Smuggler’s Glen Golf Course – A Slice Of Canadiana In The Thousand Islands
When I ask non-Canadian friends to tell me what their image of our country is they all seem to agree. They picture land marked by generous helpings of rocky outcroppings, clear, cool water, and dense forests. Golf, they assume, will fall somewhere in between.
If I was to bring them to the Smuggler’s Glen Golf Course near Gananoque, Ontario, all their speculation would be realized.
Now ten years old, the course has continued to climb in popularity since that debut in 2005. It prompts those familiar to return often and their positive reviews bring new golfers each and every year.
What they come to see is what first attracted me to the golf course – a setting like few others in the region.
Even when you are across the street from the golf course, at the affiliated Smuggler’s Glen Golf Resort that sits hard on the shores of the St. Lawrence River, overlooking the famed Thousands Islands, you could not imagine what treasures lie just feet away. The relatively flat landscape of the nearby Kingston area (the closest large population base) contrasts sharply with the 300 acres where Boyd Barr laid out the Smuggler’s Glen Golf Course.
The eighteen hole Smuggler’s Glen layout was the long-time vision of the Seal family who have owned and operated the Glen House Resort since 1962.
When construction began on the course whispers circulated about what a dramatic layout it would be. My first look only served to confirm that as I was presented with a golf course that looked more reminiscent of the Muskoka area of Ontario. It was and continues to be a hearty example of how golf fits well in the Canadian Shield. The land is marked by rolling topography providing a bevy of drops and rises, along with a natural accent of white pines, granite outcroppings and indigenous plant life.
My positive reaction to the course was affirmed soon after opening. It was nominated for the Best New Golf Course in Canada Award in 2006 by Golf Digest. Since then it has annually received recognition in the Flagstick Golf Magazine’s Reader’s Choice Awards and proved to be a worthy host for the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada in 2012 for the initial playing of The Great Waterway Classic.
That week many players had praise for the golf course, noting its emphasis on strategy over length (it measures just over 6500 yards from the back tees) and impeccable turf conditions.
It is that routing that places emphasis on tactics over power that is among the greatest strengths of course. Carved between the outcroppings, forest, and natural hills and hollows is some of the widest variety of holes you will find. Like snowflakes, no two are alike, making for 18 puzzles that are waiting to be solved by the golfer, while still being enjoyable due to the setting for the less than precise player. A testament to the assortment of holes is the range of lengths. Par 3’s run from 128 to 212 yards (all yardage Black tees), par 4’s start at 259 and run as long as 460 and the par 5’s start at 463 and top out at 608.
The calm you feel after your drive in on the visually stunning Thousand Island Parkway and arriving at the 7,000 square foot “cottage style” clubhouse is disturbed slightly at the first tee. There you are treated to a spectacular view of the St. Lawrence River from the elevated tee (a common theme on the course) but when you turn to see the hole ahead there is a certain level of trepidation that creeps in. A gorge separates the tee from the safety of the fairway and while the carry is at maximum 130 yards from the back tee, a sight line that includes a narrow fairway, bunker, and a rock face makes it a little more intimidating.
Much like a Pete Dye design, this carries through many of the holes at Smuggler’s.. There are enough hazards to draw your attention and put you on edge but you’ll soon find there is a enough room to play safely throughout the entire course. A conservative strategy has paid dividends for many players over the years and makes for the best way to enjoy the remarkable surroundings without donating to many golf balls.
Among the notable holes at the course are the 4th, 5th, and 6th which actually play through the Landon Bay environmentally protected biosphere preserve, referred to as the 1000 Island Arch. These three holes are located in what the Provincial Government has considered an A.N.S.I. (Designated Area of Natural and Scientific Interest).
Once you work your way through the front side of the course and get used to the environment you’ll find many entertaining holes on the back side starting with the short par 3, 10th hole known as “Bullseye” and the 12th, “The Gambler”, a par four that can be reached in one for the valiant player willing to take it on.
It all concludes on the one of the best finishing holes on the entire region, the 608 yard “Green Monster”. The downhiller plays shorter than the posted yardage but it provides a solid conclusion to your wander through nature.
The only thing better? A meal or beverage back on the verandah the clubhouse where you can enjoy a stunning 180 degree panoramic view of the St. Lawrence River.
It seems like yesterday that Smuggler’s Glen was opening. A raw natural beauty has bloomed into so much more – making it a popular choice when golfers are asked about their favourite public golf course in the area.
That was the vision of Ed Seal, the father of current CEO Dave Seal, who first conceived the idea of the golf course to add to his Smuggler’s Glen Resort, and is being carried on admirably by his offspring.
Thankfully they are willing to share their slice of Canadiana, the admirable Smuggler’s Glen Golf Course, as it looks ahead to its teen years, and beyond.
Seal Family (Dave & Jane Seal)
Director of Golf Operations
Black – 6603/71.1/134
White (Men) – 6201/69.5/126
White (Ladies) – 6201/75.6/136
Gold (Men) – 66.8/121
Gold (Ladies) – 72.4/133
Red (Men) – 5181/64.9/117
Red (Ladies) – 5181/70.0/129
Green (Men) – 4741/63.2/109
Green 9Ladies) – 4741/66.3/124
Average Hole Lengths (Black Tees)
Par 3’s – 168 Yards
Par 4’s – 386 Yards
Par 5’s – 545 Yards
Smuggler’s Glen Golf Course
418, 1000 Islands Parkway
RR#1, Lansdowne, Ontario