Review: Mystic Golf Club, Ancaster, Ontario

Course Review:
Mystic Golf Club, Ancaster, Ontario
Designer: Tom Pearson
Opened: September, 2005

Gaining some sort of attention in the heavily golf saturated market of Southern Ontario is tough these days. The quality of public golf is high and the customer is savvy, sharp and knows exactly what he wants. They search out and research the places they are going to play and keep their eyes focused on local golf periodicals for new clubs that might match their interests and their pocket books.

Given this, Mystic Golf Club, about 10 minutes from Ancaster, is aptly named. Few know much about the course, which was in planning stages for more than a decade before it became a reality. And since it has had one of the most low-profile openings of any course in the area in the last few years, the public can be forgiven if they still don’t know this course exists. No promotion and no advertising, plus a rural location on a sideroad with no signs typically equals no golfers. Interestingly, despite the clubs best efforts to become the Ontario Greta Garbo of the golf scene, Mystic managed 1,000 rounds in the two months since it opened.

Now that the preamble is done, here’s the hard part: Is it any good? The answer is yes, though I reserve the right to make several comments about the club that run contrary to my overall impression.

Mystic Golf Club is different, which is a nice change. It has small greens, narrow fairways in spots and can be tough as nails. It is a bit of a throw back to the time when developers like Kaneff, who created Lionhead, determined they wanted to build “players’ clubs” (though this is much better than either of the Lionhead courses). Courses developed for serious or talented players are almost always done badly because they exclude a majority of the public which doesn’t break 90. Developers and designers too regularly misunderstand what makes a “players course,” and instead create overly difficult courses that aren’t a lot of fun for anyone. Thankfully, Mystic largely avoids this trap, but only just. The best difficult courses offer options — especially off the tee. In this respect, Mystic can occasionally come across as a one-trick pony, where players are expected to hit long straight drive after long straight drive. There are other issues as well. For one, the three sets of men’s tees — 7,365; 6,713; and 6,096 yards — are badly conceived. Too many players, afraid at being laughed at for playing the course at 6,000 yards, will step back and get badly beaten by the forced carries at 6,800 yards.

This will likely also create pace of play issues. Certainly Pearson had some difficulties in routing through the valleys and wetlands that run throughout the property but are rarely near greens or tees. Still, one would have thought he could have managed to find the money yardage of 6,400 or 6,500 yards that every other golf architect in the province seems to have managed to find. In recent years, I can only recall the much maligned The Rock in Muskoka that opened with such an odd variety of yardages.

There are a few other downsides, including the fact that several of the holes in the front and back nine, which play on lackluster land, have a back-and-forth feeling. This is especially apparent on the front nine in the 5th, 6th, and 8th holes which are challenging, but plain. The 8th is saved by a good green site a different tee shot and the first glimpses of the terrific 9th. Once past the interesting, but strange, par five 10th, and strong downhill par three 11th with its Nicklaus-style green, we hit another section of holes that play between the valleys and are a bit staid. Pearson also comes to rely on two-tier greens which can be found throughout the course and accentuate the repetitive feel. That said, the greens at Mystic Club buck the trend of recent courses constructed by the likes of Doug Carrick or Thomas McBroom given their small size. It means hitting the greens can prove problematic, but once on the putting surfaces and on the correct tier, the gentle movements make birdies quite possible. Though the course was in tough shape in places, much of which can be excused given its newness, the greens were in exceptional condition.

Much has been made about the width of the fairways at Mystic, which in places average 28 yards wide (see the photo to the left, of the sixth hole, for example), or about a third narrower than most of the new courses that have opened and focused on playability in the past decade. Interestingly, Pearson utilizes these narrow fairways to on the holes with the poorest land, perhaps a compensatory move to distract golfers from the bland parts of the course. Not surprisingly, the best parts of the course, like the bold 9th, with it bunker in the middle of the landing area, have relatively wide fairways and present players with options off the tees. The weakest parts are fairly one-dimensional, with tight fairways and inside angled bunkers.

The best portions of the course utilize the valleys and wetlands as forced carries off the tee or on approaches to the greens. Take, for example, the terrific par four 14th, with its tee shot across an expanse of marshy wetlands, to a narrow fairway that runs down a hill. The green is perched neatly against the wetlands valley, making for an interesting approach.

