Video: August 2009 Seymour Gold and Country ClubFascination with the new and different is ingrained in the human psyche. Business empires rise and fall on their ability to lure consumers with "new" and "improved" products and services.
Golf, too, has fallen prey to the drive to re-invent the wheel each and every year. In the search to attract paying customers, course architects are tempted to add extreme length and gimmicky holes to give their course some "wow" factor.
Yet in the end, there is no substitute for a great, well maintained facility that you can play a lot and keep coming back for more.
Seymour Golf and Country Club has quietly been doing it right since 1954.
Now in their 55th year, this private club that allows public play two days a week has kept pace with changes and innovations that really matter to make sure their members and guests get a great round in each and every time.
In 2004, the club spent the better part of $3 million to upgrade the front nine holes. Opened for play in 2005, the changes included enlarged and rebuilt greens, additional bunkers, extra tee boxes and improved drainage.
It was worth every penny.
Today Seymour offers its members and the paying public a first class experience right in our own back yard. Yet, because it's been around almost as long as most golfers have been alive, there may be a tendency to take this great track for granted.
That would be a mistake.
I must admit that it had been a few years since I last played Seymour, having myself fallen victim to the lure of the "new."
I took the opportunity to play there recently and it was an eye opener.
It was one of the first days of the recent hot spell and I was joined that day by three friends. Rich Nichol, quality control officer with Cargill Grain Terminals, Andrew Skuse of North Vancouver's BioPacific Diagnostic and local carpenter Dan Foster. They all made the short trip along Mount Seymour Parkway for an afternoon of terrific golf.
If you've never played Seymour, the course traverses two large rolling ridges at the base of Mount Seymour. The front nine, at 3,375 yards is wide open and offers you your best opportunities to score. The tight back nine, at 3,104 yards, is all about shot making and course management.
You have to be able to change gears after nine or you're sunk.
Running back and forth across a couple of ridges also means some blind shots from tees and fairways.
There are observation platforms on the tee boxes of the second, third, seventh and 17th holes to make sure the group ahead has moved on and your path is clear before you tee off. Using them prevents potentially dangerous and always embarrassing intrusions into the foursome in front of you.
There are also blind fairway shots on the sixth, seventh, ninth and 18th holes. It's a good idea to take an extra couple of moments and check that your landing area is unoccupied. Safety demands it and courtesy requires it.
The first hole gives you a great idea of what you'll experience on the front side. At 445 yards from the back tees, this wide open downhill par 5 is a great chance to begin your round on a confident note.
For recreational golfers, par is within reach and for low handicappers, birdie or better is a real possibility. But beware -- the fairway is well bunkered and the green is an island surrounded by large pockets of sand.
As usual, accuracy is the key to success.
Once you're on the putting surface, a second caution: the greens are fast. Very fast.
We stared in slack-jawed silence as putts that seemed well-judged slipped merrily past the cup and away. It was the same on every hole. The speedy greens also bring subtle surface undulations into play.
Almost every blade of grass has to be taken into account if you hope to putt with any success.
Fairways were also in amazing shape. We were hitting off surfaces smoother than some greens you'll find at less well-maintained courses. There are a very few spots where fairways still bear the scars of the recent horrific winter, but that's not the course's fault. A North Vancouver municipal bylaw prevents spraying fairways for snow mould, the ultimate
It's actually a testament to the skill of the grounds crew that fairways are as healthy as we found them.
It's not surprising really. Course condition has always been one of Seymour's great assets. In 1992 Seymour Golf and Country Club became the first golf course in Canada to be registered with the Audubon Society for its environmental stewardship and care for wild bird habitat. That tradition has been expanded on since.
Two holes on the front nine are worth special mention.
The fifth, at 196 yards from the back, is an exquisite sight. This pretty downhill par-3 is rimmed with ancient fir and cedar trees and the large green is fronted by a fairly substantial pond. On a sunny day, it's worth pausing for a moment and just enjoying the scene.
Here, you'll also often see some of the wildlife that calls the course and its environs home. Deer, bear, coyotes, bald eagles, river otters and other wild North Shore residents can be spotted strolling the fairways and bushlands that surround the course.
The ninth hole is a big, sweeping 497-yard uphill par-5 that fades right as you climb toward the green. It's a beautiful, panoramic view that captures the essence of the front half of the course: wide open spaces guarded by bunkers and lined with large shady trees.
Once you make the transition to the back nine, the change is dramatic and abrupt. Gone are the open spaces. Fairways are narrow and trees that earlier provided welcome shade now threaten to snag tee shots that stray too far from the centre line.
