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Carrick joins prominent group Add to ...

Here's a question for Canadians who enjoy a little trivia with their 19th hole chinwags: What do Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Doug Carrick have in common?

Surely you know the answer. Try some lateral thinking. Move out of the box. If you were here, you'd know the answer in a minute, at the entrance to a new golf club on the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, one that the hotel and resort company De Vere hopes will enhance its bank account.

And the answer is: Carrick, the accomplished Toronto-based course architect, has a course named for him here. It's the Carrick at Cameron House, a De Vere hotel just down the road. Most people refer to the course as the Carrick at Loch Lomond. Woods, Palmer, Nicklaus and Norman also have their names attached to courses. They're not the only golfers so honoured or marketed. But they're among the most prominent.

There's Tiger Woods Dubai, just getting started. There's Nicklaus North in Whistler, B.C. There's the Norman course at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif. Carrick, Woods, Nicklaus and Norman. Fits nicely, wouldn't you agree?

Carrick is the only full-time architect in the foursome. His courses have to sell on their strengths far more than on his name. Canadians know the heights his course can reach, as is apparent at Osprey Valley's three courses in Alton, Ont., Eagles Nest in Maple, Ont., and Muskoka Bay in Gravenhurst.

But how did Carrick come to do this heathland course in Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, Scotland's first national park? It can't be only that Carrick had designed fine courses in Canada. That's also true of Canadians Tom McBroom and Rod Whitman, to mention a couple of architects. It can't be that his surname is derived from the Gaelic Carraig or Creag and means rocky place.

As it happened, Ken Siems, the superintendent at the nearby Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish-designed Loch Lomond course, recommended Carrick. (The Scottish Open will start there tomorrow; Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen are in a field the Canadian Open would love to have in two weeks.) Siems, a Canadian, knew and admired Carrick's work.

Carrick was asked on a Friday in November of 2000 whether he were interested in the job. He was, and he first visited the site about a year later.

"I just have to get this job," Carrick thought, as he reported by e-mail the other day. "This is the opportunity of a lifetime to design a course in Scotland, in a famous place such as Loch Lomond, and to top it all off the site and scenery is spectacular."

Carrick visited the property again in late March of 2002 and felt the same. He envisaged "a Scottish style of course with gorse, heather, revetted (sod-wall) bunkers, closely mown chipping areas and spectacular views over the Loch and surrounding Highlands."

The course opened a month ago. Carrick came over with his father and was properly feted. He's pleased with the result, although he could do without what he calls the "absurd [tree]plantings" that the park authorities insisted on along a ridge line on the 10th hole and beside the 15th fairway. The park was created in 2002 after planning for the course was well under way.

"Most people visit Loch Lomond to see the Loch," Carrick said, "and in 10 years all they will see is trees [a very disappointing aspect of the project]"

Still, he added, "I believe we achieved creating a course with a distinctive Scottish feel."

A tour in heavy rain the other day revealed some dramatic elevation changes and memorable closing holes along the water. The pot bunkers and immense rolling greens and their surrounds generate a links-like feeling. However, water in play on a couple of the early holes detracts from that feeling. But they're out of the way early.

As for his name being attached to the course, Carrick, reserved by nature, said, "At first I felt awkward about it because I didn't want people to think I suggested the name for the course."

But, Carrick added, "I've gotten used to it now, and now that the course is open I am very honoured and proud that my name is on the course."

He should be proud, and he should feel honoured. The Carrick at Loch Lomond could become well-known and much visited. It won't likely upstage the Weiskopf-Morrish course, but it's a more than worthy addition to the inland game here and should advance Carrick's career.

rube@sympatico.ca

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