2001 Best New Canadian Courses
1. Fox Harb’r Resort, Wallace, N.S., Graham Cooke.
2. Stewart Creek G.C., Canmore, Alta., Gary Browning.
3. St. Eugene Mission Golf Resort, Cranbrook, B.C., Les Furber.
Tim Hortons co-founder Ron Joyce had owned a rugged piece of property on the Northumberland Straits for some time before he conceived of creating a resort and golf course in the remote tract of land. But once he decided to create what would become Fox Harbr, like many things Ron does in his life after selling Tim Hortons, money was no object.
At the apparent urging of Sandra Post, Joyce hired Graham Cooke to build his course. The land featured spectacular areas along the seaside, as well as an area covered largely in coniferous trees. In appearance the site met all the requirements for some sort of links hybrid. Surely the site was among the most remarkable in Canada, and even the inland holes have interesting contour. The area along the sea is breathtaking and open “ almost ideal links, though I think the soil was too heavy to be considered true links land.
The concept was to craft a grand golf course that would measure up to Joyces vision for the whole project, which included a runway for jet traffic and selected homes worth millions.
Ive never quite figured out whether Cooke had his own vision for the site, or whether Joyce simply wanted something that replicated his great golfing experiences at places like Augusta. Thats not exactly how the course finished when it was built.
Instead, its two distinct areas “ an inland section that is pretty standard Cooke fare, over shaped with several ordinary holes, actually appears intriguing compared to the final nine, which is plain even along the ocean. Lushly green, the course has tons of artificial mounding and only two truly strong holes “ the short 16th and the 17th “ both of which run right along the ocean.
There had to have been a more effective routing that would have better utilized the vista of the ocean “ instead of running holes parallel to it, negating much of the visual feast that is the Northumberland Strait. Additionally, one of the best finishing holes in Canada is still remaining to be built along a stretch of land where the current par-3 course exists. Instead Fox Harbr limps home with a lackluster uphill par-5.
Time Will Tell: Since Ron has never had a clear indication as to what Fox Harbr is (A private club? A public facility? A resort), the course has suffered somewhat. It is always in incredible condition, but from year-to-year no one is quite certain who can play it or, in turn, how it will be marketed.
Where It Ranks: 25 in Canada, according to Score. My thoughts are this is about 40 spots too high. I suspect many are still wowed by the exclusivity of the course and Joyces displays of hospitality.
Should It Have Won?: No. Frankly, Gary Brownings Stewart [photopress:stewartcreek.jpg,full,alignright]Creek, even though it has one awful hole, is a solid mountain course that offers a wide variety of shots, is fair off the tee and fun to play, with little land moved in the process of construction. It remains one of the best courses in Alberta and should rank higher than #51 in Canada. In fact, switching places with Fox Harbr on the Score list would be about right.
What Was Overlooked? Aside from Stewart Creek and Fox Harbr, there were few high profile courses up for the award in 2001.
Interestingly two much lesser known courses “ Ballantrae, designed largely by Doug Carrick lead associate Ian Andrew, and Timber Ridge, created by Steven Ward, have resulted in bigger successes for their owners then some of the bigger names by attracting thousands of players at an affordable price. Both courses utilize smart green complexes that will draw players back time and again.
Next: Carricks island redo.
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Ah, yes….the infamous 9th at Stewart Creek. A friend of mine was almost killed with a golf ball striking him just above his right temple on this hole. Picture a forced lay up, three-quarter BLIND, tee shot and you can imagine how. This hole would fit in down the road at Silver Tip, but at Stewart Creek it is a major blemish (and a dangerous one at that!!) on an otherwise near flawless layout.