Late last month I compiled several lists on “modern Canadian golf courses.” By modern, my definition meant anything after 1981, so that removes the National and Glen Abbey from the equation. I wrote on the courses of Canadian designer Doug Carrick; a list of the best of Thomas McBroom; did a list of modern Canadian architects; and a list of non-resident Canadians who have designed in Canada over the last 26 years.
Now here is my take on the Top 10 Modern Canadian golf courses. Tomorrow I’ll wade into comparing these to the classic era Canadian courses, including all of Stanley Thompson’s work.
- Devil’s Paintbrush (Dana Fry/Michael Hurdzan)- Beats Eagles Nest by a nose, largely because its natural setting is simply far superior. Solid throughout, though there are a handful of average holes. A course I could play again and again, which is really the highest accolade, isn’t it?
- [photopress:eaglesnest2.jpg,full,alignleft]2. Eagles Nest (Doug Carrick) – Yep, it is built next to a capped landfill. And yes, part of the course used to be an aggregate pit. But Eagles Nest is clever and well done. The highlights on the course — like the 4th, 7th, 11th — have few peers anywhere in Canadian golf.
- Blackhawk (Rod Whitman) – Whitman is Canada’s great design enigma. Blackhawk has a great natural looks and cops a lot from Whitman’s regular employer — Bill Coore. Interestingly, the front nine is superior, though the back nine has a stronger setting.
- Oviinbyrd (Thomas McBroom) – McBroom at his most sporty [photopress:Oviinbyrd2_1.jpg,full,alignright]and smart, using natural greensites and pushing little earth. This course would probably be held in higher regard if more people had seen it.
- Coppinwood (Tom Fazio) – The second course on this list by a non-Canadian was the most hotly tipped opening in Canada in several years. Fazio delivers nine stunning holes and nine average to good ones. That ratio doesn’t make it the best.
- Redtail (Donald Steel) – A true minimalist design, Redtail often splits the opinion of those that have seen it. Repeated plays reveal it to be understated but sharp; holes like the 8th are truly exceptional.
- Crowbush Cove (Thomas McBroom) – Yes, the 11th is ruined by an environmental area, and the short 17th has its detractors (I wonder if they would complain if the hole was in Scotland), but overall Crowbush has elements that are rarely touched by other courses in Canada.
- Cobble Beach (Doug Carrick) – Few have seen Carrick’s new [photopress:cobblebeach.jpg,full,alignright]course in Owen Sound, which doesn’t officially open until next year. But his homage to classic rumpled fairways with tremendous vistas, might actually move up this list in time. I don’t want to overplay this having only played it once, but Cobble Beach might be Carrick’s masterpiece.
- Osprey Valley Heathlands (Doug Carrick) – The opposite end of the spectrum from Eagles Nest, but still a faux British course. This one is done in heathlands style, with narrow fairways and few bunkers. Understated, this one remains a favourite of many who return to play it time and again. Its strongest facets are Carrick’s tendency to remain consistent to his theme.
- Dundarave (Jason Straka/Hurdzan-Fry) – A great setting, with wild flashed bunkers, Dundarave is solid throughout. Not the best course on PEI — but close.
Close but no cigar: Beacon Hall, Bond Head South, Bigwin Island, Dakota Dunes, Devil’s Pulpit.
Several thoughts on the list:
- Devil’s Paintbrush and Eagles Nest are very close in my mind, but DP is stronger by a slight margin. It would be interesting to see what Carrick could do utilizing a links theme on a piece of property that rivals the tremendous setting the Paintbrush calls homes.
- It seems to be that the work of Carrick, McBroom, and to a lesser extent, Rod Whitman, measures up nicely to the work of outside American designers. That said, I also think it is good for Canadian golf to have U.S. and British designers working in this country. We need variation and we need our domestic artists to be pushed to the limits. That only happens if there’s healthy competition.
- I probably shouldn’t have included Cobbe Beach on the list, but it was too good to ignore. Of new courses opening in the next few years, it is possible that Martin Ebert’s new Angus Glen private facility could crack this list, as could Richard Zokol’s project with Rod Whitman at Sagebrush in BC. And then there’s the much discussed Cabot Links, but that one isn’t as far along. Thomas McBroom’s Tobiano is also well regarded by those that have seen it. Then there’s Fazio’s new one at Terrebonne (more on this in coming days).
- Can anyone explain why people overpay to hire Greg Norman? I understand the brand, but wouldn’t you rather have Jack, who actually makes the occasional good course? There’s little positive buzz coming from Norman’s new project in Uxbridge.
With that, I’m done with lists for a while — though I’ll entertain any comments, retorts, nasty replies on the list. Where am I wrong/right? What would your list look like, remembering that this only takes in courses since 1981, thus missing other modern gems like The National, Glen Abbey and Shaughnessy.