Course Review: Lookout Point
Architect: Walter Travis (opened in 1922)
Lookout Point is almost entirely unique among Canadian golf courses. From its magnificent topography to the slight greens, the course is at once a throwback as well as a modern day challenge. Either way it is tremendous fun, and one of the largely unheralded gems of the country.
Most know of Lookout, located near Fonthill and not far from St. Catharines, as the home course of legendary Canadian amateur Marlene Streit. It is on Lookout’s small greens that Marlene fashioned her incredible short game. It is no surprise then that the greens are a huge factor at Lookout. Specifically it is their size — not quite the size of a dime, maybe more like a quarter. While exaggeration makes the point, the remarkable green sites on holes like #3 work so perfectly. In this instance the hole, a par-5, is only 483-yards long. A good drive will leave many players with little more than a mid-iron into this downhill hole. But that’s where the interesting elements start appearing. The green is set at an angle to the line of play and raised on the sides and back, while pitching to the left. That means one might run a ball up the throat, but anything but a high lofted shot is unlikely to hold the green and those that miss will struggle to get up-and-down. In many ways it is the perfect solution for a short five — and creates a wonderful hole.
It is the topography that grabs your attention right off the top, with the first hole, a mid-length par-4 that plays sharply off the escarpment, as a precursor to what is to come. The initial shot will be repeated on the 10th, a similar hole to the opener, but amped up with a more intriguing green. In all, Travis, who built the course in 1919, used the most intriguing natural features of the site, especially during the first 14 holes. Take, for instance, the 423-yard 12th, which crosses a wetland and valley and doglegs hard to the right. Only the best shots will cut the corner and those not brave enough to do so will be left with a long approach. Another favourite was the 6th. At just under 400-yards, this hole’s rambling fairway slides down a valley and emerges to an on-grade green. The tumbling fairway yields no even lies, and longer shots could be blind uphill. It is a fascinating example of using the landscape to create drama and strategy.
There is a school of thought that suggests Lookout runs out of gas after the long 14th hole, which plays hard along the property line. Playing in one tackles six consecutive two-shot holes, with the last four all under 400-yards. Truthfully a lot of this part of the course can be tackled with a long iron or hybrid, but pars are far from guaranteed. The greens seem to grown increasingly sloped and smaller throughout the closing holes, making precision approaches a must. In my instance I hit four of the last five fairways, but only one of the greens. The bunkers on these holes are particularly devilish given the lack of putting surface. It is a challenge unique in my experience among Canadian golf courses — but one that shouldn’t come as a huge surprise considering Travis was known as one of the best short-game players in history.
Lookout ends with an apparently docile 318-yard closer. Truthfully it is exceptionally well bunkered and the green is cut into the hillside, meaning the hole rises significantly. Those wanted to close with a solid number will likely risk hitting a driver to leave themselves a very short approach. However, the green is tilted hard from the back right corner to the front left, meaning any ball left long behind the flagstick risks a putt that is akin to trying to make a ball stop on your driveway.
Sure Lookout is short, at just over 6,600 yards, but its holes are remarkably varied and fun. If this is a throwback to another era, I’ll take it over the muscled-up, modern challenges created in the last decade any time.