The Briars – Classic, Iconic Canadian Golf

The Briars Golf Club – Classic, Iconic Canadian Golf

The more I play Stanley Thompson designed golf courses the more I appreciate his work. The Briars is a prime example, with the Thompson-designed opening nine holes set amongst the pines of the resort town of Jackson’s Point. Take the final turn onto Hedge Road and it feels like you’ve gone back in time. And while the cottages have been modernized, the feel is of a resort community golf course set close to the Lake providing solitude and isolation, allowing players a tranquil golfing experience. Stanley Thompson designed the original nine holes in the 1920’s and fifty years later, his protégé Robbie Robinson completed the back nine. Together, the two nines are complementary and create a seamless routing that players of all skill levels will appreciate.


Standing on the first tee at The Briars.  Course is in mint condition.

Playing on an overcast summer morning with a member (it is a private course) the location exudes a calm, relaxed feel which staff embody (mixed in with a commitment to service and professionalism). The clubhouse is large and comfortable, the pro shop well stocked. The 1st and 10th tees are in close proximity, the back nine taking a longer route away from the clubhouse than the front. Standing on the first tee, it was one of the more relaxed opening shots I have enjoyed in some time. The opening par 4 has a subtle dog leg right but it’s an otherwise inviting tee shot. The holes on the front are straightforward in their layout, cut from the forest and with sloped greens back to front and well framed bunkering, both tee shots and approaches are manageable for players. Errant tee shots are relatively easy to find as the course has done excellent work clearing growth below trees.


Crossing the Black River heading to the 11th tee.

The Black River cuts the course, almost in two, with holes 11 to 17 playing on the south portion of the property. Here, the course has a slightly more open feel and the terrain is more undulating but make no mistake, this course is very walkable. And at only 6300 yards from the tips, playing 27 or 36 are entirely possible. The course offers four sets of tees which are inviting for players of all skill levels.


Staring down the 14th fairway.

I was particularly impressed with holes 1, 5 and 14. The opening hole provides players an excellent sense of what to expect on the opening nine. Tree-lined but with generous landing areas and approaches that allow for players to run the ball up but with bunkers framing holes to capture errant shots, it represents the brilliance to Thompson design; the natural terrain is showcased. Hole 5 is a beautiful short par 3 with a large green and bunkers framing the hole short and left. The 14th was a Robinson design and I found it to be the toughest hole on the course. A stout par 5 requiring a long and straight tee shot and a strategic lay up (for hitters who can’t get there in two anymore). An old farm silo is set off to the left on the fairway and provides both character and a reference from where to aim on lay ups. The sharp dog leg 17th is stunning also, with the green protected beautifully by the river behind it.


Going long or left on the 17th will bring you face to face with the Black River.  The tranquility of this course is captured well on this green.

It is a course design I love and could play over and over again. I invite you to view this course video developed by my playing partner and head of Eat Sleep Golf who provided“>aerial footage for his home course. Thompson and Robinson partnered on a Classic which ranks up as one of my more underrated favourites in the country.


Cottages off the first green.  And across the road is Lake Simcoe.

Aura – 8 out of 10 – I love the sense of history here which is so pervasive at the Briars Golf Club. The drive down Hedge Road was one I hope to experience again. The Briars Resort and Spa (same name but no formal affiliation with the course), provides resort guests access to the course, so that is one option for non-members to access this gem.

Value (cost / experience) – Golfers should seek opportunities to play this Thompson design. While a private course, one other opportunity for access is through a reasonable membership within the Stanley Thompson Society. A course ‘passport’ of all his designs across the country makes courses accessible for public players. You will see this is an impressive, historic track. I am not apologetic nor shy about my bias of Stanley Thompson designs. Intrigued? Membership information can be found here.


The par 3 13th hole.  Robinson builds off Thompson’s bunkering work to frame the hole.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 8.5 out of 10. It has been a damp spring and summer in Ontario and no surprise, the course was in superb condition. The rain held off allowing us to enjoy and appreciate the sensational work of the superintendent and grounds crew. Tee boxes which were well mown, fairways that were clearly identified, rough which was not too penal, and greens which were true and not overly fast. A shorter course, accuracy off the tee of more of a need than length.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – I loved it. I could play here every day. It was a comfortable, relaxed yet respectful golf experience – 9 out of 10


Standing on the 2nd tee.

Highlight (what is great about the course) – There are three things that stand out for me with my experience at the Briars: The drive to the course was heavenly; it is only an hour north of Toronto but feels a world away. Two, the staff and members create a relaxed feel and that translated all the way to the opening tee. Last, the course provides sufficient diversity of play which I cherish; I used all 14 clubs and can’t always say that.

