Yes, two more Canadian course ratings are out — one by Canadiangolfmagazine.com, an upstart publication, and a new Ontario list by Peter Mumford’s Fairways magazine. Add this to SCOREGolf’s established Top 100, Golfweek’s Top Canadian classic and modern list and Golf Digest’s recent Canadian list. That’s a lot of ink spilled when I truly think there are maybe five or six great golf courses in Canada.
What’s that you say? Five or six?
That’s my take — Highlands Links, Hamilton, Cabot Links, Jasper, Banff, and St. George’s could be considered on a world scale. There’s lots beyond that that are very good — but not great. Even Hamilton could use an overhaul — right now it has horrible grassing lines and the bunkers are as plain as dry toast. But it has the essence of greatness — it is there in the bones. I love places like Westmount, Toronto GC, Eagles Nest, Muskoka Bay, Capilano and Devil’s Paintbrush — and though they have individual great holes, I can’t really conclude any of these courses are great. Not great like Winged Foot or Shinnecock. Not great like Royal St. George’s or Ballybunion.
What’s different at Canadiangolfmagazine.com? Not much, frankly. It has a nicely defined criteria — though if even one panelist can explain what a “course/land plan” is I’d be surprised — and apparently an expert list of panelists. I say “apparently,” because though Canadiangolfmagazine.com goes to great lengths to talk about how its panel is different, it misses the basics of offering transperancy. No comps, but lots of “industry” people (who likely haven’t paid for a green fee in a long time), no prior notice of visits (which I always think is funny since how does one change a golf course for a rater anyway?) and “basically [golfers] asked for a ranking where raters do not receive any sort of special treatment.” Problem is the magazine won’t identify those raters — which strikes me as a real problem when you are seeking credibility. Why not identify them? There’s no real explanation given. I can’t imagine taking any list seriously that doesn’t tell you who is on it, that’s my perspective.
Still, the magazine list they compile is fine. No revelations. The National sinks to No. 5, Cabot Links is 10 spots too low at No. 10, nice to see Kawartha at a deserving No. 41, etc.
Check their list out here. Editor Frank Mastroianni has done a nice job with the publication, though I wonder how long it can continue without much ad support. I also wonder if I’m one of six people in Canada interested in a magazine that heavily slanted to golf design. We’ll see….
Fairways Magazine takes another swipe at it, this time using Ted McIntyre, the former editor of Ontario Golf, to run the ratings. That means unlike Canadiangolfmagazine, Ted offers full disclosure on not only who he used for the Ontario rating, but what they voted on. Credit to Magna’s Danny King for having the strangest No. 1 pick — Osprey Valley. I applaud that sort of thinking — and it certainly provides a different perspective than the standard National/St. George’s debate.
By my count there are now six ratings of Canadian courses in various magazines (including one done by the BC PGA last year.)
What can we conclude?
- That some American magazines can’t distinguish a classic from modern course (Golfweek).
- That like Score and Fairways, some American pubs love the National. (Golf Digest)
- That if you tweak your criteria, more classic courses will appear (Canadiangolfmagazine)
- That some lists offer very little new perspective for debate (Fairways) and that Ontario doesn’t have enough quality to rank 100 courses if Innerkip Highlands AND Seguin Valley makes the list
- That rater love for Royal Montreal is slipping (all lists)
- That Highlands Links conditioning issues have caught up with it (all lists)
- That no one has played Goodwood, which is the only explanation for the reason it hasn’t appeared in any lists. Lorne Rubenstein ranks it ahead of St. George’s, which is strange, but it does suggest it is very good. Very good indeed – but not better than St. George’s, regardless of what Rubenstein suggests.
- That Cabot Links hasn’t come out of the gates quite the way many, myself included, expected (all lists have it around 10 in the country).
- Very few new courses have entered any of the list in the past few years, making them quite static. Considering how few changes have been made to many, that’s probably as it should be.
- Maybe it is time for fewer courses rating lists all saying versions of the same story using different criteria.