Bucket List Update – Spring 2017

Bucket List Update – Spring 2017

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Will 2017 bring me to exciting destinations like St. Andrews By The Sea in New Brunswick again?  Playing Algonquin was certainly a 2016 highlight.

My decision to expand my personal Canadian public course ‘bucket list’ from about 72 courses to close to 100 was met with mixed reaction.  To be more specific, one person commented that can a list of close to 100 public courses in Canada be considered a ‘bucket list’ or does it simply become just a list?  A fair and valid critique and one best argued over a pint on the 19th hole of many of Canada’s best public (or private) courses.  I am unapologetic about my bucket list and as I mentioned before, there’s a certain degree of self-indulgence in this list of mine.  But arguing for it, the 2015 Golf Facilities in Canada Report cited 2126 public golf courses in the country.  Looking at my current list of 98 courses, this is merely 4.6 percent of that total.  Picking almost 100 from over 2100 ensures strong geographic representation with a quality focus.

With the exception of the territories, my list covers off all 10 provinces.  My additions are not represented in all 10 provinces – at this time.  In 2015 I had played ten courses in PEI to complete my bucket list there.  And while none were added over the winter, I am getting some people mention to me that I should consider adding Belfast Highland Greens, a stunning 9-hole course which plays to a par 37.

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Early morning mist and shadows shrouded the second tee at Green Gables in October 2015.

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British Columbia can seem like an obvious choice for bucket list courses but getting off the beaten path can open up gems like Talking Rock in Chase, BC.

To-date I have played 31 courses on my list.  There’s a shockingly low number played in my home province of Ontario and I have yet to tee it up at all in Manitoba (which @meximenno is quick is remind me of regularly).

My goals for 2017 are to play Tower Ranch and Gallgaher’s Canyon in Kelowna while in BC on business.  Other courses will likely be in Ontario this year, understanding there’s several great options in Muskoka I hope to access this fall.  Others could be more a one-off with day trip potential to get in 18 or 36 an option for me.  I don’t see other extended travel this summer for me but we shall see.   This is a list I can work on over the years and having the anticipation of quality public golf across the country provides all the justification I need to have added to my list.

Cabot Links 16th

The par 4 16th at Cabot Links remains my favourite golf hole in Canada.  But will I discover a course that possesses a new favourite for me in 2017?

What courses are on your must play list?  Is a list of 100 public courses in Canada too large to be considered a bucket list?  And most important, am I missing any courses?  Check my list and my bucket list map to see where I still have to venture to and play.  With golf season almost here for all of Canada I hope there’s a golfing bucket list adventure planned for you in 2017.

Turnberry Golf Club – Short, but Mighty Indeed

Turnberry – Short, but Mighty Indeed

http://www.turnberrygolf.ca/home.htm

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The superb conditioning and layout of Turnberry is showcased here.

I have borrowed Turnberry’s own description, “call it short, but mighty” as it is most apt.  This short course is located in Brampton, Ontario and is the sister course to Eagles Nest (my review of Eagles Nest is here) which is located further east in Maple (Vaughan).  Playing on what was the last nice late fall weekend this past November, I was able to enjoy a sunshine filled and relaxed round on what was one of the more challenging shorter courses I have ever experienced.  Challenging and fun.  There is nothing that is cookie cutter about this course and it is a course I hope to get back to and experience again.

If you have played Eagles Nest then you will understand the strong similarities in look, condition and challenge.  But perhaps most notable is the fact that Turnberry is a par 56.  Yes, there are 16 par 3’s and these are sandwiched around two par 4’s – the first hole and the 18th.  The par 4’s are not exactly short (443 yards and 392) so make sure you pack all 14 clubs.

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The 12th hole.  One of the easier on the back, it reflects the demands on players off the tee.

My first impression was that this course is extremely well maintained.  For late season the tee decks were in fantastic shape, albeit well used after an extended stretch of mild fall weather.  However, they were flat, tightly mown and framed each hole exceptionally well.  The greens were terrific, just as good as Eagles Nest and the best of any short course I have experienced.  Players and staff certainly care for the course as while the tee boxes reflected the normal wear of par 3 play, the greens had very few ball marks.  An elevated tee on both holes one and two help the player ease into the round with some confidence standing over the ball.

The first of the 16 consecutive par 3’s may be one of the toughest however.  A giant shared green (the second shares a green with hole 8) with several undulations means that simply hitting the green is not enough to secure par.  And with trouble short and right this hole will demand your attention.  But one could say that is one of the real strengths of Turnberry, this is no pushover of a short course.

