A Taste of Niagara

On a recent jaunt to southern Ontario, to the Niagara Falls region to be specific, I had the opportunity to play four courses.
It was my first warm weather visit to the area and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it.
There are approximately 30 courses in the region and if you want to package golf with accommodations the Best Western Cairn Croft in Niagara Falls ( is the local leader in this department.
We played the four courses in four days – Battlefield and Ussher’s Creek, collectively known as Legends on the Niagara (there is also a nine hole course called Chippawa), owned and operated by the Niagara Parks Commission; Whirlpool, a Stanley Thompson creation also under the parks commission umbrella; and Thundering Waters, John Daly’s only design in Canada.
The Legends’ courses and Whirlpool are public while Thundering Waters is semi-private but open to green fee play.
These four courses offered a lot of variety. Battlefield, a Doug Carrick design, stretches over 7,300 yards from the tips but you can play it as little as 5,500 yards. Ussher’s Creek, was designed by another Canadian, Tom McBroom (Links at Crowbush Cove, Algonquin in St. Andrew’s, N.B.) It too is long from the back tees, nearly 7,200 yards but can be played from as little as 5,421 yards. Both courses have four tee areas at each hole so you can pick your poison, as they say.
Both Battlefield and Ussher’s Creek had generously wide fairways so there was lots of room to stay in play even if you spray the ball a bit. Both had water to negotiate. Battlefield was a bit more demanding as it seemed to have more sand traps that came into play.
Daly’s Thundering Waters course has undergone some changes to a couple holes since it was first opened in 2005 but all-in-all it was a good test. Daly designed it as a risk/reward type course but whatever approach you take in your play it is a tight and demanding layout.
And sand traps! Approximately 100 and combine those with narrow landing areas and some water, and greens with lots of swales and undulations, it all made for a very enjoyable round of golf although the risks I took didn’t offer me much reward.
Also one would think a course designed by “Long” John Daly would naturally be long. However, the changes to some holes as I previously mentioned, dropped the yardage. From the back tees the course is 6,530 yards. There are five tee areas at each hole and the course can play as short as 4,517 yards which I think is great for beginners, juniors and seniors.
Of the four courses Whirlpool really grabbed my attention. Opened in 1951 it was Stanley Thompson’s (The Highland’s Links) final design. This course has a lot of maturity and natural beauty. Thompson, in his designs, made a point of not disturbing the natural terrain and he certainly followed through with that trend at Whirlpool. The course had plenty of challenge and certainly forced a strategic style of play. What I really liked was the fact Thompson didn’t block the front of the greens with sand traps. There are lots of traps around the greens but always to the sides or back.
The Par 72 course is in a park-like setting and in 1996 the parks commission hired R.M. Moote & Associates to undertake a renovation of the sand traps, design new forward tees and practice areas.
The reputation of the course has gone global. With Niagara Falls an international tourist destination, a staff member at Whirlpool said it attracts golfers from around the world.
I was told there are a number other excellent courses in the region and at some point I may get back to play some of those as well.
But seeing the falls, taking a ride on the Maid of the Mist, tasting some of the great wines from area and dining at Peller Estates and Windows by Jamie Kennedy, made for a very enjoyable golf holiday.

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Tom Peters

Tom Peters is a freelance writer based in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia, a suburb of Halifax. In December 2009 he retired after 41 years with The Halifax Chronicle Herald. He covered competitive golf regionally for the paper in his early days as reporter and over the years has freelanced golf travel articles to a number of major golf and business publications. He is a member and a director of the Golf Journalists Association of Canada.

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