Review: Timber Ridge GC and Black Diamond GC

Review: Timber Ridge GC (Designer: Steven Ward); Black Diamond (Designer: Jason Miller and Jack Lally)

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For a few years, the explosion of golf around Toronto all happened to the west. This included courses like Whistle Bear, Grey Silo, Rebel Creek, and more recently, Mystic GC. The courses catered to the group of players who wanted a similar experience to what they received at Angus Glen, without paying $150 for the prize. By all accounts, most of these courses (with the recent exception of Mystic) have been successful. Given that, and the abundance of land east of Toronto, it is not surprising that courses also sprung up at about an hour away as well.

Timber Ridge is the old kid on the block, having opened in 2001. Created by designer Steven Ward, the course is short(ish), sporty and in places, quite fascinating. It starts and ends meekly enough, but in between it packs a well placed punch. Consider Timber Ridge a middle weight that can battle it out with those much bigger (and more expensive.)

Black Diamond is newer (having opened in 2005) and is still trying to determine exactly what kind of facility it will be. The whole enterprise screams “mom-and-pop,” and in many ways that’s exactly what it is. The dream of Darren Salteri, the GM and a club pro, Black Diamond isn’t big on frills, instead focusing on golf. In places it aims big and delivers, though not on a consistent basis.

There are similarities between the two courses aside from their locacations. Both play through thick forests in places, and both have elements of faux links courses in them.

In most respects, Timber Ridge is the stronger of the two. Though it opens with two of the less appealing holes, the course kicks it into high gear by the time players reach the demanding third, which plays 206 from the tips and brings a marshy hazard into play on the right. Similarly, the following hole, a long par five that plays between walls of trees on either side, asks players to hit three precise shots and still deal with a difficult green.

Where Ward really gets it right is in his mix of holes and use of different shots, especially from the tee. At a time when many of the 7,000 yard plus monsters that are being built simply ask most amateurs to hit driver after driver, Ward mixes things up, forcing players to consider their tee shots and club selection. And there are lots of options, like the risk/reward par four 10th, with its heroic carry over a creek, or lay up short and wedge it on, or the 18th, with its numerous bunkers that suggest careful play from the tee might be the best option.

Ward also was able to work on an intriguing piece of land with numerous natural features. I’m not entirely sure how much land he pushed around, but given the limited budget of the property it is unlikely he moved much. With that in consideration, the routing, which includes the dramatic 13th, a long par four with a wonderfully natural looking green site perched at the top of a slope, and the majestic uphill 16th, a terrifically tough hole that forces even big hitters to hit mid-irons into a long green, is terrific — walkable and a throwback to older, better known tracks.

Though it isn’t long from the tips, the greens at Timber Ridge are the great equalizing factor. Ward favours large ridges and swales, which can be witnessed throughout the course starting on the first, and add pressure to approach shots, even if struck with a short iron. The best of these greens (like the first and the ninth) are a joy to play.

Black Diamond offers two distinct looks, a more open, fescue ridden links appeal on the front, and a tree lined Carolina look on the back.

The course opens favourably enough, with a lengthy, downhill par five followed by what could arguably be the best hole on the course, the long par four second with an approach that is slightly downhill. The best holes on the rolling, hilly back nine include the beautiful 11th, a par four with some fine bunkering, and the 14th, a long par three that would appear more at home aethetically on the front nine.

Where Miller and Lally aimed highest or attempted to add quirky factors to the course is where they often fall down. The double green on #4 and #7 seems forced, with neither hole particularly distinctive. Similarly, the par five 10th, with its partial blind tee shot and fairway that is contoured away from the tee shot, seems a bit extreme and forced. Clearly the architects attempted to create a natural look, but I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better if they had regraded the fairway to be more receptive. In fact, for most players the back nine will have the most hits and misses. Some elements could be fixed quickly, like expanding the fairway on the 12th, which seems unnaturally narrowed.

While Black Diamond doesn’t rise to the level of Timber Ridge, the existance of such a course is good for those seeking affordable golf in and around the GTA. Both courses are at least $100 less than their counterparts an hour to the west, which makes them attractive to those willing to shell out $40 on a tank of gas, grab three buddies and pile into a car. Though the owners of both courses would probably like to see development in the area for new golf stop, don’t be surprised to see more spring up in the years ahead.

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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.

6 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I’m glad Timber Ridge and Black Diamond are mentioned, they both don’t get the press they deserve. Both are well designed and challenging. Both are member courses of
    and you can get discount greenfees online for free. Check it out.

  • Timber Ridge is a better course over-all but theres not too many 9’s to rival the final 9 0f Black Diamond

  • Black Diamond is as beautifull as it is chalenging,the fact that you did not mention the near unplayable 16’th makes me doubt you played the course. I spoke with the pro, they plan to build a new green that the ball will stay on ,and perhaps remove the tree in the middle of the fairway. Although I otherwise enjoyed the course, I won’t revisit until they make these changes to 16. The back nine is target golf, but the targets are not defined and the elevation changes make for a lot of guesses. It takes playing this course a couple of times to feel out the real yardages.

  • I wouldn’t even compare these two courses. Timber Ridge is far and away the better of the two. There are few weaknesses at Timber Ridge. The course would benefit from one additional set of tees, to lengthen the tip yardage. The complaints would be some impossible pin positions, and the course can get busy at times. The holes are well thought out with well defined landing areas and bunkering. The greens usually roll very nicely. The staff is friendly and professional.

    There are a number of reasons why I won’t be back to Black Diamond any time soon. The course could use a few years to mature. With a few exceptions, the landing areas are either blind or not well defined. The greens are not receptive and many approach shots are blind. The first 9 is open with mostly straight forward holes. The double green is awkward and almost dangerous. The back 9 is tight with small undefined landing areas. You find yourself studying the hole signage to guess where you have to hit it instead of seeing it from the tee. This is definitely not for the long hitter.

    Do yourself a favour and save your time and money for Timber Ridge.

  • Both are very nice courses. Timber Ridge however does NOT allow the local residents to become Members. This makes it exceedingly expensive to play. Down the road are Barcovan and CFB Trenton. Both are excellent golf courses with full memberships of $2000 for a couple.

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