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Series: Day Six of 17 Days of Golf Digest Best New

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96 Best New Canadian Courses
1. Nicklaus North G.C., Whistler, B.C., Jack Nicklaus.
2. Le Geant, Mont Tremblant, Que., Tom McBroom

The Golden Bear returned from a 20 year slumber. But instead of Oakville, this time he had a mountain site “ or at least a site within view of mountains.
Nicklaus North opened with a big splash and a lot of hype. It was a Nicklaus Signature, whatever that exactly means considering these days you can get a Barbara Nicklaus Signature for the right price.
For all the hype Nicklaus second Canadian effort (after Glen Abbey) received, it is a rather pedestrian affair. Sculpted on a broad plain of flat land with little to no elevation change, and lots of wetlands, the course opens with a hole between a railway track and condos, and ends back at the railway track after emerging from several holes once again surrounded by homes.

It is pretty much standard mid-period Nicklaus, full of tough, well-bunkered greens that often have significant swales, forcing players to hit exacting approach shots or face lots of three putts.

There are several strong holes “ like the par-3 17th, which with water down the left is the one most will remember “ and some of the best, like the 465-yard 4th are more subtle and allow for the occasional recovery shot. There are also plenty of holes that are either desperately difficult or just plain bad “ I cant decide which.

Time Will Tell: NickNorth garnered a lot of fanfare when it opened, and given Golf Digests criteria and focus on difficulty, it makes sense that it won the award in 1996. However, compared to the real Canadian mountain courses (Jasper, Banff, and even more recent efforts like Stewart Creek), many will come away from their round surprised Nicklaus North ever garnered much fuss.
Where It Ranks: 37 in Canada, according to Score. Way too high. This is an average course on substandard land.
Should It Have Won?: This is one that Id love to have my readers help me out with, as Ive never played the runner-up, Thomas McBrooms Le Geant. Le Geant, by all accounts, is a real mountain course and features some dramatic elevation changes.
What Was Overlooked? Like 1995, by all accounts, 1996 was a year with little competition. Designer Les Furber opened a couple of courses, but nothing of note. Graham Cookes Dunes at Kamloops is considered better than average by some. Perhaps the most notable thing about 1996 was that it was the year Cooke bludgeoned Highlands Links while claiming to restore Thompsons gem. This was a bad year for Canadian golf.
Next: The Muskoka Man

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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.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Its funny about golf writers and how they critique golf courses, they can’t be wrong. Golf writers think they know alot about design, when they really don’t. RT do you know how many factors
    are involved in the designing of a course, or the fact that these courses need to be maintained after they are built and that’s why some decisions are made to go one way with a hole and not the other? It must be nice to sit back and judge a course on the “look” instead of taking in all factors, the site, environment, budget, maintenance, playability etc. You need to spen time on a site building a course before you are entitled to the opinion you throw around like it matters.

  • Wayne – I do understand the factors you’re describing, and I’ll do you one better — none of them matter. The reasons a course is built a certain way, be it because of environmental hazards, zoning, drainage or what not, and the way it is maintained, due to cash flow or whatever reason, doesn’t matter. Have you ever played a round and thought, “that course had excellent drainage.” The truth is the average golfer doesn’t give a shit about the budget, or the maintenance or the playability or the problems the owner might be having with his wife. They only care about the playing experience — and that’s how it should be. That’s the perspective I come at in my course reviews — and I’m clear as crystal in that regard. You can disagree with me — but I’d rather you did so in specifics. These broad brush strokes aren’t accomplishing much.
    Do I need to have built a course to be able to critique it? That’s an interesting perspective and one you can decide on your own. But I’d argue that every golfer — whether they’ve read Doak’s Confidential Guide or Hunter’s The Links, or just the John Daly autobiography — have their perspective on the course they’ve played. Most can’t articulate it — I have mine and attempt, to the best of my ability and education, to convey my thoughts and comments on it. And I don’t need to have built a course to have done that.

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