The gift of the accomplished golf course architect is to see possibility where others cannot.
An overgrown, unused corner of the course which members might have passed by for years without a thought hides the potential of an attractive place for skill improvement and a gathering place for members of all ages.
Such is the case with Ian Andrew, Rideau View's consulting architect, as he guides the club through its comprehensive upgrade to its practice facilities. Andrew put down his can of spray paint and took a break from fine tuning and marking the final grading of the new practice green to look out over the range. Bulldozers worked back and forth shaping the landing area. About 400 yards away, the flag waved on the 11th green, now visible after the ash trees, irreparably damaged by insects, were removed. The trees had marked the boundary of the old range.
Their removal and the rest of the underbrush to the left of the 10th green and the 11th tee opened up the area for a 60-yard wide grass tee (beginning about 310 yards from the west tee) and - given the scope of the cleanup - revealed an area where three practice greens of varying size (about an average of 20 yards in diameter) and design will be created.
"There's a lot more room in the back for a short game facility than it initially appeared. We cleared out a lot more than I initially suggested. It created more space and more opportunities," Andrew said.
"There are definitely good spots for two of the greens. The idea is to add a smaller one that goes together with them and then it creates a little three hole course. It also gives some flexibility on chipping and pitching. We can have a smaller one that is for bump-and-run shots and then the two pitch greens will have a little more body to them.
"The far green will have a false front and the one closest to the driving range will have a couple of bunkers." The bunkers will be placed so both can be used to practice green side shots with one being oriented so fairway bunker shots can also be practiced.
The reality is golf has evolved into very different experiences for people. Everybody has a favourite experience and Rideau View's new practice facility, in Andrew's view, will afford more options for more people, especially families.
There are always going to be players who want to play 18 holes; that remains the core golf experience. But with greater demands on time and at home for fathers and mothers, having more "time compact" golf experiences that can be shared with their kids are must-have options for today's modern golf club.
Rideau View's new practice facility will increase those options for its membership.
"For me, I'm also a player," Andrew said. "I actually spent more days at the chipping facility at the last club I was a member at, than I did playing the golf course. For a lot of people who don't have time - which is unlike this year - most of the time you are trying to get the most out of the facility you can. Often it's hitting balls. If I was a member at Rideau View, I could spend time down there on my own or with my kids. We could play for an hour and that works out well as a family.
There's likely enough room at the far end of the range for players to practice shots up to 80 yards in length, Andrew said.
In conjunction with the upgrading of the range, there are also modifications to the 10th and 12th holes to direct play away from the practice area and increase safety for the membership.
The move of the bunker on 12 from the right to the left side and the clearing of some trees and placement of a bunker on 10 will lessen the risk of danger from wayward range balls and increase the strategic quality of both holes.
"I have placed the trouble on the inside corner on both. If you are going to try and attack the hole you have to take on the bunkers," Andrew said. "What I am also doing by taking the trees out on the right of 10, it takes your eye and your mind farther right away from the range to a much more aggressive line. It becomes an opportunity which is hard to resist. It gets you away from the range.
"On 12, the bunker is definitely there to steer you to the right. We have now opened up the fairway which has a lot more contour on that side which will be much more attractive. It has also given you the ability to play well right, well safe from the bunker but safely away from the range, too. We're trying to move play out (away from the range), but also trying to make the holes more strategic."
The removal of trees to the right of the fairway on No. 10 has made the green visible from the tee. That's going to get a player's mind turning on the tee.
"They call it 'The Line of Desire.' If you can see a target, even if there are multiple shots to get there, if you see a target, you are drawn to that line," Andrew said. "The idea is to put hazards in the way of that Line of Desire to create what is known as the Line of Charm, which is the ideal way to play the hole."
The distance to carry the bunker on No. 10 will be approximately 300 yards from the black tee, 277 from the blue, 270 from the white, 245 from the green and 230 from red/gold.
"As architects we tend to put complications in the way to make you think and judge. The idea of the bunker there is not to stop somebody from trying to go over it; the idea is to make them think twice about it," Andrew said. "Most players will play short. Most of the longer players are really going to have to deal with it and the occasional person is going to be able to hit it comfortably by on a downwind day and that's okay ... we're not here to play defence."
Work continues on both the range and the east practice area with sod and seed to be installed over the coming weeks.