Forest Golf Club and Inn – My greatest value play

Forest Golf Club and Inn

http://www.golfforest.ca/

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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

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The Relational Side of Golf

If you go visit http://www.golfcanadagolf.ca  you can read some interesting, informative, funny and very moving stories of golfers and their relationship to the game and the people they have connected to through golf.  The site provides the following information, “The campaign – Golf Canada Golf – is designed to inspire Canadian golfers through storytelling, inviting enthusiasts to share their stories and special connections to the game through a series of promotional activities across video, broadcast, print, online and social channels. – See more at: http://golfcanadagolf.ca/en/golfcanadagolf#sthash.o6ICqC5y.dpuf”

The site is impressive.  It provides a promotional link for people to get more information on how to get into the game.  I love the concept and it’s been well received.  It gave me cause for reflection around my relationship to the game and the relationships that weave within it.  That is even more meaningful to me at this time.  Next week will be the 15th year for an annual golf weekend which brings together family, old friends and new friends.  It’s a collection of guys who have come together to form friendships over three days of golf in what is often bad weather.  We call it ‘Pitch, Putt and Gimme’.

This year will be different.  And difficult.  We’ve lost two of our group this past year to cancer.  One was my Uncle Tommy.  Uncle Tom loved golf.  He loved the comraderie and every year he would bring dozens of golf balls which he collected all year through his work as a starter in Flamborough, Ontario.  He gave each guy an egg carton which had twelve golf balls in it.  A die hard Red Wings fan, the past couple years as he was getting weaker he would pass on the afternoon round or maybe play nine holes and sneak back to the hotel room to watch the Wings playoff games.  They’ve been in the playoffs 24 years straight now; he was assured to see them play each year!  He would turn up the heat in his room, much to the chagrin of his roommate (I mean it was a sweatshop in there), and relax and wait until the foursomes all returned, all cold and many years cold and wet.

He always provided a pass for four, as a prize, to play at his course.  He was a generous man.  He had a dry sense of humour and what he lacked off the tee he more than made up for on green.  He was likely the best putter in the family (and while that is not saying much, no one else in the family can call that a strength).  The weekend is going to be different.  I’m going to miss him.  I know I will think often about the egg cartons with found balls, or, when I was younger how he took me fishing or off to play the short par 3 course at Dundas Valley.  He was a caring, considerate family man and what he loved talking about most was his family, including his grandchildren.

I did not need the lesson of his passing to make me appreciate the relationships which exist that weekend but will be more mindful of them.  My Dad is one of the 24 who make the trip.  I’ll play the final round of the weekend with him.  I’ll look forward to laughing at missed putts, applauding his chipping (he’s a chipping savant, I swear) and mostly just quietly appreciating the time and the relationship we have…a relationship that gets strengthened through golf.  I love what golf has done to ground me and improve my health.  Next weekend I will value what it has done for many important relationships in my life.

Some Aboriginal cultures say that wind are the spirits of those who pass and I will enjoy the gusts more this year than ever.  My friend Al, and my Uncle Tom will be with us.  I regret they can’t join us but I’ll know they’re there.

Uncle Tom and I are ready to tee it up.

Uncle Tom and I are ready to tee it up.

TripleBogey Beer – The Official Beer of the @36aday Blog

TripleBogey Beer – The Official Beer of the @36aday Blog

http://www.triplebogey.com/

First, the marketing opportunities are gold. Marketing a beer to golfers is like ACME Corporation marketing roadrunner-killing gadgets to coyotes; it’s brilliant. As a twitter junkie, I followed the baby steps of the TripleBogey Brewing and Golf Co. from its early days. And as this golf season started I knew I had to try some of this beer and appropriately attire myself with swag. A golf weekend in early May provided me the drive to make this happen.

Geoff Tait is a great guy to know (aside from the obvious, I mean the guy owns a freakin’ brewery!). He’s personable, engaging and very helpful. I was able to procure some of +3’s finest and along with a snappy new +3 toque, and with my supplies secured headed out for an annual golf weekend outside of Sarnia, to a small community called Forest, Ontario. To make a long story short – the beer is awesome, the weather was horrible and my golf game may be as good as it’s ever been (which I attributed to the beer on twitter that weekend).

More on the beer: I love the clean taste. A lager with 5% alcohol, the tall cans provided a crisp finish. And I was able to enjoy a few over the course of the day and evening and not wake up for golf the next day feeling or looking like Keith Richards. To me that’s important. My playing partners also enjoyed the beer, some a little too much! This is not going to be as detailed as a wine review here. Simply put, I like the beer. I like it a lot. And when the winter months are over and my affinity for beer drinking goes up at a similar pace to my interest in playing golf, it is nice to know I have a go-to brand which will satisfy. It tastes like a good, clean Canadian-made brew, meaning it is not too light, watery or void of flavour.

At the time of this blog draft, it is not available for sale at the LCBO or the Beer Store in Ontario but I’m hopeful one day…

Check the website, follow Geoff on twitter and ask…no, demand, your course sell TripleBogey.

TripleBogey is the official beer of the @36aday blog. Drink TripleBogey…play better golf (worked for me!)