Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Top 100 Continued - What makes a course great and My Top 25

Toronto's wonderful 15th green site

So what makes them great?

1. Great routing – hardest element to measure, but best described as the holes seem to all work perfectly one after the other.
Example: Highland Links is a wonderful run where each hole seems in the right spot (I'll touch on this tomorrow by discussing the Highland routing)

2. Great architecture – from greens to bunkering
Example: St. George’s bunkering is so good it can almost carry the course single handed

3. Great setting – there is no comparing an Oceanside course to a housing course
Example: Dakota Dunes versus Eagle’s Nest

4. Mixture of hole types and hole lengths – 18 holes in a valley setting or a 7,400 yard course is dull
Example: Devil’s Paintbrush provides the seemingly impossible with the seemingly too easy all day, a testament to good design and fun

5. Balance of strong and fun holes – can beat your brains in or be too easy either
Example: Hamilton does a wonderful job of testing all your skills and giving you plenty of opportunity, a perfect mix of brains and brawn

6. Great par threes – It is almost a must
Example: Jasper Park has a perfect set from pitch to driver and all yardages in between

7. A full mixture of par fours from drivable to unmanageable
Example: Toronto Golf has the perfect mix of all yardages green types and settings

8. Par fives that are interesting rather than just long
Example: No course in the world can top the mixture of great par fives at Highlands

9. A golf course that makes you think – 18 clearly defined holes with one option per shot lacks strategy – the course must invite you to take risk and play smart
Example: Kudos to Rod Whitman for giving you a million options at Blackhawk.

10. A course that has continuity – from architectural style through to feel, too many ideas or too many elements ruins a good piece of architecture

This is the weak point of Canadian architecture, the new courses have an advantage because they haven’t been tinkered with. This is also the reason so many of the courses like Mayfair have gone from the top to off the list.

My Top 25

St. George’s
Highland GL
Jasper Park

Banff Springs
Devil’s Paintbrush
Eagle’s Nest

St. Thomas

Lookout Point
Osprey Valley Heathlands
Wolf Creek

Bigwin Island


Anonymous said...

Ian: I'm curious about your thoughts on Burlington G & CC. You said it would make your top 50 but I see it didn't make it in to your top 25, even with the Stanley Thompson catchet? Steverino

Ian Andrew said...


I can think of about a dozen or so courses that I would list first, so about 40-45 would be where I'd put it.


Yannick Pilon said...


Beaconsfield would be your no. 1 in Quebec? What is it that makes it so special in your mind? Appart from a strong routing, a great clubhouse and easy access from downtown Montreal, I just don't see it. From your previous posts, I would have thought that Mt Bruno and Islesmere would have been higher than Beac on your list. I would appreciate your take on it, you can e-mail me if you want.


Yannick Pilon

Anonymous said...

I really don't understand how St. George's is ranked higher than Hamilton. It is not a better golf course.

Ian Andrew said...

The routing impresses me more than all the others, Bruno included. I need to get back to see many again to be more sure. I haven't walked Bruno or Beaconsfield in the last five years and I may be wrong in my opinion.

All of the best courses have a weak spot that keeps them from being great. The flats at Kanawaki, weak holes and trees at Islesmere, the hedge at laval, the easy holes at Beaconsfield, the number of average holes at Bruno, the klack of diversity at Royal Montreal, the repetative green sites at Elm Ridge. There all good and there all hard to seperate from one another in quality except for Beaconsfield's routing.

Anonymous said...


have you played the London Hunt since the renovation by Rees Jones? The RCGA indicated that the LHC is the only private golf club that could host the Canadian Open...tomorrow - meaning it is long enough, tough enough and compelling enough to host the open and that its condition is solid. i often wonder how the LHC would be rated if it were in Toronto or Montreal. hopefully the resounding support it received from the CN Women's Open will help improve its standing as a top 10 level golf course.


Ian Andrew said...

I have not played it, but I walked the entire course after the renovtion work was complete. It's a very nice renovation, of a very average course.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comment. I disagree, of course but what i find concerning in your comment is that you feel your assessment has value without actually playing the course. I can't imagine walking a course and playing it offer no difference in rating its quality. There are lots of pretty courses to walk, though when you play them you find significant design flaws (i.e. Crowbush).
Therefore, I offer an open invitation to play LHC as my guest (schedule permitting of course!).


Ian Andrew said...


let's try this again.

I have played the course, I have not played it since the renovation.

I found it enjoyable to play, but I also found I had nothing to take from it that would make me a better architect. I'm not crazy about a course where you can't seem to miss a green.

It is full of safe, standard answers that do not push the possible or compell me to return.

Anonymous said...

Wow, now you're asking for a diatribe! haha.

First, what you're not likely aware of is that the course was not only renovated (By the 'US Open Doctor' no less) but the club had him put in written form the condition under which it was designed to be played. This meant that the superintendent continually has to maintain the course (as best he can) against a designer-established criteria. In LHC's case, the course was lengthened, re-bunkered and several tees realigned but most importantly the course is to be played under hard, fast conditions.

This makes the greens incredibly small as many of them have slopes that under firm/fast conditions push balls towards the perimeters. What is often worse however is actually having a 65 foot putt to a delicate pin position. The impact this has on one's strategy is incredible! When the conditions are as they should be, the course is an incredible test of all areas of your game - as any great course should be.

As for your comment, i find it disappointing that you think there is nothing to learn as an architect from playing the restored LHC. As a fellow architect i would want to know why Rees Jones did what he did.

I saw his written notes and can tell you that i was amazed after reading them. Every note he made for each hole was bang on in terms of what was wrong and how it could be improved. We are all never too old to learn.

the invite still stands!

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