Story by Pat Payton | St. Marys Independent newspaper
Probably the biggest change in 2019 is where golfers will begin their round. The old nine is now the front nine, and the former front nine is now the final nine holes.
In a recent interview with the Independent, St. Marys Golf President and General Manager Matt Staffen explained why the significant change was made.
“We’ve gone back to the original nine from 1931 (the year the course opened),” Staffen said. “Back in 1993 when we officially opened the new nine, we made it the front nine. This year, we decided to switch it back for a number of positive reasons.
“The biggest reason is that golfers are able to hit the big stick (the driver) on the first hole (called 'The Rock'). It’s a great starting hole and the traditional starting hole, with the Rock (in the middle of the fairway). It’s a beautiful view, right off the tee block.
“The new Number 10 hole (formerly No. 1) is a truly unique hole, but maybe not the best starting hole. You’re hitting irons right off the start, and you have to cross a river (with your approach shot). It can hurt your score right off the bat as I’m sure that we’ve all hit balls into Trout Creek.”
Close vicinity to the clubhouse for convenience and emergencies was another reason for the new starting hole, Staffen said.
The Club President said the change back to the “traditional starting nine” had been discussed for a number of years. The final decision to make the switch was made in late January of this year.
“We talked about it all winter,” he said. “It’s been a suggestion by a number of members and we’ve had really good feedback on it. The ownership sat down at a directors’ meeting and reviewed all the positives that it brought out. We looked at the pros and cons, and the positives out-weighed the cons considerably to make the switch back to the first nine holes that people will play.”
The announcement from the golf club was officially made at the members’ dinner in late March.
All the holes have also been re-named. “They basically just all switched,” Staffen says. “The best way to put it is, just add nine holes or subtract nine holes.” For instance, the old No. 7 hole was called Amen Corner. It’s now the name on the sign on No. 16.
There are also a couple of brand new names. The new No. 14 hole (formerly No. 5) is called ‘Straight Away’ and the new No. 15 hole (formerly No. 6) is called ‘Just Not Right.’
The names for No. 14 and No. 15 were submitted by members and were nominated through a member vote, the President noted.
Last year, the golf club did sand trap upgrades on holes No. 2, 8 and 10 (now No. 11, 17 and 1). In addition to new bunkers, sand and drainage were also added behind the new No. 1 hole.
“We also removed some trees on that hole to allow for the grass to grow healthier on the green and to allow more playable drives,” Staffen said. “It has really changed the dynamic of that hole, and the feedback about the changes to No. 1 has been incredible. People are really excited about the changes there.”
This summer, upgrades are planned for bunkers on No. 3, 6 and 12.
“We’re investing more money into the golf course and into sand traps,” the President said. “For No. 3 and No. 6, we are going to rebuild the bunkers back to their original size, put new drainage in and add new, softer sand. It’s much better to hit out of as a player knows what to expect.
“This is year three of our bunker renovation plan at the course.”
Next year, there will be “drastic changes” made to another hole, but that “big announcement” will be made at a later date, the President said. This will complete the bunker overhaul at St. Marys Golf & Country Club.
--Staffen says the St. Marys Golf & Country Club is adding five new Yamaha golf carts this spring.
--The golf course has also introduced a new loyalty rewards program, called SM Golf Rewards. “In Canada, we love rewards points,” the president says. “It’s a big part of our spending habits. We decided to introduce it at the golf course. Customers will get a minimum of four percent back on all their purchases. Any purchase, all earn customer points. It’s one of our biggest announcements this year for sure.”
--Staffen notes that the Club’s Junior program continues to grow, with over 60 youngsters signed up already. The Club’s Junior golf team will also be competing for the third summer in the Junior Golf League of Huron-Perth. It features Juniors from six area golf courses playing against each other.
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London native Len Foran, a long-time junior golf instructor and Ryder Cup player at the St. Marys Golf & Country Club has passed away.
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