Port Hope Golf and Country Club – With 21 Holes, No Longer a Classic Old Short Course.
Port Hope is a small community about one hour east of Toronto located on the shores of Lake Ontario. Port Hope Golf and Country Club dates back to 1900 and while it has historically played as a classic old short course, it is in the midst of changes that are exciting and make it anything but a classic old course. To start, take the time to play the bonus holes. Your round at Port Hope affords you a chance to play 21 holes; nothing classic about that. The parkland style course which is reminiscent of the rolling hills located throughout Northumberland County plays to a par 69 (for 18 holes) from only 5150 yards from the tips. But don’t be fooled, this course will demand your attention.
It starts out very benign. The first three holes may be some of the most spacious and flat terrain on the course. The fourth is similar in its design and then returning the club house for the par 3 5th hole, you see the unique design characteristics which make this course so much fun. The 5th which has a prominent dip or valley between the tee and green which creates an optical illusion that going long means you’re hitting it into Lake Ontario. Trust me, long is better than short on this hole.
Holes 7, 8 and 9 are a newer design and while they stand out from the more mature holes on the back nine, they too will require attention and precision to score well. It is nice to see the investments which have been made to these new holes; they will mature well. In fact, the new holes will offset the likely loss of the first three holes which are being slated to be sold off to support road construction and housing developments along the north and west of the course.
The back nine is shorter and for those familiar with the course, has not changed over the years. The greens, along with the likelihood of wind being so close to the lake are strong defenses for this course. But as you get to a stout, albeit short, closing stretch of holes, accuracy is demanded to score well. The closing four holes – all par fours – are less than 300 yards and scores can range from birdies to double bogeys (or worse). Elevation change along this stretch is also significant.
The course would be a tough walk but it is possible. Greens fees and carts make for a peak price of $61 incl. taxes, so it is not the greatest value play, but for the experience and to see the impressive Penryn Mansion and park grounds it is an enjoyable golf experience. Their website does offer some good specials in the shoulder seasons.
Aura – 7 out of 10 – There is a real sense of history when playing at Port Hope. The mansion and park grounds are spectacular and the course offers some stunning views over the lake. There is surprising diversity in the golf holes and the experience playing at Port Hope is an enjoyable one.
Value (cost / experience) – 6 out of 10. I have played rounds at Port Hope where this score would be much higher. Again, check the website and explore specials to play Port Hope. Over $60 for greens fees and a cart seem steep to this value conscious golfer.
Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 7.5 out of 10. The course is well maintained but not overly manicured. It has a comfortable feel to it which is welcoming to golfers of all skill level. The greens have historically been extremely fast and perhaps it is early season where they’re not mown down too low yet but they played a great speed to my liking. Fairways were clearly identified off the tee and were in great shape. The tee boxes were very good.
Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – I enjoyed myself at Port Hope. It is a very unique golfing experience and getting to play with one of my best friends who lives two minutes away added to the enjoyment. I really liked the new golf holes and the re-routing. Playing three extra par 3’s was fun and it will be nice to see how this course continues to change yet honour its rich history. – 8 out of 10
Highlight (what is great about the course) – I don’t think I have ever played the closing four holes well. Precision is not a strength of my game but I welcome the challenge every time I play here. The closing holes reflect the imagination of the designer, the way in which the terrain is utilized and the scenery or Penryn park and Lake Ontario. It’s a beautiful stretch of golf holes.
Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – I suppose if I come back in a few years there may be more changes but I would aggressively move away from the first four holes and explore further expansion around the areas of new holes 7 – 9.
Just So You Know – Port Hope is a beautiful town with a rich history. Combine a round with a walk downtown. It’s a great place to spend a day…or two.
My Best Shot – Following a great drive on the par 5 6th hole I had almost 200 yards left and hit a high, soft 4 hybrid which flew over the small pines which protect the front left part of the green. I had a 50 footer for eagle and it is not very often I can say I have had an eagle putt so it was special. A stress-free two putt birdie was my highlight of the round.