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The 16th is my favourite of all the par 3’s on the course.  It looks like absolutely anything short will fall back into the pond.

The 4th hole is reminiscent of the ‘postage stamp’ green at Royal Troon.  The 7th is only 102 yards but the 11th is more than twice that long and is a somewhat blind tee shot, as the green is tucked behind a knoll.  The 13th sees a unique green feature, a Biarritz green.  The 16th is a gorgeous hole with a long sliver of a green situated just beyond a large pond.  The course offers an excellent hole by hole description on its website

Mounding, fescue, excellent bunkering and demanding greens will force players to bring strong ball striking and an excellent short game to score well here.

I loved the diversity of golf holes and the layout is exceptional.  Having played both Eagles Nest and Turnberry there is no denying they’re outstanding courses.  Eagles Nest is a worthy of its position on many top course ranking lists.  But I think Turnberry is worthy of its own due as an exceptional course in the GTA.  While it fills an important place as a shorter course it doesn’t do this as the price of quality, challenge and exceptional experience.

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Aura – 8.5 out of 10 – The relationship between Eagles Nest and Turnberry allows for some strong marketing efforts between the two.  Turnberry has made a strong name for itself and this course lived up to the hype.  The website is terrific and showcases the course very well.

Value (cost / experience) –7.5 out of 10.  Peak summer rates of $47 are not cheap but there are so many opportunities to explore value options.  In the shoulder seasons, if you’re a cold weather player they market all day play for $20 if the weather is under 6c (an excellent marketing move, in my opinion).  I play in that weather regularly.  Safe to say there are options to play this course at a strong value rate.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 8.5 out of 10.  I actually give Turnberry the nod here over its sister course.  The diversity of golf holes, exceptional condition and a terrific layout which has players feel they are part of a more expansive layout then it really is creates a sense of quality that you notice as soon as you arrive and appreciate walking up to the clubhouse from 18.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – It was my last round of 2016 and it felt great to end the season experiencing a course of this quality and uniqueness.  I loved it and look forward to coming back. – 9 out of 10

Highlight (what is great about the course) – The clubhouse is clean, spacious and inviting.  The view down over the course is inviting.  I loved the feeling I got on the first and second tee looking over the entire golf hole and feeling like the course belonged to me.

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – Perhaps a third par 4 somewhere in the middle of the round would break up the stretch of 16 par 3’s nicely, but really I am just splitting hairs.  I am not a fan of the Biarritz green design feature so if pressed to change anything that would be it.

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The demanding 15th hole, where the miss right is no easy up and down (as I can attest to).

Just So You Know – At the The Toronto Golf and Travel Show these courses offer excellent opening season specials, providing excellent value and access to two great courses.  If you’re attending the show in the future make a point of exploring their offers.

 

Looking Ahead to 2017

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Mid-January but always dreaming of getting in 36 a day!

We’re well into 2017 now and while the golf clubs continue to sit idly, except for indoor dome or simulator action, I know it’s only a few months now until the season begins.  But I am not spending of the off-season quietly sitting and waiting for spring’s arrival.  A new year brings optimism but also a plan and a commitment to improve.  So here are some thoughts, projections and plans for the year ahead:

  1. Getting my mind and body fit.

Reflecting back, I don’t think I’ve looked at my off-season preparation for golf in a truly holistic manner.  I’d try to hit balls as often as I could and workout every now and then but it never was truly effective.  A late summer move to my childhood hometown has helped me get into some more healthy habits.  Combined with a couple health apps on my smartphone and an investment in new exercise equipment I am giving 2017 a chance to be more healthy, happy and successful on (and off) the golf course.

Better sleep, better diet, an exercise regime which will focus on my heart and my overall flexibility are already helping me feel better.  I am reading more often – golf and non-golf books – and am starting to learn French.  All this to say is that my view on improving my golf game is being viewed physically, mentally and emotionally now.  I am continuing my golf lessons over the winter months and feel once I get to the middle of April I will be ready to build on my successes of last season.

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I can’t golf every day.  But like this sign says, at Eagles Glenn in Cavendish, PEI, I can have a good day and make choices to help me get better.

  1. More Champions and LPGA golf, less PGA Tour

Ever so slightly, I am starting to sour on the PGA tour.  Where I am finding enjoyment on

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I feel like I’m the only one not scoring 59.

