Islington Golf Club: What’s Old is New Again

After playing on temporary greens last year, members at Islington Golf Club are thrilled to try out their new bent grass greens this spring. But it’s more than new grass they’ll face. After the harsh winter of 2013/14 devastated the club’s poa annua greens like many of the older clubs in the City, a decision was made to turn disaster into opportunity. Rather than struggle all season to try and revive the damaged grass, Islington moved forward aggressively with a plan to not only re-surface the greens but to restore their former character and surrounding bunkers too.

At one time Islington was noted for having lightening fast greens that really challenged members and their guests. Over time, however, the greens flattened out and lost much of their bite. Islington engaged architect Ian Andrew to re-shape the greens in the character of the original Stanley Thompson designs and make putting fun again.

Andrew and course superintendent Ian McQueen went to work to determine how much slope was desirable both for putting but also for proper maintenance. Andrew’s belief is that green speed should be determined by the steepness of the slope and not by how closely the grounds crew can scalp them. Naturally, McQueen was on board with that because it would let him maintain healthy turf grass while still providing members with the slick putting surfaces they want.

With work proceeding all over the course, Islington also used the time to re-build the 15th hole, a mid length par-3 that crossed a stream and ran parallel to Kipling Avenue. The green sat in a flood plain below the level of the tee decks. It was constantly shaded and rarely in great shape, while stray tee shots put traffic on the adjacent street at risk. The new hole is angled away from the street and rises up from the tee decks to a green perched on the hillside, where it gets plenty of sunlight and members will find more than enough challenge from the contoured putting surface and sloping surrounds.

Work on the 5th and 6th greens was also completed to provide additional pin positions.

McQueen says he held his breath all winter waiting to see how the new greens would be in the Spring but his anxiety was all for nought as the result was superb.

“The greens and surrounding areas turned out even better than I had hoped”, said McQueen. “There isn’t a rough spot or blemish to deal with anywhere.”

Greens aren’t the only new thing Islington members have to enjoy. A new short game practice area was constructed adjacent to the 9th hole that includes a gigantic hitting net that can accommodate up to a dozen players at a time. Measuring 35 yards deep, the net allows players to hit every club in their bag and see the flight of the ball. The net structure also has an indoor teaching area with retractable doors where students can utilize Flightscope technology under the direction of Phil Kavanagh and his professional staff.

General Manager Dave Fox too is delighted with the changes.

“Islington is a like a second home to a lot of our members and their families. Many of them live close by and the new practice area is a great reason to drop in for some work on their game. We didn’t have that before.”

Islington’s clubhouse shouldn’t be left out of the conversation either. It got a serious makeover a few years ago that turned a somewhat tired looking interior into the epitome of modern elegant design with wood and stone accents and warm colours. The cozy dining room and bar area offer spectacular views of the 10th and 18th holes from upstairs while the men’s and ladies lounges open on to spacious patios downstairs that are bustling during the summer months.

Islington is a traditional club in the heart of the City. Now, some of what was old is new again.

The Club has a limited number of openings for trial members in 2015. For more information, prospective members are invited to visit the member page at /membership.aspx

Peter Mumford
Peter Mumford is the Editor of Fairways Magazine. He's played over 500 different courses in 21 countries and met some fascinating people along the way. He's also a long-suffering Toronto Maple Leafs fan.

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