Black Bear Ridge – High in Quality and Value
The more I play this course the more I like it. And it has quickly become part of an annual tradition for me, where I make some extra time over business in Ottawa to stop in Belleville, ON to play this immaculate track. I heard of it through its consistent rankings as one of Ontario’s best value courses. Only about 2 hours east of Mississauga, ON, this course should be on the must play list for avid golfers willing to travel to play good golf.
With a revised website, there is excellent information and pictures about the course, and very clear directions. The course itself has always been in pristine condition; it was one of the features I first noticed and one I value and appreciate. Fairways are clearly identified and are tightly mown. The rough has never been too penal when I have played there. As a “traditional parkland layout” (as they advertise themself) the fairways are fair, but trouble awaits with forest or water on either side. One of the real benefits of this course is that holes are set apart nicely from others, there is no sense of feeling crowded or congested. The vistas are well used to create stunning tee shots, as you will soon learn on your opening tee shot. Sprinker heads mark yardages well, but with greens that can be quite large it is advised you consider a yardage book or bring a measuring device. And while the greens are large, they are fair and tend to run at a pace which will welcome golfers of all skill level.
With five tee boxes available, I would recommend players seek a distance and slope rating which would not make the course too demanding. I made that mistake my first time playing there and it was a stout test for my 10+ handicap skill set (my game is not yet cut out to play blues). The course can play from over 5100 to just over 7200 yards. The warm up / practice facilities are very good, which is nice after a two hour drive. They also have a 9-hole executive course on site. A shout out to the new Director of Instruction, Steve Auger, who many of you may also know for his input on the Canadian Golf Magazine weekly audio podcast. I plan to drop by and introduce myself to Steve this spring.
The course is walkable, a good workout, but walkable nonetheless. My favourite holes are 1, 8 (which while impressive visually requires two excellent shots to get on the green) and 17 (not the most stunning, but sets up so nicely to my eye). As others have written, I found 11 (far too long) and 16 (a very steep uphill hole, with a steeper price for coming up short – that bunker is tough) to be my least favourite. But golf can be tough at times and I really felt like I was grasping at straws to find serious criticism with this layout. (I mean seriously, check their photo gallery)
The coffee and muffins at the snack hut near 1 was a great way to start my early morning rounds at BBR. The staff are all very friendly and accommodating. If you’re looking for a souvenir or some apparel to remind you of your experience at Black Bear Ridge, you’ll be impressed with their selection. As an annual tradition, this course is a real treat and a highlight of my golf season! It simply is a great match of value and quality!
Aura –6 out of 10 – Acknowledging the improvements of the website, I may need to revisit this score. But the drive in (even the driveway) is very understated. But the fact is, this course really is a hidden gem in Ontario. I hope continued positive publicity will help move this score up.
Value (cost / experience) – 9 out of 10. The greens fees would cost you $76 at their most expensive time to play here. For early birds like myself you can play for $50 or $60, and for what you get, it is incredible value. They also offer great offers in shoulder seasons. My shoulders sagged when I saw the $2800 full membership offer, courses like that in the GTA would not come even close to that value.
Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 9 out of 10 – The tee boxes are near perfect, the fairways pristine and the greens are very fair. I am not a fan of large, undulating greens and while some are larger, they are fair in terms of slope and speed. Having a GPS or laser will help given the size of the greens.
Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – 8 out of 10 – As an annual stop, this is quickly becoming a favourite of mine. I appreciate the course condition and the style of course. The fact that most holes are really cut out unto themselves makes for a relaxing and enjoyable golf experience. It is a fair and tough test of golf.
Highlight (what is great about the course) – The 1st, 10th and 17th tee boxes are sensational. As mentioned, the 8th hole is a favourite of mine, requiring two very precise shots to be on in regulation.
Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – Since I play in the spring, I acknowledge that bugs can be an issue and it is what it is. I am surprised the driveway leading up to the course provides such a benign feel to a course which is so beautiful. Perhaps it is part of the allure but it does strike me as odd.
My Best Shot – I almost drained a 45 foot birdie putt on 9 in my first round there, it took the slope perfectly and just lipped out. A tap in par on a 215 yard par 3 is something I’ll take everytime!