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – There’s a part of me that wishes this was publicly accessible…but in doing so it would change the character of the course. I have provided two options for public players to access The Briars Golf Club. Perhaps it’s best to leave it at that and maintain the tranquility of this course which is such an asset.


A break in the clouds as we head up the 18th hole.

Tower Ranch – An Awe-Inspiring Mountain Golf Experience

Tower Ranch – An Awe-Inspiring Mountain Golf Experience

Course Reviews – Tower Ranch – An Awe-Inspiring Mountain Golf Experience


My approach shot on the first hole at Tower Ranch.  Hard not to get distracted by the view.

For anyone who’s played golf in the Okanagan Valley in B.C., you may see some similarities to Tobiano when you visit Tower Ranch.  It is hard to avoid the comparisons; really, given the ruggedness of the landscape and the fact that Canadian course architect Thomas McBroom designed both Tower Ranch and Tobiano.  Journalist Robert Thompson has stated Tower Ranch is like Tobiano but without the majesty.  But having experienced them both now I would contest that Tower Ranch has its own unique majestic beauty and a brilliant back nine which allows the course to finish strong and leave players wanting more.


Looking high up from the second green.

Set in the eastern hills of Kelowna, set very high over the city and Okanagan Lake, Tower Ranch was built in 2008 and is certainly one of the finer championship courses in the region.  Complementing the excellent golf options in the Okanagan, Tower Ranch is worthy of its place on Canadian course ranking lists.  Canadian Golf Magazine placed this in the Top 50 Public Courses in 2016 and it is certainly worthy of its place on that list.  I was fortunate to visit on a sunny spring morning, and feel McBroom was fortunate to have access to such a great piece of land to work with. The views of the opening holes and the city and lake below create a great first impression and I knew my golf game and my camera would get a good workout.


Holding my finish on the par 3 5th hole.

As had been mentioned by other reviewers I read leading up to my visit, one critique is the lack of a practice range.  But working on the short game and getting used to the speed of the greens and the effect the slope has on the ball was worth the extra time.  Checking in was easy, as the staff were courteous and professional and made me feel most welcome.  My bag was loaded onto a cart – it is a course one needs to use a cart.  While I prefer walking I can appreciate the need for some courses to be cart only and this one certainly warrants that policy.


The par 3 7th hole shows the challenges of this Tom McBroom design.

The layout is such that McBroom manages the significant elevation changes more directly on the opening nine with the first three holes playing significantly downhill.  Of course, heading back to the clubhouse at the turn, this makes the 8th and 9th even more challenging as stout, uphill holes to end the opening nine.  The course was in immaculate condition.  Even for early in the season the tall grasses which guard many of the holes set off from the generous fairways were high and thick.  Playing off an appropriate tee box will help make the round more enjoyable.  Make no mistake; this is a challenging championship layout.


A tough set of bunkers short of the 9th green.

I felt the back nine was one the most enjoyable and challenging I have played in some time.  The mastery of McBroom’s work is seen a stretch from 11 to 15 where a stretch of 4-3-4-3-5 showcase the rugged landscape and his design brilliance.  The par 5 15th invites players to challenge the dogleg and bite off as much ground as possible; it is a stretch of holes I’d love play on a more regular basis.  And it certainly reinforces the need for a cart-only policy.


The 11th tee starts off my favourite stretch of the course.  This is my favourite hole on the course.

The tee boxes were immaculate and very flat.  Greens were pristine and I stopped looking for ball marks after about 5 holes, not finding any; it is nice to see players and staff take such pride in their course.  The bunkering around the greens are demanding but fair.  The greens are not easy, with slope and in many cases false fronts which will make approach shots and greenside shots more challenging.  The pictures help tell the story and provide a compelling case for Tower Ranch as a must play when visiting Kelowna and the Okanagan region.


The par 3 12th hole shows off the dramatic landscape and the rugged beauty of the area.

Aura – 9 out of 10 – The drive up to the course created that this was going to be a special experience.  The clubhouse is large and is located to provide convenient access and stunning views.  Having experience the course for myself it is possible it may even be somewhat underrated in its beauty.  I appreciated the solitude of the golf experience on the back nine.  Holes 12 and 13 were two of the most peaceful and enjoyable I have played, set at the farthest reaches of the course and away from any development.  It lacks the profile of some other excellent Canadian public courses more highly rated but holds its own as an excellent public course.


Love the views from the back nine.

Value (cost / experience) – 7 out of 10.  Peak fees are $123 are not going to attract the highest marks as a value play, but value is defined relation to quality and this is where this course is strong.  Membership is $3250 for an individual with unlimited access and this includes cart access.  Make no mistake, this is a very high quality course and it’s well worth a visit.


