Course Review: Westmount Golf and Country Club (Stanley Thompson, 1931)
Architect: Stanley Thompson
Overview: Somehow Westmount has always been highly regarded and slightly overlooked at the same time. Maybe it is because it is located in Kitchener, away from the bright lights of Toronto. Or maybe it is because it has been away from major events like the Canadian Open for so long.
Regardless, Westmount is among the handful of courses in Canada that could be debated as among the best in the country. Great land? Check. Great holes? In spades. Terrific greens? At least 16 of them. Amazing conditions? Among the best in Canada.
With that in mind, Westmount is one of the few courses that I constantly think is better each time I see it.
- Great holes abound, almost all punctuated with tremendous greens. The fifth hole, which plays to a green cut into the top of a hill, is unrelenting, and the eighth, a short four, is genius. The tee shot forces players to tempt the left side, which is where the trouble is. But those that play to the safe side and miss are faced with a pitch that steeply runs away from them. And the run of 13 through 17 is among the best stretch of golf in Canada, with the 15th and 16th holes rivaling the best par fours anywhere.
- This isn’t entirely a Stanley Thompson design. The starting holes were reworked by Robbie Robinson. But even Robinson’s work is terrific – and most couldn’t distinguish which holes are the work of each architect.
- Conditions. The greens at Westmount were the best I played this year – and are typically outstanding, a testament to the work of superintendent Cory Janzen and his staff.
- This has none of Thompson’s whimsy (which could be seen at places like Highlands Links) — Westmount is just pure, straight-forward golf, with great land and great holes.
- Trees. Still way too many of them and the playing corridors are slightly crampted in places. But they are making progress – if they took down the extraneous trees that have been planted in recent decades, revealing the great trees often hidden behind, it would improve the playability.
- The 11th and 12th greens. Both designed by Thomas McBroom and a former superintendent, the 11th doesn’t function well (not enough pinable areas) and the 12th is a complete mess. There’s discussion about reworking both holes next year. A slightly less aggressive green on the 12th would make the hole a standout, as the downhill tee shot is already intriguing and enjoyable. The current green lacks the subtly found elsewhere on the course.
- The 18th. It is only 380 yards, and perhaps doesn’t quite work as a closer, though the position of the green in connection to the clubhouse makes for some drama. While not the strongest close on a great Thompson course (see St. George’s or Capilano for that), it isn’t a bad finish. Rather than try to find a tee behind say the 17th green, I’d leave this one as it is. After all, the stretch that proceeds it is already very tough.
The final tally: A return visit this week demonstrated to me, once again, that with some slight work, Westmount should be elevated even further. SCOREGolf has it #15 in the country, and I’d say it is superior to at least six courses ahead of it. A Canadian Open could work at Westmount – and it is as worthy a candidate as any in the country.
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At first I thought that picture of the 18th was a joke with a big Canadian flag in the middle of the green…pretty funny pic
Nice review Rob, I consider Westmount a top 10 course in Canada.
Nice review, RT.
I also consider Westmount a top 10 course, anywhere! Imagine the fun on 18 if Westmount hosts a CanadianOpen, guys going for the green and all other options. Trees are very natural on many holes at Westmount. As I recall the “old” green on 12 was fairly subtle, easy to be short of the pin as long was gone. It is a superb par three, and a great “next” for the heart breaker 11th.
It makes my top 10 list every time too.
I played this week and found myself thinking about the multiple rounds I played with your brother and Jeff B. Made me smile and sad all at the same time.
Thanks Ian, and I understand your feeling of sad and happy at the same time.
I feel the same every time I play there.
RT, I don’t think you and I have ever agreed so fully on anything.
Easily a top 10 track and a total joy to play. No question, the 11th and 12th greens are horrid and were very poorly thought out.
Dick: I remember well two or three conversations with your brother Hugh at Westmount. One of the best people anywhere. And similar conversations I have had with you about architecture, construction and greenkeeping. I also remember you operating a dozer with great skill during the design and building of Otter Creek. Best regards, Bill
Best regards also, Dick
Great review and long overdue.
Westmount is one of Canada’s hidden gems. I find myself in complete agreement (other than ST’s best closer is 18 at Jasper and I do love the 18th at Highlands as well).
If you could get the membership to institute/complete a ‘tree reduction plan’ they could move up but, not until this is complete. Tweaking the 12th would not take a lot of effort or $ and 11 green needs work. They have so much going for them and they’re a few minor improvements away from a top 10.
Dick, sorry I have not realized that you and Hugh are family. That’s what happens when you live out of the country as much as I have. The Canadian government have decreed that I am 27/40 Canadian.
What did you shoot RT ? a cheating 73?