Score's Top 100 — Winners and Losers

The National Golf Club of Canada's 11th Hole

The National Golf Club of Canada's 11th Hole

Score’s Top 100 Courses in Canada was announced at 11 am with a show featuring Bob Weeks, Lorne Rubenstein and myself. The list will surely hit their site soon, but here are the highlights, with my notes about winners, losers, movers and shakers. The entire list is here.

The Top 5 is intriguing for a couple of reasons:

1. The National GC of Canada

2. Hamilton G&CC “ West, South

3. St. Georges G&CC
4. Highlands Links (PUB)

5. Jasper Park Lodge GC (PUB)

The National being #1 is not surprising as it has plenty of fans, but it is a bit odd considering how badly the new 16th hole has been received. It is a wart on the face of Jessica Alba — in other words, it isn’t my type, but I respect it and am not thrilled by the blemish. St. George’s below Hamilton? Odd, considering that Hamilton, while a great course, is in dire need of a restoration of its bunkers. Nice to see Highlands Links at #4 — how far up this list could the course go with a full restoration? And lastly, Jasper at #5? Terrific course — but too high perhaps? It says that the panelists really enjoy the remoteness of the course and the overall experience.

6. Beacon Hall GC

7. Capilano G&CC

8. The Links at Crowbush Cove (PUB)

9. Royal Montreal GC “ Blue

10. Devils Paintbrush

Beacon Hall is perenially in the Top 10, but it doesn’t knock me out, nor was it in my Top 10. Crowbush Cove is a good Tom McBroom course with a handful of holes on the ocean. Does that make it Top 10? No way. And while I understand the placement of Royal Montreal at #9 — strictly because of the Presidents Cup — this is a course tht gets little love from me. Devil’s Paintbrush, on the other hand, is a little low. This course offers more options for a greater variety of players than any other near the top of this list.

11. Banff Springs GC (PUB)

12. Shaughnessy G&CC

13. Toronto GC

14. Rocky Crest Resort (PUB)

15. BlackHawk GC

Interesting grouping. Banff moves way up the list and I’m not sure why — I think it is a great course and should be Top 10 in Canada, but is in deperate need of a restoration. Rocky Crest as the best in Muskoka? I don’t see it — better than Oviinbyrd and Muskoka Bay? BlackHawk is a tremendous achievement by designer Rod Whitman, and deserves its spot — up a handful from the last list.

16. Royal Colwood GC

17. Westmount G&CC

18. Taboo Resort (PUB)
19. Glen Abbey GC (PUB)

20. Wolf Creek Resort (PUB)

I don’t understand why Taboo is held up so high. It is a good golf course, but a bit repetitive. My other surprise? Wolf Creek at 20. A good golf course, and one that might even be better with the new nine that’s being built. Royal Colwood, which was #27, rises to #16. Wonder why? It might be the best candidate for a restoration in all of Canada.

Beyond the Top 20

I’m sort of surprised to see Eagles Nest at #23 — I have it near the Top 10 in my list … Humber Valley in the Top 30? Well done, and could go higher as more people see it. A solid course and clearly the best on The Rock … Coppinwood at #28 in Canada: This must be hugely disappointing to the owners who founded this course. The pre-opening hype had it Top 10 in Canada, but it barely squeezes into the Top 30 … Coppinwood is one step ahead of Oviinbryd, which makes the list for the first time. Up until now not enough panelists had been witness to it, though those that had ranked it highly … Redtail at #24? How the mighty have fallen … What in the world is Glencoe doing in the Top 50? … Kananaskis Country GC has got to be one of the biggest let downs in golf design in the country. At #40 it is about forty spots too high … Dakota Dunes at #44 suffers from being in Saskatchewan. Otherwise it could well be in the Top 20 … Nicklaus North at #46, Really? I mean really? … Nice to see Scarboro up from #67 the year previous considering the excellent restorative efforts of Ian Andrew and Gil Hanse, but St. Thomas at #52 is about twenty spots too low …

Big Losers

Copper Creek falls from #23 to #45 … Fox Harb’r slips from from #25 to #47 … Kananaskis drops from #26 to #40 … Magna falls from #38 to #56 … Cataraqui falls from #57 to #80 … Brantford, which has undergone a Graham Cooke renovation, falls from #29 to #41 … Predator Ridge falls from #32 to #65 … Heron Point drops from #52 to #73. No thoughts as to why.

