The Forsythe Saga
The Canyata Club
photographs by Joann Dost

When 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 dirt
tons of exceptionally fertile farmland–was 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 necessary.

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.