2016 in Review – Top 5 Posts

2016 in Review – Top 5 Posts

I want to thank everyone who follows and supports my blog.  Three years now and I am still enjoying the opportunity to share reviews and travel information on interesting and wonderful public golf courses in Canada.  Expect more of the same in 2017.  It was a great year of golf for me, with chances to play in British Columbia, Alberta, New Brunswick and Ontario.  I was able to play some amazing courses, meet great people and see parts of the country I have never experienced.  As is often the case there were some hidden gems and I tried hard to make a commitment to improve my photography skills and share more of these experiences with you.

Meeting and playing golf with fellow bloggers, venturing back into competitive golf after a brief absence and being able to maintain a single digit handicap are all things I look back on fondly.  Canada really is an amazing country to play golf in.  I find it so rich in golf courses that I recently increased my Bucket List of Canadian public courses from 74 to just fewer than 100.  Canada has well over 2000 courses so I have done some research, listened to Twitter followers and went with my gut in a few cases but added over 20 courses to my list.

In 2016, my top 5 posts all have an eastern Canada connection.  My 2015 PEI trip was legendary and I have written extensively on it.  Four of the top five posts were course reviews from this trip which I staggered as new blog entries over the winter of 2016.

#1. Stanhope Golf Club

Easy to walk, relaxed in nature and offering an incredible underrated and stunning back nine, Stanhope offers high marks for fun.  A benign opening nine gives way to an amazing stretch of golf holes on the back that are both challenging and awe inspiring.  Playing on an afternoon following a tough weather morning at demanding Crowbush Cove; Stanhope was a perfect course to cap off an epic day of 36.

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Not everyone gets to play golf with their best friend but at Stanhope it’s encouraged.

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#2 Oh, The Places You Will Go

Fairways Fund CEO, Tiffany Chaisson is someone I am proud to call a friend.  She also brings this amazing marriage of golf enthusiasm with unbridled passion for the game (making my own passion for the same seem pedestrian).  The opportunity to meet my Twitter friend in person, over a round of golf, came in July when we were fortunate to be hosted for a round at the incredible Ladies Club in Thornhill, ON.  The Ladies Club has a rich history and an amazing story of its inception that both Tiffany and I wanted to learn about.  Head Professional, Paddy Kelly hosted us and joined us for a round at this Stanley Thompson design which is a shorter course, but long on beauty and challenge.

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Ladies Club Head Professional, Paddy Kelly; Fairways Fund CEO, Tiffany Chaisson; and me!

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#3 Green Gables Golf Club

Sticking to Stanley Thompson, his work in Cavendish, in PEI, was my third most popular post in 2016.  Recent renovations by Tom McBroom helped bring this course back to its original lustre and an early morning fall tee time helped show off all its beauty.  The iconic Anne of Green Gables home, Oceanside views, classic Thompson design…it was there to enjoy.

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Anne’s house.

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#4 Eagles Glenn Golf Club

Practically within walking distance from Green Gables, still in Cavendish, is a more recent design.  Eagles Glenn, as I look back, is an outstanding golf course which is well framed by the rolling countryside and the design brilliance of Graham Cooke.  Superbly conditioned and on a stunning fall morning, this was a consensus favourite by our entire group.

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The Cartners won the last hole and were ready to tee it up.

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#5 Glasgow Hills Golf Club

This club of all the 10 played on our trip to PEI invoked the most discussion.  Stunning, immaculate in its conditioning and incredibly demanding, it presents a back nine which I really enjoyed.  With the most elevation changes of any course on the Island it demands accuracy and length.  But spend time before and after the round in their amazing clubhouse and restaurant and you’ll only focus on the great shots and the great views.

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This view from the patio of the clubhouse at Glasgow Hills is the best.

