RIDEAU VIEW GOLF CLUB - OTTAWA'S PREMIER PRIVATE GOLF EXPERIENCE.
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When it comes to trees on a golf course, architect Ian Andrew's bark is as firm his bite.
Andrew is the consulting architect at the Rideau View Golf Club and, working with the club's Course Operations Committee (COC), has undertaken some tree management for the long-term improvement of the course's appearance, playability and quality of the turf.
Most noticeable at this time, is the removal of the stand of cedars between the third green and the fourth tee as part of improvements, principally to the par-3 fourth hole.
Andrew has carved a strong reputation as a top restorative architect with his work at Top 100 courses like St. George's Golf and Country Club and Highlands Links, among the 22 Stanley Thompson courses on which he has worked.
"The best description I can give is trees are supposed to be the setting, not the stage," said Andrew. "The stage is the turf and the playing field. The trees are supposed to be the accent, on the outside.
"One of the things that has to change here is you've done a lot of planting to try and beautify, or create tree lines or create a parkland setting. The problem is a lot of those trees were placed too close and have now had a chance to grow enough that they are becoming a factor.
"You really shouldn't see a tree within 20 yards of a fairway edge. That kind of gives you a rough idea. If you walked around you would see a lot of stuff inside that line."
In the area of the fourth tee, Andrew said the cedars were preventing an opportunity to enjoy the natural benefits of Rideau View's setting.
The area of the fourth tee is one of the higher points on the front nine, but the cedars were blocking the view back down the third hole and towards the fourth and fifth holes.
"It's a beautiful property and the more trees you've got the less you see of it. The more you open it up the more you can see that the land moves out here quite a bit and that's one of the features and it was kind of lost in the trees for a while. Now it's not," he said.
"Part of it is just to see the crown in the land that occurs in that location. Cedars are not exactly a good golf course tree because you can end up without a shot but also with an unplayable lie and it can take multiple drops to get out from underneath a cedar. You try to avoid cedars. They also inhibit air flow. For healthy turf you need sunlight and you need air flow and one of the greatest hinderances is cedars because they essentially stop airflow. They're like doorstops."
Fescue will be planted behind the third green. Grass waving in the breeze is one of the pleasant sights on a golf course, particularly when it is positioned to menace only a particularly miserable shot.
The hill between the green and tee on No. 4 has also been reduced, allowing a fuller view of the green.
Who doesn't like to hit a good shot and be able to see it finish near the hole?
"It's more about seeing and enjoying shots," said Andrew. "It is a nice setting once you get over the hill and this way you can see it from the tee because you really want to enjoy it from the tee. It's a nice little drop shot, but with the hill it kind of blocked your view."
Andrew has suggested the removal of several other trees including the cedars between the 10th and 18th fairways just off the 10th tee.
He also recommended the expansion of chipping areas around a majority of greens. Closely-mown chipping areas give the player more options and get the player more involved in the game, said Andrew.
"If you've got options then it's an entertaining round of golf," said Andrew. "For the really good players, I like the fact by not having rough around the greens, it allows the ball to get away a little bit on them. If they are overly aggressive, they can find themselves in some terrible places to recover from. That's going to cost them shots by overplaying their hand.
"It's very subtle. It doesn't look penal, but sometimes those runoff areas can lead to some bad spots and some bad situations.
"It's how you can subtly get at their games."
As Rideau View continues to mature as one of Canada's top golf courses, Andrew is recommending less is more.
"The golf course is really good. It's time to focus on the accents now," he said. "The routing is there. The green sites are there. All you're trying to do is show case a little bit more of what you've got by having a little less around it.
"It's like having a room that is cluttered and all you are doing is removing the clutter from the room so you can enjoy the space."