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Weir Has Designs On A Course-Design Career

Mike Weir’s priority is definitely finding his game again, but he also has designs on developing another side of his golfing life. The 2003 Masters champion has been interested in course architecture for a long time, and he formed a design company a couple of years ago with his partner Ian Andrew, of Brantford, Ont. It was announced on June 27 that Andrew and he would revamp – effectively redo – the Blue course at Laval-sur-le-Lac Golf Club near Montreal.
The job was a long time coming, or at least being announced, in a difficult economy. The folks at Laval took forever to make the official announcement, given that news of Weir’s and Andrew’s work there had leaked out last winter. The club had voted on and approved the project in September. Remi Racine, the man who led the way for the club, said in January, “It’s going to happen.” The contract between the club and Weir Golf Design hadn’t been signed at that point.
The business concluded, the club finally made the arrangement official. Weir and Andrew can get moving on turning the course into a playable and challenging layout for members and, perhaps, Tour pros. That’s never an easy task, and it’s usually honoured more in the verbiage that comes with announcements than the actual result when the work is done.
Andrew has developed a reputation as a restoration, renovation and revamping specialist. He worked on the St. George’s Golf and Country Club in Toronto, which hosted the 2010 RBC Canadian Open. He’s charged with and has been spending copious amounts of time on the Highlands Links in Cape Breton, N.S. It, like St. George’s, is a Stanley Thompson design. Thompson, who died in 1953, is Canada’s most famous and most admired architect. Andrew went directly from the Laval announcement to the Highlands.
Both Weir and Andrew speak as a unit when they discuss what they want to achieve at Laval. The sand belt courses in Melbourne and Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, Long Island have taught and inspired them. They want short grasses around the greens at Laval, where they will leave the routing of twelve holes as is and redo six holes. All greens will be reworked. The club refers to the project as a redesign and a transformation.
Originally, it seemed that the work would proceed only if Laval would be guaranteed a Canadian Open. That’s not part of the deal, although it’s all but certain that if Weir and Andrew do what they mean to do, then the club will host the 2017 Canadian Open. That would be the centerpiece of the club’s centennial year.
Laval is one of Canada’s most historic clubs, not only in terms of its age but also in terms of its place in the game. The club has hosted the 1962 Canadian Open and the 1934 and 1978 Canadian Amateurs. Willie Park Jr., the 1887 and 1889 Open Championship winner, designed its first nine holes. Park also designed the Weston Golf and Country Club in Toronto, where Arnold Palmer made the 1955 Canadian Open his first win as a professional.
All this history aside, the Blue course should not be misconstrued as a “classic” course. Howard Watson designed the first nine holes of the Blue in 1968 and Graham Cooke added the second nine in 1992; together, they make up the Blue course. Andrew and Weir mean to bring out Laval’s undulating terrain to advantage, and to shape contour into the ground, especially in the greens surrounds, where needed.
It’s hardly surprising that Weir wants the ground to play a major role in the way golfers approach the course. He appreciates golf that invites the player to be creative and that generates multiple options. Weir made a point during a recent Masters to play a practice round with Crenshaw, a two-time winner of the green jacket who, along with his design partner Bill Coore, has designed courses such as Sand Hills and Cuscowilla that use the ground. For Weir, golf along the ground is as important, or more important, than golf in the air.
A few years ago, Weir was playing a practice round for the Open at Carnoustie. He hit one shot to the green on a long par 4, and flew it near a back hole location. He then hit a low, running shot that bounced some 75 yards along the fairway and chased to the back of the green. Next, Weir hit another low shot, this one hooking and landing 20 yards short of the green. It careened off a slope and also ran to the back of the green.
“Why can’t more courses have those shots?” Weir asked. “That’s what I like about links golf. You can hit different shots. I just hit three different shots and they all ended up where I wanted them.”
That’s the golf Weir and Andrew want, as much as possible on a parkland course, for Laval. That’s the kind of golf the club has approved. It’s the kind of golf the tour players will find at the 2017 Canadian Open, should everything fall, or run, into place.


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