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SCOREGolf Top 100 Courses In Canada — On TV and My Take

I’ve been hanging on the sidelines as others discussed SCOREGolf’s biennial ratings of Canadian courses. The list is floating around several spots online after the magazine was sent out early by accident. Anyway, if you’re keen on seeing me talk about the list, I’ll be on TSN tomorrow at noon, alongside SCORE editor Bob Weeks and managing editor Jason Logan.

I’ll go through the entire list on Monday, but for now I’ll stick with the Top 10 with my comments below each course:

The 16th at the National GC of Canada -- a bad hole on a strong course.

1 The National GC of Canada

2008 Ranking: 1

As I said when we taped Score’s TV special, I have a lot of respect for the National, but little love. It isn’t a challenge to make a golf course difficult — and the National is proof of that. Sure there are some great holes (#7, #11, #13), but the reworked 10th is just harder, not better, and the redesign of the 16th is just bad. I have a hard time seeing this as the best in the country — Golf Magazine doesn’t see it that way.

2 Hamilton G&CC – West, South

2008 Ranking: 2

I think you could make an argument that Hamilton is the best in the country. I wonder how good it could be with a bunker restoration and some investigation about the rebuilt greens. I doubt Hamilton will ever do anything about either — which will always make the course rest just outside the Top 100 in the world.

3 St. George’s G&CC

We stand on guard for thee: The Canadian flag dominates the setting behind the par-3 16th at St. George's G &CC, site of July's RBC Canadian Open.

2008 Ranking: 3

Hard to fathom why this isn’t ahead of Hamilton. Challenge? At least Hamilton’s equal. Great par-4s? It outdoes Hamilton there. Perhaps Hamilton’s one-shot holes are stronger, but that’s about it.

4 Jasper Park Lodge GC

2008 Ranking: 5

I have no problem with Jasper’s position, though I do think it may have crept too high. It is a great course, but after revisiting Banff, I do have thoughts that Thompson’s second mountain design is actually the better all-around golf experience.

Banff might not be in perfect shape, but even with a bungled routing, it is still a great course.

5 Banff Springs GC

2008 Ranking: 11

This one surprises me. People complain about Highland Links’ conditioning, but I was at Banff a couple of weeks ago and I would say there is little difference between the two in terms of maintenance. That said, Banff was in pretty solid condition — at least the greens — but there was so much sand in the bunkers that one might hide a body there. And the reworked routing is still awfully obtuse.

6 Highlands Links

2008 Ranking: 4

Heading the wrong direction despite strides to resolve some of its turf issues. Where is the promised government restoration? This is, in my mind, the best design in the country. Now if only the other issues surrounding it could resolve itself, Highlands could once again sit atop this list.

7 Capilano G&CC

2008 Ranking: 7

 A great golf course and a prestigious club. This seems like about the right spot for Capilano.

8 Beacon Hall

2008 Ranking: 6

I think David Main, the new GM at Beacon, is a great guy and the club has been proactive about inviting Score raters out. It is also always in great condition, so I appreciate that many will love it. But the course’s schizophrenic nines leaves me a little flat. And with the exception of #9, #12, and #16, where are the great holes?

The love it or hate it 9th at Muskoka Bay.

9 Muskoka Bay Club

2008 Ranking: 26

This one is a head scratcher. A good course without doubt, but a great course? As I said in my review at the time, Muskoka Bay’s bunkering leaves the course feeling incomplete. There are great holes there — especially the run of #9 through #12 — but there’s a lot at Muskoka Bay that left me a bit flat.

10 Royal Montreal GC – Blue

2008 Ranking: 9

A great club — yes. A great course? Not even close. The Rees Jones’ renovation of the Blue course was a disaster and left the club with greens that are as natural as the CN Tower. I don’t actually think Royal Montreal’s Blue course was great prior to this — just another good club with a couple of solid, but unspectacular courses. How this moves up one spot from 2008 baffles me. 