The par 5 15th was so exciting to experience.  A brilliant design and fun to play.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 9 out of 10 – In a word, exceptional.  The attention to detail from the superintendent and staff is seen throughout.  The course is well designed, exceptionally maintained and McBroom has added another gem to his course of Canadian designs.  While not a fan of tall grasses which can over penalize misses, the contouring on many holes help kick balls back to the fairway.  On the opening stretch of holes this was appreciated.


The par 5 17th.  Exceptional sight lines off the tee.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – 8.5 out of 10 – Tower Ranch provides a unique and high quality golf experience that reinforces Kelowna and the Okanagan as an exceptional golf destination.  With a strong closing nine and a staff whose commitment to service and a quality golf experience, I look forward to when I can return and play again.  The round capped off a truly memorable 24 hours in Kelowna, having played Gallagher’s Canyon the afternoon before.

Highlight (what is great about the course) – I like the feel of the elevated tee shots on 1, 2 and 3.  But the experience on the 12th and 13th tee, feeling I have the course to myself and not seeing anyone else around was a feeling I won’t soon forget.  Add the countless views of the city and lake below and there is much that is great about Tower Ranch.


The view from the 17th green over Kelowna and Okanagan Lake.  I’ll be back!

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – I lost a number of balls in the tall rough on the front nine…but if you’re asking what I’d change, first, I’d say a straighter game for myself off the tee.  The course is fair and tough.  If pressed, I’d lower the rough along the mounding on the elevated holes on the front but Tom McBroom places a premium on accuracy and I wouldn’t change that.

My Best Shot – My approach on 15 was blind down to the green set below and I hit a wedge shot that I felt was good.  Well, as it turned out, it released and slowly rolled closer and closer to just outside of 4 feet but still on the high side.  Unable to get the delicate putt in for a birdie, my par on 15 (as with the few others I had) was one of satisfaction.

Conversation with Tiffany Chaisson

A Quick Nine with Fairways Fund CEO, and golf blogger Tiffany Chaisson

@36aday is pleased to introduce interviews with leaders in the game of golf in Canada. Nine questions are presented to probe important issues of the game, personal experiences, stories and insight. Just like 9 holes of golf, I hope you find this enjoyable and that it leaves you wanting more.


  1. You haven’t been playing golf for too long but you’re becoming well known as an avid player who travels the world and plays the game.   So what’s the story…how’d you get into the game and who should get the credit for getting you interested in the game?

I played 9 holes in August 2013 when I was visiting PEI Canada and renovating my house there. I shot 118 for 9 holes (yes I counted). My friend Jenny, asked if I wanted to learn to golf the following year when I moved to Canada. I love sports and needed a new sport as couldn’t play my usual (netball, touch football, surfing, or indoor rock climbing) so golf it was. I also hate being bad at anything so I was determined to improve. I started in July 2014 and by the time I left Canada I had shot 54 at the course I shot 118 on the previous summer. I was addicted and loved watching my improvement. This July I am celebrating my 3 year golf anniversary and as per the last two years to celebrate, I will play in the Club Championship.

  1.  I’ve lost track, how many courses and how many countries have you played?

I have now played 120 courses in 11 countries in less than 3 years.

  1.  I’m sure there are countless memories but is there one moment for you playing the game that stands out?

I have been very lucky that I have golfed with hundreds of people around the world and have so many fantastic memories however there is one that pops into my head. I was playing a solo round on the Costa Brava at Golf Platja de Pals in Spain and chipped it in for the first time. No one was around and yet it was sublime.

4.  You’re CEO of Fairways Fund.  An impressive title for certain but what is this organization and what is its mandate?

Fairways Fund is a nonprofit sponsoring underprivileged junior golfers all over the world. Our mission statement is Golf Without Bounds and we pay for membership, lesson packages and range access for underprivileged juniors to help develop golf at the grassroots while supporting golf businesses and professionals. We currently have 20 juniors in four countries, Canada, India, Nepal and Bolivia and in future we will also help our interested juniors transition into employment within the billion dollar golf industry be it as a professional, greenskeeper or hospitality. We want golf to be inclusive and any child to be able to play regardless of their financial limitations.

  1.  Where do you see the organization in 5 years?

I will be working for Fairways full time and I would like to have one of our Bolivian juniors secure a scholarship in the USA, see Pratima Sherpa in Nepal play on the LPGA and have expanded into many more countries supporting juniors who love the game but cannot afford to play it.

  1.  Is there a story from this work you can share?  Are you having any success?

How do you define success? Is it helping a junior transition into a pro golfer or is it watching young Tomy in Bolivia win a second hand shirt and pair of shoes in a golf tournament?