TV is through the PGA Champions and LPGA.  Here I see players who hit it only slightly farther and play courses closer in length to what I do.  It is increasingly difficult for me to relate to PGA stars that hit the ball so far and are seemingly automatic around and on the greens.  I understand on TV we see the leaders play and those are the players who are playing the best.  But seeing pros dissect 500 yard par 4’s with driver and 9 iron just doesn’t appeal to me.  Maybe part of it is that in 2017 I become eligible for the Champions Tour (age-wise anyway. Yes, it’s a milestone year).  Don’t get me wrong, like you I’ll be glued to the Masters and all the important tournaments and I’ll still get more than my share of PGA Tour viewing in.  But with weekly scores of 59 or 60 now, and tour players’ relentless commitment to training the game is not what it once was to me.  My issue is not the players, it’s the ball…but that’s another rant for another day.

  1. Business Travel Plans

My 2017 business schedule is locked in.  I have extended visits to Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal lined up.  I certainly plan on tacking on some time out west to play Sagebrush and maybe one or two others on my Bucket List.  I have yet to explore the options (time or courses) for Ottawa or Montreal but the clubs will be coming with me and my habit of mixing some pleasure after business will continue.  I will do my research but not hesitate to put a call out on Twitter or FB for recommendations of places to play to help build my itinerary.  I’ll be hard pressed to match my success from the 2016 season which had me play in British Columbia, Alberta and New Brunswick.  There, I was able to knock off 5 courses off the Bucket List as well as play two others.  This year I’d like to knock off just as many on my revised list.

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No trips to Cape Breton planned for 2017…yet!

  1. Membership has its privileges

It’s possible I’ve buried the lede here but I have joined Hidden Lake Golf Club in my hometown of Burlington, ON.  As an associate member I can control the value proposition for myself but still get all the benefits of belonging, including the chance to play in the Club Championship in August.  The membership structure is such I can still make a commitment to play public courses in the area from time to time (I will not abandon my pursuit of my bucket list) yet have access to practice and playing facilities close to my home and at a fraction of the cost of other area courses.  It’s been over 35 years since I was a member at a club so this will feel new but will also be exciting.  I expect to wear out their short game practice area over the year.  But even in terms of rounds played, 20 rounds is simply not going to cut it (that was my total for 2016, one of my lowest numbers in some time).

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Christmas Eve 2015 – Hidden Lake Golf Club

  1. Practice with purpose. Play more competitively.

My index is currently 9.6 but that is not consistent throughout my game.  My weakest parts of my game are irons and short game (I’m more a 15).  I’ve worked hard to become an average putter and my long game/tee game has vastly improved (here, I’m closer to a 5).  So, to get better I feel I need to focus 3/4 of my time inside of 150 yards and most of that inside of 50 yards.  My new course will provide me great access and space to do so.  Through my instruction with Brian McCann I will create a plan to review and address areas of my game which are weak.  I love practicing and get much from an hour or two on the greens, range or short game area.

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OK, maybe this is extreme, but I do plan on making a greater commitment to practice in 2017.

Also, I am hopeful to play more competitive golf in 2017.  I wrote about my experience in 2016 at the Golf Ontario Baka Public Player Championships.  I won’t be eligible for that this year and will need to focus within my new club to get the competitive experiences I now crave.  An August Club Championship and weekly Men’s night will be a good starting point.  I’ll explore other options too as I love the competitive nature of golf.  But even with that, my filter for golf will always be to have fun.  It’s an amazing game.

Like New Year’s resolutions (which I no longer make) I don’t want to set a firm goal for 2017.  I strive to be a scratch golfer and break par regularly.  I have never broken par, my best round +3.  However, if pressed on the issue I’d like to see if I can get my index down to 5.0  This is a milestone I am seeking to achieve.   I have much work to do to get there…we’ll see how things go!

It’s going to be a fun 2017 golf season; I hope it’s an enjoyable and successful.

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Here’s to many great days for us all in 2017.  Play well friends.

 

2016 in Pictures – Algonquin Golf Club

In an effort to step up my photo game this year I am pleased to share 10 of my favourite golf images over the past year.  With a healthy layer of snow already in southern Ontario I hope this brings back good memories from your 2016 golf season and stokes the fire of anticipation for 2017!

