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Review: Grand Niagara Golf Club (Rees Jones)

Review: Grand Niagara Golf Club (Rees Jones)

Rarely has something with a name desinger as notable as Rees Jones been so, well, nondescipt. But that’s exactly the case at the Grand Niagara Resort’s course created by Jones, a facility that might[photopress:GrandNiagarahole_03.jpg,full,alignright] provide the definition of “inoffensive golf design.”

To start with, courses built in Niagara Falls have a lot going against them out of the gate. They are, largely, built on unexceptional land that is flat as a table top. The starter yesterday said two things of interest. One, that I “wouldn’t spill my drink when you’re driving down the fairway,” and two, that the greens were like the tops of “pool tables.” He’s right on both accounts, though I didn’t take those things as the positives he was trying to describe.

[photopress:GrandNiagarahole_06.jpg,full,alignleft]The truth is that there’s nothing wrong with Jones’ effort at Grand Niagara. The holes all function well and some, including the strong par four third, as well as the clever and nicely defined fifth and sixth (the later being the standout on the course — a long par three with a green site perched in a hillside and guarded by large bunkers). But given the complete lack of elevation change, and Jones’ insistence on using the same large, flash-faced bunkers throughout, the holes on the back nine become indistinguishable. What you get are three types of holes — those that use holding ponds as a feature; those with fescue lining the wide fairways, and the occasional hole that is tree lined.

It appears Jones works to a template. He simply reuses the same style over and over again without regard to the property. In truth, Grand Niagara would have been far better off without the holding pounds and with a more distinct theme. The course might have worked had it been conceived as a heathlands course — and the subtle land might have allowed for such a facility to be created.

Those who pay $125 to play Grand Niagara must feel like something is missing. Sure the course was in great shape — the greens ran true and the bunker sand was nicely compacted. But is that all you should expect for $125? Shouldn’t you want a good golf course that challenges you visually and aesthetically? Shouldn’t golfers want more?

Created over 300 acres, this is supposed to be the first of two courses built for Grand Niagara. The second, to be designed by Greg Norman, has now been put off for several years. I’d be surprised if it ever gets built. At the very least the owners could save themselves some money and take another average high-priced public course out of the mix by never getting it started in the first place.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

9 CommentsLeave a comment

  • wow, this was a very harsh article about a great course. its true that there are very limited elevation changes on the course, mainly because it is built in Niagara, NOT BC. But I have to totally disagree with your view that the layout stagnates. If you look down the road to the classic “cut and paste” course in Niagara, Legends Battlefield entry, i think you’ll see that Grand Niagara has something different to offer from each of the 18 tee decks. I really think that the Battlefield course could have been designed with the arcitect sitting in his office and never once visited the site. I know for a fact that the design team was onsite at Grand many times during construction.

  • I think Robert was way off-base with his comments on Rees Jones “inoffensive” design. GN is a beautiful golf course, with each hole nicely framed against it’s natural backdrop. What did he expect in Niagara? Drastic elevation changes and gorgeous vistas of the Horseshoe Falls? I thought the course was very fair, provided plenty of risk/reward opportunities, and quite frankly, is one of the best new courses in the province. The fact that I scored well there on a beautiful day might have had something to do with this review as well 🙂

  • The review was right on the money.

    I went when they offered a discount and a free steak sandwich at the turn.

    It was barely worth the discount price–125 is robbery.

    The course slope and rating is inflated–if you want to drop your handicap, play here a few times. I suspect some kind of ‘understanding’ with the course raters was in effect. The fairways are flat, and the greens are unexciting.

    If you don’t shoot 5 under your handicap on this course, you are having a bad day indeed.

    To make matters worse, I hit the turn early–I had an early tee time. I was told I could wait for 15 minutes for the steak. I explained that at the turn, you kinda need to be in and out in a few minutes.

    I asked for a lesser-value sandwich (or anything!) instead, and was refused.

    When I left, I got the standard ‘Hope you come back’ line from the staff.

    Not gonna happen.

    I’m sticking to Whirlpool from now on.

  • The writer is a typical male; must have had his cherry or ego busted by the course during his druncken outing. I’m surprised he did not spill his drink or at least dribble on himself.

    In my opinion mr Jones has created a masterpiece of work with very little to work with in the begining. This course will outlast most if not all the Niagara Park Courses especially if there is the addition of a course by Mr. Norman.

  • This course was the third we played on a long weekend golf outing a couple of years ago, the other two were Whirlpool and Thundering waters. I found GN to be a beautiful course that was interesting to play, and very playable not because it’s easy, but because of it’s fabulous conditioning. If you like old fashioned courses with hard fairways that play like rough ,go to whirlpool and stay there. Don’t bother bad mouthing a course for being in great shape.

  • The review is quite accurate in my opinion. I found the course was well maintained – not much play can help contribute to that. There are some good holes but quite a few of them are not very memorable. For the money Hunters Pointe GC is far better. Not maintained as well but a better course and better value – my opinion.

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