OG's Top 50 Revisited

I picked up a copy of OG’s Top 50 in Ontario this morning at Magna GC. It makes for interesting reading, especially given the fact the Top 5 of each ranker is included in the publication.

For the record, my top five is:

1) St. George’s

2) Hamilton

3) Devil’s Paintbrush

4) Eagles Nest

5) Oviinbyrd

So now that I’m on the record, I must admit there are several things that perplex me about the list, and others that clarify some issues.

  • A vast majority of the 55 panelists had a top three that consisted of National, St. George’s and Hamilton in some order. Hard to argue with, though I’m simply not as fond of National as some others are. It isn’t that I don’t respect the course — it is just simply so hard that I have a difficult time enjoying it.
  • I haven’t seen two courses on the list (Mad River, which I will see next week, and Essex GC)
  • There are some strange rankings within the panel. Former Magna ED David Kaufman, apparently removed from the days when he argued his former course was the best in the province, doesn’t include St. George’s in his Top 5, which is hard to imagine. Stranger still is Golfscene publisher Norm Woods including Grey Silo and Cutten Club in his top five. He must not have seen St. G or National. That’s the only rational explanation. Similarly, Kevin Corriveau, listed as “Ontario PGA Tournament Captain” (whatever that is), doesn’t have Hamilton or St. George’s in his Top 5, but picks Essex as the best in the province. Now that’s just plain wrong.
  • Hard to fathom some of the actual choices within the list. Galt CC is a fine member’s course, but it is pretty hard to argue it is in the top 50 in the province, with courses like Burlington and Bond Head not on the list. And is there a more overrated course than Granite Golf? And don’t even get me started about Seguin Valley.
  • And where in the world is Maple Downs? In my mind this quiet Jewish club is in the Top 25 in Canada. But it doesn’t even make the OG list. Why? Because no one has seen it? That’s the only explanation.
  • Is Brantford G&CC really better than Glen Abbey (which was in excellent condition when I played it last week)? Really?

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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.

26 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Yes, Brantford is better than Glen Abbey, maybe twice as good!
    Maple Downs should be in the top 25 in Canada.
    Mad River and Deerhurst Highlands are better than most courses. Essex is a great course, probably the best flat course in Ontario.
    The National, St George’s, Toronto, Hamilton, Westmount – can’t beat them!

  • Glen Abbey has hurt the Cdn Open far more than it has helped. There are enough pros who don’t care for GA.

  • Good Morning Mr. Thompson.

    Nice Picks!

    1st – I see you have never had the pleasure of playing Essex Golf & Country Club and therefore I certainly understand why you would question my ranking. Hopefully you will have the opportunity to do so one day and perhaps then you will have some understanding of why I believe it to be the best. Incidentally, the 2007 version of the annual OPGA vs. QPGA – Titleist Cup Matches will be taking place at Essex on October 3, 4, 5 – matching the 12 best OPGA members against the 12 best Quebec PGA members and as the Titleist Cup Captain I invite all your readers to keep an eye on the matches via the OPGA web site.

    2nd – Just for further clarification – as the Ontario PGA Tournament Captain and OPGA Board Member – I, along with my tournament committee (all CPGA and OPGA zone members) and members of the OPGA staff – coordinate and facilitate the 24+ Ontario PGA events that are held through out the season for all of the members of the Ontario Zone – of the Ontario PGA. I invite you to check out all the action on the Ontario PGA Web site – to familiarize yourself with all the great players who work hard every day to continue to make not only the top 50 courses a better place to play and visit – but all of the CPGA affiliated courses across this great province.

    Let me know what you think when you have had the chance to play Essex – I believe you will love it.


    Kevin Corriveau
    OPGA Tournament Captain
    Professor, Business Administration
    Professional Golf Management Program
    St.Clair College

  • Gary, Kevin and Craig: You can argue it all you want, but at 6,500 yards with no practice range to speak of and at least one par five that is simply a mid-length, uphill par four, Brantford is no match for Glen Abbey. Now I quite like Brantford, but it simply seems in vogue to put down Glen Abbey. The Abbey’s valley holes are better than anything at Brantford.

    Mr. Corriveau: I look forward to playing Essex, but I’d love to hear you detail how it is the best course in the province. People I respect say it is a fine club, a flat course with 18 good greens. But a flat course with 18 good greens is what Cherry Hill is as well, and it usually doesn’t make the top 50 in the province.

  • Robert, I did not know we were talking driving ranges when comparing Glen Abbey to Brantford. Glen Abbey has a better range and that is ALL that is better. Brantford is a great golf course, Glen Abbey is not. Glen Abbey has the Canadian Open recent history going for it and NOTHING else.

