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.