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.

 

My best 18 holes (so far)

Here’s an interesting reflection. Looking over all the courses in Canada that I have played, I’ve drawn up my favourite and some of the most memorable golf holes which correspond to where each hole can be found on its scorecard. From this I am pleased to share my best 18 – and as the title indicates – so far. Most courses have a photo gallery or video flyover and while I am lacking my own extensive photo library I invite you to check these courses and holes on my best 18. Better yet, create your own list. It’s an interesting exercise to consider the best 7th hole you’ve ever played.

1 – Waskesiu (Saskatchewan) – Par 4, The Lobstick Tree

Lobstick Tree at Waskesiu in the first fairway

You can sense the pride and the history when looking out and seeing the Lobstick tree set firmly in the first fairway. Ask the staff about it, it’s a great story.

2 – Grand Niagara (Ontario) – Par 4

The demanding second hole at Grand Niagara.

The demanding second hole at Grand Niagara. Photo Credit – Andrew Stoakley

If possible, the second hole is even tougher than the first. A demanding drive requires an equally precise long second shot. Par is a great score on this golf hole.

3 – Eagles Nest (Ontario) – Par 4
Set high on the Oak Ridges moraine, this elevated tee shot – if executed well – can lead to a short approach and a birdie opportunity. Make it count; there aren’t many birdie holes out there.

4 – Dakota Dunes (Saskatchewan)– Par 4
This is a very tough golf hole. A somewhat blind tee shot gives way to a generous landing area. The approach shot is the real test. Like Hole 2, above, par is a great score on this solid golf hole.

5 – Humber Valley (Newfoundland) – Par 3
Don’t get distracted by the riverside and mountain views, this is a demanding tee shot. If you miss the green you’re facing a tough up and down. Better get it too; the next few holes at Humber Valley are all uphill.  Humber Valley may have the best course photo gallery I’ve seen.  Here’s their fifth hole here.

6 – The Lakes (Nova Scotia) – Par 4
The signature hole on this course is not my favourite golf hole, but it’s high on the list. You’ll see this image as the header image of this golf blog. It really is a stunning golf hole. If you’re far from home, driver all day.

The view of the Bras D'Or Lakes from the sixth tee.  Photo Credit - Andrew Stoakley

The view of the Bras D’Or Lakes from the sixth tee. Photo Credit – Andrew Stoakley

 

7 – Highlands Links (Nova Scotia) – Par 5
From a beauty to a beast – this is the toughest par 5 I’ve ever played. The demanding par 5 has a double dog leg and from the tips is over 590 yards. Good luck.

8 – South Muskoka (Ontario) – Par 3
This downhill par 3 is not the most difficult hole but does require your attention off the tee. A pond short of the green will happily accept your ball if mishit or if you don’t judge the wind properly. Still, par can be expected here.

9 – Lowville (Ontario) – Par 4
I always try to play this local course for me in the fall season. Set along the Niagara Escarpment, this is one of my most beautiful tee shots in golf when set against the red, orange and yellow leaves of the fall season.

10 – Humber Valley (Newfoundland) – Par 4
An almost 200 foot drop? Wow, what an experience. Hit it straight and you’ll be rewarded. If not, as I found out, then you’ll be pleased with bogey (and I was). Have your camera ready, but really, the course photo album will be what you should show your friends, it’s spectacular.

11 – Cabot Links (Nova Scotia) – Par 5
This is an underrated golf hole. Set along MacIsaac’s pond, the design features of this golf hole make it a truly special par 5 to experience.

12 – South Muskoka (Ontario) – Par 5
Can’t make it to Waskesiu Lake? Get to Bracebridge where their 12th hole features a mature pine which is a great aiming point…unless you’re hitting it really straight that day. Clip the tree and getting home in two is out of the question.

13 – Dakota Dunes – Par 4
This is a risk/reward dream. Only 270 yards, but a massive putting green you will be thinking birdie all the way but don’t be surprised if you walk off that hole with a bogey. A fun golf hole.

14 – Bear Mountain (British Columbia) – Par 3
Course designers moved this ‘19th hole’ into the course rotation. On a clear day you can see the city of Victoria, it’s simply a gorgeous golf hole. Demanding tee shot, but very pretty.

15 – Highlands Links (Nova Scotia) – Par 5
This is the signature hole at Highlands Links and when facing your approach shot you can see the ocean and Ingonish Island. I can’t imagine how many pictures have been taken on this golf hole but make sure you’re one of many who capture one, especially when the sun is out.

16 – Cabot Links (Nova Scotia) – Par 4

This is simply my all-time favourite golf hole. I’ve written about my near birdie here but as the last oceanfront hole before turning inland, you feel like you’re on a private course. To me, it’s a perfect golf hole.

This is my favourite golf hole I've ever played, the 16th at Cabot Links.

This is my favourite golf hole I’ve ever played, the 16th at Cabot Links. Photo Credit – Cabot Links

 

17 – Black Bear Ridge (Ontario) – Par 4
Slightly elevated, the demanding tee shot can set up a good approach opportunity. But trees left and right require precision and confidence. It’s a well-designed golf hole and to me looks great from the tee box. Playing there, I always look forward to the 17th tee shot.

18 – Timber Ridge (Ontario) – Par 4
The greatest aspect of this shot is the uphill approach shot. Up high, you may see fellow golfers staring down at you ready to make their own assessment of your game and chances to convert for birdie on a very challenging green to putt on. Still, it’s a great way to end a round on an course which is underrated for its conditioning and layout.