This week I have had three things happen which make me very happy and give me the knowledge I am doing what I am meant to be. Edwin in Bolivia sent me a message saying golf is growing in Bolivia because of me and my visit (I was there for 9 weeks helping with a junior clinic and getting our juniors into golf tournaments), I connected with Pratima in Nepal who has just been granted a visa so she can go to golf school in the USA for two months and I golfed with one of our Canadian juniors who was so very excited to meet me. His mother advised that he was delighted to have been invited to the winter lessons I had arranged and had been watching all my YouTube videos and had really come into his own through golf. He is currently 13 and he told me he would love to become a teaching professional and would like to travel and help teach golf to juniors in other countries through Fairways.

  1.  How can people get involved to help and support Fairways?

We have online sponsorship options available however this month we will be launching Awesome Foursomes, an online auction of donated four ball green fees from golf courses all over the world starting at 50% of the value. If you are a member at a golf course you can ask if they would like to support underprivileged junior golfers globally by donating four green fees that we can auction off while advertising and promoting their course via social media or you can bid on a course you have always wanted to play and get a discounted price knowing the money will help children play this wonderful sport.

  1.   What drives your passion for the game?  You play.  You travel.  You have a socially driven business.  What keeps you energized to do this?

I am not sure to be perfectly honest. I hear my voice raise in excitement when I talk about golf and I wonder who I am. I just love it. I am unreservedly happy with a fairway under my feet and while relatively new to the sport; if I can share my passion and help children continue golfing I will be satisfied.

I have always had a lot of energy -my family seem to think I have undiagnosed ADHD – and I have always been able to get a lot done while juggling numerous projects.  My background is project management.

We would not have been able to be so far advanced with the nonprofit in such a short time if it wasn’t for our COO Jeremy White, who I wrangled in to be my co-founder in April last year. We work very well together and at times he channels my passion but I enjoy meeting new people, traveling, helping people and now I happen to love golf. I just made myself a job where I get to do all of it.

  1.  What course tops your Canadian bucket list and what is your dream foursome you’d love to tee it up with?

What province? There are so many good golf courses in Canada. Around here it would have to be Cabot Cliffs/Links as I continually hear how good they are, however I am sure I will find a hidden gem others consider a goat track that I will fall in love with and play golf for the soul.

My dream foursome?  Hmm well Jimmy Fallon would be fun to golf with, Seve would be interesting golf chat (and I could practice my Spanish) and Hogan would be wonderful to watch. You didn’t say they had to be alive right?

MJ – no, not at all.  Thank you for your time and I wish you all the best with Fairways and expanding your course count.  Have a great summer.

You can learn more about Fairways by visiting their website here or their site on Facebook.  And you can follow Tiffany Chaisson and Fairways Fund on Twitter

Gallagher’s Canyon – A Brilliant Championship Layout

Gallagher’s Canyon – A Brilliant Championship Layout

Course Reviews – Gallagher’s Canyon – A Brilliant Championship Layout


It is fitting that this review is being written as Kelowna and Gallagher’s Canyon are set to host the GolfBC Championship on the Mackenzie Tour (PGA TOUR Canada).  I had the pleasure of playing Gallagher’s Canyon in early May on a quiet afternoon, seemingly having the course to myself which allowed me ample time to appreciate this Les Furber and Doug Robinson designed gem.  The course was designed in 1980 and I actually played it over 25 years ago.  Staff were kind to point out there has been some routing changes but the prominence of the Canyon remains a focal point.


Teeing off on the first hole.  Set for my own ‘championship’ experience.

This mountain course, which one article cited as “rugged yet refined” is walkable but does come with some significant elevation change in places.  The front nine begins with a bold start.  The Tour tees measure at over 6800 yards and I was able to tee off just behind the pro shop, set very high above the fairway below and providing a majestic view of the hole.  Stout, at over 430 yards, this hole will demand players’ attention.  However for me the course reflects the intelligence of its design on the next two holes.  A shorter par 4 provides an element of risk and reward for players.  And while not necessarily drivable, the options of how much of this hole to bite off from the tee provide players decisions to consider early.  The third hole is also an attention grabber.  Missing short and left is simply not an option as the elevation changes of Gallagher’s shows itself once again.


Such a masterfully designed par 3, the third hole at Gallagher’s.

I love the routing of this course.  In fact, the only place where the course seems at all tight is off the first tee but it simply isn’t the case.  The layout is masterful and Furber and Robinson use the natural terrain to create appropriate vistas off the tee and subtle uphill holes for players to take on.  As one would expect with a Tour-caliber course, the greens were spectacular.  They rolled true and consistent.  As one may expect, uphill putts needed an aggressive hit whereas downhill putts required a delicate touch.  I loved the stretch of holes from 4 to 7; brilliant use of terrain to create a 4-4-5-4 combination which I place up against any public course in the country.  The ninth closes off the front with the canyon hole.  The drop off left is staggering but fortunately it does not really come into play as the fairway frames the hole nicely.