The finishing hole, which plays 453-yards from the tips (and can be seen in the opening shot of this review), provides one of the few instances of real drama on the course, with an extraordinary tee shot from blocks set on a the top of a hillside and looking down over more wetlands. The carry — approximately 230 yards — is intimidating, and if you manage to find the short grass, you still face an uphill approach to a well-bunkered green that falls away at the back.

If it were all as strong as the 18th, Mystic would prove to be one of the best courses in Canada. Instead, it is strong in places, and just average in others. Unlike the work of David Moote, Ted Baker or Rene Mulyaert, there is nothing downright awful, awkward or bad in design terms on the course. However, several facets, like the bunkering, are so straight forward as to be plain. There’s nothing wrong with it — but you’ll have a tough time recalling some of the middle holes on both nines, especially since the bunkering lacks any distinctive qualities.

Even considering those factors, Mystic has enough redeeming features to make it enjoyable. However, like Bond Head, the high-end course that opened earlier this summer north of Toronto, the toughest challenge for Mystic Golf Club may be enticing players to come and tackle it given its $125 green fee that is exceptionally high for the area. Nearby Copetown Woods, which is an above-average public course within a five minute drive, offers plenty for a lot less. Mystic is good, but it will be interesting to see whether players think it is good enough to warrant the considerably higher price.

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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.

32 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Mystic is a wonderful golf course and “golfers” will really enjoy its challenge and design. The par 3 third is a beauty..

  • Mystic is a golf course with a lot of potential. Opened in November 2005, the course shows its immaturity. Many fairways were somewhat barren and have yet to fill in. Water seemed to be in short supply as the course was quite hard and dry. However, on a positive note – the greens were lightning fast and ran true. Some of the best I’ve played in this area. The layout will be a challenge to high handicappers as long straight drives off the well manicured tee blocks are a must. There is very little in the way of facilities. The clubhouse is temporary, little more than a trailer. There is a putting green but that is about it. In summary, at $85 (including cart) Mystic proved to be an interesting track to play. I enjoyed the game and look forward to playing again in a couple of years when the course has matured.

  • I think the Owner and Manager need to show some respect for their maintenance crew. If it wasn’t for them the course wouldn’t be as nice as it is. So show some POSITIVE attributes in the work that they have done because it’s tough to take all the nagging you guys give them (and underpay) (which might contribute to all the resigning and hiring constantly). Overall I loved the course and I am looking forward to playing it again in a couple of years so it can mature.

  • It is very important for the maintenance staff to receive respect, be paid on time and not be underpaid for their hard work because the course could not run without them, they certainly have alot of power. The course looks fantastic because of all the hard work that has been put into it. Greens are well groomed, bunkers are well raked, fairways are well cut. Their expert staff could work anywhere.

  • Maintenance staff seem to get the same amount of respect the paying public gets. Course has been open for nearly a year now and your green fee of $90= no ball washers, no course guide, no hole outline at the tee boxes, no hole outline on the score cards, no yardage stakes in the fairways, no beverage carts, no beverages….fridge full of beverages kept in locked closet off pro shop and not seen till the end of the round when the door was left open, no working computer, no working debit machine, no sympathy or goodwill gestures of any kind from pro shop attendant and 2 onlookers – just poor excuses..”the guy usually goes out with a cart and has drinks, but he was doing something else today…” Several people milling about the clubhouse looking to take bags, clean clubs to make a few bucks….not begrudging them….since they apparently aren’t looked after very well, but the course wasn’t too terribly busy. they could’ve made a few bucks on the course selling beverages in the sweltering heat.
    The website lures you with promise of something special. That promise is but a faint hope as you enter the doors of the pro shop. Although the greens are great, the course is nice, but is showing signs of declining attention being overtaken by crabgrass and dandelions in many places the where the fairways are in rough shape. Really Dry also

    SAVE YOUR MONEY golf somewhere else at a course that appreciates your business. There are enough of them out there.

  • Well, my playing partner and I played 36 holes at this course on August 9, 2006. As a course, it is difficult not to love the layout, although it is a mentally exhausting process of exploration as you tour around trying to figure out why you came. It is a difficult course and demands shot making. There were a few things that diminished the experience, not the leasty of which were the sprinklers coming on at the moment of tee off. The lack of ball washers, the lack of food – virtually nothing avaible and the lack of a proper course book were real handicaps. There is no way to know how to play the course as it is not well articulated. This is not a course that I would recommend to anyone because for the cost, the ownership seems to have gone out of their way to minimize what should have been a wonderful day. The other patrons we spoke too were pretty much of the same mind. It was an experience but for that money, I can play at a course that at least creates the impression that they value their patrons.

