BY IAN CRUICKSHANK
Southern Ontario is a golfer’s paradise. It boasts perfect topography—hardwood forests, roaring rivers, misty waterfalls, glassy lakes, deep gorges, rolling hills, sheets of granite and even sand dunes. Plus, there’s a course around nearly every corner. Here are some of the most intriguing places to play.
Eagles Nest Golf Club winds across a former sand and gravel pit, next to an old town dump in the northern GTA. Architect Doug Carrick has transformed this gaping scar into an Irish-style wonderland with tumbling fairways, more than 100 basement-deep bunkers and enough fescue to carpet the Emerald Isle.
Want to walk in the same steps as the game’s superstars? Then tee it up at Glen Abbey in Oakville, which has hosted the Canadian Open more than 20 times. For fun, try to replicate Tiger Woods’s miracle shot at the 18th hole.
Double your pleasure at Angus Glen in Markham, which is home to the heralded North and South layouts, both of which have hosted the game’s top players.
The best value in the GTA can be found at Osprey Valley in Caledon. Its three courses feature distinctive looks: North Carolina, Pine Valley and Scotland.
Muskoka Bay Club in Gravenhurst is as dramatic as an Italian opera, free falling through the birches and pines, bending through a stretch of wetlands and rising up through enormous chunks of granite.
Bigwin Island Golf Club is a tiny, perfect golfing isle and one of the few courses in the world where golfers get ferried to the links by boat. Perched above Lake of Bays, the Doug Carrick-designed layout takes full advantage of the island’s surprisingly roller coaster-like landscape.
At Black Bear Ridge outside of Belleville, Brian McGee fulfilled a golfing fantasy: he designed his own course on a stretch of family-owned land. The splendid parkland-style layout weaves through hills and trees and around the banks of the Moira River. It’s also home to one of Canada’s most impressive practice facilities, including a nine-hole short course.
Just the road into Cobble Beach Golf Resort is enough to ramp up any golfer’s juices. It’s nearly swallowed up by the vastness of adjoining Georgian Bay, with a lighthouse rising above the water just off the apron of the 17th green. The rocky shoreline that runs the length of the 18th fairway is slapped hard by the white caps rolling across the bay.
Another bayside extravaganza is the Golf Club at Lora Bay outside of Thornbury. Designed by architect Tom McBroom and former British Open champion Tom Lehman, the course dips and curls along Nipissing Ridge, a long chunk of headland that towers above Georgian Bay. The ninth hole is one of the prettiest in the province, a long par 4 that doglegs around a corner, revealing a sublime vista of sky and water.
The Tarandowah Golfers Club is a low-key layout located in quiet farm country outside of London. Don’t be fooled by the tranquility. Designer Dr. Martin Hawtree, a third-generation British golf course architect, has transformed a relatively flat landscape into a full-fledged Old World experience. While you don’t hear the ocean rumbling in the background, Tarandowah transports you back to the way golf was played 100 years ago.
Legends on the Niagara is just a couple of minutes away from the roar of the Falls but has become a destination in its own right. Built at a cost of $27 million, the facility curls around a War of 1812 site and includes two championship layouts designed by Canada’s top two architects. The Battlefield course is a Doug Carrick project that’s heavy on fescue and deep bunkers, while the Ussher’s Creek course was designed by Tom McBroom and is a more subtle layout that uses the creek as a risk/reward barrier. In the summertime, gulp down an extra bowl of porridge and play both courses in the same day.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter which corner of Southern Ontario you choose for your golfing getaway. There are so many good courses sprinkled across an incredibly diverse landscape that you can’t go wrong no matter where you tee it up. Play away!