Forest Golf Club and Inn
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.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.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.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.
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.