A period of isolation, when you cannot travel as freely as normal, digs away at the recesses of the mind.
That may consist of personal and professional regrets, and for golfers, of opportunities lost or dreams ahead.
Since I prefer to think forward I was recently considering the latter and what the second half of my “golf life” will look like.
In four decades of playing golf I have been blessed with chances to play many amazing courses. The layouts, the settings, and the people tied to them have created numerous cherished memories. But I am eager for more.
With that in mind, and the fact that travel outside the Canadian borders may be limited for a time, I started to scratch together a list of golf courses across this great nation that I have a desire to play.
Yes, this is a purely self-serving exercise but at the same time I want to share it for a couple reasons. One, to spotlight some of the offerings we have in Canada, and to also assert that there are many worthy of play beyond those on the “usual” lists that get the majority of the attention. There are almost 2300 golf courses in Canada, and they all have some redeeming value. Your mileage may vary but that’s what I have come to believe after playing hundreds of them.
West To East
For this journey I’ve decided to tackle my list from West to East, for no particular reason. I have personal attachments with many provinces. My father was in the Canadian Armed Forces, leading me to live in half the provinces by the time I was eleven. I’ve managed to travel most of the nation, to places big and small, urban and remote, so I’m not playing favourites. In those travels, and plenty more, I saw the vastness of the Canadian golf landscape, something I don’t think is appreciated enough.
So, without further ado, here is a sampling of courses left on my “maple leaf” golf bucket list. I hope it entices you to make one of your own.
The options are a little more limited in the Canadian north but one layout that always caught my eye was the Mountain View Golf Club in Whitehorse, Yukon.
Carved from dense forest near the edges of the Yukon River, the 6500-yard course may be in a place with a short summer, but the location has its advantages. The sun barely sets here in the peak of the golf season, meaning you can pack a lot of golf into every 24 hours.
Twice I have called British Columbia home, and our most western province is a golfer’s paradise with a landscape that ranges from oceanside, to desert, to mountains acting as a magnificent backdrop for the game.
In the Fraser Valley, about an hour east of Vancouver is The Falls Golf Club. The Valley is known for the lush beauty that makes it one of the most productive farming regions in all of Canada. Amongst this picturesque setting, the Falls layout was carved out of the foothills of the Cheam Mountain, a prominent peak in the local range.
The course works its way up and down some 750 feet of elevation changes, with rock outcropping accenting the journey. A natural beauty.
With almost 370 courses, the palette of layouts is wide in Wild Rose Country. If I have one that I feel a need to play, it would be one designed by a native son, Rod Whitman.
BlackHawk Golf Club in Nisku opened less than two decades ago but has already received critical acclaim at a national level. Although it is a private club I’ll do what I can to get on the course where rough-hewn bunkers are the norm, making it blend perfectly into the surroundings.
With nine-hole roots dating back to 1993, the Elk Ridge Resort in the stunning Waskesiu region has grown to twenty-seven holes and become one of the top resorts in the prairies.
Boreal forests surround the 600-acre property and serve as the backdrop to well-designed holes.
It also lays on the footsteps of the Prince Albert National Park, less than two hours from where I first struck a golf ball, adding to its personal appeal.
Two hours north of Winnipeg, there sits a golf course revered by many but visited by few beyond those who have spent a considerable time in Manitoba.
The Lakeview Hecla Golf Course is operated by the largest hotel chain in the province, and the presence of the Lakeview Resort adjacent to the course makes it an even more compelling attraction.
The course, which was built decades ago by the government but is now run privately, sports stunning views of lake Winnipeg and is considered among the best in the province.
With more than a third of the golf courses in Canada, there is no shortage of ones to choose from among the 800+ in Ontario. For me, though, I look north from the bountiful south of the province in favour of the north. Members at the Hollinger Golf Club have been very vocal about their course, on top of encouraging me to make a visit, and I would like to.
Founded as the Timmins Golf Club in 1922, it was established by the Hollinger Mine and sold to the membership in 1974 after the mine closed. It was then re-named.
I’m told the design has changed over the years, but the hospitality of the members remains as warm as ever.
In what is probably the most eye-catching town name in all of Canada, St-Louis du Ha!-ha!, you’ll find Temiscouata Valley golf course near the south shore of the St. Lawrence River. Those who travel along the Trans-Canada Highway may have noted it; I have dozens of times but have yet to take the time to play.
Not many courses feature a covered bridge but this one does; a nod to regional traditions. Research tells me that the open hole design you see from the highway is not typical for what you find on the rest of the course. Thick stands of trees frame most holes and provide well-defined corridors to play the game.
My fingers are crossed for future travel as I already have plans set for 2021 to visit the Gowan Brae G&CC in Bathurst.
The course is so well-regarded that it has hosted three national amateur golf championships. Friends who took part in the most recent one left heartily impressed by the test it offered and casual, friendly feel surrounding the place.
I was not much of a golfer when I first visited Chester, along Mahone Bay in Lunenberg County, south of Halifax.
It was only later that I learned this sleepy village was home to a quality golf course, the Chester Golf Club, that sports views of the harbour on multiple holes.
After the round is done, I’m told the seafood in the clubhouse is world-class.
Just another reason to visit.
Prince Edward Island
My family roots in Canada’s smallest province go back more than two centuries so I return there often. On those visits I have played almost all of the two dozen courses there. One I have yet to play, but have driven by multiple times, is the nine-hole Red Sands course in Clifton.
The open, sloping property creates a strong visual as you pass by and it always looks to be in impeccable shape.
The landscape, with country views and rolling topography, is typical island land that projects stunning shadows in the early and late light of the day. Precisely when I plan to play when the day comes.
The Pitcher’s Pond Golf Course has been on my mind for a couple years. It was around then that I reached out to Manager Ray Tuck for a conversation about the project that opened in 2005.
With backing from the government, this community course in Whiteway, along the Trinity Bay Shore, was built and has become a hub for golfers. Juniors litter the course in the summer and people are so devoted to the place that some that never visit pay membership dues just to support the Graham Cooke design.
That says a lot for the place.
So that’s my starter list for golf courses I aspire to play in Canada. It’s a random one, for sure, but it’s mine and I encourage you to make your own.