    Where’s the range at Pebble Beach? pretty good course.

    Essex is also excellent and compared to Cherry Hills Essex wins 8 and 7.

    Mad River also beats Beacon Hall by a mile for Cupp designs in Ontario. Both have a “cupple” strange holes but Mad River has more great holes than BH. Beacon Hall had the chance to build a modern Summit GC but I think they saved all the nice sandy sites for houses and did not take advantage enough of that nice sand left over from an ice age.

  • RT,

    Brantford’s got a pretty good track record of great players who’ve moved on to be successful at the top level of the game both professionally and as amateurs, which says a lot about the challenge and quality of the golf course. Don’t get me wrong, I think Glen Abbey is a great track and is one of the best venues to host our National Open Championship, but Brantford continues to stand the test of time.

    As far as length goes, I think many of your reader’s would agree it’s one of the longest and toughest 6500 yards you’ll find anywhere.

    As is the case with every other ranking publication, controversy will always arise because people’s opinions play a major role in their selections. Makes for great debate though.

  • There is a pretty good range at Pebble – at least there was when I played it.
    I know that, strictly speaking, a course review does not need to be concerned with things like driving range (or lack of), clubhouse, marshalling (or lack of) and. generally, ambiance – do the people at the course go out of their way to make the experience a pleasant one.
    However, most of us are going to be spending our money and spending our time at the course. All of the above play an large part in making the day a good day or a miserable day.
    For example, anyone who has had to schlepp their clubs up the hill to the Glen Abbey marshalling area, cope with the arrogance (on a good day) of the staff and the indifferent marshalling knows what it means to have a miserable golf experience. The place represents industrial golf in it’s highest form
    Sorry – got carried away, but am trying to say that having a great golf day includes experiencing the course and being felt like the staff want you to enjoy your time there.

  • The range? Are you serious (and/or sober)? Let me see – Highland Links has no range and Hamilton has a really crappy one. You also mentioned Burlington somewhere – it has no range either. Lionhead has a great range – where is it?

    Is the parking lot better lit at Glen Abbey? Are the pencils sharper? Glen Abbey does have 4 good holes in a row (and number 9 is a good hole too) – unfortunately they make me play the other 13. And half the time (in the last 10 years) number 11 and 12 green have just been atrocious. And the 17th green – why would anyone change it to look/play like that? I try to hit to the wrong side, just so I can take a big divot with my LW. And the encroachment of housing and Upper Middle Road has greatly reduced the aesthetics of the course. The only reason folks have Abbey so high is the exposure it got by hosting so many Opens. A hundred years from now folks with still be golfing at BGCC – and there will be big box stores and condos where the Abbey once was.

    BTW Who cares what par is on the hole – cross out the 5 on the scorecard and write a 4 – problem solved. Almost every members course that hosts a significant event changes one of their short par 5s into a par 4 by moving up the tees a little.

    And yardage? How long is Hamilton, and St. Georges’s? It’s a little like judging golfers by height. If you set up Brantford and Glen Abbey the same way (green speed and rough), I will shoot a lower score at Abbey everytime – 20 years ago the Abbey was a long course – it isn’t anymore.

    You have not at all justified why you would rank Abbey ahead of Brantford. I’d suggest you put a little more thought into your next post.

  • I have only played Glen Abbey once, about a dozen years ago. I really enjoyed the epxerience back then — perhaps the serivce was better then than today’s, but I could not have asked for better treatment from the staff and enjoyed using Ben Crenshaw’s Canadian Open locker. As for the golf course — I still remember many details of my day on the magnificent back 9. The front nine, not so much. I think that is its weakness. Is it the best course I’ve ever played? No. In turn, that makes me wonder where it would fit within an Ontario ranking — and as a non-resident who has only played maybe a half-dozen times in that province, I’m in no position to judge.

  • Greg B – the posts are in regards to Ontario’s “Top 50 COURSES” not Top 50 Clubs – so service at the course, quality of the food, practice facilities, etc. are not (or should not) be a consideration.

