Course Review: Rideau View (Manotick, Ont.)
Designer: Howard Watson/Robbie Robinson
Overview: Rideau View finally received some attention last year when it vaulted into SCOREGolf’s Top 100 courses list. Admittedly it was a course I didn’t know much about, other than the fact Brad Fritsch had played there growing up and the club had a reputation for developing good players. When it emerged on SCORE’s list it was the only course of the Top 100 I hadn’t played, so I arranged to take a quick flight up to the club.
I’ll start by saying it is a fine golf club – unpretentious, golf-oriented, with a terrific pro and GM. It is the kind of place that grows the game of golf. Not sure why they call it a country club — strikes me as a “golf” club where everything else is secondary.
However, like almost all of Howard Watson and Robbie Robinson’s designs (both worked for Stanley Thompson at one point) Rideau View is inconsistent. The highlights – the par fours on the back nine, including 11, 12, and 14 are varied and interesting with variety and imagination – outweigh the elements that aren’t as creative or engaging(the start of both the front and back nine). That might keep it on SCORE’s list, but always on the cusp of falling off. I’d include it on a short list of member clubs that have courses that are solid if unspectacular (see Sunningdale, Bayview, Lambton, etc.), which simply means it is a very good golf course, but not at the elite level in Canada.
- There are stretches on both the front and back nine that are exceptional, specially where the land is solid. The course is necessarily understated, and in places plain, but the par fours are where it really stands out. The two-shot holes come in groups – the 7 through 9th on the front really stand out – as do the previously mentioned 12th, 13th, and 14th. I was also partial to the short and sporty 17th, though it is on one of the flattest portions of the property.
- There’s interesting use of “half shot” holes at Rideau View – including the 7th from the new back tee, the 9th, which has one of the most exciting and unexpected greens in all of Canadian golf, and the 12th. All three have greens that are challenging given the length of the hole.
- Though the course starts on plain land – and ends in the same fashion – the routing builds nicely throughout the round, and is easily walkable. You start both the front and nine with relatively easy holes with elevated tee shots (uncommon at Rideau View).
- Where it is plain, many will wonder why there’s any fuss about Rideau View. The opener is wide open and bland, salvaged by a good green, and the second and third are typical doglegs of the type both Watson and Robinson used throughout their careers to navigate dull land. The motif comes back up on the 10th, another dull three-shot hole that mirrors the opener, but with more trees. I wonder if some of these could be improved with tree removal and judicious use of longer fescue grasses to add variation in aesthetic appeal.
- The par threes at Rideau View are almost all unremarkable. The club takes some pride in its 6th hole, with its tee shot over water, but the green is plain and it is a bit of a cliché. The downhill fourth is forgettable, and the 11th s long but bland. In most instances the par threes at Rideau View are classic connectors – simply created by the architects to get them to the next tee. Only in one instance, the downhill 15th, did it feel like the hole was integral to the design.
The final tally:
I had fun at Rideau View. The course is playable, walkable and in fine condition, and the members play frequently and are passionate about the club. There’s nothing upscale about it – but it is the kind of setting one immediately feels comfortable in. The course is certainly an above average design, but one’s interest in it will largely depend on whether you fall for the two-shot holes that use the most interesting elements of the property or think the more mundane features are limiting.