For the record, here is my Top 10 using Score’s rating system:

1. Highlands Links Golf Club
 
2. St. George’s Golf and Country Club
 
3. Hamilton Golf and Country Club

4. Sagebrush Golf & Sporting Club

5. Devil’s Paintbrush

6. Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course

7. Banff Springs Golf Club

8. Eagles Nest Golf Club
 
9. Blackhawk Golf Club
 
10. Capilano Golf and Country Club
Golf Course

I’ll go through the entire list on Monday, pointing out the interesting choices, the misses and those that should be on the list but aren’t.

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Jeff Lancaster

Jeff Lancaster is the Publisher of CanadianGolfer.com.

8 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I agree with you on the National – I think sometimes people take a hard golf course as meaning it’s a great course. I really enjoy playing the National but I have a lot more fun playing Hamilton and its still a great challenge to score well.

    • If the course is isolated (Kawartha, Cataraqui, Waskesiu, Twin Rivers, Cherry Hill, Highlands Links), it always suffers because not too many people will travel a long way to see one course.

      The list is much better than it was, but should be shortened down to 25 or 50.

  • Pretty solid picks, Rob. Haven’t seen Sagebrush yet. Eagle’s Nest has fallen a bit in my estimation. A very good golf course, but not top 10 in my book. For what it’s worth, here would be my top 10:

    St. George’s
    Highlands Links
    Hamilton
    National
    Jasper
    Capilano
    Banff
    Toronto Golf
    Blackhawk
    Paintbrush

  • Robert, Can you explain to me how the raters decided to drop Highland Links two places despite what Ian has done re: tree removal etc while increasing the position of courses like Jasper and Banff although I don’t believe they have had any renovations since the last rating came out in 2008.

  • 1. Overall, the list seems far less wonky than the 2008 rankings.

    But, Muskoka Bay was the one that jumped off the pages for me as being far too highly rated.

    Like you say, it is a good/very good course. But, top 10?

    Not in my books.

    2. That said, how can a survey be reliable when any longstanding course, such as Toronto Golf, changes its ranking so dramatically? If it is a newer course, like Coppinwood or Tobiano, that few people had seen previously, it’s completely understandable. But, when a course is the 3rd oldest club in North America, it doesn’t make sense that it can jump so dramatically from one spot to another (particularly as the ratings were made before the course’s dramatic renovation).

  • Don: The only explanation I can offer is in Score’s ratings itself, especially in the conditioning category, which I think should be removed. The categories, as far as I know, are without time limit. In other words if you’ve seen a course like Jasper in 2003 — as is the case with me — I don’t think it is removed. That means I might have seen it after a bad spring and the greens could be wonky. Three years later, when another rater sees it, they could be perfect. The other categories — fun, and the elements of design — are basically constants unless there’s been a major renovation (ie Toronto GC). So someone may have seen Highlands two years ago when the greens were in tough shape and been critical of it then.

    I don’t understand the move of Banff, despite the fact I really love the course. Not sure how to explain that.

    Re: Ian’s remarks. I don’t think the list should be cut down and see no reason why a Top 100 list can’t be done in this country. I agree that only the Top 50 are top notch, but there are plenty in the next 50 that I think should be higher. I think if they were not on the list at all, many people would simply ignore them.

    Bill: re Muskoka Bay. I think this one will follow the trend of other Muskoka courses and drop in coming years. It is good, but it has entered territory that is over its head. Sagebrush, on the other hand, should rise.

  • RT, to me, all of the Muskoka courses resemble a slightly better than average looking person wearing Armani.

    At first, you might think that they are exceptionally good looking.

    But, after spending some time with them, you realize what they really are…just better than average, but surrounded by nice stuff.

  • Ranking golf courses is a no different than ranking beautiful women …..like , how do you really distinguish between a “9” and a “10”. The answer is simple . You can’t.

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