It’s a New Game

It was a wonderful spring, when we were asked to work with our city’s oldest golf club to develop a campaign to build awareness and excitement for its move to a new location.  “It’s a new game” was developed as positioning to transition from the old golf course to the new. Our job was not only to attract new members to the club, but to engage and excite existing members about the change. Interviews with those passionate about the historic move resulted in a strong, memorable story.

The photography was key to telling this story. We were up very early in the morning to work with the photographer to get some stunning photos and were back again as the sun went down to capture a different perspective. With a large open design, the windswept course is stunning but demanding of even the  best golfer.  Our writing strove to deliver this message and reinforce that the course had a game for every style and skill of player.

What We Wrote

Excitement. Challenge. Inspiration.
That’s what the new Southwood Golf & Country Club is promising to deliver when it officially opens in 2011. Not coincidentally, these are the first impressions course designer and acclaimed Canadian architect Thomas McBroom had when he saw the “awesome” St. Norbert location before construction had even begun. “I was excited about the challenge because there were so many neat things to work with such as the monastery ruins, the LaSalle River and the mature tree groves.”  McBroom’s design uses these features to add historical context and interesting details around the course. “The more nuance and complexity you can have in the composition of a hole, the better,” he says. Every hole has a distinct backdrop of either mature trees, the monastery or river.

McBroom’s design maximizes the contours of the land to create distinct landmarks and shadows through the use of hills, crests and ridges.  He dubs the new Southwood a prairie- style design, thus distinguishing it from any other golf courses in the city and province. The land is “gathered up” in key locations to create high points that give golfers a bird’s eye view of the impressive expanse and beauty of the course overall.  McBroom says he just kept building up in a few spots, in particular #6 and #10, where the elevation is almost 5 metres.

Many Points of Distinction
The first order of magnitude was deciding on where to locate the new 17,640 square foot clubhouse so that all three nine’s could return to it (only two nines are currently being developed). McBroom says, “I’m a fan of putting the clubhouse in an idyllic, location and I think that’s what we’ve achieved here.”

As a result, the clubhouse, designed by LM Architectural Group, is nestled close to a grove of mature oaks overlooking the rustic river bank. This location affords a a nostalgic view of the river and monastery on one side and the sprawling golf course on the other.

The clubhouse design reflects the rich character of the property and bordering lands. This multi purpose facility is available for members and their guests to enjoy year round. Its stunning design and setting will make it a popular choice by the public for golf tournaments, weddings, and other events.

The new course is roughly 2.5 times the size of the old Southwood but is very walkable due to the way McBroom has connected one hole to the next. Because of the large footprint, everything had to be oversized so it so it looks like it belongs.  This shows through in the large scale approach to everything from the tee boxes, to the fairways, to the bunkers, to the greens and in particular the practice fairway.  McBroom says the practice range is the largest he’s ever built.  “It was actually a Board requirement that as much care be given to the design of the practice area as the rest of the course.” McBroom takes great pride in the uniqueness of the course overall, and how effectively he’s been able to integrate the course design with the natural and historical features of the site.  Number nine for instance, plays through an abandoned milking barn that was used by the monks who inhabited the monastery until the late 1970’s. McBroom says, “The course really has its own distinct character and personality.  Each hole is different from the next. Nothing repeats and everything looks and feels different within the prairie theme. “ He adds,  “I’m really proud of what we’ve done here.”

A game for every player
“The high wispy grasses will give the course a Kansas feel. The prairie style design really is more about the setting,” says Southwood Head Pro Tom Kinsman, BPE.  Kinsman says the course will be fun to play for everybody because it’s walkable and drivable. “By drivable I mean it doesn’t take the driver out of your hands. He adds, “Players will be able to use their drivers a lot, but will still have to make good swings.” ”There’s a couple of forced carries but only for the best players on the back tees. The course really is set up to handle any kind of game, whether you’re a beginner, a senior or a college player looking to play pro golf.”

When probed about the more open design, Kinsman chuckles, “It’s well built for the wind.”  He adds that the selection of tees will enable players to adjust their game for the wind or any other natural elements.  “If people play the right tees they’re going to have a blast out there. The trouble really won’t be off the tee.  It’s once you get closer to the hole that you’re going to get tested more,” he says. So which are the pro’s favourite holes?  “Number nine is really interesting as you play through a part of the history of the course.  The second hole is a strong test of a par three. Numbers eight and 11 are really pretty par 3’s along the water and on 16 you’re hitting up to an elevated green.”

Practice what we preach
It’s no surprise the pro is excited about having the best facility in the province but ask him about the practice fairway – and he becomes almost reverent. “The conditions of the practice fairway will be superb.“  Kinsman says players will be able to develop every aspect of their game in the double-ended fairway. The practice tee is a hundred yards wide with a variety of targets to practice with. “I’ll actually have room to give individualized, private lessons which really isn’t an option in the current facility. “ He adds that there’s also fairway bunkers to practice out of which is unique to Winnipeg.  “There’s so much room to move around and areas are separated for more privacy.“

Kinsman rattles off a list of attributes that will make Southwood’s the best practice facility “from here to Calgary.” The practice area features an 8,000 square foot chipping green to which players can practice their pitching from up to 80 yards on three sides. The practice area also features a 10,000 square foot putting green. Kinsman says, “People are going to be looking at the club for a lot of different things – training, entertaining clients, their son’s or daughter’s wedding, and hopefully major competitive events.  There’s going to be a lot going on here.”

Kinsman, like all Southwood staff and membership, stands in impatient abeyance as the new course continues to develop under the watchful eyes and toil of Thomas McBroom and the project and site crews. While many things might be running through his mind as well as the minds of everyone with a stake in the project, it really comes down to one driving thought. “Can’t wait to play it!”

The attention to detail and accuracy on this project was outstanding. Very creative too.

Southwood Golf & Country Club

2011 ongoing

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