Essex Golf & Country Club Returns to its Donald Ross Roots

Essex Golf & Country Club Returns
to its Donald Ross Roots

MARCH 6, 2008
For Immediate Release

WINDSOR, ON Back in the summer of 1928, 135 men, 80 teams of horses and one steam shovel worked tirelessly building the Donald Ross designed Essex Golf & Country Club on the outskirts of the city. When the championship layout on Matchette Road opened a year later, “the new Essex” featured a classical parkland design with a premium on the second shot that has defined the club’s greatness throughout the decades.

Today, after a decade of working through a comprehensive master plan, Essex G&CC, which was founded in 1902, is a remarkable tribute to Ross’ brilliance as a golf course architect and one of two 18-hole Ross originals in Canada. “I like to tell members that we have taken Essex G&CC in Windsor back to the way it looked and played when their grandparents were there,” says Bruce Hepner, Vice President of Tom Doak’s architectural firm Renaissance Golf Design Inc.

“What they started off with was a very flat property, but what always blows me away with Essex is the way Ross simulated a rolling landscape,” says Hepner, who was hired in 1999 to oversee the restoration program. An open ditch that zigzags through the property for a mile and half was built for drainage purposes. That material was used to build Essex’s push-up greens. “It was a brilliant exercise in drainage that also created a great golf design,” Hepner says. “What really makes Essex shine today are it’s green sites, the internal contours of the greens, the approaches to the greens and the variety of contours, it was all made by horse and hand.”

The restoration project started in 2000 with a new pump house followed by a new sprinkler system and an intensive tree-clearing program to open up the fairways off the tee as originally intended. This also helped to improve turf conditions. From the fall of 2005 through the spring of 2007 the club completed the strategic bunker and greens renovation project.

Using an original Ross course layout and older photographs, the classical sod-faced bunkers were re-established with traditional lines and depths of three to five feet.

Initially the course had in excess of 100 bunkers. “Over time about 20 of those were eliminated, many during World War II, so we brought back several key cross bunkers in the Donald Ross style for a total of 88 on the course today,” says Superintendent Chris Andrejicka. The fairways lines were also redefined as part of the process for strategic shot options and to bring more fairway bunkers into play.

Over time, most of the plateaued greens at Essex G&CC had lost the original shape and shrunk in size. As part of this project, Hepner maximized the plateaued putting surfaces by eliminating bluegrass that had grown up between the greens and the bunkers, allowing additional and sometimes more difficult pin placements.

“After several years of ongoing construction the membership is really looking forward to a peaceful golf season without any disruptions and I think we’ll find that their patience has paid off,” says Alex McIntyre, Director of Golf. “Everything has really healed up nicely and it should be a great summer. What the renovations have really done is add a Sunday pin placement, we can certainly hide the pins a lot more and it can be devilish out there if we want it to be.”

Ross designed the Matchette Road course, but long-time greenkeeper John Gray built it. When “the new Essex” opened in July 1929 it measured 6,683 yards, par-72. Today it plays just 24 yards longer at 6,703 yards, par-71. “Even though the yardages are similar today’s golf course is far more strategic and thought provoking thus providing a much more challenging test of golf as a result of the renovations,” McIntyre says. The Golf Association of Ontario’s new course rating for Essex G&CC has changed from 71.7 to 72.6 off the back tees with a slope that’s up two points to 132. “Essex is once again an inspiring shot-makers course. To score well today and for years to come, players are going to need to be exacting with their second shots to post low scores.”

While some consider Essex G&CC a hidden treasure as a result of its location this classical parkland masterpiece has proven to be an outstanding tournament course that has withstood the test of time. In fact, Essex is one of only a handful of Canadian courses that have hosted the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour and Champions Tour over the years including the men’s Canadian Open Championship in 1976 and the LPGA du Maurier Championship in 1998 and the 2002 AT&T Canada Senior Open.

Ross was born in Dornoch, Scotland in 1872 and took up the game at Royal Dornoch. He arrived in the Boston area in1899 to build and run Oakley GC. At his death in 1948, he left behind a legacy of 413 courses, including such gems as Pinehurst No. 2, Seminole in Florida and Oakland Hills outside Detroit. In Canada he remodelled several courses including Elmhurst Golf Links and St. Charles CC in Winnipeg, Rosedale GC and Lambton G&CC in Toronto, Riverside G&CC in St. John New Brunswick and Brightwood G&CC in Darmouth, Nova Scotia. He designed Liverpool GC, a nine-hole layout in Nova Scotia, as well as Roseland Municipal GC in Windsor.

Remarkably, 79 years after it opened for play, Essex Golf & Country Club continues to exemplify Ross’ brilliance as a golf architect and a Canadian masterpiece that remains true to it origins.

For more information contact:

Michael Chadsey
General Manager
Essex Golf & Country Club
7555 Matchette Road, LaSalle, ON, N9J 2S4
[email protected]
519-734-1251 Ext. 227

Alex McIntyre
Director of Golf
[email protected]

Chris Andrejicka
Course Superintendent
(c) 519-791-6606
[email protected]