Doug Breen, Vice President, Chief Agronomist
Calerin Golf Club was the second course in the GolfNorth Family, and my first position within the company. I was contacted through a sales representative, to see if I would be interested in working as a Course Superintendent for The Erin Springs Golf Group (as it was then known). I think we can all agree that GolfNorth is a better moniker.
I already had a job that I liked. I was the Superintendent at the Waterloo Golf Academy, where we had just finished construction, and our first successful year was under our belt. I was comfortable there. Our first child was born that previous summer, and I had been elected to Municipal Council for the first time. I was playing in a band, which had just sold every copy of our demo cassette and was recording a live CD. I wasn’t looking for a new challenge; but as it happens with such things, that’s when the opportunities often tend to arise.
GolfNorth had just purchased course #3 (Beaverdale) and was about to close the deal on #4 (Brant Valley). During my interview at a Tim Hortons in Waterloo, then President Al Kavanagh told me that he was going to become the largest consolidator of public golf courses in Canada. I didn’t believe him, but we both shared a love of toasted coconut doughnuts, so I decided to check out the job he was offering.
He accurately pointed out that Calerin was ten minutes from my house. The drive from the east side of Guelph to the west side of Waterloo, seemed to be growing in length daily, as both cities were rapidly expanding. The City of Guelph seemed to have a source of free stoplights in the 1990’s, and they were popping up overnight like the dandelions in their boulevards. The drive would take twice as long today, as it did in then.
I had heard good things about the course; but had never seen it. Architect Doug Carrick was given nearly 100 acres to design a nine-hole golf course, taking advantage of the naturally rolling hills near the town of Erin. It’s highlands golf. In fact, half the course drains through the Credit River system into Lake Ontario, while the other half drains through the Grand River system into Lake Erie. The views are stunning. I stood on the first tee one rainy Saturday afternoon in March 1998 – looked across the valley toward the Caledon hills, and decided to take the job. The rest, as they say, is history.
Not only did Carrick design what I would argue is the best nine-hole course in Canada, but he laid it out with a radically different set of tees for the back nine. The par 3’s play like completely different holes, and the tee shots on the fours and fives approach the fairways from totally different angles and elevation, which in turn changes the location of the second shots. It truly plays like a different back nine – the design is genius.
I constantly vacillate on which hole is my favourite, but the general consensus is that hole #6 is the best of the lot. For years, the Toronto Star’s “Bogeyman” listed Calerin #6 as one of his ‘best 18 holes in the GTA’. I know that it would still be on that annual list if they were still publishing it. It’s a classic risk/reward proposition. An aggressive dogleg right, with forest on the left from tee to green, and a combination of trees and fescue on the right. There’s a perfectly placed bunker complex on the inside corner of the dogleg, which begs the question, “How much do you want to bite off here?”. On the other hand, if you open up the driver and blow too far into the fairway, there’s a 100-year-old maple tree blocking the back third of the green. The perfect landing area is shockingly small at the 100 yard marker, but pretty generous at the 150 yard marker. The approach shot is where the risk/reward pays off, as the green is wide and narrow, elevated, protected by bunkers, and remember that maple tree? Then there’s a tough green, where 3 putts are far too common.
Calerin #6 just might be my favourite hole in the Province – except maybe #7…
My point is, this course is so good that I uprooted my entire life, just to get the chance to maintain it. If you’ve always thought that Calerin was too far off the beaten path; or think that 9-hole courses aren’t your cup of tea – it’s absolutely, positively worth the drive to Erin. I’ve sent hundreds of golfers there over the years, and the handful of people who weren’t elated by it – are not people I wish to know. It’s a ‘must play’.