As gunfire breaks the silence of the morning, nobody seems to flinch. Not the golfers, nor the ample batches of deer wandering the fairways. It’s just another day at the Garrison Golf & Curling Club.
For both man and beast, the many acres that this golf course occupies within the Canadian Forces Base Kingston is a retreat. Gunshots may ring out from the 600-yard firing range nearby, or light-armoured vehicles may roll by as you play down the closing hole, but on the course itself, it’s all about the golf. Nothing else seems to matter.
Forty-five years ago, this was built as a nine-hole golf course meant to be just that – a place where personnel stationed here and support staff could enjoy the grand old game. Four and half decades later, it is still that, and a whole lot more.
When my family moved to Eastern Ontario in 1987 I was not sure what to expect when it came to golf near our new home. When I found out Garrison was just five minutes from my front door, I could not have been happier. Once I finally got to play the course the joy was magnified.
The club was established in 1961 strictly for curling and the four sheets of ice continue to entertain members and guests each winter.
The transformation to include golf came a decade later when a nine-hole golf course was established. No record seems to indicate who was responsible for the design but their efforts were amiable. An additional second set of tees allowed the course to play as an “18-hole course and although most alternate tees were eventually abandoned, some evidence remains of them today.
The club decided to become a true eighteen hole course when it was expanded in 1985 utilizing the services of architect Thomas McBroom, who was then early in his career. He would go on to create some of the top courses in Canada and recently returned to the club to provide some consulting advice.
The layout at Garrison, which plays nearly 6500 from the back tees, is one that offers up excellent variety in hole design. At a par of 72 it may appear to lack in length at first glance but with a proximity to the meeting point of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, wind is always a factor.
2011/2012 PGA Tour member and Mackenzie Tour winner Matt McQuillan grew up playing here and he credits the always windy conditions for helping hone the skills that allowed him to be a top amateur and eventually a professional golfer. The course will give up under par scores but really low scores are as rare as a calm day. McQuillan holds the course record at 63.
A parkland design, the course sports some elevation changes, most notable as you reach the low part of the course near Butternut Creek on the 15th hole, the furthest point from the clubhouse) and then began the climb (usually into the pre-dominant southwest wind) to the clubhouse.
Most of the courses length can be found on the front nine where the longest holes of each category, par 3, 4 and 5, reside.
The course starts gently with a couple mid-length par fours but challenges you in the middle of the front nine with a 222-yard par 3, a long par five and a par four that plays to 441 yards. Add in the par four hole to follow (#6) that sports water in the landing area of the drive and a green with some steep hole locations and you’ll find that a good start through the first six holes is a key to scoring well here.
Better players will find that scoring at Garrison can really be done on the par five holes which average under 500 yards in length. Good putters also excel at the course as the poa annua greens usually run true and are void of severe undulations, save for a few greens.
Ultimately golfers will find long and short holes of each par, those that turn left and those that turn right, along with narrow and wide designs. Basically it has eighteen different tests, which makes it attractive to many.
Universally the 13th hole is pointed at as a favourite for many golfers. Almost entirely isolated from the other holes, this 164 yard par three requires a carry across water for the entire length of the hole to a mid-size green surrounded by forest and sand. It’s a serene setting that can be enjoyed despite your score to that point in your round.
Once a club strictly for military and those affiliated with public service, the club also accepts associate members and green fee players.
In just the past couple years, after a spell of some challenging times, they have also taken on a more progressive approach by enhancing club services. The clubhouse, fully renovated just over a decade ago, received another makeover to shape it into the Garrison Pub and the outdoor patio at the clubhouse, The Bunker, was created.
The club now also has the services of PGA of Canada Head Professional Dale Pedersen and his staff who run and supply the pro shop and operate the Kingston Golf Academy on the club’s practice facilities.
Now forty-five years old from a golf perspective, there is a lot of history here but, based on recent visits, it appears the future is clearly in focus. And so far, based on feedback of members and other golfers we spoke with, that has been very well received.
In a time of turmoil at some golf clubs, the culture at the Garrison Golf and Curling Club seems to be vibrant once again.
PSP Senior Manager
White 6171/69.6/116 (Men’s)
White 6171/75.0/130 (Ladies’)
White/Yellow 5965/69.6/116 (Men’s)
Yellow 5569/66.6/112 (Men’s)
Yellow 5569/71.6/123 (Ladies’)
Red 5337/65.4/110 (Men’s)
Red 5337/70.4/120 (Ladies)
Average Hole Lengths (Blue Tees)
Par 3’s – 163 Yards
Par 4’s – 383 Yards
Par 5’s – 499 Yards
Garrison Golf and Curling Club
12 Red Patch Avenue
Station Forces Kingston,
Ontario K7K 7B4
/ Scott MacLeod @Flagstick