New to the List

Debuts include Cobble Beach, Ridge at Manitou, Black Bear Ridge, Coppinwood, Oviinbyrd, Wildfire, Humber Valley, The Club at Bond Head, Dakota Dunes, Muskoka Bay, Eagles Nest.

The highest debut was Eagles Nest at #23.


How is it that Saskatoon’s Riverside isn’t on the list? Same with Peterborough’s terrific Kawartha. Also interesting to see the Terra Nova course in Newfoundland, easily one of the better courses in the country, miss the list, as did St. Andrews By the Sea. Others missing include a reworked Cutten Club, and Firerock in London.


Mad River returns to the list.

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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.

33 CommentsLeave a comment

  • I haven’t played very many of these, but I never fail to be amazed at the rating for Glen Arbour, which I have played far too many times. I noticed that one of the scoring areas for the panel was “Fun”, worth 20 points. Glen Arbour would make single digits in that category for me, because of all the golf courses I have ever played, it is about the least fun course I have ever experienced. Virtually unwalkable because of the extreme hills, but get in a cart and you are stuck on paths that are invariably about as far away from your ball as possible. It starts out with a first hole which is extremely demanding for a starter and then deteriorates from there. Too many forced carries, too many hills, just not a fun track. Give me the choice of being magically transported to Glen Arbour or any number of other Nova Scotian courses that didn’t even make it on the list for a free round of golf — courses like Digby Pines, Chester, Ken-Wo or Abercrombie, to name a few — and I will take any of them before I picked Glen Arbour.

  • The Muskoka rankings confuse me to no end.

    I do not know where Taboo should be in the rankings, maybe 60’s, but it is definitely not better than Muskoka Bay.

    Crowbush I will never understand. That is a personal opinion. Of the course’s on the island, there are much better places to play than, and unlike Bob, I hate the 17th.

  • Can’t say I’m really surprised to see Brantford G&C falling a bit. Once upon a time these greens were among the fastest and most fun that I ever played. On the stimp I bet they used to be around 11 most days but now they prolly run around 8 most days.

  • Lots and lots of very odd choices.

    Rocky Crest and Taboo? Huh?

    If the rankings love muskoka courses, how come MBay isn’t ranked better given that it is the best of the bunch in that area.

    And Beacon Hall better than Devil’s Paintbrush?

    And Coppinwood only at 28th?


  • Question for Ontario-ians:

    Is Cataraqui’s drop from 57 to 80 a function of the changes they’re going through now to #17?? Opinions? Evan? Ian? Anyone?

  • Of those I’ve played…

    Too High: Beacon Hall, Crowbush, Royal Montreal, Rocky Crest, Taboo, Glen Abbey, Bigwin, Pulpit, Stewart Creek, Mississaugua, King Valley, Glen Arbour, Copper Creek, Deerhurst, Deer Ridge, Angus South, Bayview

    Too Low: Muskoka Bay, Eagle’s Nest, Oviinbyrd, St. Thomas, Scarboro, Rosedale, Essex, Summit, Bruno, Ridge at Manitou, Cataraqui, Lookout Point, Laval Sur Le Lac, Wildfire, Thornhill, Mad River

    Omissions: Kawartha, Royal Ottawa, Chateau Montebello, The Rock (yes, it still has a few wonky holes but most of it is very good), Cherry Hill, Grandview, Galt, Oshawa, Cutten Club (post-restoration), Highland CC (London), Islington

  • RT – get over the bunker comments at Hamilton…you are the only one I have ever met who thinks St. George’s in better…now go break 90.