  • WOW !
    This place is the real deal!! Conditioning isn’t as good as the top notch tracks in the area……but this baby makes up for it with muscle!! Driver must be long and accurate,irons must be on and putter better be working as well, or it can make for a long round! If you enjoy a challenge this is the place for you! Bring lots of golf balls and beer to keep your attitude in check when the BOGEYMAN comes………..because he WILL !!! AND OFTEN !!!!

  • I dont understand why so many people are down on this course. I played it about three weeks ago and had a great time. I played with a fellow CPGA member who absolutely bombs it off the tee (if he could only chip) and we both agreed that the course, although not mature yet, was in respectable shape and gave a great challenge. Now, some say Im the best putter in the area, and although I would agree, my friend AC is right up there with me. He’s a Pelz guy and his short game is outstanding. Im more Utley and my short game saved me around this track. The greens at Mystic were in about as good a shape as the Dallas Cowboy’s cheerleaders and about as tough as my great aunt Sally. The only thing that was in rough shape were the fairways, but I found them about as often as I find Jessica Simpson in my bed. Anyways, great track, give it some time, and let it recuperate from my birdie barrage I threw at it.

  • What a beautiful golf course. With the coloured leaves and the warmth of the sun, who could ask for a better day. People that I hadn’t seen for years finally got together to enjoy each others company and chew the fat about days of old and how good we used to be.

    Upon returning to my car, after a wonderful day of golf and camaraderie with the guys, I found my car, a BLACK 2006 Mustang I might add, in your parking lot covered with a pail of dirt that someone had decided to throw on the hood.


  • I, as well as about half a dozen other students, worked at Mystic over the summer. As part of our term of employment we signed a contract stating that should we maintain employment through the entire summer, we were entitled to a bonus equal to $1 for every hour worked. We all fulfilled our contracts (worked 50 hours a week, no overtime or any perks of any sort, from Spring to September 1st) and eagerly awaited October 1, 2006–the day we were to receive our bonus lump sum. Of course knowing Mystic and its Modus operandi, this money was never given to anyone. I ask what kind of management cheats off hard-working students that have tuition to pay? Many of us were counting on that bonus to pay for books, rent, food etc. Mystic is a pathetic excuse for a golf course and Roland Berger is a liar and thief.

  • Remember when they changed payday.. on payday?

    Remember when environment canada did a surprise inspection and we had to clean out all the chemicals from the pumphouse (yes, 5 feet from the water, unlocked, unsecured, unprotected)?

    Remember when they burned all that garbage (particularly plastic).. but remember all the time it just sat around in piles before that?

    Remember the pools of putrid stagnant water?

    Remember all the broken rediculously unsafe carts? the ones we had to ride on the hood of?

    Remember how many times we almost got hit by balls?

    How many golfers (and employees) went over bridges into the water? at least 3 for sure..

    Remember all the people we owed money to?

    Remember what a dick roland was to us, and in on a somewhat related note.. how many other employees we saw come and go?

    Remember the $150 uniform (consisting of 2 shirts) that we were expected to pay for?

    I dunno, i guess thats all i remember.

    Maybe if somebody else buys it i’ll reapply.

    also, we were high every day.

    Thanks Mystic!

  • It clearly looks like the management of Mystic, which it appears to be Mr. Berger the owner, is way in over his head. It’s not hard to figure out that he is either under financed or just has a very strange way of conducting business.

    I played the course this fall and found the lay out superb but everything else a disaster. Too many things that are wrong about Mystic to list here. Potential is tremendous, but it appears it will never get there under the present ownership.

  • As an avid golfer and a committee member of many annual golf events….I am appalled at the recent comments concerning Mystic golf course in Ancaster, Ontario. I have played the course at least 8 times spanning from August to most recent, November 23rd. The course layout is superb, without a doubt…the nicest in the area. With only one full season since inception, it is unbelievable the “beauty”, the “ambience” and pure joy to play. Aside from not having a clubhouse/dining area, LCBO license, and ball washers which are in the planning stages, this is the course everyone SHOULD play for next season.
    I have had the privilege to play the local Clublinks and other private courses in the area and around the world. I would hate to see Mystic go private. Comments concerning “receivership” and “mismanagement” only damage the credibility of the course which in turn may turn away golfers who haven’t played Mystic not to play. If this course gets “privatized”, we the general public will suffer.
    What Mystic does need is to mention the positives……..$85.00 (includes cart) regular rate and $65 (includes cart) twilight rate is not too far from the areas premium courses, a challenging experience with the natural environment still intact and more importantly, Ryan Wilson (operations manager/head pro) whom I have had many discussions with is a “CLASS ACT” which I have utmost respect for under the circumstances. I believe he can build on the positives for the next season. A MUST PLAY, I will be back in 2007.