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The Story: Playing one of the Maritimes best courses is always a treat but teeing it up with Assistant Pro, Ryan O’Connell made it even more special.  Ryan traded in his pitching wedge for a camera on the feature hole, the 12th at Algonquin, to get this picture of me addressing the ball.  It was an amazing morning of golf and this picture really represents my bucket list pursuit – great courses, even better people.  Ryan shared so many stories of the rich history of this course and the great community of St. Andrews By The Sea.  I simply can’t wait to get back and experience this course again.  And yes, I hit the green and safely two-putted for par.  The pin set on the left had sucker pin written all over it!

Click here for my full review of Algonquin Golf Club

Bucket List Overview – Part 4 – Prince Edward Island

This is the fourth of 10 posts that will look back on the current status of my bucket list.  Focusing on all 10 provinces, I’ll share links to courses played and remaining on my list, along with some new courses for consideration.  I’ll share some pictures, stories and wishes for future travel.  Canada is an amazing country for public golf, go play (once the snow is melted, of course).

Bucket List Courses PlayedLinks at Crowbush Cove, Brudenell River, Dundarave, Mill River, Stanhope, Fox Meadow, Green Gables, Eagles Glenn, Glasgow Hills, Andersons Creek

Bucket List Courses Remaining

Other Courses Played

Bucket List Contenders

Other Courses of Note – Belfast Highland Greens

 

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The iconic Anne of Green Gables home is set close to the 11th hole of Green Gables Golf Club

Overview

PEI is a unique golfing destination in Canada.  It is also brings together exceptional golfing quality, value, convenience, hospitality and interests to complement time away from the course.  I have written extensively about my golf experience in Fall 2015 on the Gentle Island and it remains my favourite place to play golf in Canada.  With courses set within the top 100 in Canada you get access to quality courses like Crowbush Cove and Dundarave.  You can play courses built by designers like Stanley Thompson, Graham Cooke, Dr. Michael Hurdzen / Dana Fry, and Robbie Robinson among others.  If you’re fortunate to play the top courses on the Island you may find – as I did – that there are other courses which deserve strong consideration to be on that list, notably Green Gables and Mill River.  This bucket list trip allowed me to play all 10 of my PEI courses in a 6 day span.  I have ranked these 10 courses on the Island and invite you to share your feedback on this list, acknowledging all ranking lists are highly subjective.

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Carr’s. If you’re going to be near Stanley Bridge it’s well worth a visit.

There are four courses which the province of PEI owns and operates; Crowbush, Mill River, Dundarave and Brudenell.  Arguably four of the top courses on the Island, they represent the diversity of golf available on PEI.  Close to Cavendish is a cluster of excellent golf, mere minutes away from each other: Green Gables, Eagles Glenn, Glasgow Hills and Andersons Creek are all in close proximity.  For travelers, the course closest to the Charlottetown airport which we played was Fox Meadow.  If you can only squeeze in a round this would be your choice.  And the most relaxed location?  That goes to Stanhope.  Don’t let it’s benign from nine fool you.  The back nine is simply breathtaking and offers a stretch of golf holes which are arguably the most scenic on the Island.

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There’s a 6-hole stretch on the back nine of Stanhope which is simply heavenly.

Utilizing Golf PEI, I was able to secure Island Green Cards for our foursome, allowing us the chance to play all 17 of their member courses.  While our itinerary only allowed us time for 10, at $399 (+taxes) you can understand why PEI provides such great value for golfers.  To find so much great golf, most of it only an hour from where we stayed, PEI continues to be one of Canada’s leading golf destinations.

Travel Notes

Golf PEI operates as a central marketing office for golf courses and the golf industry on PEI.  In conjunction with the four government owned courses via PEI’s Finest Golf, it excels at service, offering technology, print materials and access to people who can help with all aspects of golf trip planning.  For example, I wanted to surprise my group upon our arrival at our rental home (5 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, hot tub, pool table, modern kitchen – $1400  +taxes for the week) with ingredients for a seafood feast.  Golf PEI staff connected me to a small seafood shop 2 minutes from our home and I was able to place an order and simply pick it up when I arrived; they actually offered to coordinate with our rental agency to have it all in the fridge for us.  Amazing.

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A nice way to end the trip. The tour was informative and enjoyable. Conveniently located downtown Charlottetown, the PEI Brewing Company is a great side trip.

