) holes, where the old fifth fairway resided.