* Humber Valley — Doug Carrick’s gem in Newfoundland has struggled through a receivership, but remains open. When I played it three years ago, I was blown away by a couple of the holes, including the majestic 10th. But it is some of the subtle holes — like the 7th through the 9th — that prove Carrick was at the top of his game when he built this one.
* Oviinbyrd — Thomas McBroom’s best in Muskoka is rarely overwhelming, though there are several holes on the back nine that are as strong as anything built in Canada in the last decade. Like Bigwin Island, Oviinbyrd is also playable — with wide fairways and on-grade greens. Delightful to play time and again.
* Blackhawk — The first indication that Rod Whitman was some sort of architectural savant, Blackhawk’s front nine is extraordinary, and that’s before the course descends into the picturesque river valley that makes up much of the back nine.
* Tarandowah — the best value in Canada is also one of its best courses. Martin Hawtree had a piece of farmland, but not much of a budget and still turned this course into a terrific faux links, with all the quirks one would expect.
* Stewart Creek — Gary Browning’s Stewart Creek would be among the best in Canada if it didn’t have one clunker of a hole. Too bad, the rest of the course is a great mountain experience, with a solid mix of short and long holes, and great swings in elevation without overwhelming the golf.
* Tobiano — Sure Tobiano is extreme golf on an incredible site. And yes there are forced carries on this one that would be too much for some golfers. But the best of Tobiano — like the 6th, 7th, or 13th — are heroic golf that offers challenge and flare.
* Sagebrush — Some would argue that Sagebrush, designed by Whitman, in collaboration with Richard Zokol and Armen Suny, is the best course to open in Canada since the National. It may not quite reach that lofty perch because of its extreme site, but it is damned close and a lot of fun to play — time and again.
* Osprey Valley Hoot — I’d argue this is the best of Doug Carrick’s three courses at Osprey Valley. With its Pine Valley wasteland look and terrific variation in holes, as well as being walkable, Hoot is a standout among three courses that are all exceptional.
* Goodwood — Sure few have had a chance to see this course, Angus Glen owner Gordon Stollery’s ultra-private haven located north of Toronto. And yes, it starts a little slowly. But by the time you’ve hit the middle of the front nine, designers Tom Mackenzie and Martin Ebert offer a naturalistic ride that makes you wish more people had a chance to experience it.
* Eagles Nest — A remarkable creation considering the lacklustre site. Perhaps Carrick’s best — a good job of replicating links features, and the valley holes are, by and large, very strong.
And an 11th for good measure
* Coppinwood — sure more was expected of this course given Tom Fazio’s involvement and the large budget, and yes, most of the front nine is solid, but not extraordinary. That said, there are some fine holes on the back nine that elevate this to elite status in Canada.