The Ladies’ Club – Celebrating all that is good in golf.

Course Reviews – The Ladies Club – Celebrating all that is good in golf

http://www.ladiesgolfclub.com/

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The downhill par shows that designer Stanley Thompson gave this course plenty of challenge.

First, it’s important to dispel some misnomers: First, The Ladies Club is not just for women.  Their website says it best, “Ladies’ is the only private golf club in North America where women have priority access to tee times, and where both women and men can enjoy golf in a welcoming atmosphere”.  Second, if you think the course must be a boring push over than think again.  Set at just over 6000 yards from the tips, this Stanley Thompson design is fair, playable, but in typical Thompson fashion it is the terrain which sets the design parameters and this undulating layout will test the game of all players.  The course, like the facilities and its people, is first class.  Playing there this summer was a highlight of my golfing year and I highly recommend this course.

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Fairways Fund CEO, Tiffany Chaisson hits her opening drive at The Ladies’ Club right down the middle

Located in north Toronto, specifically in Thornhill, Ontario, this course is conveniently located off Yonge Street but head into the grounds and you would think you’re far removed from the hectic pace of the city.  It is a course which honours it history and tradition and leverages its uniqueness as a truly women-friendly course to its advantage.  Playing with a fellow golf writer and head professional, Paddy Kelly, we were able to tee off early and enjoy a pleasant summer morning of golf.

The course boasts multiple tee decks which are allowing members to play and enjoy the game at all levels.  A new purple tee deck was something Paddy discussed, as many members wanted to keep playing but found the Red tees (just over 5000 yards) was getting too long.  A more senior and family friendly tee deck, this move demonstrated the care and attention the course makes to its membership.  Paddy demonstrated through his stories and initiatives he has introduced around instruction and introduction to the game, that the focus at The Ladies Club is participation and fun.  His energy is infectious and he combines knowledge and skill in the game with an ability to connect to people and the result is a club with an environment which could be the envy in the GTA.

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Using the terrain effectively, Thompson creates several beautiful vistas off the tee for players at The Ladies’ Club.

The Ladies Club also honours its unique and rich history exceptionally well.  The clubhouse provides a testament to the leadership of Ada Mackenzie who was instrumental in the course being built in 1924.  One of the leading Canadian women in golf, Mackenzie was able to engage Stanley Thompson in the course design.  Paddy Kelly noted that Thompson was acutely aware of the unique aspects of this project, making holes approachable with ample space to run the ball up the hole, for example.  Set on a beautiful piece of property, the course does not rest on its laurels; it has worked hard to earn Audubon International certification for its environmental stewardship.

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You can see one of Thompson’s key design elements at play; approachable greens.

The course also has another unique aspect to it; 21 holes of play.  Here, players can make a determination after 9 holes if they wish to continue for the final 9, or, take a more direct route to the clubhouse and play a 3-hole loop.  The ‘A’ holes further serve to maintain participation in the game and create diverse options for members.

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The grounds are fantastic, making it feel like an urban oasis.

Classic Thompson bunkering is featured which frames holes exceptionally well.   While just over 6000 yards, the course does provide two par 5’s over 500 yards.  A 36-34 layout, the course ends with a stunning stretch on 16 – 17 – 18.  A downhill par 3, a classic shorter par 4, and an uphill par 3 moving up the clubhouse cap off a wonderful golfing experience.   It is a course I could play over and over again.

I want to extend my thanks to Paddy Kelly and the people at The Ladies’ Club for a wonderful golfing experience.  Add this course to your must play list.

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Classic Thompson bunkering guards this 17th hole but Head Professional Paddy Kelly was able to execute this approach perfectly, including a great club twirl.

Aura –9 out of 10 – My playing partner for the day, Fairway Fund CEO, Tiffany Chaisson, specifically requested we seek to play here.  This history and the story of Ada Mackenzie was so compelling to her that she wanted this to be her first golf experience in Ontario.  The clubhouse shows off the history of this course exceptionally well but the real masterpiece is the course itself.

Value (cost / experience) – 7.5 out of 10 – With ideal location in the Toronto area, the greens fees are fair for a course of this quality.  Yes, it is open to public play and as mentioned it open to men as well as women.  The peak fee is $115 but there are shoulder season rates and a strong twilight fee which creates greater value.  Membership options are also available.

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The Ladies’ Club honours its history like few courses I have experienced.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 9 out of 10 – In additional to strong environmental stewardship, greens crew at The Ladies’ Club keep this course in pristine condition.  Tee boxes, bunkers, fairways and greens were all exceptionally maintained.  The course layout was very walkable but did have some undulation to it as the course is bisected by the East Don River.  Holes 7 and 13 (both par 3’s) have challenging greens and it is imperative to keep the ball below the hole.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – A fun, playable golfing experience was not sacrificed at the expense of quality.  As a 10 handicapper, I found plenty of challenge but appreciated being rewarded for good shot making.  The course is an urban oasis and the history is on full display.  Paddy Kelly and his team are first class and exceptional at what they do. – 8.5 out of 10

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Third hole photobomb…looking back from the green across the pond to the tee deck.