  • Hey – What is up with this course? Is it open?

    I would love to play it again.. and I bet it is in great shape after all this rain!

  • Mystic has just been purchased and is now owned by Golf North Properties. This makes 15 golf courses in the Golf North family now with Mystic as the premier golf course. Look for improvements in course conditions and service( yes there are now ball washers). Everyone come back and give it another shot.

  • Played the day (June 9, 07) after the new owners took over. No score cards (bad photocopies of a score card only), no hole descriptions, no yardage markers…but sprinkler heads marked….if you can find them, no garbage cans. Didn’t honour web site price because it wasn’t their web site. Gave us hat clip/magnetic ball markers after making our thoughts known after a difficult round. The good is the greens while a bit slow are very nice. Will I be back, 70/30 no. Maybe if I read new reviews. Beware the tenth….nasty!!

  • played june 20th, shortly after new ownership took over. had a great time with my dad even though we fed the course quite a few golf balls (bring extra, nasty rough). the staff was very friendly and very interested in our feedback. they are aware of all the issues mentioned in the other reviews, score cards, ball washers, maps, garbage cans, clubhouse, lcbo license, conditioning, etc. and these things will be taken care of soon enough. i feel Golf North are willing to spend the money needed to finish the job started by the original builder. it’s almost there and will only get better week by week, year by year.
    it’s quite the bargain after 2pm, $65 including cart and it took me less than an hour to get there from downtown toronto.
    i will be back and suggest you give it a try before everyone else finds out about it.

  • Is the course still operational? Have the new owners been treating the staff with the dignity and respect we all expect and deserve as working people?Have the owners printed new score cards? Ball washers purchased and installed? Course guides – got em yet? Seed and sand boxes – inplace and filled with seed and sand? Garbage cans on the course and at each tee ground? If so – Mrs. Phillips and I will gladly come and purchase green fee’s and stay for dinner!

  • It is now the dead of winter and as I look back at a fairly good season of golf, Mystic does fit in nicely. Our first round there was indeed a so-so adventure as many of the course ammenities were lacking (course guide, ball washers, hole description at the tee off and off course the beer car). The course itself, tough but in good shape. The second round, much closer to seasons end, was even better, but no thanks to my playing ability. My round was not as good as the first but the course (but not my game)was continuing to show signs of improvement. I will be back and one day. I look forward to a course that shows its full potential, and a score to match that.

  • waited a long time to play this club at almost a $100 bucks a round we were expecting it to be a special day,turned out to be the biggest disapointment of my 7 year golf career.We missed the driveway because there entrance isnt finished,when we entered the parking lot (empty)to find a mobile trailer as the pro shop we dropped our bags and wondered if they were open.we went inside to pay where it took the employee several minutes to aknowledge that we were standing in front of him did not have any personality whatsoever said someone would be along to load our clubs on the cart never showed up.The course itself was perfect and very demanding and long play from the front tees if your ego can take it and bring a couple extra sleeves of balls because you will need them.we were the only ones on the course that we could see it was raining and hot could of used a beer but guess what no beer cart. The problem with mystic isnt the conditioning of the course far from it,its the terrible service and management.I was embarassed to suggest to my dad to play there and pay $100 bucks since he is now on a fixed income,we have the luxury of playing many courses minutes from mystic at half the price with twice the sevice

  • Played the course recently with two other friends and we all agreed that it was great course. Yes it is missing some of the creature comforts of a well established golf course but if you’re really out there to play golf you should enjoy the place. The course can be difficult at times with the required carries on some holes and you need to be fairly straight with your shots. I personally shoot in the 90’s and scored a 98 that day with about three balls lost. Needless to say I’m a fairly high handicapper but the place didn’t beat me up and force me to give up altogether. I would say the next thing they need is probably better hole descriptions (i.e. hole descriptors/maps when getting to the tee) and yardage markers that are a little more visible (i.e. coloured stakes). The course is still being built up and hopefully they slowly keep making improvements to make it one of the premier courses in the area. Another sticking point may be the price, the fall rate was about $65 with a cart which isn’t too bad but the summer rate of about $90 might be a tad too much considering the other options in the area. The price would be the only thing to limit my number of returns in a season. I think you could say that Mystic is a gem that needs to be polished to make it sparkle. If you like the challenge of golf you’ll like the course at Mystic.

