Carlisle Golf – The real gem of the Kaneff group of courses?
Lionhead, based in Brampton, ON, are the flagship courses of the Kaneff group of courses. The Legends course is billed as one of the most difficult from the tips, with a slope rating of 155. The Masters course is no slouch either but is a more straightforward layout with fewer hazards to contend with. In addition to an executive length Streetsville Glen, Century Pines in Hamilton, Royal Ontario in Milton and Royal Niagara in Niagara Region, Kaneff operates the 27 hole Carlisle course in Flamborough, just beyond the border of Burlington, ON. Playing as a single on a very cool albeit sunny Sunday fall afternoon I was excited to experience this course. My initial reaction was very positive. The course condition appeared outstanding. Many of the fairways are lined with evergreen trees so leaves appeared to be much less an issue as they could be this time of year. I was instructed to play the south 9 than the north 9 and was permitted to play as a single.
The course started out with a fair and picturesque par 4 with a drive over water to a generous landing area, leaving a straightforward slightly uphill approach to the green. The course than back tracked and I noticed the south 9 ran parallel to the north 9 for a few holes. Fortunately, trees and generous fairways provided sufficient shelter for a quiet Sunday but when busy I would suspect there may be some risk of errant balls on fairways. The conditions remained consistently strong, better than what I’ve experienced at Lionhead courses or Royal Ontario. Tee boxes remained well mown, flat and framed the holes well. Fairways were generous in terms of landing space, well visible and in very good condition. Greens were running quick and were true and there were surprisingly few ball marks.
The course design was enjoyable and well routed on the south 9. I did notice some odd elements on the north 9, as some of the holes were located alongside boundary fencing which made me feel I was playing golf in Jurassic Park. Most notably were holes 6-8, all of which had fencing framing the holes and creating a tight feel. So pronounced is the fencing that the par 5 6th hole runs like a crescent with fencing all along the left side of the hole. It creates a visual feel of the hole being much narrower than it really is which is difficult since an ideal tee shot on 6 would be to favour the fence side of the fairway.
I enjoyed the south 9 more, with a picturesque closing three holes, the par 3 7th, par 4 8th and par 5 9th. I loved the risk-reward 3rd hole on the south with an intimidating second shot to a guarded green on the par 5. Of course I had to go for it (and of course I avoided the water short and left by badly pulling my approach which led to a bogey).
All in all, Kaneff has a very solid course to complement its other holdings. While I did not play the east 9, the chance to have three separate courses, in essence, all of which with very good condition and offering a good test of golf make Carlisle a strong complement to Kaneff courses in Brampton and Milton. I would argue, based on conditioning and layout that this is their best and most enjoyable course I’ve experienced. Add the incredible value which I was able to get for this round (under $20 on GolfNow) and this is a strong value play.
Aura – 6 out of 10 – As this is not the flagship course for Kaneff it is not as highly touted as it could be. The grounds and the condition alone would move this score higher but based on the low volume of players on that blustery, sunny Sunday this remains a hidden gem.
Value (cost / experience) – 7 out of 10. Peak rates for this course are $67.50 in the summer on weekends. Compared to the Legends course with a rate of $155, the value would seem apparent but to me the contrast speaks to the high costs of the two Brampton courses versus the value of Carlisle. However, there are many chances for public players to get greens fees for this course under $50 throughout the year. A full membership rate of $3995 is not a true value play in my opinion. However, for my fall round, I would say the value was outstanding.
Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 8 out of 10 – This was a pleasant surprise in relation to other Kaneff courses who tend to suffer from excessive play and have issues around tee boxes, some fairways and most greens. Here, there is very little to criticize about the conditions. The layout is very good, not excellent however with parallel nines and boundary fencing framing the course in places.
Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – 7 out of 10 – I would like to play here in the height of the summer. I would hope that three sets of nine would help support a solid place of play but there are risks it could create backlogs as groups enter onto nines with some seeming randomness. I really enjoyed the round and the course condition was a positive and pleasant surprise. It was 30 km from my home and felt like 100km, it was quiet and serene.
Highlight (what is great about the course) – As is hallmark for all the Kaneff courses I have played, the practice facilities are very strong. A large and dedicated putting and chipping green and a range which is set aside from play is nice to see for a facility this large. The opening holes on both sets of nine are fair and strong and help set a tone for a positive golf experience. With so many pine trees it was such a treat to play a round and not lose a ball in leaves in October.
Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – The scorecard does not do justice to the severity of the dogleg on the par 4 7th hole. It seemed odd to me to appear to need to drive the ball toward the out of bounds fence with no visible clarity on where to play from there. The scorecard visibly shows the hole going right but not as pronounced as it really is. I’d either open up the dogleg somewhat, making more risk-reward or reflect the angle better on the card.
Just So You Know – I find the posted greens fees on all Kaneff courses to be expensive and detract from any sense of value. However, they are liberal around posting tee times on GolfNow which can offer shoulder season and twilight time value to experience their courses. If Carlisle was closer to the GTA it would have a substantially higher price tag. It is worth experiencing, especially on a quieter day.