The downhill 5th hole.  My only birdie of the day.

The course offers four unique tee blocks with a hybrid combination providing five play options.  Something which I did not experience back in the early 1990’s was a housing development running adjacent to many of the holes on the back nine.  I felt the back nine was not as challenging as the front but still brought the attention to design detail.  The subtle doglegs on 10 and the steady uphill challenge of 11 provided further appreciation to Furber and Robinson’s work.  I would have liked to have seen more from the closing two holes, but making providing birdie opportunities on a closing hole of a championship course will always create excitement, even from this 10 handicapper.


Just left off the 9th tee is this sign…and this view.

Add to this courteous and professional staff, a fully stocked pro shop and a sensational clubhouse and my return experience at Gallagher’s Canyon proved to me I should not wait another 25 years to come back and experience this great course.  Also, combine the golf experience with a growing food culture, exceptional recreational opportunities off the course and one of Canada’s best wine regions and Gallagher’s reflects all that is excellent in Kelowna.


On the tee on the par 4 11th.  A stout uphill hole.  Great to see the sun shining.

Aura – 8.5 out of 10 – Playing a course where professionals play is always a special experience.   This is one of the more unique and enjoyable courses I had played in some time.  Excellent conditions combined with the scenery – in and around the course – made more a memorable golf round.

Value (cost / experience) – 7.5 out of 10.  Peak fees are $125 but include access to practice facilities and a cart.  However, there is greater value to be had with a later tee time or play in the shoulder season.  Membership for a single player requires annual dues of only $2400 after a one time initiation payment.  For one of the province’s best courses and a championship layout this is worth a visit.


Fabulous green complexes at Gallagher’s Canyon.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 9 out of 10 – This is one of a handful of courses I could play every day.  The layout is exceptional and the designers utilize the terrain exceptionally well.  Tee boxes were fabulous and the fairways well framed off the tee.  As a public course, the rough was not too penal and the greens were in outstanding condition.  In rare form, I did not visit the bunkers at Gallagher’s so I cannot offer any comments on their condition.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – This is an excellent golf course and worthy of its high rankings for public play in Canada.  Following a 4.5 hour drive from Vancouver through snowy mountain passes, the chance to walk Gallagher’s and appreciate this mature layout started my quick visit to Kelowna perfectly well.  I certainly hope to return again soon – 8.5 out of 10


Standing on the 17th tee and facing a sharp dog leg.

Highlight (what is great about the course) – Reminiscent of other courses in Canada which bring uniqueness, challenge and enjoyment, Gallagher’s Canyon is truly unique.  From the opening tee shot, to the awe of looking down from the 9th and a chance to enjoy time in this relaxed clubhouse following the round, the entire experience was a highlight.

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – The abruptness of 17 and its strong dogleg design could benefit from some additional work.  But I feel I am splitting hairs here as the course is well designed and it is one round I have replayed in my head this year again and again.


My round complete, looking back on the 18th fairway.

My Best Shot – Having spent the first four holes scrambling, the downhill 5th hole allowed me a chance to attack the pin on my approach.  My 8-iron almost hit the pin leaving a short four footer for birdie.  My only one on the day, mind you.  Let’s see the pros match that this week!


Upon Further Review – Addressing the Rules of Golf

Sitting on my couch eating ketchup chips and crushing pints of Triple Bogey beers should not give me, or anyone else outside the ropes, the authority to influence a golf tournament.  It doesn’t pass the common sense filter.  And while it’s been nice we’ve had a nice stretch of a few weeks without a serious rules incident in golf, allow me to wade into the murky waters of rules in golf.  Because like everyone else, I have an opinion on this and it needs some unpacking.

Rules matter.  I like the self-regulating nature of golf and I like the principle of play the ball where it lies and I like that many golfers will tell their partner they got a 6 instead of a 5.  In competitive play this becomes even more important.  But I also play for fun with family and friends and we don’t get all caught up in stroke and distance penalties, putting out 18” putts and we may even allow ourselves a chance to remove a ball from a bunker which resembles a parking lot more than a sand trap.  Relaxed rules, at times, are appropriate and keep the game fast and fun.

And that matters.  I can’t imagine what would happen if during the two or three times a year my wife plays that I went all ‘USGA’ on her and told her 6 holes later that her 8 was really an 12 because she didn’t place her ball appropriately back on the green after marking it.  You can kiss her participation goodbye from that point on.  And this is not to be hypocritical, she wants to play well and play properly but within the context of an afternoon out with friends.  I am a huge proponent of Relaxed Rules which I first saw on Golf Channel some time back.  The game is meant to be fun and played appropriately.  To her and our group, what is proposed here is most appropriate.