Highlight (what is great about the course) – As I look back on the experience playing at the Ladies’ Club it was one of the more fun rounds of golf I had last season.  A terrific layout, brilliant design and a great day all combined to make my experience amazing.  The course creates the foundation for the clubs’ success but having a golf club which markets itself primarily to women and creates a positive golfing environment is something I appreciated experiencing first hand.  Also, there is no course I have experienced that tells its story and celebrates its history as well as The Ladies Club.

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The Don River cuts across the 16th hole in front of the green.

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The closing hole, an uphill par 3 closing off what was an excellent experience playing golf at The Ladies’ Club.

 

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.

Click here to read the full post

#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!

Click here to read the full post

#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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2016 in Pictures – Banff Springs (part 2)

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:  Given that these are two pictures of the same hole I don’t feel like I am breaking the rules too much.  The third hole at Banff Springs is my second favourite par 5 I have ever played (Highlands Links #7 gets top honours) and these views give you a good idea why.  While the 4th hole (see Banff Springs – part 1) gets proper accolades this is a highly underrated golf hole.  The sheer magnitude of the Rockies set against the expansiveness of this par 5 was incredible to experience.  I was blessed with a perfect morning for pictures and took full advantage.  The top image looks back from behind the green and the lower image was taken as I rounded the subtle dog leg and could see the green.  This courses is what bucket lists were meant for.

To all my readers, a very Merry Christmas, joyous and safe holidays and my best wishes to you and yours for a healthy and prosperous 2017.

In friendship, Mike

 

2016 in Pictures – Banff Springs (part 1)

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:  As one would expect, my excitement to play Banff Springs was sky high.  Early on a cool mid-week morning the starter was able to stagger singles like myself and twosomes off at a relaxed pace.  Playing alone, I was surprised when a golf cart arrived behind me when I got to the 4th hole.  Called the Devil’s Cauldron, this is one of the country’s greatest golf holes.  The group in the cart were not golfers but tourists and asked if they could watch me tee off.  Not having issue with this, I asked in turn if they’d take a picture of me as I finished hitting the ball.  The one gentlemen was a photographer and that is how this photo came about; perfect timing really.  Captures the tranquility of my golf experience at Banff Springs exceptionally well.  It’s a round, and a picture, I’ll never forget.

Click here for my full review of Banff Springs

 

 

2016 in Pictures – Cataraqui Golf and Country 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: Cataraqui Golf and Country Club will be 100 years old in 2017.  This Stanley Thompson design is located in Kingston, ON.  And while I don’t play many private courses, the chance to play this course with two friends en route to the 2016 Penn Classic in New York State was a treat.  I loved that I was able to meet the Snell Golf Canada team here as well, as they’re based in Kingston.  It was a hot, sunny day…perfect for a round of golf on a classic Thompson course.  Here, I’m glad a double didn’t rattle me to forget to snap this picture.  I guess when you’re last to tee up there’s time to notice the beautiful surroundings.

 

Banff Springs – Breathtaking Golf in the Rockies

Banff Springs – Breathtaking Golf in the Rockies

http://www.fairmont.com/banff-springs/golf/

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Another beautiful morning at Banff Springs

One does not have to look very far to locate Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course on top course ranking lists in Canada.  Arguably one of Stanley Thompson’s finest works, this course set adjacent to the iconic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and the majestic Bow River.  The golf course is majestic, the views expansive and powerful with the river and the mountains providing a stunning backdrop.  It may well feature the greatest opening nine I have experienced and possesses signature hole after signature hole.  Both Canadian Golf Magazine and SCOREGolf place this course well within their top 10 in Canada.

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Looking back from behind the second green

On a cold spring morning, I was fortunate to tee off as a single where I could take my time, take lots of pictures and enjoy a true, unique golf experience.  The starter advised me holes which I should have my camera ready – 4 and 14.  He may well have said all 18 of them.  After the opening hole, the course faces the mountains and holes 2, 3 and 4 build in magnitude.  The 3rd hole is an underrated par 5, and if not for Thompson’s genius design of the 7th hole at Highlands Links, I would state this to be my favourite par 5 of any I’ve played.   However, the 4th hole is a breathtaking beauty, unlike any I’ve played.  A downhill par 3, aptly named Devil’s Cauldron, this hole is guarded by water in the front and classic Thompson bunkering protecting short and left of the green.  While admiring this bowl shaped design and readying to take my shot, a golf cart pulled up.  They were a touring the course, not golfers.  In asking if they would take my picture following my swing, the gentleman stated he’d be delighted and that he was a photographer.  I marveled at my fortune.  And to close off; my shot – witnessed by tourists both behind me as well as behind the green, the shot landed softly beyond the green and avoiding the traps.  I’ll never forget that.

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A picture I will always cherish – holding the finish on the famous 4th hole.

