In many ways, the Cranberry Golf Course by Living Water Resorts is not so very different from other resort or semi-private golf courses. Like many, well-maintained facilities set in an exceptionally scenic locale, this course is loved by resort guests, timeshare owners, and its membership. Yet, in other important ways, there is clearly something that sets this Collingwood, Ontario, golf course and resorts apart from the crowd. Perhaps that’s because of the resort management bases all its decisions on the owner, Larry Law’s demonstrated a commitment to servant leadership.
The property that today includes Living Stone Golf Resort, Living Water Resort and Spa and their collective amenities has been privately owned by architect and entrepreneur, Larry Law since 1992. At the time of purchase, the resort was known as Cranberry Village and included the golf course and a 78-room hotel, nestled between the shores of Lake Huron’s spectacular Georgian Bay and the Blue Mountains ski resort.
Drive two hours south of the Cranberry Golf Course and you’ll be in densely populated Toronto, but the bustling urban expanse of Canada’s largest city seems far removed from the serenity of Collingwood. Here families and couples vacation year-round. The bike on a network of trails, peruse quaint shops and take advantage of every aspect of the Living Water Resort facilities, which have been expanded from Law’s initial purchase with over 350 guestrooms including condo-style vacation suites, a 5,000-square-foot indoor spa with Aquapath™ hydrotherapy, a marina, four restaurants and children’s camps.
Across these many amenities, the staff is united by a corporate mission to “…be caring, and care for others, as well as inspiring each other to help the community.” When you pair this service-driven mission statement with the Living Water brand promise to “Do what you love, with the people you love, in an environment where people truly want to give you the most inspiring experience,” you understand why everyone you talk to, from employees to guests, members and the Collingwood community sing the praises of this golf course and resort.
A Strong Core
Tony Frake is the Course Superintendent. He first came to Cranberry Golf Course in 2001 as the Assistant Superintendent. Over the years, he and his crew have facilitated many updates and accomplishments on the course, which today sees approximately 24,000 rounds of golf annually.
Tony relies on Mechanic Mike Boone and Assistant Superintendent Stephen Moore, who like Tony, work year-round. Although the ten other members of his crew work seasonally, seven crewmembers return year after year, with some of them having worked at Cranberry Golf for as many as twelve consecutive seasons. “When you have a strong core as we have,” said Tony, “it truly makes my job easier.”
“Like it says in the first part of our brand promise, ‘Do what you love’. I truly enjoy coming to work every day. I have never had a day where I said to myself, ‘I really don’t want to go to work today.’”
Tony added, “What makes things easier is the trust that Larry Law, Executive Vice President Warren Smith and Vice President Don Buckle give towards me. They value my opinions and allow me to do my job to the best of my ability.”
A Changing Landscape
As every golf superintendent knows, even though you love your job, no one can call it easy work. In 2010 and 2011, Cranberry Golf Course underwent major renovations. For Tony, this period probably ranks as his most challenging time on the job.
“To accommodate future development surrounding the golf course, we changed all but two holes. With the help of architect David Moote, the course was redesigned with an emphasis on safety for future homeowners.”
Recently, the crew at Cranberry has been involved in an effort to reduce the course’s environmental footprint. “We decided to move towards unmaintained grass in areas that don’t need to be maintained in order to play the golf course,” said Tony. “By letting these areas of grass grow long, we’re saving manpower, reducing or eliminating the need to mow or trim, and saving water, fertilizer and chemicals in the process.
“The initiative started with an article that Warren Smith, our Executive Vice President read and brought to Larry and me. He thought it would be a responsible thing to do in this day and age. Larry and I agreed, and we have made significant efforts towards accomplishing this.”
This type of environmental responsibility is certainly par for the course for Cranberry Golf, Canada’s first Audubon Society certified golf course and recipient of the prestigious Environmental Stewardship Award.
The 19th Hole at Cranberry Golf Course is Not What You Think
The scorecard for the Cranberry Golf Course, which plays 6618 yards from the back tees, shows the standard 18 holes. However, play 18 holes at Cranberry and you’ll have the opportunity to play one more.
Although the course offers the Station on the Green Bar & Grill, an exceptional clubhouse and dining patio overlooking the 1st hole, this pub-style eatery isn’t considered the “19th hole” at Cranberry. Instead, the 19th hole is an actual 100- to 150-yard golf hole intended as a fun ending hole or what is sometimes called a bye or bonus hole. This extra hole gives golfers the opportunity to play one more hole, break a tie, settle their bets or perhaps determine who is picking up the tab in the clubhouse.
The par three 19th hole is only one of many ways the crew at Cranberry Golf Course works to ensure that the golfing experience there is both fun and memorable. For example, the Pro Shop is housed in a beautifully restored Canadian National Railway Stayner train station. And to best accommodate the playing abilities of all its golfers, the course features four traditional sets of tee markers plus a unique mix and match system of “hybrid tees” that effectively yields the playability of six different tee locations.
Tony is quick to credit Head Golf Professional Myles Bradford for his, “tireless efforts towards growing the membership, making the club the place to play in the area and taking the course to another level.” He’ll also tell you how the efforts and dedication of Executive Vice President Warren Smith and Vice President Don Buckle have changed the resort for the better.
As true as these facts are, it’s obvious that Tony understands Larry Law’s wishes that his employees be servant leaders, leading by service to others.
On especially hot or tedious workdays or when the maintenance crew has been working long hours in the rain, Tony often defines additional tasks with a one-word response of “optional”. He recognizes that sometimes the corporate mission to “be caring, and care for others” simply means giving your hardworking crew the option to stay and work or go home.