Canyata Golf Club (pronounced can-yay-tuh) was originally intended to be a 3-hole golf course, comprising a par three, four and five on part of the Forsythe family farm, but architect Michael Benkusky had other ideas. By the end of 2001, 9 holes were open for play and by the end of 2004 owner Gerald Forsythe had a full 18-hole course in operation.
“It was an exciting project from the beginning,” said Benkusky, who was the former lead architect for Bob Lohmann. “Mr. Forsythe obviously wanted the best golf course he could have. We wanted the course to complement the site,” Benkusky said. “Tight fairways and small greens would have looked out of place. We weren't going to trick up this golf course.”
The result, according to Jerry Williams, Cantaya’s former Director of Golf, “Is a hard golf course to describe. There are some holes where you feel you're on a links course; some holes which make you feel like you're in North Carolina. If you were to take someone and just drop them in there, let them play the course and not tell them where they were, nobody would guess central Illinois.”
Golf at Canyata Golf Club is restricted to those who are invited to play by the owner Gerald Forsythe.
Canyata is owned by a very successful man, who basically created a golf course for his family in his back yard and allows a very select number of individuals to play if he authorises the visit. A professional golfer is drafted in to host the guest for the round. If the owner or his family isn’t there, then the property can go weeks without play. Outside of family play, Canyata gets around 150 rounds per year (yes, I said 150). Besides the daily maintenance crew, nobody had walked on the fairways for 3 weeks prior to my game. I’ve never walked on grass that is so untouched and felt so different under my feet. The owner originally created 3 holes for his kids next to their playground, which expanded to 9 holes and then ultimately to the 18 holes which exist today. Never in my life have I been on a property where I’ve felt so privileged, and yet I kept looking around for anything that resembled a “normal” golf club. After my game, there was nobody scheduled to visit for the rest of the month. The golf course itself was a true test with wonderful design variety. Canyata is almost as mythical and fabled as the Native American Indian statues around the grounds. You have to see it to believe it.