Pakenham Highlands: Embracing Nature’s Gifts

Pakenham Highlands Golf Club proves you can have your cake and eat it too, per se.  The successful 27-hole facility boasts a location that puts you in the heart of a natural environment yet, at the same time, it rests just a short drive from the urban sprawl of Ottawa.  A scenic jaunt of twenty minutes northwest of the big city will bring you to their serene setting in the village of Pakenham.

While many people may look at location as the primary asset for this club, it is just but one of many things that have continued to attract golfers since the facility debuted in 1994.  “Our location is certainly something that helps golfers first find our course,” says their Club and Marketing manager, Diane Murray.  “But once they have visited and played they usually find a few more reasons to like us,” she says with a sly smile.

Those “reasons’ start right at the clubhouse, the historic Hilliard House built in the 1850’s by a prominent local businessman Daniel Hilliard whose father in law founded Pakenham.  It makes a strong visual impression, not just for the sturdy limestone building itself, but also for what surrounds it.  The venerable structure is enveloped in a floral landscape without rival in the Flagstick region.  Paul Thompson is the passionate gardener responsible for these accents and even non-golfers are known to stop by the club to see the grounds and his work.

The state of the gardens at Pakenham Highlands tells you a lot about the club and their attention to detail.  Just talk to General Manager Joanne Thivierge and Diane Murray and you can see why Pakenham has such a good reputation as a well-run ship.  The staff does their homework on the golf market in the region and they understand what they need to deliver to be successful.  “We know that people don’t just want another run of the mill golf course,” says Thivierge.  “We want to provide the best possible golf experience for people that we can and that is what we strive to do.  We try to look from the perspective of all golfers when we are considering anything that will affect the customer.”  As a family owned business (Thivierge is the daughter of owner Rick Fleming) they have a vested interest in its success.

Murray concurs.  “It is a very competitive market so even things like making sure that when people book a tee time that we get them on the course at exactly that time, that means a lot to us.”  Both emphasize factors like a reasonable pace of play (always 4 ½ hours or less, even on weekends, they say), strong programs like leagues and special events, and the stay & play packages they run with their sister club, Calabogie Highlands, as part of their competitive advantage.

The club boasts popular leagues that are open for public play, the ability to host tournaments for up to 216 players, and even offer website only specials (although even the full green fee rate is a tremendous value, considering the quality and service) throughout the season.  They are also a big supporter of the local community, even offering up their historic clubhouse for various charity events.

Of course as most golfers can appreciate, the success of the golf course is greatly boosted by the aspects mentioned above but the management has a clear mandate.  “Serving the customer is important to us but we know the golf course, and having a good one, comes first for most golfers,” says Thivierge.

Fortunately for Pakenham Highlands, they are blessed with a property seemingly meant for golf to be played on.

Pakenham Highlands got off to a slow start under the original developers.  Eventually Rick Fleming (also the owner of Calabogie Highlands) acquired he project and got things running nicely.  The architectural firm of Dolgos and Associates were engaged to create the layout that tumbles over a roomy stretch of former farmland, 196 acres in total, but it was the vision and efforts of Fleming and his team that have continued to shape it and bring it to where it is today.

Staring with eighteen holes to start, the club expanded to 27 in 1999.  The unique offering allows the club to provide a continual rotation of holes for member and guests alike.  And in the case of a tournament being hosted on one eighteen, there are always nine holes available for play.

The three nine hole courses are named for the features that are encompassed within their layout, Lake, Canyon, and Island.

There are a lot of holes to love at Pakenham Highlands and their par threes are continually mentioned as some of the most distinguished in the region.  Those include holes #2 and #4 on the Canyon course and the sixth hole on the Island Course, home of the island green that gives the course its name.

Play normally begins on the Lake Course, but, as mentioned, that is rotated to keep things fresh.  Each course offers a varied style of play, although they all integrate nicely as eighteen hole layouts.

The Lake Course is likely the most accommodating of the trio, although the holes that bring the lake into play require good club choices and well executed shots to keep you dry.  Any significant elevation changes are limited to the opening and closing holes.  Trees are abundant on several holes but rarely come into play unless a shot is very off-line.

There are good scoring opportunities in the first few holes but when you reach the fifth hole, a par five of 510 yards, you must have your game in shape.  Water is a huge factor and the setting of the green is one of the most scenic on the course.

The Canyon Course is a favourite among most golfers who play Pakenham.  The routing of the holes took full advantage of the dips and undulations in the property, fitting holes into remarkable settings.  Among them are the second and fourth holes, two par threes of medium length – with maximum challenge.  The isolated locale of the second hole enhances the drama of play as you realize that the green might just be the only place for a ball to safely land beyond the tee box.

Hole #4 can either be the source of elation of frustration, as the longish par three requires an approach over water to a green guarded by water and sand.  Adjacent to a lake, in a secluded corner of the property, the memory of playing it linger with you long after your round, whether successful or not.

The Canyon Course also integrates one of the best closing holes to be found anywhere, a 533 yard par five that skirts a wide expanse of water and concludes with putting surface in an amphitheatre-like locale next top the clubhouse.  It makes a great final hole for any golf tournament.

Rolling lands mark the Island Course, nine picturesque holes with a group of devilish tests in the middle.  Marked by several water features, precision play is rewarded but in most cases there is enough room on each hole for slightly off-line shots to remain comfortably in play.  Holes four through seven are the meat of this nine, encompassing two long par fours (holes #4 and #7), a long par five with a green angled into the water (hole #5) and hole #6, a 165 yard trial with a green bound completely by water.  Get though these holes with a good score and you will be all set.  Even if you don’t, the final green that is positioned across a creek and backed by another wonderful display of flora will leave lasting and positive memories.

Blessed by nature’s bounties, it would have been somewhat easy to create just any old golf course on the property the Pakenham Highlands Golf Club calls home.  Fortunately, the ownership did not rely on that fact alone for their existence.  By combining a quality design offered at reasonable rates, with a progressive plan of programs, friendly staff, and continual but purposeful upgrades, they have set themselves apart in a well-developed golf market.

They took the best of what nature had to offer and ran with it in a way that any golfer should appreciate.

Fast Facts


Privately Held

General Manager

Joanne Thivierge

Club & Marketing Manager

Diane Murray

Head Professional

Terry Kolar, CPGA


Jim Riopelle

Food & Beverage Manager

Jason Snelgrove

Ratings / Slopes/Yardages

Lake /Canyon

Men’s Rating/Slope: 70.2/120 (Black), 68.3/113 (Gold)

Ladies’ Rating/Slope: 74.1/130 (Gold), 69.7/114 (Silver)


Men’s Rating/Slope: 70.6/116 (Black), 68.3/110 (Gold)

Ladies’ Rating/Slope: 74.3/1125 (Gold), 69.8/113 (Silver)


Men’s Rating/Slope: 70.9/116 (Black), 68.8/109 (Gold)

Ladies’ Rating/Slope: 74.8/131 (Gold), 69.3/114 (Silver)

Yardages (Black Tees)

Lake – 3174 Yards

Canyon – 3302 Yards

Island – 3308 Yards

Average Hole Lengths (Black Tees)

Par 5’s – 505 Yards

Par 4’s – 388 Yards

Par 3’s – 167 Yards

Pakenham Highlands Golf Club
112 McWatty Road,
Pakenham, Ontario,
K0A 2X0

Tel:(613) 624-5550
Fax: (613) 624-9220

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