Ladies Golf Club (Thornhill, Ont.)
Designer: Stanley Thompson
The Scorecard: Toronto Ladies has gained more attention in recent years for the fact it is the only all-female private club in North America. That in itself is a unique distinction, but there’s more to the club than just the gender issue. Sure, men can play there – and even become annual members – but the question is whether the course would be enough to keep bigger hitters interested. The answer is sort of. There’s some great holes at Toronto Ladies and some pedestrian design at the end of the front nine. All the same, the best holes — #5, #7, #16, and #17 – are tremendous examples of lay-of-the-land design that made Thompson such a force in golf for more than 30 years. Not his best work all-around – and some has surely been tinkered with – but some untouched features that are worth seeking out as well.
- Ladies excels where it appears the holes were simply placed on unaltered land. That includes the fifth, a mid-length par four to a plateau green (imagine how good it would be if the ravine on the right wasn’t covered in trees), and the seventh, a great long three to an extreme green.
- Sure Ladies ends on a par three – but you’d expect as much from a unique club. Regardless, the finish is exceptional – the downhill par three 16th is in a breathtaking setting, though I suspect the green has been rebuilt and lacks some of the intrigue of the smaller putting surfaces found elsewhere on the course, and the 17th is one of the best short fours Thompson ever devised.
- I’m not a conditioning freak by any means, but the greens at Ladies were in tough shape and it is hard to imagine the putting surfaces on 16 and 17 are ever very good given the surrounding hills covered with trees. If there was a breath of wind in that area the day I was there, I’d be surprised.
- The best holes are offset by some strange design elements. Take the 6th, a long par with a bunker set just over the pond on the left. It is a double hazard and hard to fathom on a course aimed at women. The member I played with complained that she’d carry the pond and end up in a bunker 75 yards from the green. It was easy to see her point.
Adding it up:
I enjoyed Ladies. What it lacks in challenge it more than makes up for in interesting design, even where the land is simply average. After the ninth hole it slightly loses the plot; the 10th and 11th are dull, and the 12th needs to have its tee raised significantly, at least for male players.
But overall, with the charming clubhouse and the old school course with Thompson’s genius stamped on it makes for a delightful afternoon. Not sure I’d want to play there all the time – but I sure want to go back.