Strathcona Golf Course : Thunder Bay's Hidden Jewel
by Scott A. Sumner
On June 23, 2004 I had the opportunity to play Strathcona Golf Course with Director of Golf, Tom Forsythe and long time members Tom Dixon and Claude Liman. It had been quite some time since I had played Strathcona last and it was a very pleasant surprise. This is a very fun course to play, in a great setting of Thunder Bay. I think I now better understand the stong positive feelings many local golfers have for Strathcona Golf Course. It really is a jewel of golf in Northwestern Ontario and a great deal as well. For $27.00 weekdays and $29.00 weekends you can play 18 holes. Add a power cart fo $25.00 and you have a great golf course at a very reasonable rate. I think it represents a great value and will result in an excellent golf experience.
Tom Dixon has played Strathcona since 1974 starting as an 11 years old. "I grew up on Strathcona Avenue. The golf course was founded in 1925 with the property being donated by Lord Strathcona and the Strathcona family," stated Tom Dixon. "This land used to be a tree farm and then they cut nine holes into it. A few years later the other nine were constructed. I think the course is in excellent condition. I haven't seen the course in such good condition for many years."
Tom Forsythe, Director of Golf Thunder Bay is pleased with the progress of Strathcona this season. "The course has had a lot of work since the problems of 2002. In 2003 we resodded 6 greens which made a huge change right away. We have done a bit more patching this year and cleaned up a couple of weak areas," states Tom Forsythe. "There is just a lot of maintenance, aeration, top dressing, fertilization and proper agronomy being done. Certainly we are way ahead of the pace of last year. No 11 green is still a little bit weak, but comparing this year and last year we are light years ahead."
"I think Strathcona is just a tremendous layout. The routing plan falls into the classic mold of golf courses. The city engineer that designed it made really good use of the land, the contours and the flow. The golf course plays extremely well. It is a great, fun, layout to play. It's challenging," smiles Forsythe. "You have to use a lot of the clubs in your bag. It is a good test of golf. You are getting the tree lined holes as well as some of the links feel too because of the rolling terrain and some of the sandy fairways. It is a nice mix, a nice blend, a really pleasant setting where we are at."
"We are still going to do a few things in terms of recontouring some greens. There will be some work done on number 5 green on the left hand side. We took a couple of trees down there and we are going to move the green further to the left. There is a little bit of a drainage project to do on the left hand side first and then we will expand the green on the left front corner. On Number 13 we are going to take the green further down on the right side. We will play with the contours a little bit to try and change some of the landing areas a little, through mowing techniques more than anything," states Forsythe. "Mother nature has helped Strathcona with the rain we have been getting. The cooler temperatures haven't helped us a whole lot but a little bit is maintenance and the mowing that we are doing as standard practice."
Strathcona operates with an 11 person crew on maintenance including the students. There is only one full time year round employee, the lead hand. Revenues are up at all three Golf Thunder Bay courses this year. "Strathcona did really well in May. "The club house at Strathcona fits in well. The deck looks out over the first hole which is a par 3, which is kinda nice. From a playability standout I think the layout and design of Strathcona is my favourite." says Forsythe.
Golf Thunder Bay is going to a system of bag tags (peel and stick) that they are putting on every players golf bag including members as they go through. There will be a different colour for every day. "It is a quick way for our marshalls and rangers to identify that everyone has checked in so are better able to record the statistics to make sure that everybody there is supposed to be out there. We know some members don't like to check in when they are running late or forgot their card. If we see if someone doesn't have a tag we can approach them and see if they lost it on the round. Our rangers are in radio contact so it is a better way to control things." notes Forsythe.
Be sure to play some golf at Strathcona this season. You will be impressed!