The course returns to the relatively new clubhouse after nine than moves toward the hotel where it loops around and back, allowing for a stretch of tree lined holes and stout par 3’s before returning back in a more expansive stretch alongside the mountains.  The effort it must have taken back in the 1920’s to build this course is staggering to imagine.  The course offers something for so many; historians, nature lovers and of course, golfers.

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Hard not to get distracted by the scenery

The tranquility of my clear, cold morning allowed me to play a relaxed round and appreciate the genius of Thompson who, once again, used the land exceedingly well.  There are no holes which are too close in proximity to others.  The back nine provides challenge in terms of length and demands a level of accuracy which is less prominent on the front nine.

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The 9th hole runs alongside the Bow River.

The conditioning of the course is fantastic, complementing the exceptional layout and natural setting.  A true bucket list course, this will not be your most inexpensive round.  But it is entirely possible that it may be your most memorable.

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The 14th hole shows the best view of the Banff Springs Hotel

Aura – 9.5 out of 10 – This is a national top 10 course and top 5 public course.  For many, it is their favourite course in the country and is entirely worthy of planning a trip around.  If blessed with a sunny day, your camera will get a strong workout.

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Value (cost / experience) – 8 out of 10 – Peak fees are $239 + tax.  There are afternoon and shoulder season rates but this will set back many players.  However, I acknowledge value is in the eyes of the beholder.  And for the quality and natural beauty of this course, the chance to play it once (in the shoulder season for me) makes this a solid value pick, not exceptional.  Understand, it’s a golfing experience and a true bucket list course.

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Even the practice facilities are stunning.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 9 out of 10 –  Course staff were hard at work on the fairways, greens and even the bunkers while I was there in late May. The layout is brilliant, one of Thompson’s strengths, but the conditioning of the course complements the quality setting.  The tee boxes were in exceptional condition.  Greens rolled true and consistent, not too fast for a public resort course which helps ensure good pace of play.  The greenside protection was diverse and penal at times but never unfair.  Fairways were superb.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – 9.5 out of 10 – I would return in a heartbeat.  Understand that you’re in Banff and there is much else to do – hot springs, the town, the hotel – but the golf course stands on as an experience worthy of the investment and complements the scenery of this gorgeous town.

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Highlight (what is great about the course) – For the purposes of managing space, I’ll let the pictures speak to this.  Safe to say practically everything is great about it.

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – aside from moving to Alberta to take advantage of a residents discount, there really isn’t anything specific I would change.  This is a truly special course and well worthy of its prominent places in national course rankings.  As a public play, it is on my top 3 list.

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One of my favourite images is this view of the par 5 3rd hole.

Just So You Know – Practice facilities are very strong.  There is also a 9 hole ‘Tunnel Mountain’ course available to complement the 18 hole Stanley Thompson course.

 

Oh, The Places You Will Go

Oh, The Places You Will Go

“You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!”
Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Dr.Seuss

Dr. Seuss, golf and transformational figures are not topics I’d ever weave into a golf blog post.  Until now, of course.  The author a lighthearted series of children’s books weaves in messages for life for kids of all ages and within the book ‘Oh The Places You Will Go’ I was drawn to comparisons of  someone who I would argue to be the most passionate golfer I have ever met; ‘passionista’ is her term.

Tiffany Chaisson (@tiffchaisson) is active on twitter, loves the game of golf, travels the world, and now – two years into her golf journey – is a CEO of a not for profit to support kids playing golf by removing financial barriers to participate.  This is a new venture for Tiffany and her enthusiasm for Fairways may, (strong emphasis on may) even be more infectious than her love of playing the game.

We met this week for a round at the historic, iconic Ladies Club in Thornhill, ON for a round of golf with head professional Padraig Kelly.  Paddy hosted Tiff and I to a round and a tour of the clubhouse where we learned more about this history of this Stanley Thompson design which is built primarily for women players.  I will share more on the course in a future course review, but the experience we shared on a tranquil July morning is best reflected in this shot.  It is one of my all-time favourite golf pictures.

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Tiffany Chaisson showing her enthusiasm and an impressive vertical!  Love this image, it reflects a passion for the game we should all tap into more often.

Looking back, my reflections of my golfing journey made me appreciate the places I have gone.  And more importantly the people I have met.  New friends and acquaintances drawn together through a love of the game can only make you smile more on the course.  And, as Paddy was right to say, players tend to play better when they smile more.  Makes sense it was one of better rounds in some time.

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Paddy Kelly showing a solid club twirl after his approach on 17.

I will close off with this quote, as I reflect that my own golfing experience is certainly one of ‘fun to be done’!  Thanks for the gracious hospitality to Paddy Kelly and his team at Ladies GC.  And to Tiff, like Dr. Seuss, you have proven to be a transformative teacher.

“Oh the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games to be won. And the magical things you can do with that ball will make you the winning-est winner of all.”
Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

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New friendships forged through golf.  Paddy, Tiff and I.