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5 Underrated Courses in My Canadian Travels

Playing golf in Canada can be about the journey as it is the destination.  Courses can surprise and amaze in aspects of beauty, quality and fun.  Over my years here are five which I have experienced that I loved.  You likely won’t see any of these on top course lists across the country so I’ve created my own modest list which places these gems front and centre.  Here they are, in no particular order.  The course link will open to my full review:

Waskesiu GC, Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan

It’s a Stanley Thompson design so right off the top I suspected I’d love it.  I drove direct from my flight to Saskatoon north of Prince Albert to the stunning Waskesiu Lake area in the heart of Prince Albert National Park.  The drive was peaceful and the course was sensational.  The rich history of this course and its iconic Lobstick Tree is worth asking about.  The butter tarts that the course sells may be the best in country but that’s another bucket list in itself.  My only wish was that I could spend time in the resort community adjacent to the lake and play this course again (and again).  Not the easiest course to access, but the memories made the drive well worth it.  My conversation with the Marshall the day I was playing was amazing as he regaled me about the history of this beautiful course.  I felt I had gone back in time.

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Lobstick Tree at Waskesiu in the first fairway

Stanhope GCC, Stanhope, Prince Edward Island

I have written much about my 2015 golf trip to the gentle island.  PEI is a golfer’s paradise, providing exceptional value (possibly the best in Canada) with variety, quality and diversity of post-golf activity to make everyone happy.  Stanhope didn’t make my top 5 list of courses on the Island but that speaks more to the quality and value options than it does about any shortcomings at Stanhope.  A true community course, this course brought a level of enjoyment and relaxation on the Island I had not experienced.  Add to it a stunning back nine, with a stretch of golf holes from 12-16 which may be the most underrated golf on the island in terms of sheer beauty.  With a breeze off the ocean on a peaceful afternoon, it was a golfing experience I need to get back and relive.

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A late afternoon sun shining down on the back nine at Stanhope

 

Talking Rock Golf Resort, Chase, British Columbia

The Thompson-Okanagan golf region of British Columbia provides more diversity for golfer than one might expect.  My spring 2016 trip west included an early morning drive (very early!) from Surrey to Chase for a morning round at Talking Rock.  First, the drive is amazing through the mountains – so peaceful and relaxing.  Arriving in Chase, just north of Kelowna, and the Little Shuswap First Nation community is the Quaaout Lodge and Spa which also houses the Talking Rock Golf Resort.  The large log-cabin style conference centre, pro shop and clubhouse set a tone for a tranquil and peaceful golfing experience.  The closing holes, notably 15 and 18, are jaw-dropping showstoppers and reflect the natural beauty of the region.  It’s well worth the visit.  Playing most of the round as a single created a sense of calm and peacefulness I appreciated.

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Teed up and ready to play the stunning 15th at Talk Rock overlooking Little Shuswap Lake

Batteaux Creek GC, Nottawa, Ontario

The Niagara Escarpment cuts along southern Ontario from a swath from Niagara to Tobermory and at various points along the way shows impressive prominence in the landscape.  Such is the case in Nottawa, south of Collingwood, where Batteaux Creek Golf Club has existed since 2002.  While not an annual play, I do try to make time in the fall season to travel the almost two hours north from Toronto, to enjoy this course in all its splendor.  Immaculate conditioning, diversity of golf holes, natural hazards and a stunning fall backdrop with leaves changing in golds, reds, oranges and yellows throughout the property and west along the escarpment.  It’s more a spiritual exercise than it is a golf game.  And for anyone who has experienced this course in the fall, you will know why it makes my list of underrated golf gems in Canada.

Early morning at Batteaux Creek on a flawless fall day.