  • I played the course in late summer 2008, twilight, teed off at 430pm, still payed $85 if I recall and although the course seemed empty, my 3some had encountered a delay from a single who insisted on playing more than 1 ball. How can a single slow down a 3some?? We couldnt even see any of our shots on 18. No marshall, no beer cart, no clubhouse. I was more than upset with the experience. I felt I got screwed and wasnt kissed. The course was ….umm ok, It had potential. When a course is new and starting out, one would think that they might want to attract business and charging an outrageous price isnt the way to do it.

    Fast forward to June 2009 and I found myself with a day off from work in Cambridge and decided to call around to book a tee time as a single. I called 3 courses which either had tournaments or seniors leagues going on. So I decided to go to ol’ faithful Mystic which I knew would be empty and it didnt dissapoint. 815 am on a Thursday and now the green fee was $89..oh my God!!! Oh well Im stuck now, this time someone did load my bag into a cart, they gave me a small bucket of balls to hit 1st. The course was better, fairways nice, greens nice, and it was still tough, a good tough, challenging, yet fair. You do have to hit the fairway, or else! I am still concerned about the clubhouse or the lack thereof. It is a trailer and when I arrived, the septic truck was doing a waste removal and OMG the smell!! The bathrooms are on the outside of the trailer.

    Golf North, a word to the wise, this course can be a premier course but you have to make it that way in every way. Your two Diamond courses are Mystic and Grey Silo, the latter belongs there, Mystic does not. Until you get a proper clubhouse, proper customer service, it is just a nice course where you get nothing but golf and not much else.

    In summary, Mystic GC is a very nice course in great condition, kudos to the greens staff, but it lacks customer service in the so called clubhouse and currently it is WAY overpriced. If you cant find a tee off time anywhere, call Mystic, there will be lots of room.

  • I just finished playing Mystic a few hours ago. My experience was great, there was beer carts and beer in the mobile clubhouse. I was disapointed we had to take a cart, but once on the course I was glad we did. Played in 4 hours, slower couple in front of us but no big deal. The course was in excellent shape, well marked with directions. It was just a good fun day, course is so different and so fun. Bring extra balls, I lost 4.

  • just played mystic july 2009 and thought it was great can’t wait to go back. I like the narrow fairways and thinking on some holes.
    Tee blocks, fairways and rough in great shape some greens need a little work but not much. For sure a must play for the average to better golfer.

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  • This course was the most bull course ever. Rough was 3 feet long. If you miss the fairway youll be happy with double. You must hit a provisional on every hole even if you know it’s in the fairway. Just garbage, the U.S. open at winged foot was easier. Their lawn mower must have broke down and too cheap to fix it.

  • Just played a sensational round at Mystic and shot an 84 ! It’s a great layout – very Myrtle Beach-esque in feel with sculpted soft fairways, lots of landing zones (target golf) and a punishing rough/o.b. if you have a tendency to slice a little. The course
    is definitely not for a newbie golfer, I have played golf for over 34 years and at my age (44) what you pay for is the experience of challenging layouts, an escape from the daily grind (no cars zooming by on 8th and 9th holes like Lowville) and the idea that if you keep your head down and concentrate on playing what this course gives you, you can come into the 19th hole with a decent score of sub-90 golf. I liked Mystic and liked the fact that there were no hackers out there with two foursomes taking forever and a day on each hole. Played 18 in under 4 hrs at 3hrs 22 min and the course was lush green, well manicured and a pleasure to play – I think its a gem and was only charged 60.00 to play 18 all day as they were not busy. The course was in A-1 condition and the greens/mtce crews stay out of your way during play which is great.

    I will return, this course will be outstanding once they add an upgraded clubhouse/locker facility.

  • I agree with the one reviewer that this should not be considered a Diamond course till GN forks out some money to build a clubhouse.
    The layout is a bit silly with the variations of how the holes are designed. Looks like a few people took turns at designing the holes. However it is a tough challenge, almost too much for the average golfer though…

  • Golfed Mystic this wknd! If you do have a passion for golf and I mean a true passion……golf Mystic! Not for the beer drinking cart boys or the family fun round.Your here to GOLF!!!!!!! Bring your”A”game and a cooler of fruit and drinks and perhaps an xtra ball or two.

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