Course: The Club at North Halton (Georgetown, Ont.)
Designer: George Cumming, Bob Moote, Rene Muylaert
The scorecard: North Halton is often discussed for all the wrong reasons. Insiders talk about the difficulty the club, which is located 45 minutes north of Toronto, has had in renovating its clubhouse, or gossip about supposed financial issues. I have no idea whether any of this is true – I’ve been hearing it for years and yet North Halton is still there, vibrant, with a busy membership the day I teed it up.
Yes, the range is middling, and the clubhouse isn’t exactly attractive. However, the course is better than most give it credit for, an old-world design that wanders through an intriguing valley that yields numerous strong golf holes. Even the holes that could be deemed plain – like the first three on the front side – aren’t without merit, and all offer different challenges and concepts. North Halton lacks those great holes that could set it apart, but frankly it isn’t that far removed from many courses considered its superior, places like Maple Downs, or Thornhill, and it is better than almost all of Clublink’s Toronto offerings (Glen Abbey aside).
North Halton isn’t a big-time private club – and the course reflects the low key approach. I consider that a positive, though some might see it otherwise.
– After the fourth hole, upon which the course plunges into a valley, North Halton has a lot to offer. The fifth hole is a smart, difficult par four and it is followed by the best hole on the course – the long, tricky par four sixth. With its elevated green, the sixth plays longer than most of the par fives on the course, and its sloping green isn’t going to allow many pars for those missing to the right.
– The finish. The conclusion, starting on the devilish par four 14th, is very strong and engaging. I was particularly taken by the 18th, with its speed slope on the left side of the fairway propelling balls back to the middle. If used properly, a lot of yardage can be picked up, making a 544-yard hole quite reachable.
– Interesting that both the back and front nine start weakly. The front opens with a mid-length par five followed by a drivable (and slightly dangerous) par four. The back opens with a dogleg right par four up a hill and then an awkward par four that falls into the valley (with some truly horrible bunkering in the landing area). Together they represent some of the weakest holes in the course.
– The architecture never matches the land on which the course is built. The bunkers are plain and not particularly strategic. The greens don’t always tie in with the shot values presented by the course. If the design matched the routing and holes, it would be a stronger course.
– With the exception of the 17th, which I found to be a solid one-shot hole to an interesting uphill green, none of the par threes are North Halton are standouts. And they are all relatively comparable in yardage – there’s no ball-busting big three here, but nothing short enough to offer an all-or-nothing opportunity either.
Final Tally: Where North Halton is good – for the second half of the front nine and for much of the back nine – it is solid, lay-of-the-land golf. It might not overwhelm and with the exception of the 5th and 16th hole, there is not a lot of wow factor at the course. But that’s fine. Easily walkable, with land that has enough interesting features to make the course come alive, and with a decidedly solid series of two-shot holes, North Halton is one of those designs that may not titillate the eyes, but will continue to amuse and entertain players time and again. However, unless some money was invested in the design, ridding it of some awful bunkers and reconsidering the design, it’ll never be considered among the elite in Ontario.