Top 10 Best of Graham Cooke

I was going to do a list of the Top 10 Graham Cooke courses, but I’ve come to the realization that I simply haven’t played enough to make that distinction. I haven’t played any of his work in Quebec, for example, and only a handful in Atlantic Canada and Western Canada. I can say that his work to date has only impressed me on a couple of occasions — Dakota Dunes, Willow Valley and Hunters Pointe — but I can’t really say much more than that. Somehow, to me, he seems a distant third to the work of Carrick and McBroom, but that’s only based on what I’ve seen.

Certainly many feel strongly about some of his work — including Glen Arbour near Halifax and Fox Harb’r near Tatamagouche, NS. Maybe because of the dominance of Doug Carrick and Thomas McBroom in Ontario, Cooke has done relatively little work in the province.

Here’s the best of what I’ve played, in no order:

Fox Harb’r

Hunters Pointe

Willow Valley

Glen Arbour


Willow Valley

Dakota Dunes

[photopress:dakotaresized_1.jpg,full,alignleft]Of the list, the best was likely Dakota Dunes. Though I find some aspects of the course perplexing, I think overall it is a strong design. It should be noted the course was created by Cooke and partner Wayne Carleton. I found Oslerbrook to be a mixture — the front nine has strong elements, while I thought the back nine was a wipe out. Hunters Pointe is very consistent and a lot of fun to play — but I don’t see it among the best in the country.

In fact, I guess my peers agree — according to Score Golf, the top ranked Cooke design in 2006 was Glen Arbor at 24. McBroom has a couple ahead of that, Carrick has one, and both of Rod Whitman’s designs in Canada are also ahead.

I’ll follow this up next week with a list of the Top 10 courses by living architects working in Canada — sort of a Best of Modern Courses selection.

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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.

20 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I met Graham when he helped Bob Cupp “open” Mad River (still not sure why he was there but he played very well). Unfortunately have not played his designs, but almost played Glen Arbor. My wife and I stood in the Pro Shop for 20 minutes while the staff were joking about a party the night before. When they finally asked what we wanted, we said “nothing” and went to Lunenburg for the day!

  • I have never been impressed with Cooke’s work. Every one of his courses I have played has had a repetitive sameness to it and little that is memorable. Glen Arbour is far from a great course yet it seems that people consider it one of his best. If that’s his best, he has a long way to go to be in the top tier of architects.

    • Dakota Dunes is a horrible design. Easily the most ridiculous course in Saskatchewan. 250 yards from last green to next tee , uphill everywhere , 40 km wind all the time. Elevated force carry greens that I can’t run the ball on! The most penalizing fairway bunkers on the planet, you can’t even show your skill ( just wedge it back in play) thanks! Easily the most player unfriendly course in Saskatchewan.

  • Good to see you back, Not a fan.

    I really don’t have any problem with Graham — it is just that his so-called best design — Fox Hab’r — isn’t particularly strong. It might be the biggest miss in Canadian golf.

    Dakota Dunes and Glen Arbour are certainly better — at least in my estimation.

    I’d love for someone to sort out his Quebec work for me — there’s got to be someone who has played it all.

  • I’ve played Hunters Pointe, Willow Valley, Le Fontainebleau, Le Maitre and love all of them. Le Fontainebleau might be considered a modern stadium style which some don’t like. Le Maitre is universally loved by Clublink members. Cooke has his own style of green complexes and bunkering which are fun to play.

  • I’m really looking forward to his new creation in Oakville/Milton called Piper’s Heath. Do have any interesting details about it? It looks like a inland Links style course.

  • I drive past Pipers Heath on my way to college everyday. It’s looking really good, should be a true links style course. I’ve heard that it will be a high end course (think ClubLink) for a decent price (rumours of $85).

    I can’t wait to play it this summer, especially since it’s only 10 minutes from home!

  • I am so excited for Pipers Heath in Milton. Finally there is a course worth playing. The scapes of the course look breathtaking and im excited to play.

  • for those wondering if we have any apreciation of his work in Quebec. Mr. Cook has several golf landmark in the Belle Province.

    My top 1 is the Quatre-Domaines #2 (public but upscale). This course is one of my preferred course anywhere. Hint for the Clublink members, this course is available to play although it is not mentionned on the clublink web site. It has all the charateristic of a modern championship course yet very forgiving. Fairways are like a landing strip and the greens are as tricky as a Fazio design.

    My second choice would be definatly Owl’s head in the eastern townships. This course is stunning in term of view and exiting to play. 3 of 4 par 5 are reachable in 2 but let say it is very easy to end up with a snowman (8) on these 3 holes.

  • Hunter’s Pointe (now Loch Ness Links) in Welland is a great work by Cooke. It’s not going to make a top 100 list (given the property and the budget), but it is a remarkable example of a modern, links-inspired design. Regarding the criticism of the “sameness” of Cooke designs, this is actually a strength in some cases. At Loch Ness Links, the consistency of the design from the first tee to the last green is superb. There are no holes that stick out like a speed bump. This is an underrated strength on the part of an architect that is appreciated much more by regular players at a course than one-time visitors. The design flows beautifully, and the green complexes are carved into man-made moundings and hillsides in a natural and exceptional way.

  • does anybody out there know the real deal with Cooke and Huxham.?Has Cooke taken credit for Huxham’s work and creative design style? How do we know who actually designed some of the top ten courses listed under Cooke?

  • Well, we know Huxham didn’t with the Cooke designs in the GTA. They were seldom visited by him as Cooke did the majority of site visits. The same I understand of anything outside of Quebec.

  • that’s where you are wrong George .I know for a fact that Huxham’s did all of Willow valley and Hunter’s Pointe and the Linx in Fredericton…just ask the clients…

  • that’s where you are wrong George.I know for a fact that Huxham”s did all of Willow Valley Hunter’s Pointe and The Linx in Fredericton…just ask the clients….

  • Al is correct. Hunters Pointe was largely Huxham (with Yannick Pilon), as was Willow Valley and Lynx at Kingswood. Those three I’m sure of — he also reworked the Fairmont course near Quebec City.

  • “How do we know who actually designed some of the top ten courses listed under Cooke?”
    How do we know who actually designed a Ross course, a Nicklaus course, a Fazio course, a Norman course, a Carrick course, etc? Who cares? In the early twenties, Donald Ross designed an average of more than twenty courses per year. Twenty!! How many of those designs were actually his?
    So, did you like the Cooke courses or not? Would it make a difference if you knew who “actually designed” them? The truth is, a client hires a golf course architect to design the course, the golf course architect sits down with his “design associates”, and the design associates design the course under the supervision of the golf course architect. In the end, the golf course architect gets all the credit, because he is responsible for his work, and the work of his design associates. Most if not all firms work like that to some degree. Sometimes, the golf course architect is more involved than others, but, regardless, he’s responsible for the design, and that’s why its his name that gets the credits.
    Of course, this can be frustrating for the “design associates” that sometimes do some if not all of the work. But if they are not happy about it, they can still start their own firm and get the full credit for what they will do on their own. The only problem, is that some will just not get any work that way.


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