  • Okay, Brantford vs. Glen Abbey in a little hole-by-hole comparison:

    1 — neither is a good hole. Halved.
    2 — Glen Abbey’s is far superior — GA 1up
    3 — Brantford’s par three is stronger than the Abbey’s — Even
    4 — Brantford’s downhill five is stronger than Abbey’s par four — B 1-up
    5 — One of Brantford’s strongest fours over Abbey’s average four — B 2-up
    6 — A short four at Brantford, vs. a good risk reward five — halved B 2-up
    7 — Brantford’s green on this four better Glen Abbey’s average four. B 3-up
    8 — Brantford’s average downhill three can’t match a good three at GA — B 2-up
    9 — Brantford’s short four isn’t a match for Glen Abbey’s strong front nine closer — B1-up
    10 Brantford’s strong three better than 10 at GA – B-2-up
    11 Brantford’s downhill four is terrific, but it can’t match the 11th at GA, perhaps one of the best on the course. — B-1-up
    12 B’s weak five no match for the strong par three 12th at the Abbey — Even
    13 Brantford’s 13th is among the best on the course, as is GA’s par five 13th — halved.
    14 Brantford’s par five is relatively plain, whereas the intriguing mid-length four at the Abbey is superb. GA 1 up
    15 Brantford’s great par three better’s Glen Abbey’s short 3 — even
    16 Brantford’s great par four heading downhill halves with GA’s strong 5/4 — even
    17 Brantford’s weak three loses to GA’s strong four with strange green — GA 1-up
    18 Brantford’s good closer havles with GA’s great finisher.
    GA wins 1-up.
    And I’ll admit this is closer than I expected.

  • RT,

    “Is there a more overrated course than Granite Golf?”

    It comes in at 46, which doesn’t strike me as unreasonable.

    I think the overrated desription is better suited to a course like Bigwin, which is rated much higher at #6.

    Oviinbyrd at #5 strikes me as way too high.

    Amazed that Lake Joe didn’t make the cut?

  • I think you mixed up GA #7 & 8. GA isn’t awful, I just don’t enjoy the course nearly as much as you.

    Is the ability to walk a course one of your considerations – or the flow of one hole into another?

  • Brantford is a classic members course with some great holes interlaced with a lot of average holes. I would argue with Robert over Brantford’s uphill par 5 12th. While short, it is a classic example of how Stanley Thompson was a genius at making holes that play uphill seem a lot less severe than they actually are.

    Glen Abbey has some all-world holes. Brantford has some great holes. Overall GA’s week holes are better than Brantford’s. But if I had to chose one to play everyday as a memeber it would definitively be Brantford.

  • Gents: I agree that Brantford is a good golf course. Let’s leave it at that.

    HenryE: I know you’re a member and as such I’d expect you’d be supportive of your club. So you’re right, Granite probably isn’t the most highly overrated. And you’re right again (twice in one comment!) that Lake Joe deserves a spot. Oviinbyrd, however, isn’t overrated.

    And lastly, I did flip 7 and 8 at the Abbey. Same result.

  • RT,

    Interesting Stuff!

    My top 5;

    Ah, who really cares!

    There are some interesting picks on both the final list and the panelist top 5’s.

    There are a couple that should not be in the top 10 and a couple that should be ranked higher in my opinion but again who cares what I think?

    The bottom line here is that we all know what we like and have our own reasons to support our personal favourites. Dave Kaufman does not place St. George’s (a great course!) in HIS top 5. So? I bet he still really likes it. He just likes five other courses better!

    It’s great that we have so many great courses to argue about and that we are spoiled for choice in Ontario when it comes to both Private and Public golf.

    Okay, for what its worth, Maple Downs and Brantford are both great and Beacon Hall should be in the top 3! Sorry Gary!



  • You didn’t even mention a road going through the course at Brantford in your match-play with GA…unfortunate that it’s across a three of its finer holes.

  • Mr. Euan: Glad to see you chime in — I, for one, would be interested in seeing the top five picks of a pro at such an esteemed club.


  • Wow, just got back from golf in Myrtle and this was a lot of fun to read! Euan you hit it bang on, we are spoiled. Is it coincidence that you have been a pro at more than a few of the top 50, even top 8 if I am not mistaken. Being a fellow CPGA member that is something to be proud of! Good for you and I would also be interested in your top 5?

  • I’d like to know what Euan’s top 5 are as well. May want to cut him some slack so that he can list his top 5 ex Coppinwood and Eagles Nest.

  • Re the great debate ” is Brantford better than Glen Abbey”.

    Since beauty is in the eye of the beholder or in this case the golfer, each course has it’s pro’s and it’s cons. My criteria when evaluating a golf course is “would I like to play here twice a week every week”.
    Their are some terrific layouts, that are in great condition, but if played more than two or three times a year would be boring.

    Boring to me is hitting the same shot (club) every week at the same hole because it’s a lay-up or a dogleg and their is no other way to play it.

    I am fortunate to be a member of St. Thomas Golf & CC in Union, Ontario near London. It’s a great layout, is a terrific test, and can play or be played differently every time.
    Is it better than Glen Abbey or Brantford, some would say yes and some others would say no and quite frankly I don’t care.
    Is it an enjoyable day in the sun? They would probably all say yes.

    Enjoy your golf!!

    London, Ont.

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