Now, getting back to the USGA…and the official rules of golf; I still believe we can allow for a greater filter of common sense to govern rules.  Pace of play and participation are issues facing the game.  For sticklers of rules a couple suggestions:

Stakes – more red stakes on courses.  Let’s simply take a stroke, drop a ball and be on with it.  The humiliation of going back to the tee to hit again does nothing positive for the game (and I know we should all be more mindful of hitting a provisional but you get my point).

Penalties – all one stroke, easy to understand and avoids confusion.

Phone-in rules infractions – Eliminated.  Simple as that, we’re liberated from this in my world.  Once a scorecard is signed, it’s good.  Phew, solved that one easy enough.

Common Sense – if in doubt…after all, very few of us have mastered the rules book, let’s use consensus among our playing partners and common sense prevail.

In closing, I love the game of golf.  But I am finding myself watching some tournaments with an impending sense of doom that my HDTV lacks the clarity of someone’s 80” 4D to see the most subtle of infraction which had zero impact on the integrity and outcome of the hole but cause a player to lose a tournament.  Golf is a game.  Golf is fun.  Let’s keep it that way.  And when appropriate, let’s honour the full set of rules but more so the integrity of the game which the rules are built upon.

Conversation with Snell Golf Canada

@36aday is pleased to introduce interviews with leaders in the game of golf in Canada. Nine questions are presented to probe important issues of the game, personal experiences, stories and insight. Just like 9 holes of golf, I hope you find this enjoyable and that it leaves you wanting more.

I am pleased to share my conversation with Snell Golf Canada President, Ron Stenzl.  Snell Golf Canada is celebrating it’s first year of operations in Canada and I wanted to catch up to learn how the first year went and if there’s anything new for people to learn about and look forward to.


  1. You’ve just celebrated your one year anniversary of sales in Canada.  How would you categorize the past year?

In a word, educational.  There are many differences between operating in Canada and the US.  First, economies of scale play into decisions.  Shipping is much more expensive in Canada, so we’ve had to figure that out. We’ve experimented with free shipping and it looks like that really is one of the best ways we can create value for golfers across Canada so we likely will keep that in place.  Of course most of Canada has a much shorter season than in the USA, so we’ve had to deal with that.  We are finally launching a French language version of our website; that has been difficult to get right but it’s really important.  Quebec has many very avid golfers.  And we are refreshing the look of our site as well.  So basically the first years has been about getting systems in place and working out the kinks. And we’ve learned a lot about golf balls too!

2. You had a strong presence at the Toronto Golf and Travel Show this past winter,       including a visit and a couple talks from Dean Snell himself.  What has the feedback in Canada been to Dean’s messages on golf ball technology?

The Toronto Golf Show was a great weekend for us to launch the season and I know that those who attended really enjoyed meeting Dean and especially if they listened to his presentations on the main stage. Dean is so knowledgeable and cuts right through the marketing hype and makes it real.  To him it’s not that complicated, if you want to be serious about your golf, you should play a top line ball. The reason many people don’t is simply cost.  That’s why our model is attractive – we’ve stripped out all the marketing costs, player contracts, middlemen and agents and passed that savings onto the consumer. And the Canadian golf public gets it based on the social media following we’re getting and the many positive comments.  It does get back to the shipping though, people want to try the product and some hesitated when shipping charges were added, so offering free shipping gets people trying the ball, talking it up with playing partners and then re-ordering, usually multiple dozens at a time.

3.  While operating as a Canadian subsidiary to a global company based in the United States what are some of the challenges and opportunities this provides for you?

Every country has its own rules and regulations, so there are no unique challenges related to Snell USA. We do acquire our balls based on US Dollar pricing, so we do have to manage exchange rate. The benefit is our ability to utilize some of their marketing material and share ideas. Snell is now in 13 countries and we are able to get some ideas from around the globe from other independent distributors like ourselves. And as Dean Snell has grown his company, he gains more strength at the factory level to leverage his relationship and orders to get priority treatment and best pricing. So for example, even though exchange rates to buy US$ rose significantly since last year, with Dean’s help we were able to hold our pricing the same as last year and hope to be able to get through next year 2018 also without a price increase. We want to be consistent in our mandate to grow the game of golf and do what we can to make it affordable.

It’s often the case that Canada lags behind the US in certain trends. One trend that still exists in Canada, but has been abandoned in the USA is pro shops signing exclusive contracts with suppliers, usually Titleist but also TaylorMade.  Pro shops in the USA finally came to the conclusion that these agreements mostly just benefit the supplier and not them and certainly not their members who they cater to. It limits availability of certain products that golfers want.  And it drives them to places like GolfTown, which is one of the biggest complaints pro shops have about their members, yet it’s their actions that contribute to this.

