A Golfer’s Paradise: Exploring the Big Canoe Golf Course with Superintendent Lydell Mack, CGCS

Cherokee Course Hole 2

Nestled in the heart of North Georgia lies a golfer’s paradise, the Big Canoe Golf Course, a 27-hole championship course that has been a beloved destination for golf enthusiasts since its inception in 1972. Designed by the renowned golf course architect Joe Lee, this picturesque course offers players a quintessential North Georgia golfing experience. Today, we have the privilege of delving into the world of Big Canoe Golf Club with its dedicated Superintendent, Lydell Mack, CGCS (Certified Golf Course Superintendent).

A Journey into the World of Golf

Every career has its beginnings, and for Lydell Mack, his journey in the golf industry began during his high school days. As a young golfer, he stumbled upon a job opportunity on the maintenance team, sparking his passion for turfgrass management. Mack’s dedication to the field led him to pursue a two-year degree in turfgrass management from Fairview College in Fairview, Alberta, Canada.

Cherokee Course Hole 4
Cherokee Course Hole 4

Big Canoe Golf Course: A Slice of Golfing Heaven

The Big Canoe Golf Course is not just any golf course; it’s a golfing haven with a rich history. Originally crafted by Joe Lee in 1972, the course is currently undergoing renovations by the talented Bill Bergin. The course boasts a variety of playing surfaces, including creeping bentgrass greens, bermudagrass fairways, and a mix of bermudagrass and zoysia tees. Its 27-hole layout is divided into three unique 9-hole courses: Creek, Choctaw, and Cherokee.

Related: Get to Know Mitchell Wilkerson of Moss Creek Golf Club

Creek Course

The original nine holes of Big Canoe dubbed the “Lake Course,” Creek was designed by Joe Lee and opened for play in 1972. This nine is many golfers’ favorite side. With its picturesque holes fronting Lake Sconti and new green and tee complexes renovated by Bill Bergin in 2021, Creek is fun and challenging for all skill levels.

Choctaw Course

This was the second nine holes of the first 18-hole course designed by Joe Lee 50 years ago – also known as the “Valley Course.” Routed on low land along a meandering stream, Choctaw offers ample opportunity for birdies, thanks to renovation work to greens, tees and bunkers by Bill Boswell. The nine is capped off with the dramatic downhill par 3 ninth.

Cherokee Course

Designed by Rocky Roquemore and added as the third nine in 1992, Cherokee is target golf at its finest. Elevation changes of nearly 200 ft make for many memorable shots, but players will be confounded with wayward tee shots – accuracy is paramount on this nine.

Creek Course Hole 6
Creek Course Hole 6

Challenging Holes and Personal Favorites

Lydell Mack, with his intimate knowledge of the course, offers insights into some of the most memorable holes. For the thrill-seekers, Creek #6 stands out as the most challenging, a formidable 410-yard uphill par 4 with water lining the entire right side. Remarkably, it features no bunkers.

Cherokee Course Hole 2
Cherokee Course Hole 2

On the flip side, his personal favorite and the most unique hole is Cherokee #2. This short, downhill par 5 offers a breathtaking 225-foot elevation drop, treating golfers to a spectacular long-range view from the tees.

Choctaw Course Hole 5
Choctaw Course Hole 5

Mentorship and Inspiration

Behind every successful individual is a mentor who leaves an indelible mark on their journey. For Lydell Mack, that mentor was Kelly Thorsen from Paradise Canyon Golf Resort in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. Thorsen’s humble demeanor and servant leadership style were inspirational to Mack. His emphasis on hard work and fostering a fun, team-oriented environment left a lasting impact on Mack’s career.

A Course Under Transformation

Big Canoe Golf Course is in the midst of exciting renovations. Nine holes received a makeover in 2021, with another nine scheduled for 2024, followed by the final nine in 2026. The transformation is carefully planned and executed by Bergin Golf Design, ensuring that the course continues to evolve while preserving its essence.

Related: A Passion for Turfgrass: An Interview with a Golf Course Superintendent

Favorite Equipment and the Joys and Challenges of the Job

In the world of golf course maintenance, equipment plays a crucial role. For Lydell Mack, his favorite piece of equipment varies with the seasons. At this time of year, it’s the TDR moisture meter, which aids in making moisture management decisions for bentgrass more scientifically. This valuable tool also allows him to entrust less experienced personnel with these critical tasks.

When it comes to his role, Mack enjoys both managing turf and managing people, finding fulfillment in maintaining the course’s pristine conditions and leading his dedicated team.

Creek Course Hole 9
Creek Course Hole 9

Looking Ahead: Upcoming Tournament and Personal Life

As the Superintendent of Big Canoe Golf Club, Lydell Mack always has something exciting on the horizon. The next tournament scheduled is the Ladies Member/Member, a thrilling event that promises to be a highlight on the club’s calendar.

Away from the greens, Mack’s family life is a cherished aspect. His daughter, Olive, keeps him and his wife on their toes, with her active participation in the tennis team and cheerleading. As for Mack himself, he takes every opportunity to indulge in his passion for golf whenever he has a moment of free time.

In the world of golf, dedicated individuals like Lydell Mack are the backbone of exceptional courses like Big Canoe Golf Club. With his expertise and passion, he ensures that golfers from all walks of life have the opportunity to enjoy a memorable golfing experience in the heart of North Georgia. So, whether you’re a local looking for regular rounds or a visitor to Jasper, the Big Canoe Golf Course beckons, offering a blend of history, challenge, and natural beauty that’s hard to resist.

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