  • Trunk Slammer, you can add me as #2…Hamilton is excellent but really could be soooo much better with a proper restoration.

  • Oh, and Boyd, I think you’re also missing Golf Magazine, which rates St. George’s more highly.

    And Matt is correct — Chateau Montebello should certainly be on the list.

    And my Muskoka list:
    1) Oviinbyrd
    2) Bigwin Island
    3) Muskoka Bay
    4) Rocky Crest
    5) Deerhurst

  • RT, I tend to agree with you on many points (ratings) especially Hamilton. The bunkers do need a massive overhaul. When it was last done (doesn’t seem that long ago either) the sand came from 2 different locations so the consistency is awful. The PGA pro’s knew it but were too polite to say anything publically. Really shouldn’t be in the top 10 as there is not much from the original design left but I guess we should be polite.

  • I know nothing of most of the GTA/Muskoka course, but I think Shaughnessy could rate a little higher. It plays better for the members than it showed in the Canadian Open.

    Nicklaus North should not be in the top 100. Nicely conditioned, but monotonous and forgettable – signatures of the Bear’s designs.

    The additional nine holes did Predator no favours.

  • If Hamilton renovates their bunkers then I sure hope they don’t hire the person who worked on Brantford before Graham Cooke. GC’s work was very nice and well received by the membership. The bunker work done on #6, 15 and 16 before GC was inconsistent with the rest of the course and resulted in terrible unintended bounces. This work was totally panned by the membership.

  • Score’s list is always flawed….Most of the votes are on hearsay….

    Why isn’t the very fine, new Norman course, Wyndance, on anyone’s list??

  • Taboo is no way near Coppinwood nor Muskoka Bay

    Both these courses should be very close to Baeconhall..

    In my list, Coppinwood and Muskoka bay #5 and 6..

  • Why can’t I find the Best New Course rankings? If they’ve been announced (Robert – you quoted Wyndance having placed second), why aren’t the results posted anywhere? I’ve checked Score’s website (a dog’s breakfast at the best of times anyway, so there’s a good chance I missed it in the clutter) and can’t seem to find it.

  • “In my list, Coppinwood and Muskoka bay #5 and 6..”

    now THAT is a Toronto-centric opinion.

    what’s the kerfuffle on Wyndance? Is it really “fine” as Just a 5 says? What about Goodwood? How are these 2 courses, plus Coppinwood surviving in a saturated market within minutes from each other?

    and SERIOUSLY, when are people going to get over Wooden Sticks? Potential unrealized. (in the site, not concept.)

  • Good point about the heavy weighting supposedly given to the “fun” factor.

    If it were applied accurately, Devil’s Paintbrush and Coppinwood would jump dramatically—these are fun personified.

    And if “fun” were to be given an accurate assessment, I don’t think The National would be #1 by the reviewers. A great course it is. That is beyond doubt. But for many of the reviewers, I am sure that The National ate them alive!

  • I find these heated discussions about course X being better than course Y a bit much. It is like debating if one should date Jessica Alba or Jessica Simpson.

    For the average golfers like myself, I would be glad to play anyone of them.

    Heck, I probably would enjoy those ranked between 101 and 200 just as much.

  • I think everyone needs to remember that these lists are for interest and entertainment purposes. Every member thinks their own course is better and tougher than it really is. It’s impossible to be subjective regarding your kids and your home course and I’m as guilty as anyone.

    I have two issues with what I’ve read. I’m certain that some courses get far more visits from panelists than others. This is probably based on it’s proximity to major cities and, of course, when give the choice between visiting the Average G & C. C. and the Wonderful G & C. C. most raters will probably opt for the latter. I probably would too. I have been a member at the Brantford G & C C for several years and, according to our previous General Manager, there had never been a panelist from Score or any other magazine for that matter during his time at the club (approx. 6 years) but I don’t know how that factors in. My other issue is that it bothers me when I read comments about my club that simply aren’t true. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Graham Cooke is now our consulting architect but other than relocating a cart path and adding one new tee we have hardly undergone a “Graham Cooke restoration” as Mr. Thompson stated along with Brantford’s ranking. Graham has formulated a Master Plan for our golf course but less than 5% of the proposed work has been completed.