In addition to 10 rounds of golf, we enjoyed 2 meals at New Glasgow Lobster Supper and created great value from the all-you-can-eat mussels.  We booked a tour at the PEI Brewing Company and took some time to wander downtown and try some Cows Ice Cream.  While that trip was all about the golf I can share from experience that PEI beaches are sensational, the coastal drives are relaxing and there are growing and diverse options for foodies.  The west coast offers some of the most spectacular seaside driving views on the Island.  But check for yourself.  My new map to bucket list courses will show, if you zoom in on PEI, how close all these courses are to each other and how easy it is to tour around the entire Island.

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Early morning light provides the only filter needed at Eagles Glenn in Cavendish.

While I’ve managed to complete my entire bucket list for this province in one trip, it is a destination I would welcome coming back to and look forward to when I can make a return trip.

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My favourite picture of Mill River is the par 3, downhill 5th hole. Stunning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bucket List Review – Part 2 – Nova Scotia

Bucket List Review – Part 2 – Nova Scotia

This is the second of 10 posts that will look back on the current status of my bucket list.  Focusing on all 10 provinces, I’ll share links to courses played and remaining on my list, along with some new courses for consideration.  I’ll share some pictures, stories and wishes for future travel.  Canada is an amazing country for public golf, go play (once the snow is melted, of course).

Bucket List Courses PlayedCabot Links, Highlands Links, The Lakes

Bucket List Courses RemainingGlen Arbour, Bell Bay, Cabot Cliffs, The Links at Brunello, Fox Harb’r

Other Courses PlayedOsprey Shores

Bucket List ContendersDigby Pines, Penn Hills

Other Courses of NoteLe Portage, Northumberland Links, Bluenose

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Overview

Nova Scotia hosts some of the greatest golf courses in Canada and the World.  Yes, they’re that good.  The development of the two Cabot courses in Inverness has placed Nova Scotia at the epicenter of the golfing world with global media reports praising the courses, the resort and the community.  And while Cabot holds its rightful place as a powerful magnet for golf in eastern Canada one needs to look well beyond the their seaside courses – Links and Cliffs – to see other golf offerings which together make Nova Scotia a cherished golf destination for all golfers.  To me, this is one reason why Nova Scotia makes for such great golf; there is something for everyone.

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You may recognize this picture if you’re a regular to my blog.  The 6th tee at The Lakes course.  An incredibly tempting risk-reward par 4. (photo credit – Andrew Stoakley)

Acknowledging the grandeur of Cabot, I’ll start with a focus on fun and value.  Osprey Shores may be the most fun I have ever had golfing, be it as a single seeking to play as many loops of 9 as I could in a day, or, part of a group of 12 on a five day getaway (golfing in a kilt was a memorable experience, too).  Osprey brings breathtaking views, sensational maritime hospitality and an unpretentious nature which all golfers will appreciate.  A 9 hole course, I would recommend it for players to get their legs under them before heading north to tackle the wonderful courses of Cape Breton.  My experience golfing in Nova Scotia is focused mostly on Cape Breton.  So with apologies to courses on the mainland (and there are several on my bucket list) I will focus for now on Cape Breton.  Highlands Links is my favourite course in Canada.  Designed by Stanley Thompson, this course carved from the forests of the Highlands, with some seaside meandering, takes me back in time.  I love everything about it.  It hosts the greatest par 5 I’ve ever played and if I could only play one more round of golf it would be there.  Contrast to this is the beauty of The Lakes at Ben Eoin.  Set along Bras D’or Lake this course is cut along the hillside; creating stunning vistas on many holes.  Well designed and framed, this championship course has hosted the Mackenzie Tour Cape Breton Open (then Celtic Classic).

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Highlands Links – the 15th hole

This is not to forget the golfing perfection that is Cabot.  Links is the best course I’ve played and Cliffs is tops on my bucket list now.  I would advocate for a shoulder season trip to Cabot to get the full experience in terms of weather (could be amazing or raw…and either would make for a great story).  Fact is, the fall season stretches nicely in the Maritimes and can combine beauty and value.  Links is a course where the superlatives just don’t do it justice, though I tried in one of my first reviews on my blog.

Cabot, Highlands Links and The Lakes made for a great golf loop in a 2014 golf trip.  But with Bell Bay and Le Portage as options and a new course at Cabot, you can (and should) stretch your trip out to Nova Scotia longer than I did.

