The universal complaint I hear from golfers on the public players circuit is that golf at good courses is just too darn expensive. This is the price we end up paying for the explosion in the game since the arrival of Tiger Woods. This is also the price we pay for expensive real estate. It`s tough for golf course owners to make that big of an investment without hoping to see a return within the first ten years.
I`ve played hundreds of courses throughout southern Ontario over the last several years and can only imagine how much money I have spent in that time. But, through it all I`ll occasionally come across a great course in brilliant condition with a greens fee that doesn`t break the bank. Here are three world-class courses, all within an hour`s drive of Toronto, and all with green`s fees under $70.
East: Timber Ridge
First of all, it`s a nice drive down the 401. You have to pass that Big Red Apple so stopping for pie is always an option.
I have been lucky. I have been playing Timber Ridge for a few years now and have watched the course mature in that time. My first comment is the same as my last. If you haven`t played Timber Ridge, do your best to get out there right now! The course is in pristine condition. The fairway ways are beautiful and the greens are starting to take their breaks.
Playing Timber Ridge from the tips is quite an experience. Cut through the trees, tee boxes beautifully frame the hole in front of you. The trees also present gorgeous backdrops for the complex green complexes.
I`m not going to go through the course hole-by-hole because that`s your job, but I will say that I can`t think of a week hole on the course (okay, the par 3 8th is kind of boring “ but only in comparison to every other hole) and the tee shot at ten is one of the great challenges in the GTA.
Overall, the course is a nice mix of parkland and links-style (an over used term but appropriate in this case) and provides a good challenge for players of all skill levels.
Make a day of it and play Timber Ridge immediately.
North: Oliver`s Nest
Although it`s a little hidden away, I bet you`ve already played with someone who has played Oliver`s Nest and raved about it. Although the course isn`t overly long it`s a great challenge.
The opening hole has a pond to the right that`s about 170 yards from the back tees. The water baits your tee shot and although it`s not that difficult to hit past it presents enough worry for you to second guess your swing. Through out the course the greens are placed on an angle to the fairway or have small openings that force you to fly your approach shot on to the putting surface.
The back nine plays through farm land to the north of the club house which gives you a feeling of separation from the rest of the world. I`ve never played Oliver`s Nest in the same condition twice. The first time I tried it the conditions were benign and the fairways were dry and fast. The next time I showed up the fairways were lush but the greens were slick. The third time a strong wind had me second guessing club choices throughout my round. Now that might not sound like fun to you but I enjoy a course that never plays the same way twice.
West: Grey Silo
I was once on the driving range at Angus Glen warming up before the CHUM FM golf tournament and had become engaged in a conversation with an old friend of mine. He was now a radio programmer in Kitchener and he raved about Grey Silo. He said that it was just like Angus Glen but at a third of the cost. A few weeks later I whipped across the 401 to Waterloo to take a look at the course for myself.
Perhaps it is a little far fetched to compare Grey Silo to Angus Glen but I could certainly see where he was coming from. The fairways have wide landing areas and the greens provide challenging undulations. The course is always in immaculate condition.
Grey Silo rambles through RIM Park (yes, that RIM) and it is not uncommon to see bicyclists and roller bladders sharing the cart paths with golfers. The opening hole is one of the toughest I`ve ever played on a municipal course forcing your hand to try and draw the ball around a huge tree guarding the left side of the fairway. The eighteenth is a beautiful finishing hole with a forced carry on your tee shot and an elevated green front by a stream for your second.
The only complaint I have ever heard is that the fairways are too close to one another. I`ve never been hit by a ball coming from another fairway (of course, I don`t think Phil Mickelson was on the course when I played there) and you can`t beat the value the course offers.