  • Interesting, since your previous general manager hosted me, Rick Young and a couple of other Score panelists just three years ago at Brantford. And you have no idea how many Score panelists have connections and never contact the club.
    As for the “Graham Cooke” renovation (it ain’t a restoration, that’s for sure), but there’s been more bunker work done, and correct me if I’m mistaken, but the 9th hole has been reworked as well.

  • You are correct that I have no idea how many panelists have connections but based on my exchange with the previous GM, very few, if any have contacted the club for a visit. When our club dropped a few spots in the last rankings there was some discussion and I was told point blank that no panelists visited during his time. Obviously that was wrong but my point is still the same. Some clubs get far more visits than others. Your group visited 3 years ago but there have now been (I think) two rankings related issues since then. I would just like to know how the rankings carry over from year to year. Is there a minimum number of panelists required?

  • I understand what you are asking and, I agree with you, in the big picture it doesn’t matter. In my original comment I wrote that I believe the rankings are for entertainment purposes. I am still involved at the committee level however and I’m sure there will be people asking about the rankings and the process.

  • To Just an Observer: be very very careful of letting Graham Cooke do much to your golf course. It’s a personal dislike for his designs on my part, but I have never been on a course he has been involved with that I particularly liked. I would be extra nervous about letting him loose on a classic course.

  • I was very disappointed to see that Saskatchewan has only one golf course listed in Score’s Top 100. Saskatchewan has more golf courses per capita than any province in Canada. There are a number of great golf courses in this province that would rank right up there with many courses on your list. I agree that Dakota Dunes should be on this list but we also have Riverside Country Club, Deer Valley, Elk Ridge Resort, Moon Lake; just to name a few. I have heard that for a course to be considered for this list it must be played by the panelists and that your magazine has no panelists from Saskatchewan. I hope you consider getting some panelists from our province so that our courses have a fair chance of being considered for your next Top 100 list.

  • Dale Johnson:

    I would be interested in your perspective on the specific courses you have played in Saskatchewan versus the other courses you have played in BC, Alberta, Ontario/other provinces that are currently in the top 100 and why the Saskatchewan courses should displace those currently in the top 100.

  • “Class in Order”….A Lesson in Advertising! Buy, buy and buy, and guess what? The level of political push and positioning within the executive sales management of a golf magazine can take a course rating and magically change its ranking based not on what quality and standards the course offers, but on what pleases the person cutting the check. Have you ever paid attention to the Golf course that stopped advertising? Mysteriously the ranking starts to drop? How gullible are the readers in placing actual value into a rating that is subsidized by “advertising $$$?

  • |||What do you mean St.Thomas is “20 spots too low”? Do you think it should be higher around 72???? Isn’t this one of the classic Thompson courses that you will not see built any longer? Please explain Robert!

  • I have never understood the ranking that Beacon Hall continues to receive. My opinion isn’t worth a hill of beans but……it’s overrated. Didn’t the owners of Coppinwood suggest that it would be the best in Canada when Fazio was hired? The ranking must be dissapointing for them.

  • Just an Observor’s commentary of September 19 about the Master Plan for Brantford is just slightly incorrect. There are in fact two new revised tees. One is on Five and the other is on Seven. Having played one of Mr. Cooke’s other creations Willow Valley. One wonders having seen and played that course how anyone could call that design fun and imaginative. Look out Brantford.

  • My Friends and I played The Rock For the first time In Aug. We were absolutley amazed at the condition of the course and the hospitality of the staff.
    If you want an enjoyable day, go to the rock. We will be going back to play now that we know the layout.
    Tony Clark

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