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Osprey Shores

Travel Notes

Researching your options for travel and play are very easy using Golf Nova Scotia or Golf Cape Breton.  The two offer excellent access to course information and links to additional details to help plan a trip.  But Nova Scotia is the kind of place you almost want to get lost and explore.  The TransCanada highway provides great access from PEI (via ferry) or New Brunswick and runs efficiently to Halifax and north to Cape Breton.  But sometimes the journey is just as fun as the destination.  Unlike PEI, where you can play days and days of 36 a day (trust me on that one), the distances between courses allow for a relaxed pace and some beautiful drives between communities.  Distractions abound with hiking, food, wildlife, culture, spirits.  It’s all there…not to dismiss the golfing of course.

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This is my favourite golf hole I’ve ever played, the 16th at Cabot Links.  (photo credit – Cabot Links)

The Cabot Trail may be one of the greatest drives in the country, looping around the north and central part of Cape Breton Island.  But Nova Scotia hosts many other amazing coastal drives.  The drive from Guysborough (where Osprey Shores is located on the gorgeous shores of Chedabucto Bay) to Halifax following the Marine Drive route is stunning and underrated.  The proximity to the ocean in many cases is staggering and the small communities and hamlets which dot the coast are lovely.

Similarly, the Sunrise Trail on the north shore from Antigonish to Amherst is just as relaxed.   Stopping along the numerous beaches to dip your feet in the surprisingly warm ocean and seeking that perfect bowl of chowder are two quests to add to your own golfing bucket list.

Traveling to Nova Scotia on a number of occasions now, the consistent take away for me is that I never spent enough time and left with things I wish I had done and seen.  In closing, do your research; take your clubs; tack on a few extra days; take the scenic routes; and do, by all means, order the chowder (better yet, explore the Chowder Trail).

Penn Classic 2014 at Cabot Links

The excitement of playing Cabot with good friends at the 2014 Penn Classic.

Algonquin Golf Club – Play New Brunswick’s Best

Algonquin Golf Club – Play New Brunswick’s Best

Course Reviews – Algonquin Golf Club – Play New Brunswick’s Best

http://algonquinresort.com/golf/

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Arriving at sunrise and anticipating a great golfing experience

The drive in from Fredericton was scenic and easy; very consistent with my experiences in maritime Canada.  Traveling a little over 90 minutes to the resort town of St. Andrews By-the-Sea I was fortunate to have time to enjoy this town before and after my round at Algonquin.  The drive along the Bay of Fundy shore was quicker than I anticipated but I was excited to arrive so I welcomed the efficiency.  A quiet seafood dinner at a local pub set along the water stirred my excitement for the early morning round.

 

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The seaside views in town can complement your golfing experience.

 

I had the pleasure of teeing it up with Assistant Professional, Ryan O’Connell.  Being first group off on a cool and sunny day, my expectations were high.  After all, the drive into the course and the views from the clubhouse set the tone – the views were spectacular.  The course offers five tee decks, and as a resort course this helps to accommodate players of all skill levels.  Ryan and I chose a relaxed round off tees just under 6100 yards (Silver).  Ryan was a great host, sharing great insights on the course and layout, its history and details on current renovations which are focused on the back nine.  We walked the course in just under 4 hours, playing at a leisurely pace and allowing me time for questions and pictures.  Being mid-September it was no longer peak travel season and after my round I took time for lunch at the clubhouse.  They offered a limited menu given the time of year but their soup and sandwich were outstanding.  Add to it the views over Passamaquoddy Bay and it was a great way to celebrate a great round of golf.

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The beauty of the first hole set the tone for a relaxed round at Algonquin.

The back nine gets considerable accolades, and rightfully so, as all holes after the 10th offer a water view.  The renovation efforts led by Rod Whitman (of Cabot and Sagebrush fame) were well underway and Head Professional Jason Porter shared that they expect a launch of the renovated course for July 2017.  That said, despite the full renovation efforts, the impact on play was minimal.  The 11th is where the most significant change will take place and based on the construction and green placement, the signature hole on 12 will have a stout competitor.  I predict 11 will become many peoples favourite.  Also, work is planned on 13, a par 5, which will see work move the tee box alongside the water.  Ryan said it well; that Rod is seeking to create an Amen Corner feel.  Using the assets of the Bay and its stunning views, this will be one of the strongest three hole stretches in Atlantic Canada.  The par 3 12th is a downhill par 3 and wind is a great protector for this hole.  But I really like the intelligent design of the par 4 15th, which doglegs left and demands two great shots to reach in regulation.  Beyond the 15th is a unique landmark and reflects the rich and long history of Algonquin; Canada’s oldest Clubhouse.

