Course Reviews – The Ladies Club – Celebrating all that is good in golf
First, it’s important to dispel some misnomers: First, The Ladies Club is not just for women. Their website says it best, “Ladies’ is the only private golf club in North America where women have priority access to tee times, and where both women and men can enjoy golf in a welcoming atmosphere”. Second, if you think the course must be a boring push over than think again. Set at just over 6000 yards from the tips, this Stanley Thompson design is fair, playable, but in typical Thompson fashion it is the terrain which sets the design parameters and this undulating layout will test the game of all players. The course, like the facilities and its people, is first class. Playing there this summer was a highlight of my golfing year and I highly recommend this course.
Located in north Toronto, specifically in Thornhill, Ontario, this course is conveniently located off Yonge Street but head into the grounds and you would think you’re far removed from the hectic pace of the city. It is a course which honours it history and tradition and leverages its uniqueness as a truly women-friendly course to its advantage. Playing with a fellow golf writer and head professional, Paddy Kelly, we were able to tee off early and enjoy a pleasant summer morning of golf.
The course boasts multiple tee decks which are allowing members to play and enjoy the game at all levels. A new purple tee deck was something Paddy discussed, as many members wanted to keep playing but found the Red tees (just over 5000 yards) was getting too long. A more senior and family friendly tee deck, this move demonstrated the care and attention the course makes to its membership. Paddy demonstrated through his stories and initiatives he has introduced around instruction and introduction to the game, that the focus at The Ladies Club is participation and fun. His energy is infectious and he combines knowledge and skill in the game with an ability to connect to people and the result is a club with an environment which could be the envy in the GTA.
The Ladies Club also honours its unique and rich history exceptionally well. The clubhouse provides a testament to the leadership of Ada Mackenzie who was instrumental in the course being built in 1924. One of the leading Canadian women in golf, Mackenzie was able to engage Stanley Thompson in the course design. Paddy Kelly noted that Thompson was acutely aware of the unique aspects of this project, making holes approachable with ample space to run the ball up the hole, for example. Set on a beautiful piece of property, the course does not rest on its laurels; it has worked hard to earn Audubon International certification for its environmental stewardship.
The course also has another unique aspect to it; 21 holes of play. Here, players can make a determination after 9 holes if they wish to continue for the final 9, or, take a more direct route to the clubhouse and play a 3-hole loop. The ‘A’ holes further serve to maintain participation in the game and create diverse options for members.
Classic Thompson bunkering is featured which frames holes exceptionally well. While just over 6000 yards, the course does provide two par 5’s over 500 yards. A 36-34 layout, the course ends with a stunning stretch on 16 – 17 – 18. A downhill par 3, a classic shorter par 4, and an uphill par 3 moving up the clubhouse cap off a wonderful golfing experience. It is a course I could play over and over again.
I want to extend my thanks to Paddy Kelly and the people at The Ladies’ Club for a wonderful golfing experience. Add this course to your must play list.
Aura –9 out of 10 – My playing partner for the day, Fairway Fund CEO, Tiffany Chaisson, specifically requested we seek to play here. This history and the story of Ada Mackenzie was so compelling to her that she wanted this to be her first golf experience in Ontario. The clubhouse shows off the history of this course exceptionally well but the real masterpiece is the course itself.
Value (cost / experience) – 7.5 out of 10 – With ideal location in the Toronto area, the greens fees are fair for a course of this quality. Yes, it is open to public play and as mentioned it open to men as well as women. The peak fee is $115 but there are shoulder season rates and a strong twilight fee which creates greater value. Membership options are also available.
Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 9 out of 10 – In additional to strong environmental stewardship, greens crew at The Ladies’ Club keep this course in pristine condition. Tee boxes, bunkers, fairways and greens were all exceptionally maintained. The course layout was very walkable but did have some undulation to it as the course is bisected by the East Don River. Holes 7 and 13 (both par 3’s) have challenging greens and it is imperative to keep the ball below the hole.
Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – A fun, playable golfing experience was not sacrificed at the expense of quality. As a 10 handicapper, I found plenty of challenge but appreciated being rewarded for good shot making. The course is an urban oasis and the history is on full display. Paddy Kelly and his team are first class and exceptional at what they do. – 8.5 out of 10
Highlight (what is great about the course) – As I look back on the experience playing at the Ladies’ Club it was one of the more fun rounds of golf I had last season. A terrific layout, brilliant design and a great day all combined to make my experience amazing. The course creates the foundation for the clubs’ success but having a golf club which markets itself primarily to women and creates a positive golfing environment is something I appreciated experiencing first hand. Also, there is no course I have experienced that tells its story and celebrates its history as well as The Ladies Club.