Monday, August 27, 2007

Top 50 in Ontario – Part 2 – My List and what didn’t make The List

I have an early flight Tuesday - so here is the post now - although I likely will post something that evening about where I am and what I'm doing.

Turns out after I identified my top 40 with all potential conflicts of interest (clubs I've worked with) I was dropped from the panel.

Here is my List

1. St. George’s
2. Hamilton
3. Toronto
4. Westmount
5. Devil’s Paintbrush

6. National
7. St. Thomas
8. Eagle’s Nest
9. Catarqui
10. Scarboro
11. Lookout Point
12. Bigwin Island
13. Oviinbyrd
14. Weston
15. Summit
16. Rosedale
17. Essex
18. Burlington
Burlington is a great Stanley Thompson gem that lays out great hole after great hole until you get to the 17th where you wonder if you crossed the road to the wrong golf course. The long par fours like the 1st, 13th and 15th are standouts and the green sites are consistently interesting. The routing is a clever use of a small piece of land where Stanley used some of the best fill pad green sites to make it extra tough on the approaches.
19. Osprey Valley (Heathlands)
20. Highlands CC
Highlands is the gem that nobody knows. The George Cumming / Stanley Thompson design makes excellent use of a really interesting piece of terrain right in the heart of London. The long fours are memorable particularly with the small targets surrounded by bunkers. The threes are varied and interesting and the fives are all exciting with plenty of character. Not one weak moment on this course yet nobody pays attention.
21. Brantford
22. King Valley
23. Red Tail
24. Beacon Hall
25. Angus Glen South
26 Maple Downs
This may have to do more to do with access than anything else. Maple Downs is a great (largely) Jewish club with a small family based membership. It also occupies a wonderfully hilly piece of ground that leads to some really wonderful holes – with a few like the 10th and 13th being wonderful despite being quite unconventional. There are many standouts from the 3rd, 9th, 10th, 14th, 15th and 17th – so much great golf.
27 Glen Abbey
28 Kawartha
Imagine playing an intact Thompson course with bunkering every bit as good as St. George’s, but with a bit more room to enjoy your game. Go to Kawartha, this is ‘The” hidden gem in Canada with wonderful terrain, really tough par threes, lots of short fours and all the fives are reachable and exciting holes to play. This is a great example of Thompson’s traditional approach of mixing fun and difficulty in even measure.
29 Lake Joseph
In certain moments, I would call this the best that Muskoka golf has to offer, and in others instances there are holes that truly make you question the routing. I think at times Tom took a few more risks than normal and many of those moments work well, other times it doesn’t, but I’d still rather play there than Rocky Crest any day.
30 London Hunt
31 Georgian Bay
32 Osprey Valley (Pine Barrens)
33. Ottawa Hunt
OK so some of the greens are over the top – 5 have already been rebuilt back since Lorne’s article criticizing the course during the Women’s Canadian Open, but underneath all that is a great rolling property with beautiful undulating fairways and lots of interesting shots. I think the course has been dismissed because of the criticism in the past – and yes a few greens are still too much – but otherwise this is still a course worth seeing.
34. Deerhurst Highlands
35. Thornhill
Another course with so many great holes, and yet never gets the attention it deserves. Find a better and more varied run of holes than the 9 through 13. The 17th was always a weak point but Cam Tyers did a wonderful job making changes and the rest of the courses is pretty strong. There are average holes, but none are bad, which can’t be said of many far higher ranked courses on the list. I prefer the course to many of the modern courses that draw far more attention.
36. Rocky Crest
37. Greystone
38. Cherry Hill (worked at)
39. Bond Head (south)
I must admit I go back and forth on this course. I love sections of it like the 2nd and 4th and struggle with other areas like the opener and finishing holes on the front nine. The back nine opens well but a few holes are a bit much like the 15th which has no options around the green. Largely strong, but a little overshaped for my taste.
40. Mad River
Great set of greens, many interesting holes like the 2nd and 6th while others like the 4th hold back the design. I always wondered about the routing on the back nine and whether that was the ideal way to deal with the property. Many great holes out there but others like the finisher leave you a little under whelmed.

Top 50 in Ontario – Part 1 – My Thoughts on the List

I thought I was on the panel and did provide my own top 40 out of the 125 or so courses that I have played in Ontario. I didn’t see my name on the list of panelist top 5 picks – I was late and may have been left out for that reason – so I thought I would provide comments on the list and finally my own list. There are some on the current list I have not played, but they are all new courses with lots of support and play from the rest of the panel.

I thought I would limit my comments to the course that I think either draw too much attention or get too little love. I’ve added my comments of why I think the way I do.