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Conditions were ideal, as evident from this view from behind the 5th.

Those who appreciate golf history will love Algonquin.  The course was first built in the 1890’s and in the 1920’s Donald Ross designed an expanded course layout.  Canadian, Tom McBroom was brought in during the 1990’s to renovate the course.  Evidence of the history of Algonquin is present throughout the course, including evidence of an early tee box complete with an old stone retaining wall.  The course provides historical information on their site but like other courses in Canada, I feel they could bolster this greatly with more images, stories and detail of the changes over the years.

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Evidence of the rich history at Algonquin Golf Club with this old stone retaining wall to support an original tee deck. no longer in play but still prominent.

The front nine routes inland and is, in my opinion, a very strong nine.  I felt holes 5, 6 and 7 all provided great scoring opportunity and intelligent design features with the tee shot on 5, a risk-reward par 4 6th and a beautiful and challenging approach on 7.  Ryan shared that the course has been hard at work over several years to remove trees to open up the holes off the tee and provide a more generous landing area for players.  On 5, a par 5, he shared evidence of an expanded fairway and new rough on the right side off the tee.  The par 3 8th is an underrated golf hole, while lacking the water view of 12, brings the natural beauty of the area prominently into play.  The course played firm and fast and reflects an emerging commitment of some courses to not commit to over watering and allow for a more natural playing experience.  But make no mistake; conditions for late season were consistently great.

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Renovations led by Rod Whitman make the 11th look like it may rival the signature 12th

The course is walkable and allows players time to fully appreciate the beauty of the course and area.  The tee boxes were well kept and course conditions, as stated, were consistent and very good.  The greens were consistent and the effect of the Bay on balls was noticeable (balls on the green break toward the water).  The bunkers were in great condition, allowing for consistent shot making.  The course prides itself on excellent service and ensuring the playing experience is enjoyable.  With five tee decks it is course which you could play over and over again and not get bored with.

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Ryan O’Connell on the 12th tee.

Aura – 9 out of 10 – The 12th hole is an iconic par 3 with views of Maine off to your right and the water all around.  It reflects well the enjoyment which players will have at Algonquin.  The strength of design in the front allows for a transition to wind swept sea views throughout the back nine.  The course markets itself well and does not oversell itself.

Value (cost / experience) – 8 out of 10.  With a peak season fee over $90 this is a bucket list experience but value enhances in the fall where fees range from $45-65.  Add to this the fall colours and fewer tourists, and the value in the fall is sensational.  For me, to have what amounted to a guided tour of the course including an update on the renovations and a history lesson on Algonquin and I can’t believe my good fortune.

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More evidence of the historical assets at Algonquin Golf Club

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 8.5 out of 10.  – The layout of the course is a true strength.  I appreciated the intelligent design of the front nine and it complemented the jaw-dropping beauty of the back nine.  The course transitioned on the back to more expansive feel but not once did I feel that holes were on top of one another.  The greens were in very good condition, bunkers were flawless and the tee boxes and fairways consistent and strong.  Again, I applaud Algonquin for a firm and fast approach to the course.

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The par 3 8th hole.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – If it is possible for a top 100 course in Canada to be underrated, this may be it.  The course leverages its assets exceptionally well – both people and property.  I felt a genuine welcome and experienced a course which brought a pleasant and relaxed layout with intelligent design.  I’d be proud to be a member here.

Highlight (what is great about the course) – Just stand on the tee of 12 and you’ll understand what is great about this course.  But then, talk to any member or staff person and you will know another thing that is great about Algonquin.  The people are amazing; very friendly and passionate about their course.

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Two eagle chances on 13!

 

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – this is emerging as a theme for me in my experiences playing golf across the country but many courses do not leverage the history and the stories of their course and community as well as they could.  I would love to see Algonquin build a more robust section on their website about the history of this course complete with pictures and stories.

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Made time to visit the resort, only minutes away, after my round.

My Best Shot – My approach on the par 5 13th was only from 165 yards.  But with a slight breeze in my face and the ball below my feet I put a smooth swing with a 6 hybrid and the ball looked like it may hit the pin.  It ended up about 4 feet from the pin.  And sadly no, I missed the eagle putt.  But I will never apologize for tap in birdies.  This helped me to an even par 36 on the back and a sub 80 round.  A great score on a great course!041