As holy shrines of golf go, St. George’s is Canada’s Jerusalem. Ranked No. 30 on the planet last year by Golf Digest, the 1929 Stanley Thompson masterpiece occupies a tumbling, weaving property in the heart of Toronto that has staged five Canadian Opens.
Defended by slick, undulating greens and routed through valleys rather than across them, the organic layout ranks as “Thompson’s best architectural work,” according to architect Ian Andrew, who restored the Canadian legend’s magnificent bunker complexes a decade ago. “Thompson was at the absolute pinnacle of his creative power when he built St. George’s, which contains some of the best bunkering in all of golf,” Andrew continues. “He was clever enough to find a fascinating mix of ways to incorporate the valleys into the strategies and settings for the holes. Because of that, the course possesses some of the best ground for golf in North America.”
Hosting the 2010 RBC Canadian Open was pivotal for the par-71 course, which, on top of the bunker restoration, was lengthened to 7,145 yards, the rough re-sodded and fairway lines tightened. More recently, an extensive tree program and other upgrades have been undertaken, including a massive greens restoration project last year under the guidance of Andrew and noted American designer Tom Doak. Although several panel members highlighted recent conditioning issues, they still placed this Stanley Thompson classic atop the list of Ontario courses.
“It has always been one of the most complete golf courses in the province, with no weak holes, especially given the renovation of No. 3, and a fantastic final five holes,” says panel member T.J. Rule.
“Best green complexes in the country,” observes golf architect Kevin Holmes. “Stanley Thompson’s best course in Ontario,” echoes David Sanders. “The maestro of architecture got this one perfect! I am always amazed how he could interpret a property and get every hole and green just right so the golfer never tires of playing it. Very jealous of the membership.”
Lambton G&CC Director of Golf Matthew Yustin sums it up nicely: “A Stanley Thompson treasure. As Joanne Carner once said, ‘The best 18 finishing holes I have played.’”
“The ancient trees, the flowers, the sweeping fairways, the perfect greens. It’s the closest we have to an Augusta National. If you say ‘fantastic, traditional parkland course,’ you’re saying St. George’s.” —Gerry Dobson
“St. George’s is a place you don’t ever want to leave. One my favourite features is the feeling of being away at the cottage while being in the core of Toronto.” —Marcus Strom
“When you combine one of the best pieces of parkland terrain anywhere with Stanley Thompson at his best, it’s hard to top. St. George’s is the finest combination of ‘walk in the park’ enjoyment, thoughtful architecture, arresting features (particularly the bunkering) and challenge to your game. And the finishing stretch of 14-18 is extremely strong.” —Matt MacKay
“It has had its issues with greens the past couple of years, but there is no denying this old-time beauty is the best. Love the trees and rolling fairways. An absolute gem.” —John Herbert
“St. George’s wonderfully represents golf in Ontario. It is an ingenious layout over a superior piece of land with equal abundance of strategy, variety, beauty and fun. A world-class set of par-4s and recent restorative efforts solidify its position in the upper echelon.” —Mike Shapira
“From the moment you step on the first tee, you sense a magic at St George’s. Stanley Thompson ensured that the placement of tee shots and approach shots be vital to have a chance at scoring well. Extremely fast and tricky, undulating greens, well-placed bunkers and excellent conditioning make it one of the premier courses in Canada.” —Rob Coulter.
“A course that requires serious shot management on both your tee shot and second shot. And then your short game will get a great test as well. An outstanding, beautiful golf course that has stood the test of time.” —Tim McCutcheon