The entire list and series of articles are here:

The list is as follows:
1. St. George’s G&CC
Of note: There was a nice compliment on St. George's section of the Top 50 courses: "Without doubt the best example of Stanley Thompson’s timeless genius. Ian Andrew’s restoration renewed the luster to this, the crown jewel of Ontario golf." Rest of piece on St. George’s is here:
2. Hamilton G&CC
3. The National Golf Club of Canada
Top 10 – This is the most one dimensional golf course on the list. You have very few options and very few opportunities to play alternative shots. Its Canada’s best examination of execution – that doesn’t mean it’s the best course.
4. Beacon Hall
Top 25 – Never got the support for this course. There are many great holes like the 16th but just as many head scratcher’s like the 6th. The holes from 4 through to 8 are pretty average for a course considered in the top 5. The greens have never caught my fancy with the bumps being very artificial. I’m still convinced the support comes more from the exclusivity than the design.
5. Westmount G&CC
6. Bigwin Island
7. Coppinwood GC
8. Eagles Nest GC9. Muskoka Bay Club
10. Redtail GC
Top 25 – The ranking reflects more about the experience overall than the course. The tightness off the tee, the small undulating greens and the forced carries add up to an average course. There is so much to like in the low profile approach to design with some truly magnificent holes, but others like “Peace” are so forced by tightness that it is a let down on what should be a high point in the round.
11. Devil’s Paintbrush
Top 5 – Best course designed in modern era. The mixture of available shots, the variety of holes and the truly unique style of the course makes it a personal favourite in Ontario. Even where Dana Fry went over the top it still couldn’t diminish the variety and fun found on the course.
12. The Ridge at Manitou
13. Devil’s Pulpit
Top 50 – The Disneyland of golf courses with far too many ideas and too many styles on one course. The use of mounding goes against the very core of my personal beliefs in what a course should look and play like. Devil’s Pulpit feels like Dana used ever idea he had ever seen and mixed into one course with a disjointed effect.
14. Toronto GC
Top 5 – I have always held the opinion that Toronto Golf may be far too subtle for most people to get. Repeated playing teaches you that the course rewards working the ball. You can play this course on the ground or take in on in the air, but that is up to you. The par fours are almost as good a collection as St. George’s (Canada’s best collection) and provide outstanding variety –even the 18th – which most people consider a weak point due to length.
15. London Hunt and CC
16. Rocky Crest GC
Top 50 – The setting is great and the way Tom dealt with the rock is very well done. The golf course underneath is far less interesting than Lake Joseph or Oviinbyrd which are far better courses.
17. Taboo
Top 50 – Too many decidedly average holes to be great, although the use of rock at times is quite impressive.
18. Brantford G&CC,
19. Magna GC
20. Glen Abbey GC
21. Osprey Valley Resorts (Heathlands course)
Top 10 – My favourite course to play designed by Doug, the ground game a round the greens is always fun and the greens are really great (in my humble opinion).
22. Mississaugua G&CC
Top 50 – A very disjointed course with an awful stretch of holes in the valley built to deal with the flooding. I hope that Doug’s rebuilding of 18 greens can bring the course together but I also fear that losing a few of my favourite greens will be a let down too.
23. The Georgian Bay Club
24. Weston G&CC
25. Essex G&CC
26. Heron Point Golf Links
27. Copper Creek GC
28. Scarboro G&CC, Scarborough
Top 10 – I can’t for the life of me figure out why this course doesn’t get more support. The use of land, great green sites and terrific set of par threes should easily vault this in the top 10. Is it the series of short fours and then a drive over the road at the end that ruins people’s perceptions of the rest of a great course?
29. King Valley GC
30. St. Thomas G&CC
Top 10 – The work by Thompson is good, the work by Robbie Robinson may be his best. The course is a terrific run through some wildly undulating terrain, with many great par fours throughout.
31. Deer Ridge GC
32. Rosedale GC
33. Wildfire GC
34. Deerhurst Highlands
35. Oakdale G&CC
36. Angus Glen GC (South)
37. Whitewater GC
38. Seguin Valley G&CC
39. Summit G&CC
Top 15 – I like the club a lot more than others do, many great holes on one of the best properties in Ontario.
40. Mad River GC
41. National Pines GC
42. Lookout Point CC
Top 15 – This is a course where you must adapt for the terrain. You need to bounce the ball in, play for cross-slope and adjust for changes of elevation. This makes this a course that you must learn to play well. Likely ignored due to location more than design.
43. The Raven GC at Lora Bay
44. Crimson Ridge GC
45. Galt CC
46. Granite
47. Greystone GC
48. Cherry Hill
49. Osprey Valley Resorts (Wasteland course)
50. Cataraqui G&CC
Top 10 – Other than the course is a little short, there is little to knock on this gem. The par three’s are collectively outstanding with the 2nd and 15th being two of the very best in the province. The course has a bit of a quiet section on the later part of the front nine but otherwise features an outstanding collection of holes.

Tomorrow my list and some comments on the NINE courses I list that did not make the list.
The blog may be late since I fly tomorrow.