  1. You are an active support for junior golf in Canada.  Please share more about this and why is this so important for Snell Golf Canada?

Mike, we need to applaud you for asking this question!  Supporting Junior Golf was an easy decision by the Snell Golf Canada team.  It really starts with Dean Snell wanting to grow the game.  All of us were fortunate to be exposed to golf and the majority of golfers actually do enjoy it, so why not expose the golf lifestyle to the younger generation?

Most adult golfers see the terrific kids that are now playing golf.  Playing competitive and recreational golf is an activity that exposes kids to so many challenges, opportunities and aspects of life. Paying forward the last 12 months has significantly elevated our awareness of the committed junior tour volunteers, golf clubs, golf professionals and the industry who actually get it.  Our company has a role and we want to ramp this up even more, so we hope your coverage gets more junior golf tours realizing that companies like us would like to help.

5.  Many golfers are active on social media.  How about Snell Golf Canada?

Snell Golf Canada embraces social media with open arms. From the very beginning we have made considerable efforts to ensure we publish great content on a regular basis as well as respond to any inquiries in a timely manner.  People seem to love our profiles as our follower base is growing more and more every day. We are on Twitter @SnellGolfCanada, Facebook @Snell Golf Canada and Instagram @SnellGolfCan we do promotions, contests, weekly spots on products features, and lots more on the way.

6. In my conversation with Dean this winter, he mentioned opportunity for courses to buy direct for their members/customers.  Is this something you offer?

We launched a pro shop re-seller program and have had quite a few folks join us.  We offer them a discount that provides them enough (profit) margin to make it worthwhile.  For us it helps build the brand and provides some convenience to members of participating courses.

7.  I’m not expecting you to share company secrets but I’m curious about new product development.  Are you engaged with Dean around this?  Can Canadians expect quick access to any new product?

Dean is always thinking ahead and does have a ball in the design and test stage.  It will be a high end ball, probably 4 piece that will align more closely with the Pro V1x.  What Dean won’t do is create a whole range of balls. He sees this as confusing to the golfer (“What ball should I play?”) and says creating that confusion is part of most ball makers strategy.  He keeps it simple, a high end ball that is playable across a broad spectrum (My Tour Ball), and a low spin, low price ball (Get Sum).  Both balls are made with only the best materials.  The new ball, when launched will likely be positioned at the very top of the Tour Performance scale so will be best suited to the low single digit handicappers.

8.  MTB or Get Sum?

My original introduction to Snell was in Florida playing the MTB. But I started playing the Get Sum a bit last summer, I wasn’t happy with my swing and thought a low spin ball would help. It didn’t really.

This winter I went back to the MTB full-time and with practice my swing improved but my short game improved leaps and bounds!  I’m pitching the ball better than I have in years, I have confidence in my chips because run out is consistent which is what you don’t get with any 2 piece ball, and my putting is better too!  I even had a hole in one in April.  My index dropped from 9.3 to 6.1 by the time I came back north!  Getting used to northern grass, long rough and it’s been wet so I must confess my index has risen some, but will go back down soon as it dries out.

So I now adhere to Dean’s basic philosophy, play the best quality ball you can! It will make you a better player.

  1. Outside of your home course in Cataraqui in Kingston, where would you love to tee up your Snell golf balls in Canada?  What courses top your Canadian bucket list?

I’ve been fortunate to play many great courses.  Deerhurst is a favourite; Lora Bay and Georgian Bay Club in Collingwood are spectacular, as are many of the top Toronto courses. I played Credit Valley last summer and loved it! Brantford Golf & CC is an old favourite. Glencoe in Calgary is special.  If you want to play a hidden gem, play Innerkip Highlands, near Woodstock. I want to play Vancouver Golf Club where the LPGA played a few years ago. I was there watching Brooke Henderson in her first Canadian Open when she was still amateur.  I’ve played in PEI and want to go back and play more of those courses.

36aday – An impressive list.  Thanks for your time Ron and best wishes to you and the team at Snell Golf Canada for the 2017 season.

Forest Golf Club and Inn – My greatest value play

Forest Golf Club and Inn


Back in 2010 – a much warmer weekend then 2017 – my Dad tees off on hole 1.

It’s a subtle re-brand, changing the name from Forest Golf and Country Hotel to Forest Golf Club and Inn.  New course ownership, under the GolfNorth consortium is bringing about some changes but what remains the same is 27 holes and some of Ontario’s best value in golf.  You won’t find Forest on top course listings; in fact their 18-hole course doesn’t have a hole over 400 yards.  As a par 66, this windswept course offers value, fun and enough challenge to bring golfers back.


Looking off the 7th tee to the 6th green and the 4th fairway.

