Story by Pat Payton | St. Marys Independent Newspaper
There are big changes coming to the par 4, No. 9 hole at the St. Marys Golf and Country Club this fall.
With the vision of Rob Cuncic, of RC Golf Works, the St. Marys Golf Team has developed a plan for a full renovation to the No. 9 fairway and greenside.
“The major reason is that we envision this hole being one of our signature holes,” Brandon De Groote, Director of Golf at St. Marys G&CC, told the Independent recently. “It’s visible from the road and should attract people. It’s an important hole on the course, coming up to the clubhouse. We want to make it one of the holes that you remember from your golf round.”
The plan is to give golfers a full view of the green when they hit their approach shots.
“The view from the tee blocks will be a little bit different, but the biggest difference will be the golfer’s second shot,” De Groote says. “Rather than hitting up the hill with a blind view (towards the green), you will be able to see the front of the green. The intent is to make the hole more picturesque than what it is now.”
It’s the biggest hole renovation at the golf club since the No. 8 hole was revamped (and the green moved) several years ago.
Three phases to project
Work on No. 9 is slated to begin in the fall and take about a month to complete. The project has been divided into three phases.
“Basically, they (RC Golf Works) are going to be stripping that fairway from the 120-yard mark right up to the front of the green,” the Director of Golf explains. “They're going to be taking fill off the fairway and moving it greenside.”
A tall berm will be built at the back of the No. 9 green, and golfers will see a lot more undulations and mounding in the fairway.
“The idea is that golfers will not be able to see the parking lot from their approach shot,” De Groote says. “The berm is going to armchair around the green. You won't have that vision of the cars in the parking lot in the golfer’s sightline.”
Bunkers will be removed from around the No. 9 green and a new fairway bunker will be placed along the right side of the fairway–about 125 yards out from the green.
Phase 2 of the golf course renovation project will include building up and widening the back-tee on No. 6, more commonly known as the Blue tees (or ‘the tips’ to golfers).
Phase 3 will include putting the “finishing touches” on the back berm on No. 9 and seeding and sodding the fairway. “It will be a mixture of both,” De Groote says.
The plan is to have a temporary green installed on No. 9, from late September to the spring of 2023. “It will make it a driveable par 4,” he said. “It will be located on top of the plateau, just below where the hole is being renovated.”
Very familiar with the course
Cuncic and RC Golf Works are very familiar with the St. Marys Golf Club, having done other recent renovation work at the course.
“I’ve been working there every year for about four or five years,” Cuncic said in an interview with the newspaper. “We kind of came up with a master plan and identified all of the most crucial areas where the golf course is concerned. It’s a great golf course that hadn’t really been worked on infrastructure-wise for quite some time.
“We started with the worst bunkers on the golf course and a bunch of drainage. We did extensive drainage on the No. 6 hole about 18 months ago, and it’s worked out very well. In the future, we must do more drainage on that fairway, to alleviate the effects of continuous rainfall.”
Cuncic says his company does five to seven-year plans at golf courses, starting with a “strategy” target.
He says talk of doing the No. 9 project started when the course lost the (infamous) big tree behind the hole.
“We want to create a unique green environment, and also try and save the existing green that is there,” Cuncic explains.” We’re going to fill the bunkers in and build mounding behind the green to protect the parking lot. And the entire area around the green will be lowered.”
The tee-blocks on No. 9 will not be altered in any way, he said.
Cuncic’s company is based in Mount Elgin, located between Ingersoll and Tillsonburg.
“I service about 35 different golf courses in (southwestern Ontario), anywhere from the GTA to Windsor,” he says. “Everything we’ve done in St. Marys has been very well received. We’re excited about the new project there.”