Aurora, Ontario, Canada
Architect: Bob Cupp (1988)
Yardage: 7,001 Yards, Par 72
My Quick Review: Two very distinct nines that transition flawlessly, natural use of great golfing terrain, bold green shaping and contouring, and it might just be the best conditioned course in Canada.
As I considered the holes to include in the 'Holes to Note' section below, I realized Beacon Hall truly has 18 good holes. I gave serious consideration to including every hole on the golf course, with the exception of holes 1, 17 and 18 -- all three are decent holes, but not of the quality of the rest of the course. Beacon Hall crescendo's perfectly with holes 14 to 16, but the two finishing holes are a bit of a disappointment.
Course conditioning is generally of little interest to me as it can fluctuate over the course of the season. Nevertheless, it is necessary to recognize the flawless conditioning at Beacon Hall -- among the very best I have seen anywhere. The fairways were lush green and beautifully cross-cut, but they were hard and bouncy, and the greens were firm and very fast.
Beacon Hall has a very natural feel. In truth, I have no idea how much land was moved to build the golf course, but as I traversed the mounds between the first tee and fairway, I got the feeling that course was routed using the land's natural features. Containment mounding which plagued many courses built in the same era as Beacon Hall is (thankfully) nowhere to be found.
|Beacon Hall's Comfortable Clubhouse
Holes to Note
Hole 2: Par 4, 360 Yards
The brilliant strategic design begins at the second. Though it appears narrow, there is a fair amount of room left of the fairway bunkers. Less aggressive players will try to play left of the bunkers, while aggressive players will try to carry the bunkers to leave the ideal approach angle into the green.
The green is very narrow. Approaching from the right allows the golfer to play down the throat of the green, but it is still no easy shot.
The third is the first of a great set of par-3s. The tee shot is played significantly downhill to a green that angles from left-to-right. The tee shot begs for a high cut, and while missing short in the swale or deep front bunkers seems bad, missing long is the only place you really do not want to be.
|3rd Back Tee
|3rd Middle Tee
|Short of the 3rd Green - Note the False-Front
|3rd Green Highlighting Contouring
Hole 4: Par 5, 573 Yards
The first of a very strong set of par-5s that require the golfer to plan his route to the hole. The 4th is a classic up then down par-5, with the green completely hidden from view until the golfer crests the hill to play his approach to the green. Even though there is plenty of corridor width, the tee shot is intimidating as thick woods guard both sides of the fairway. Bunkers are benched into the hill short of the fairway, which adds visual appeal, but ultimately adds no strategic interest.
|An Intimidating 2nd Shot at the 4th
|Approach from 130 Yards
|Approach from 100 Yards
|Deep Greenside Bunkering
|4th from Behind
The 5th is the best par-4 on the golf course, and is one of the very best in all of Ontario. The 5th is a wonderfully natural hole, that looks like it was just laying there waiting to be found by Bob Cupp. Large-scale mounding heaves back-and-forth as the golfer approaches the canted fairway. Bunkering benched naturally into the hill on the left penalizes shots bailed-out too far. Just like the 4th, the green is completely hidden from the tee.
The 5th calls for a fade off the tee and a draw into the green. The fairway ends about 140 yards short of the green (290 from the tee) so it is just a 3W or less for the longer hitters.
|5th Approach - Zoomed In
|5th from Behind
The 8th is a very clever short par-3, demanding nothing less than perfection from the golfer. The green is open in front and the widest area is the fringe short of the green. Water lays just feet off the left of the green. The bunker that dominates the visual from the tee is 15 yards short of the green and should not impact the playing of the hole -- but it does hide the right portion of the green. A massive ridge separates the front 1/3 of the green from the back 2/3. Shots played to the wrong side of the ridge, especially long of the ridge to a front pin, leave a nearly impossible two-putt.
|8th Over Bunker -- Lots of Width over Bunker
|8th from Behind
The 9th is yet another up then down hole with a green that is blind from the tee (notice the theme? can't see the green from the tee on 4, 5, 6, 7 and 9 on the front nine alone). The bunkering on the left is eye-candy as it should not be in play and a well-struck tee shot will crest the hill. Longer hitters should beware as tee shots longer than 260 will leave an awkward downhill stance to an uphill green.
|A Huge False-Front on the 9th
|9th Green from Left
|9th Green from Behind
|9th from Behind
After a 100 ft walk from 9th green to the 10th tee, it is amazing to see the transformation from tree-lined parkland golf to the wide open vista of links-like golf. Another blind tee shot. The ideal tee-ball will challenge the bunkers on the right to find a huge speed-slot. Despite the length on the scorecard, this hole (with a favorable wind) is reachable in two.
|10th Second Shot
|10th from Behind
The 11th is a really cool par-3 with another very natural feeling greensite. The green is deep, but very narrow and located at the bottom of a small bowl. Again, the bunkering is deep and setback from the green making it more difficult to find, but really difficult to recover from.
|Large Scale Bunkering on the 11th
|HUGE Bailout Right of 11th Green
|11th Green from Right
The 15th is a really good split-fairway par-5. The easier and more obvious route is to the right, around the bunkers. But, there is also fairway over the two bunkers farthest to the left in the picture below. It is about 225 yards to carry from the member's tee. The alternate fairway is fairly narrow and at an angle to the tee, making it very difficult to find, but if successful, the golfer will have 240 yards or less for a second shot, versus the 300+ yard second he would have if playing to the right.
|15th Approach from 150 Yards
Alternatively, the golfer can lay-up to the bottom of the hill leaving a very uphill approach to a really cool skyline green. From here it is very difficult to judge distance, so beware the false-front!
|15th Approach from 75 Yards
|15th Green from Left
This is one of those holes that make you say "wow" as soon as you step on the tee. The 16th is one of the best long par-3s in the country. This is another hole that looks like it was just found on the terrain. There is 60 yards of bailout to the left of the green and yet the golfer's eye is drawn to the pin and the bunkers on the right and the thrill of the Hero Shot.
|16th Forward Tees -- Nice Skyline Green from Here!
|Right of 16th Green (yep, that's my ball, oops!)
|16th from Behind
Beacon Hall is one of the very best modern golf courses in Canada. Picking holes for this review was very difficult, as almost every hole on the course is worthy of study. What holes are your favorites?