The Canyata Club
photographs by Joann Dost
Jerry Forsythe wants to play a round of golf, he doesn't need
to reserve a tee time. Nor does he need to jump in his car and
drive for miles"even though as owner of Forsythe Championship
Racing Team, he has a passion for fast wheels. He just walks
out of his home in the small town of Marshall, Illinois and
strolls over to his own 18-hole course, the Canyata Club.
Canyata is a Native American word meaning "backwoods," but while
the club may be somewhat off the beaten path, set on 300 lushly
sculpted acres of rich farmland and old forest, there is nothing
behind the times about it. The world class course was designed
by Bob Lohman, past president of the American Society of Golf
Course Architects, and Michael Benkusky, who has since launched
his own design firm.
Forsythe was born in the area, and though a highly successful
business career as CEO of Indeck Power Equipment Company and
Indeck Energy Services has taken him around the world, he has
kept deep roots in rural Illinois. He has a farming operation
in the area totaling 28,000 acres and on holidays the whole
Forsythe clan of children and grandchildren descends on the
family home in Marshall.
It was to enliven these festive gatherings that Forsythe first
had the idea of putting in three holes on his property. But
when Lohman and Benkusky walked the area, the terrain cried
out to them for more, and they came back with a proposal for
a nine-hole course. A year later, two more holes were added
to the plan as practice holes. From that point on, a full 18
holes were probably inevitable sooner or later, but the enthusiasm
of friends and golf professionals made the decision to go forward
an easy one.
The construction by Forsythe was anything but easy, and no expense
was spared. Over two million cubic yards of topsoil had to be
stripped away before the landscaping and elevation work could
be done. Then all that dirttons
of exceptionally fertile farmlandwas painstakingly replaced.
Four lakes were built and a pumping system added so that streams
and waterfalls along the course can be turned on and off as
Now, after more than four years, the project is substantially
complete, although Forsythe is still tinkering, thanks to the
input of friends like Mickey Powell, past president of the PGA,
and Pete Dye, the doyen of American course designers. Canyata
is currently in the process of being rated and opening itself
up to membership, but its beautiful setting and challenging
layout have already earned favorable comparisons to Rich Harvest
Farms, the private course outside Chicago recently chosen to
host the 2009 Solheim Cup.