 

 

Osprey Resort, Guysborough, Nova Scotia

https://36aday.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/osprey_andy2.jpg?w=660This is a rustic, 9-hole course set on Chedabucto Bay in scenic Guysborough, Nova Scotia.  The Marine Drive from Halifax to Canso is simply a must if you have the time.  From Canso, simply head west to Guysborough.  Don’t miss the Rare Bird Pub where after 9 holes (or 18…even 36) you can look over the water and lose yourself in the beauty of this part of the province.  The course is simple in its layout and players of all skill level will be welcome.  Take time to enjoy the views, what I think to be some of the best you will experience in eastern Canada.  My advice for travelers who have time; stop here to get your golf legs and your fix of seafood before making your way north to Cape Breton Island where you will find some of the greatest courses in the country and the world.  I love this course, its people and community.  It reflects everything I love about golfing in Canada.

 

Osprey 5th Hole

Beyond the 5th hole at Osprey, overlooking Chedabucto Bay.

 

This is not an exhaustive list.  There are more courses I’ve played I would categorize as underrated.  But I would love to hear your experiences, learn about your courses that would make your list (and that I’d need to add to mine!).

Stanhope Golf and Country Club – Relaxed. Fun. Deceptively Beautiful.

Stanhope Golf – Relaxed. Fun. Deceptively beautiful.

http://www.stanhopegolfclub.com/

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Taking every chance I can to look back over the Bay.  Late day shadows on the back nine only add to the beauty.

If you only had time to play the front 9 of the Stanhope you would understand important and critical things about the Stanhope golf experience, but you would miss something subtle and beautiful.

Everything about Stanhope is done without pretense and designed to accommodate the golfer and make his or her golfing experience relaxing and enjoyable. Of my ten rounds played on PEI, there was no experience like it and no golf course that created such a relaxed environment – on and off the course. It was fun. At the heart of golf the experience should be one of enjoyment. The staff were friendly, accommodating and very polite. They were able to accommodate our group arriving early. The pro shop was nicely stocked and the sandwiches were the freshest I had eaten at any course in quite some time.

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There is a tee sheet, but this takes me back.

The course opened in 1970 and utilizes its location adjacent to Covehead Bay magnificently. The opening nine holes are generous off the tee, utilizing strong dog legs on many instances and play to greens which are moderate to small in size with small mounding and shallow sand traps protecting them in places. There are a few ponds which guard par 3’s and the course conditioning was very good. At 6600 yards from the tips it allows players to use all the clubs in their bag. The routing, along with the prevailing winds near the Bay are defenses which serve this course well. But in relation to other courses on the Island, Stanhope provides scoring opportunity; the opening nine particularly. The prevalence of such strong dog leg holes was a feature which I found odd, but did not detract from play or the overall golf experience.

It is the back nine where this course blossoms. Both beautiful, with the water of the bay playing a prominent role on many holes, and challenging with design increasingly difficult in its par 4’s, the back nine transforms Stanhope into both breathtaking and brutish, demanding strong play to score well. But regardless of the state of your game, you will find – as my playing partners can attest – that the 6 hole stretch from 11 to 16 may be six of the most beautiful and challenging golf holes on the Island. The par 3, 13th will demand focus, playing with water all around. Distance ranges from 110 to over 170 yards. Add prevailing wind and the more benign front nine will seem like a distant memory for players standing on the tee box. I loved the long par 4 15th, tree-lined off the tee and with an approach shot framed by the bay in the background. The optics of the hole makes it seem like any approach long will end up in the water.

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Joel G (Mr. Cartner) teeing it up on the 14th.

Stanley Thompson protégé Robbie Robinson was the architect of this course and was successful in creating a course with incredible subtlety; relaxed, expansive in places – but not ‘easy’, stout and demanding in others. But throughout, the course maintains the feel of its surroundings. Natural, beautiful and like the community in which it is located, very special. There are few courses I have played across the country which align its natural beauty with relaxed and warm hospitality to create a golf experience you will wish you can get from more courses around the country. Together, the 18 holes of Stanhope create a fun and relaxed golf experience set in a natural setting which will make you look back and smile, and want to experience again. Peak green fees are under $60 but the value – as is consistent throughout the Island – is in membership; under $1000. Very walkable, and a nice complement to the more stout provincially owned courses, Stanhope is golf worth experiencing.

