Top new Ontario courses

Along with a group of other golf industry types, writers and the like, I was asked by Ontario Golf magazine to participate in a “best new” panel for the publication. I also participate in Golf Digest’s Best New in Canada list, and thankfully these two often overlap. Anyway, yesterday was the deadline for the OG list and so I had to send along my thoughts, a number ranking and comments on each course. For those of you interested in such things, here was my list. I have no idea how the other panelists voted.

1 — Coppinwood (9.1)

As one of the most highly anticipated new courses in Canada, Coppinwood delivers the goods. The front nine may have only a couple of distinctive holes, but the back nine, starting with the exceptional 11th, contains several truly outstanding holes. As a club catering to golfers, Coppinwood is easy to appreciate. By far the most consistent and consistently excellent course on this year’s list.

2– Muskoka Bay (8.5)

Muskoka Bay is good, but one has to wonder if this suffers from heightened expectations. Many expected this to be outstanding, and for the most part it is. While there are some great green sites on the property, including the terrific 9th hole, the bunkers seem unfinished and don’t quite seem to match the vision of the course. As well, some of the holes, like the “driveable” 354 yard fourth seem to suffer from a design structure that is a bit out of touch with the game played by the average golfer. Did this course really need to be 7,367 yards long? Is anyone playing it from there?

3– The Raven at Lora Bay (8.4)

An exceptional job by McBroom and Lehman to find a consistent style on a piece of property that ranges from average to quite good. The best holes, especially those at the close of the back nine, could benefit from opening some vistas and exposing the lake. Lora Bay has McBroom’s best bunkering to date — wonderful, rugged fescure-lined creations that catch the eye and define the course.

4 — North Course, The Club at Bond Head (8.1)

While the rolling fairways of the South Course at the Club at Bond Head make it a more even experience, the tumbling hills of the North Course are sure to draw some people in. While the eye candy factor is high, designer Jason Straka seems to push the limits just a touch too much, especially when it comes to green sites perched on the crest of hills that fall away on all sides. One hole (11) doesn’t actually play the way it was intended, even though the back nine is more consistent. Conditioning is excellent and rivals that of Coppinwood.

5 — Ambassador (8)

On an extremely plain site, Tom McBroom has sculpted an intriguing course. Once more, his bunkering shows he’s pushing his aesthetic concepts, and his strategy is solid throughout. One draw back is that the par fives all have similar strategy — with water down the left and in front of the greens.

5 — Mystic (7)

One has to wonder about the concept of building a very difficult golf course in a staturated market. Mystic has some terrific holes, like the 9th and 18th, but it is marred by some awful ones (10) and conditioning that is far less than anticipated. The club would benefit by cutting its fairways wider, limiting its rough and playing for a larger market.

6 — Oslerbrook (6)
A schizophrenic course where the back nine is quite solid and interesting and the front nine is plain and dull. In fact, the opening nine holes contain some of Graham Cooke’s most questionable work – holes that run around holding ponds that are neither attractive, nor particularly interesting to look at. While playing holes six through eight, one can easily feel like they are taking part in a Wild West film, with shots coming at them from several different directions. The back nine is much stronger, with the short par four 16th leading the way.

7 — Grand Niagara (5) Grand Niagara is all that’s wrong with Ontario golf. The course itself is not good or bad – just so average as to be dull and not in the least bit attractive to the average golfer given the high green fee. Built on a flat piece of land, only the fifth and sixth holes truly set themselves apart. Other than that, Grand Niagara’s consistency is its failing. Rees Jones does nothing here that he hasn’t done on a two dozen other designs and it is far from inspired.
Didn’t have time to play — Thundering Waters, Smugglers Glen

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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.

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