The 10th hole is a good and immediate example. At 372 yards, it runs up and down from west to east across one of the ridges. There's a rightish turn at the 150 yard marker and from there it's down the slope to the green.
Unless you are supremely confident and can deliver a perfect cut shot, this is no place for your driver. A fairway wood or iron to the 150 stake gives you a good line to the green. If you're left or right off the tee, it's misery.
Gains made on the front nine can vanish in a heartbeat as you work your way back to the club house.
The 12th hole also presents a number of challenges. It's a downhill 305-yard par 4 that winds ever so slightly leftward as you approach the putting surface. There's a pond on the left in front of the green and the fairway is well treed.
It sounds simple enough, but it's tricky. You need a little draw on the ball to get maximum advantage of the hole's topography. I can hit a little draw, I just never know in advance when it's going to happen.
If you start left, you're in the forest. If you're a little too far right, you're in the rough and your line to the green is obscured by giant maples. 305 yards indeed.
That is part of Seymour's real value. You get to test every element of your game on this quietly marvellous course.
Let course architects add their funhouse attractions elsewhere. Seymour has the greatest attraction of all: a first rate course that forces you to bring your best level of play.
A word on course etiquette.
I mentioned earlier that there are a number of blind shots on Seymour and doing a little reconnaissance can save a world of aggravation.
We had finished putting out on the 10th hole and were putting our clubs away when a ball from the group behind landed on the green some 10 yards to the right of us.
It was a nice shot to be sure, and no doubt the player that hit it had every confidence it would miss us, but he should have waited a few seconds more for us to move off or yelled fore to give us some warning.
What made it worse was that it wasn't a blind shot. He was up the fairway by the 150 marker and could see us clearly.
We are no fans of slow play and were essentially keeping up to the group ahead, so there was absolutely no excuse for this behaviour.
Sam Dundee, I'm looking at you.
Perhaps the notion of course etiquette, once so integral to the game, is getting lost in the shuffle as we push for length and strength. If so, that's a sad development and a real loss.
I would normally not even mention it, except that it happened again.
The young men behind us were long hitters, playing from the very back tees. On the 18th hole, another great extended par-5 that runs up and over the ridge and back to the clubhouse, there's a blind shot to the green from about 200-250 yards out.
We had just finished putting when a ball landed on the green and rolled up toward us. It was another fine shot, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they couldn't see us.
The fact that they didn't bother to look, especially after I registered our group's displeasure with them on the 10th green, is a little bewildering.
I will also give them the benefit of the doubt and assume it wasn't the same player, but still. Guys?
One day you'll hit someone and face a lawsuit or worse. Give your heads a shake.
To let them know they had committed another error, I marked the ball and then placed it up on a tee.
This though, was a minor distraction in what was a superb day on the course.
Essentially in the heart of our expanding city, the Seymour Golf and Country Club provides you with a chance to step out of the urban torrent and enjoy nature.
When you're on the fairways here, you're a million miles away from your cares.
For the rest of us, it's a privileged glimpse into a private course that its members are all justifiably proud of. We are lucky to have Seymour so close.
Online video: This season all courses featured in Tee Time will also be available to see in online video taken the day we played. Seymour Golf and Country Club is the fifth for 2009. Go to nsnews.com and click on the link to the Tee Time section (link on the left margin index). Find the video of your choice and check it out.
BOOK YOUR TEE TIME AT SEYMOUR TODAY
Public play is available on Mondays and Fridays, excluding statutory holidays. Reservations for Monday or Friday are accepted by telephone four days in advance beginning at 6 p.m. Please contact the Pro Shop at 604-929-2611. Twilight hours change as daylight shortens. Contact the pro shop for specifics.
Monday Adult green fees are $69.99, Twilight green fees are $55.95 and Second Twilight fees are $38.67. Senior green fees are $63.81, Junior green fees are $41.90, Junior Twilight is available at $33.57 and Junior Second Twilight is $23.10. Prices do not include GST and the first tee time is at 9:04 am.
Friday Adult green fees are $77.14, Twilight green fees are $60.95 and Second Twilight fees are $42.86. Junior green fees are $46.19, Junior Twilight is available at $36.90 and Junior Second Twilight is $25.48. Prices do not include GST and the first tee time is 7:04 am.
Note: there is a dress code at Seymour. Proper golf attire is required. Denims, sweat pants, T-shirts and tank tops are not allowed. Soft spikes only.