I play this course annually on the last weekend of April with a group of 24.  This year marked our 17th year visiting this rural farming community about 45 km east of Sarnia, Ontario and just south of Lake Huron.  Over the years we’ve experienced hot, summer-like conditions, late winter wet snow and pretty much everything in between.  In addition, Forest has a 9-hole course but it is set more in a valley and is prone to early season dampness or flooding.  This year all 27 holes were open and the course was lush and played long.

The course has a hotel on site along with a restaurant so it is possible for visitors to park their car and not start it back up until it’s time to leave.  The restaurant is not as lively as it once was, with other places in town (only 5 minutes away) providing some stiff competition.  However, despite this, Forest Golf Club and Inn remains one of the best value golf destinations I have experienced.  The shoulder season special of 2 days/2 nights unlimited golf is $140.00. Most of our players come a day before and their 3 day/3 night special is $190.00  They promote the “Unlimited Golf Package” year round so even in the peak season there is value to be had.  Now this does not include cart fees which for our group – given our collective age and skill level are mandatory but for a group of golfers of diverse skill who are all seeking two rounds a day, this is perfect for us.


Bundled up and battling cold winds, the approach on the island green at 11 is even tougher.

The course starts in the valley for the first two holes with a straightaway par 4 and a par 3.  Moving up, the wind and water come into play.  Despite the 3rd hole being a short 124 yards (and often playing shorter) a crowned green and strong spring winds make it a tough hole.  The course is well protected by water on 8 holes.  Even at only 4600 yards, this provides the course some teeth.  Renovations over the past few years feature Lambton County’s only island green on the par 4 11th.  The approach, always into a strong breeze any time I have played it, makes the short iron approach much more challenging than that yardage would indicate.  The longest holes – 12 and 14 (368 yards and 380) are made tougher by the fact one of them is always directly into the wind.  One year, our group factored four extra clubs because of the wind and still came up short on the approach.

The conditions are consistently good but more attention to the greens would take this course to another level.  But make no mistake, this course is without pretense and provides relaxed, enjoyable golf for players of all skills levels.  Their second set of tees make the 18 hole course just under 3900 yards.  The nine hole course is a par 33, with 6 par 4’s and 3 par 3’s.  At 2057 yards, it uses elevation changes to create fun and challenge.


The hotel is clean and built to accommodate groups exceptionally well with one wing extending just adjacent to the 18th green making it convenient to leave the clubs in the cart over lunch before a second round.


On the tee at Hole 10.  A longer straightaway par 4.

My favourite stretch on the course is holes 4-6 which wrap around a large pond and reflect the risk-reward aspect of Forest.  Driveable greens for sure, with holes 4 and 5 playing 264 and 267, but water and OB await any errant shots.  The 9th hole is also a fun one with players seeking to cut the corner on the dog leg par 4 over water and make their second shot as short as possible.

Forest Golf Club and Inn does not try to oversell itself; it is a shorter, fun and very approachable golf course.  With a focus on value yet possessing enough challenge for all players it remains the home of the Pitch, Putt and Gimme group based in Hamilton, Ontario and next year will be year 18.  Maybe next year I can finally get a birdie on the challenging downhill par 3 17th, only 109 yards but I have bogied that hole more than I’ve parred it and have yet to birdie it in 17 years!  Always good memories, good golf and exceptional value.

For this value conscious golfer looking for a relaxed, fun golf experience this is the place for you.



With 40 km/h winds, approach shots need to carefully thought out.

Aura – 5 out of 10 – Perhaps too far removed from major golfing markets, but under the GolfNorth banner this may change over time.  It has a small but faithful following and focuses wisely on its golf value.

Value (cost / experience) – 10 out of 10.  The focus, given the location, is the stay and play deals and Forest is smart in its marketing efforts.   Even in the peak season, our group could enjoy 3 days accommodation and unlimited golf for $265 pp.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 6 out of 10 – I quite like the layout and appreciate the investments made over years (improvements to bridges and fairways).  The greens remain inconsistent and have been that way for many years now.  And while some feel a par 5 would help add to the course, I like that focus on shorter playability.  Our group includes several retirees who don’t play much golf yet everyone feels they can play this course and contribute in a scramble.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – 7 out of 10 – This course is a fun way to kick off my golf season and after the Masters is done, I focus my attention to Forest and the start of my golf season.  I like the fact that the course mixes shorter, more forgiving holes with some challenge (water, design and wind).

Highlight (what is great about the course) – The 18th hole and its proximity to the hotel can provide a gallery at times.  For our group, add a couple drinks and the pressure of the approach or birdie putt on 18th becomes more pronounced.  Like the 16th at TPC Scottsdale, the 18th at Forest has taken on an enjoyable life of its own on late afternoon rounds.


Spring 2016 – one of my favourite golf pictures. 14th tee at Forest, Dad and I.