Course Review: The Raven at Lora Bay

Course Review: The Raven at Lora Bay (Tom McBroom with Tom Lehman)

Few courses that involve a PGA Tour pro ever live up to their billing. Thankfully the Raven course at Lora Bay, created by Toronto designer Tom McBroom with former British Open champ Tom Lehman, is the exception, rather than the rule. Simply put, McBroom and Lehman have created a timeless course that harkens back to the era of Stanley Thompson.


McBroom and Lehman have gone to some lengths to create the authentic feel of Lora Bay, right down to using blue grass fairways, as opposed to bent, to give it that old time flavour. Players are given a pretty good taste of what to expect on the first tee shot. A downhill par four opens the course, but rather than blasting away with a driver, McBroom seems to consciously be asking players to consider their options. A better bet is a fairway wood and a mid-iron (side note: It is too bad the cart path on the left of #1 green is so close, since the preferred approach is from the right and even a slightly pulled shot has a chance of hitting the pavement and rambling into a hazard.)

On the second hole, a short par four, McBroom and Lehman once more ask players to be careful on club selection. Though the hole, with its water down the left (similar in a way to the second at London, Ont.’s Firerock) appears like McBroom by numbers, the architect has carefully added some wild fairway contours and an intriguing green into the mix. McBroom ramps it up on three by offering a long par three — the toughest on the course. Welcome to the Raven.

The truth is that elements of McBroom’s most recent work (Oviinbyrd, Firerock, Wildfire and Glencairn) all come together impressively at The Raven. On top of that, he seems less self conscious about his green contours, adding significant slope to several — including greens that play hard back to front. These aren’t the greens that McBroom created early in his career, with their wild drops and tumbles, but they are more bold than anything he’s done recently.


Since the bay over which the course sits is rarely seen throughout the round (how about clearing the trees along the fairway on 16 thru 18?), McBroom has created some of his nastiest, fascinating bunkers to date. Taking a cue from the naturalistic styles of the likes of Tom Doak and Bill Coore, McBroom has fashioned bunkers that look like they would be at home in the horse and buggie era. The bunkers curl down with grass, while others are flashed up. The most distinguished have fescue “eye brows” on the back side — a most distinguished look that rarely hinders play. The optics of these bunkers, especially on holes like the par five seventh, force players to more carefully think through their shots than they might otherwise. Nonetheless these are the Raven at Lora Bay’s crowning glory and a real achievement for McBroom.

Perhaps the routing relies a little too much on tee shots that favour a draw (#1, #2, #8, #9, #16 and #18), but that apparently has little to do with Lehman’s preferred shot. The course was actually routed prior to Lehman’s involvement, so Tom’s ball flight likely had little to do with the decision.

But that is a nitpicky issue on an otherwise outstanding course that features all of the factors that make a course timeless — a great, walkable routing, great greens and great bunkering. People may not immediately recognize what McBroom has accomplished at Lora Bay, but in time it will likely become established as one of his most subtle — and best — courses.

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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.

10 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Robert,

    While I am extremely pleased that you liked the Raven at Lora Bay, I am also disappointed with this review. I was the project manager, hired to construct the golf course. The underlying theme throughout your review (which is great) is that McBroom is accomplishing things for the first time (greens contouring, bunker lines, etc.) which has a definate explanation. Other than the first 2 paragraphs, you make very little mention of Tom Lehman’s architectural influence. I assure you that this was a true “co-design”. Tom Lehman has 2 associate architects that work for him, and made site visits more routinely than McBroom. In fact, and greens drawings and most bunker lines were done by the Lehman Design Group. McBroom did an outstanding job with the routing, and certainly made a huge impact on the final outcome of the property. However, equally as important and relevant was the involvement of the Lehman Design Group. In the future, please make sure that both of these architectural firms get the credit they deserve, not just one of them.

    Thank you.

  • As the construction superintendent on the Lora Bay site it gives me great pleasure to read the postive reviews given to this particular project. After playing the course this past weekend I must admit it was just as enjoyable playing it as it was building it. Hats off to both architectural teams involved and all those who continue with the maintenance. The course was in fantastic shape for having so little time to mature.
    Rob, you have done a great job on explaining the great detail put into all aspects of this golf course. The only thing it is lacking is the recognition of the Lehman Design Team. This project was definietly a co design project and therefore should be recognized as one. As you had mentioned in your review “few courses involving PGA Tour pros live up to their billing, but this was an exception” could not of hit the nail on the head any better. Mr. Lehman and his design team take great pride in their design strategies and understand what it takes to construct their ideas. Hopefully, one day I will get the pleasure of working with the Lehman design team again.
    I’m currently working for Mr. McBroom in Kamloops, B.C. constructing the new Tobiano golf course. Once again Mr. McBroom has hit the ball out of the park. He continues to amaze me with his design strategies and using the natural elements that surround. There is no doubt this course will recieve great recognition upon opening and Mr.McBroom will have another fantastic golf course on his resume.

  • It is slated to open in July 2007. Course is fully built now, with each hole having 1st generation of grass seeded before November this year. I got a tour with a sales associated and it is incredible.


  • I was disappointed by the course. I couldn’t get a feel for the course, there was no consistent style. As well, the driving areas were poorly defined, I often didn’t know where I should be trying to land my ball or with what shape. There were certainly some good holes but not enough to convince me that this is a “great” course. Not sure if I’ll play it again, and this is the question that always tells me if I enjoyed the experience or not.

  • I actually have a house on the 11th at Lora Bay and the best

    I’ve shot was a 90 on that course it is very difficult. Plus I am only thirteen years old

  • Telus Skins 2007 is coimng to Lora Bay in June, just giving everyone a heads up on that. I saw a Lora Bay newsletter, thanks to Mr. Lehman the PGA player and the designer of the course the skins are coming to Lora Bay in June. Lora Bay is a very good course and I’m not surprized that it got such a good review. Plus Sergio Gaarcia came in 2006
    March 4, 2007

  • Ok look “Frank” you didn’t like the course because your horrible at golf. So dont say it is the course’s fault because you’re a bad golfer, honestly. I’m not a member at Lora Bay though but when i played the course I wish I was. The course is a beautifully designed course with natural beauty, I am looking forward to playing the course in the spring.

  • While I disagree with Frank — I don’t think it is fair to suggest someone’s opinion depends on their ability to play. And guessing by Frank’s comments, I’d think he’s probably a pretty good player…

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