Preview — Dragon's Fire GC


Course Preview: Dragon’s Fire (Carlisle, Ont.)

Designer: Boris Danoff

The golf market in and around Toronto is largely saturated. Too many courses compete for the dollars of too few. New courses seemingly enter the fray every year.

Interestingly, the most recent are those that are catering to the value-priced model, namely Piper’s Heath, the Graham Cooke-designed track near Milton, and this year, Dragon’s Fire, a course created by the one-time co-owner of Royal Ontario, Brian DeCunha, and the designer of that facility, Boris Danoff.

In an attempt to create some buzz for the course, DeCunha launched a contest allowing people to name it. Admittedly Dragon’s Fire is far from the most inspired name I’ve heard, and it immediately reminds me of Falcon’s Fire, a Rees Jones-design in Florida. I wish courses would either embrace simplicity or at least be different. Dragon’s Fire logo is akin to that of Mystic GC near Ancaster — and truly the neither the name nor logo will set it apart. Which, I guess, doesn’t really matter except in the world of marketing. And while that interests me, it isn’t the point of this discussion.

What interests me is whether another course — even one in the sweet spot of $50 to $90 — can be sustained in a market full of similar courses. The question will be whether this one is better than its competitors in the market — places like Copetown Woods, the previously mentioned Piper’s Heath, Crosswinds, Watsons Glen, and even Black Diamond and Timber Ridge. It doesn’t even have to be signficantly better — just better. Better customer service. Better conditions.

And a better design. And that’s the point I’m unsure of. In my mind, designer Boris Danoff has shown he can step up to this. Of course he was working with constraints at his other courses — working under Ted Baker at Royal Ontario, and working on an odd project at Thundering Waters, a course that has not been particularly well received.

What can we tell from the photos of Dragon’s Fire? Hard to say for certain. There’s more roll to some of the holes than I expected, but others seem pretty standard fare — water bordering par-3s, grassed down bunkers with flat bottoms.

I’ll have a better sense when I head out to see this one in May.

Until then — check out these photos from last fall.







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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.

18 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Why all the negativity? Give the golf course a chance to open and play it before giving it a hands down approach.
    Extremely unfair!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • No matter how many new courses are built in the region , tee times are being filled , either by discounts, coupons, last minute deals. Keep bringing on the new courses…

  • Course has great potential. Still early days for developement (fares are discounted). Challenging, first rate course. Greens still finishing though…

  • I played this course on friday May 30. I had heard that it would be a great course, challenging and fun. The course is okay, nothing great. It is not in great shape and it seems that they have forced an early open. There is no clubhouse, no liquor license, no marshalls and the staff need direction. Price seems high for what you are getting. Perhaps in 2-3 years it will be better, until then there are plenty of other courses that are better for $80. The website says there is GPS on the carts, there is no GPS.

    I have never understood businesses that open before they are ready. You only have one chance to put your best foot forward. Probably will not return.

  • I have played this course a couple of times now… most recently on June 4th. The layout is very nice and can be very challenging from the back tees. Because it is built on an old tree farm the trees are mature and nicely separate the holes. The greens, while currently a little slow, are nicely shaped with lots of undulation. The bunkers are deep and very fluffy. While the fairways have some bare spots, you don’t have to move the ball far to find some nice bent grass. Accurate tee shots are key to playing this course well as the “naturalized” areas outside the rough is very thick and easy to lose a ball in. Service was fantastic! Brian Decunha (owner) was greeting players in the temporary proshop both times I played the course. There are plenty of marshalls, 1 cart girl for each nine and the staff is very accomodating. This course is well worth the $50 they are charging their email members and will be worth their full rate very soon!

  • I agree with the above comment. The only thing that matters is the golf. If you want beer go to a bar, GPS is useless anyway, and why does the clubhouse matter? For a local living in Milton i really enjoyed the golf course. I am a 7 HC and playing from the back tees was a challange. Tee shots are key to a good score and the mature trees make you feel like this course was carved out of a forest 30yrs ago. The only holes that need time are 17 & 18 but are fun regardless. This is to all golfers….if you’re a cooperate snob who cant break 100 go elsewhere…..if you love golf try this course and judge for yourself i assure you will like it!!!!!

  • Seriously? Who is complaining about what is probably a wednesday afternoon on a golf course… Mind you I haven’t yet played….it looks good and have heard positive remarks from everyone but you people. I’d like to see any of you negativities open up a’business’ and not take advantage of a an early open. Its just smart… but perhaps for those of you who can’t appreciate a ‘wprk in progress’ I’m sure theres a min-put around the corner….Good Luck.

    P.S. to all the positive people… the world appreciates…

  • I played the course on Father’s Day with my son. I liked the course and the price is reasonable, but two issues may keep me from going back:
    1. The round took 5 and a half hours. I appreciating that a Sunday round on a public course is going to be slow, you simply can’t put a foursome out every 8 minutes, especially on a course that starts with a short par 4 and then a 3 par.
    2. It is very difficult to find your yardage on the course. Although the 150 marles are traditionsl stakes, the 100 and 200 yard markers are flat and hard to spot. The sprinkler heads do not have yardage marked on them. This, no doubt, contributes to the slow play.

  • Another perspective on slow play…

    Lack of yardage markers should have no impact on pace of play. For 90% of golfers, knowing whether a shot is 165 yards or 170 or 175 yards is immaterial. They are not that accurate with their clubs. If most golfers went back to basic instincts, looked at a shot, guessed the yardage, picked a club, and aimed for the middle of the green, their scores would go up measurably.

    Remember the old 150 yard tree markers on the side of the fairway? Look at the tree, guess your yardage, and swing.

    I cringe every time I see a golfer fuss over the yardage and debate whether the wind and yardage makes a shot 140 yards or 150 yards. Then, their fat shot is 20 yards short of the green.

    Jack Nicklaus was a great golfer and horrible role model for the average golfer picking a club and putting on the green…

  • Played DF last weekend. Concensus in our group was “not ready for prime time”. Tees and fairways weedy, greens slow, unreceptive and a couple still patchy. They should still be charging a discount rate yet we payed $74 which would be about right if the course was in top shape – like maybe next year. That said, it is a pretty nice layout but is in tough competing with Piper’s Heath, Crosswinds, Copetown and Willow Valley to name just 4 that are better values right now.

  • I think the layout is very good and the fact that it was carved out of a former tree farm makes it feel like its been there for years. Condition needs to come up but that’s to be expected with any new track. Understandable why the owner opened a bit early. Building courses is freakin expensive and in order to improve the course, money is needed.

    Mosquitos were super bad both times we played although it was early morning on one occasion and damp on the other. Bring repellent just in case and try to stay on the short grass or you will get swarmed.

    The condition has to improve to justify the rate. Its worth about $50 right now by today’s standards.

    I live in Oakville and for me to go that extra few minutes to Copetown or Century Pines for $20-$30 less might keep me from playing Dragon’s more often then I might otherwise.

    Price it at $55-$60 and you will always be busy

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