Aura – 6 out of 10 – I would contend that there is a strong regional bias and if you’re ‘from away’ than this rating might be lower. If you lived or vacationed in the area this rating would be much higher. In 2016 this course will not make many Top 100 lists, but this course does not try to be more than what it is. It plays to its strengths exceptionally well and is an understated and truly enjoyable golfing experience.

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My kind of course.

Value (cost / experience) – 9 out of 10. A membership of approximately $1000. A peak fee of about $60. You walk the back nine and let me know your thoughts of this value rating. I’m guessing people would contact me to say it’s too low. And they may be right.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 7.5 out of 10. The conditioning was very good. Greens rolled consistently though not fast. The course was well framed from each tee box and the trouble around the greens was never too penal. Fair and fun are two words that come to mind. And while I stated my feelings around the numerous strong dog legs on the front, these did not detract from my views of the condition of the course.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – 8.5 out if 10. It would be a relatively easy course to walk and getting in 36 a day would be a treat. Having played three of the Island’s toughest courses the previous couple days this was a welcome, relaxing break and provided an infusion of fun. Do not correlate that to the course being a push over. That back nine is demanding, and breathtaking. It is a course I’d enjoy playing over and over.

Highlight (what is great about the course) – The scenery is stunning and the drive to the course presents Covehead Bay in all its splendor. The expansiveness of the front 9 and the water in the background created a welcoming and relaxed feel to start my round; a feeling no other course on PEI was able to provide before teeing it up. But that back nine, wow.

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – I would make sure this course was on everyone’s top 100 must play list in Canada, especially in terms of public courses. It complements the world class championship courses on the Island and along with the hospitality, presented a complete and enjoyable golfing experience that all players seek. I can’t wait to get back.

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Until next time!  Thanks for a great experience.

2015 in Review – Best Courses Played

Best Golf Courses Played in 2015

My plans in 2016 are to head west and represent some great courses in my writing over the year. The past few years have had a notable slant on eastern Canada and I am excited about the possibility of some spring golf in BC and AB. The itinerary is not set yet…I’ll be wrapping my golf around business. But looking back here are my standouts:

Crowbush – best public play (Honourable Mention – Grand Niagara)

This is a worthy public play top 10 Canadian course. Unique, challenging, and very enjoyable. I want to get back there and experience it again.  With weather like below this time.

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The 7th hole at Crowbush – Photo Credit – Golf PEI

 

Montebello – underrated gem (Honourable Mention – Springfield GCC)

Playing it as single seemed appropriate as I felt I had stepped back in time. The sense of history was pervasive throughout the day.

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The stunning fireplace in the clubhouse dining area

 

Devil’s Paintbrush – best private play (Honourable Mention – Brampton GCC)

What a tremendous golfing experience. Add to it the opportunity to briefly speak to Dr. Michael Hurdzan about his bunkering design on this course, while playing, was a treat.

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Devil’s Paintbrush – evidence of the steep bunkering

 

South Muskoka – best value play (Honourable Mention – Dundarave)

This course simply doesn’t get the respect it deserves. While other Muskoka resort courses get considerable press, this throwback parkland course is stout, picturesque and a natural beauty.

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Between rains at SMGCC. Course was flawless. – Photo Credit – Jill Grande

 

Brampton GCC – best round played (Honourable Mention – Montebello)

One missed putt and two poor shots resulted in a 78 on a course where I can’t remember breaking 90. My best round of the year and marked me turning a corner to better and more consistent play.

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17th Green – BGCC – Photo Credit – bramptongolf.com

 

Stanhope – most relaxed and fun golf experience (Honourable Mention – Angus Glen)

When you see someone walking down 9 with their dog accompanying them, it is a good sign for a relaxed and fun round of golf. The more I reflect on it, the happier the memories. This course has no pretense.

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Stanhope Golf Course – That is my idea of a relaxed round of golf!