All together, my best 18 plays as a Par 73 with 11 par 4’s, 4 par 5’s, and 3 par 3’s.  I look forward to the debates with friends, chances to edit and amend and learn from others about how to complement this great collection of golf holes.

Eagles Nest – A Tough, Fair and Fun Test

http://www.eaglesnestgolf.com/home.htm

“Remains the best public course in an urban setting. A massive, sprawling muscular course that is hard to love, but easy to respect” – SCORE Golf Review Panelist, Summer 2013

The quote above, respecting the course as opposed to loving it, really captures my feelings of Eagles Nest. On a mild and very blustery May afternoon, a good friend and I teed it up at Eagles Nest, taking advantage of a special rate which is offered annually at the Toronto Golf and Travel Show.  Buying greens fees in March for a May round seems odd, but the value is substantial.  It felt like the first really mild day all year and as a twosome in the late afternoon we were offered a chance to tee off early to avoid a foursome set to play just before our set time; a nice touch by the starter.

I quickly realized local knowledge is very helpful, as my friend constantly warned me of subtleties which make Eagles Nest even more difficult than it would appear at first glance. Playing white tees with a slope rating of 131, and with significant elevation change, a strong wind and early season fescue still very penal we knew we’d have to have a good ball striking round to score well.  The layout is a strength,  the course plays as 18 independent holes with very little risk of anyone spraying shots onto your fairway.  The conditioning is sensational, but what one would expect for a course with an opening season rate of $120 with cart.  Tee boxes were fantastic, fairways tightly mown with subtle undulations but very playable.  Greenside posed considerable challenges with extensive bunkering and tight collection areas for wayward approach shots.  The elevation change provides some scenic vistas looking over York Region and all the way south to Toronto.  EaglesNest

I played the first 12 holes with a deliberate, strategic, almost conservative approach to the game and was doing very well. My final six holes saw me take more aggressive approaches – both off the tee and in my approaches to greens, and saw my score balloon.  The takeaway from this is that mistakes at Eagles Nest are costly.  The pace was not fast and as a twosome we were held up often on the back, but the foursome ahead of us endured delays too.  I was very surprised to see only one marshal and he was stationed near the 5th hole, overseeing play on 4, 5, and 7.  We saw no one on the back nine watching over pace of play.  An almost 5 hour round was surprising and disappointing (not as disappointing as my final six hole score, mind you!)

The greens rolled fair and true, with speed but gentle slope so they were very playable. It was clear the course gets lots of play as there were already several ballmarks needing repair.  Bunkers were well maintained and the fairways had some winterkill in spots which did not detract from play.  This is a course which requires thoughtful and well struck shots from tee to green.

The proshop is well stocked with apparel and other souvenirs from a memorable golf experience. Practice facilities are very generous and helpful to navigate the seemingly constant winds they get in Maple (Vaughan, ON).  I would like another chance at Eagles Nest, feeling my experience there will help me to position shots better and ultimately score better.

This is very special course in the GTA, a strong public play option but one that has a GTA price tag; it is not an inexpensive round. Some deals can be had on sites like Golf Now or GTA Golf Club.  For an annual treat, it is worth experiencing a country club experience for public players.

Aura – 8 out of 10 – The clubhouse makes the statement. This is designed and marketed to be a special golf experience.   The website adds to the aura with stunning visuals and a polished and professional look.

Value (cost / experience) –6 out of 10. As a value conscious player I always get a little trepidation when I am paying either side of $100 to play golf.  The experience is special, the course is very nice, but I would not promote Eagles Nest as a value golf destination.  It is a quality, high end GTA golf course.  The quality of the course provided the value for me.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 8.5 out of 10. Perhaps mid to late season, when the course is lush and green I may have a difference score here.  My critique rests with the back nine layout, which I liked but did not love.  The front nine, in my opinion, is the superior nine.  That said, the course is very well maintained and the greens are very fair while being fast (even in early May).  The holes off the tee, with one exception (number 9 just didn’t suit my eye), provide a clear position to land safely.  But like greenside which has several challenging places to get up and down, wayward teeshots can make it difficult to approach the green safely and I really like that sense of challenge

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – Tough, fair and fun. I would like to come back…to get a crack at those last six holes again! –7.5 out of 10

Highlight (what is great about the course) – Holes 3, 8, 12 and 18 are beautiful golf holes. The elevation changes are used well and the backdrop of the suburban and urban landscapes are sensational

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – I would like to see the course maintain more consistency in its commitment to support pace of play. The staggered 10 minute tee times are an important and appreciated touch.  While I acknowledge playing as a twosome creates potential for pace issues, to see the foursome ahead of us having to wait too on the back is not appropriate.

Just So You Know – If you love the layout and course design of Eagles Nest, you can play their sister course Turnberry. This is another well -conditioned course but with an emphasis on par 3’s.  16 of the 18 holes are par 3.  Maybe based on my round at Eagles Nest I need to get over to Turnberry to sharpen up the short game!

My Best Shot – Hole 11, Out of Breath (blaw wearie), and the website calls it possibly the toughest hole on the course. A pulled drive got caught up in fescue but with a good lie and good sightlines, my 4 hybrid sailed smooth and landed soft and released up to 3 feet!  The birdie putt landed in the heart of the cup.  At that time, I was thinking ‘career round’!