Ontario, 800 Courses, many that are Traveling Golfer Favourites
When I first started this piece, it was intended to be one article and even with covering public access courses I soon came to the realization that it would be way too long. Part 1 and part 2 it shall be.
Part One will take us from the roar of Niagara Falls into the Greater Toronto Area and slightly northwest into Collingwood and South Georgian Bay area.
Part Two will start at the Southwestern most point of Windsor, skip right over to Eastern Ontario, Belleville and Ottawa before heading to the Cottage Country of Muskoka and then north of Superior.
Ontario doesn’t have an Ocean on its border or a Mountain Range for that matter, it does have elevation change and probably as many lakes including some Great Lakes and a world class city, Toronto. Perfect for a Staycation, or when the borders reopen, ideal for our American friends to take advantage of the 30% discount on their dollar and easy access for international travellers for arrival here and perhaps extend stays to other Provinces.
We’re not just talking ordinary golf. We’re talking about World Class accessible to public play, including the Glen Abbey Golf Club, just outside Toronto which has hosted more Canadian Opens than any other.
Not all of my favourites are public access but as mentioned, for this read that is all that we will cover. Even at that, unfortunately we will probably need to leave some out. Some great courses will also be left out simply because I just have not played them….like Timber Ridge Golf Course just east of Toronto. I will be playing it for the first time as this comes to your inbox. Another on my radar, almost to the Quebec border, is Smugglers Glen Golf Course associated with the Glen House Resort.
Best of all, none of this golf is going to break the bank!
Niagara Falls / Hamilton / Oakville
Let’s start this journey at a course where you can hear the roar of the Falls. The classic Stanley Thompson Whirlpool Golf Course, the original of the Niagara Parks courses, overlooking the Niagara Gorge and one of the Wonders of the World – Niagara Falls. Located at the southern tip of Central Ontario right across from Buffalo, New York. The modern editions of Niagara Parks courses are at the Legends on the Niagara complex. Battlefield is a Doug Carrick designed links style with a nice mix of wide, links-style holes with generous undulating fairways and greens that are bound by dense forest and brush. Ussher’s Creek, one of Thomas McBroom’s finest parkland masterpieces, is a challenging and breathtaking course featuring thick stands of deciduous trees, wetland hazards and knee-high fescue rough.
Soooo much to do in Niagara Falls, lets start with a golfer’s favourite; delectable international cuisine is the cornerstone of the dining in the area, some even overlooks the Falls. A prolific wine region, 50 wineries all tolled, and a visit to the area would not be complete without sometime in Victorian era town Niagara-On-The-Lake, that you can’t help but fall in love with. Trust me, make some time for this…Plenty of time.
It seems like that where you find great golf in Ontario you also find great wine….. and one of Canada’s most prolific golf course designers Doug Carrick, as you will see!
Heading to Toronto, but not without a couple of stops, one in Hamilton to play a muni, yes, maybe a muni like no other, Kings Forrest Golf Club run by the City of Hamilton. A gem of a course on the Niagara Escarpment always meticulously maintained, elevation changes and even a river runs through it.
Between Hamilton and Toronto is Oakville, a place I once called home, and only minutes from the Glen Abbey Golf Club. The course, a Nicklaus Signature Design, has played host to the PGA tours Canadian Open stop on a multitude of occasions. Glen Abbey is one of the public access courses of ClubLink. If you are a golfer visiting the area this is a bucket list stop.
With that let’s get to some of our favourites in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). All of my favourites are outside of Toronto except for Royal Woodbine Golf Club right next door to Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. As tight as they come with water on 17 of 18 holes.
Want some WOW Factor? Look no further than Eagles Nest Golf Club another spectacular Doug Carrick design directly north of the city in Vaughn. Let your imagination run wild on this award-winning layout, offering up a truly unique links style golf experience.
Northwest of Toronto and still considered the immediate outskirts in Kleinberg is Copper Creek Golf Club ranked among the top 50 in the country set in the picturesque Humber River Valley.
And even further northwest of Toronto, bordering on an hour or more considering traffic, are the three courses of TPC Toronto at Osprey Valley, all Doug Carrick designs, each distinctive and all in the Top 100 in Canada. The original course Osprey Valley, links style is still my favourite and probably most demanding. The Hoot and The Toot, parkland in style maybe a little more water to contend with and there for more picturesque in Caledon’s rolling hills and some of my favourite small stream trout fishing.
To the northeast corner of the city are a couple more must stops. One designed by my favourite all time designer ever – no prejudice here – Ron Garl is my buddy, we play whenever I get to Florida and besides that, he is damn good at what he does.
Wooden Sticks golf course features holes inspired by some of the most famous golf holes from around the world. Who doesn’t want to tee it up on Augusta’s Amen Corner, the 17th at TPC Sawgrass, The Postage Stamp or St Andrews’, Road Hole?
Just on the northeast border of Toronto lies Angus Glen Golf Club, two courses, both have played host to the Canadian Open, The South in 2002 and The North in 2007 and I am pretty sure that The South hosted the LPGA at least once – cuz I was there! Both great courses, I like the South more and think it is the more challenging of the two. Neither will disappoint!
Let’s head north up to my home town, I live just outside of Collingwood, one of Ontario’s resort areas, 20 minutes to the east we have the world’s largest freshwater beach at Wasaga Beach.
To the west we have Blue Mountain Resorts with the Thomas McBroom designed Monterra Golf course, in the winter skiing is the number one passion here.
The area has also become huge for retiree’s looking to relocate to a wonderful community life and the golf course that by far leads the way is Blue Mountain Golf & Country Club. A couple of minutes just west of Collingwood’s downtown, semi-private, thus meticulously maintained, easy walking, with the first 3 holes have you gazing at the Niagara Escarpment. I have been a member for a long, long time… The course has a lot more bite than it first appears with greens that are subtly mean. Four holes, 11-14 are our Amen Corner plus 1.
It just so happens that our latest Podcast is on this area. CLICK HERE to listen.
So much else to do in the area as we are on the southern shores of Georgian Bay part of the Great Lakes system, boating, fishing, big water and stream for trout, and the music scene is alive! Some great bars and restaurants, including my home away from home where you will find cold beer, great social, golfers galore and the best wings in town…..maybe the world. Collingwood’s Beaver and Bulldog Sports Pub and Wingery.
You can find out more about the entire area by checking out this site which encompasses the many regions around Southern Georgian Bay.
Of course, there is much more golf in the area, also a couple of minutes west of Collingwood is Cranberry Golf Resort with many styles of accommodations and properties to purchase and with that is the Cranberry Golf Course. Definitely the best golf course deck in the area.
About 40 minutes west of Collingwood is the Town of Thornbury and what I would consider the best of the public access golf. The panoramic setting of the first tee box at The Golf Club at Lora Bay, on the edge of Nippissing Ridge, sets the stage for the day, elevated some 100 feet above the fairway your tee ball looks like it may land in Georgian Bay far in the distance. A great variety of golf holes and many more views to follow.
Don’t overlook Thornbury for a cold one or a great meal. If you are a fisherman you will cross over one of the best trout rivers in the Province – The Beaver River.
Keep heading west on Hwy 26 and you will arrive in Owen Sound and from there you will want to head north 30 minutes or so to Cobble Beach with as many spectacular and panoramic views that a golf course can offer. Another Doug Carrick design – this guy is good! Bring your camera and save your best shot for the par 3 – 17th.
A lot to take in here and there is more but you can see why Ontario should not be overlooked when it comes to great golf and great diversity in Canada!