I have to say this up front: golfing during this COVID-19 pandemic carries with it a unique set of circumstances, so I try not to complain too much about the small things.
That said, it took a lot of overlooking the small things to get enjoyment out of my recent round at Grey Silo in Waterloo.
First off, I'm a huge fan of the course. If you've never played it, make sure you book a round there (tip: to get the best experience possible, try to go in the fall when you have a slightly cooler breeze and some colour in the surrounding trees to really cash in on the ambiance). There are 1,400 yards difference between the forward tees and the back, so you have a lot of options to choose from. My playing partners and I opted for the silver tees, so on a hot day (about 34°C when we played our first shots) the 5,600 yards were more than enough for us.
The thing about Silo that sets it apart from a lot of courses I like to play is the blend of challenge and forgiveness that it gives you. You can put a little more oomph into your shots because most fairways are generous enough to keep you in play if it squirts off-line a little.
I had a rough opening hole, which I attribute mostly to not getting warmed up properly. After that, I settled into a nice groove -- this coming in spite of the fact that we waited about 15 minutes a shot. Yes. You read that right ... 15 minutes per shot. To properly explain this, I need to backtrack a little.
Upon arrival at the course, I was met in the parking lot by an attendant who informed me things were a little slow because of the full tee sheet & lack of power carts. I was fine with that, and I stayed fine with that in the pro shop when we were told it might be a little longer wait to tee off.
So, after about a 25-minute wait, our group was sent down to the first tee. That turned out to be a little early, as we had to wait for two groups ahead of us to tee off. We later learned from a course marshall that the slow-down was from one particular group, and the offending players were given a couple of warnings to get things moving along better. My only complaint would be the spacing between groups -- why send golfers out eight or nine minutes apart to have them wait on the tee or in the fairway for that long when you could space them out at 12-15 minute intervals and have things go a little smoother?
The waiting aside, it was a good round. I needed to call on almost every shot in my bag to keep a good round going: keeping my drives as straight as I could to give me a good chance to go for the flag, and then making sure I didn't do too much with my wedges when my approach shots were a little off. Amazingly, for as fast as the greens played I was able to maintain my putting confidence by rolling in a few quick downhillers to keep an early par streak going.
For those who haven't played here, here's something you might enjoy: the first and 18th holes are separated from the rest of the course by a good little jaunt along the cart path/jogging trail, and the natural area that surrounds them both is pretty but challenging to navigate. There are a lot of holes here that will make you think twice about your next shot, but I will say that #18 is always going to be the one that makes me second-guess everything. Slanting off to the right from the tee, the fairway is split by the same natural waste causeway that bisects #1. Challenge it with your driver and you might be in trouble, so laying up with a long iron is likely your best bet. The green is small so make sure you have your short game dialled in -- bunkers guard both sides, and nature is lurking close beyond those.
All things being equal, Grey Silo is the kind of course that you would love to play at any point. It gives you a stadium-course feel in how it unfurls in front of you, so make sure you enjoy it. Bring your 'A' game, because you'll need it.