Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Twenty Valley Golf and Country Club Course Review

Twenty Valley Golf Course 
Vineland, Ontario, Canada

Architect: Robbie Robinson (1960)

6,701 Yards, Par-72

Rating/Slope: 72.9/128

My Quick Review: Twenty Valley won't be confused with the province's very best courses, but it's worth playing, with several outstanding holes routed over wild terrain and one of the most interesting greens I've seen.

Twenty Valley gets off to a slow start as the first two holes run back-and-forth over flat land and are choked by trees.  Greens on both of the opening holes are interesting -- the first, massive and broadly contoured, and the second, long, narrow and tilted -- a constant theme throughout the course.

The third is the start of a very interesting stretch of holes though, unfortunately, it is also constrained by trees.  The very long par-4 third plays against the boundary of the property with a fairway that first rises before descending to a wonderful green site.


The tempting and intimidating par-4 4th plays under 300 yards and demands the golfer to pick his line carefully as he must play over a diagonal rise in the fairway. Play too far right and OB lurks; play too far left and risk not cresting the hill.


The 5th is something of an awkward hole thanks to added back tees.  Nonetheless, the quality golf starts again at the 6th, which features a downhill forced-carry tee shot to a wide fairway and an uphill approach to a massive three tiered green


The stretch of holes from 7-11 is forgettable, though some may like the drop-shot par-3 9th.  The return to good golf starts with the 12th green, which is unlike anything I have seen before.  The green lay at an angle to the fairway and is as convex as any green I've ever seen.  The entire green slopes away from a high-spot near the front-right portion of the green, with slopes so severe that 'private course' green speeds would render the green entirely unplayable.


The 13th is a very daunting par-3, playing near 220 yards, uphill and into the wind, requiring a forced-carry to a green set over Twenty Mile Creek


The 14th is a mostly forgettable par-5 but for the wonderful rolling terrain over which it is routed.


The 15th and 17th use a retention pond to protect the ideal line into the green.


If the 14th green didn't convince you, the 16th green shows Robinson's excellence in selecting his par-3 green sites.


The 18th is an awkward par-5, but I suppose Robinson needed to get the golfer back to the clubhouse somehow.  The terrain borders on too-severe as much of the land tilts hard toward the river.  Most will be faced with a mid-iron lay-up, leaving a short approach to a semi-blind green over a creek.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Toronto Golf Club Course Review

Toronto Golf Club 
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Architect: Harry Colt (1912), Martin Hawtree (2010)

6,836 Yards, Par 70

Rating/Slope: 73.1/138

My Quick Review: An indifferent restoration effort, but Colt's genius in routing and selection of green sites make Toronto one of Canada's  greatest golf courses.

In the late 2000s, Hawtree was brought in to do what was once called a restoration, but was later called a 'sympathetic restoration'.  My knowledge of Colt's work is very limited, but the way it was explained to me is that Hawtree changed the bunker style to what Colt would have done had he designed Toronto later in his career.  I've read elsewhere that the Club has plenty of original info (drawings/pictures/aerials) to do a true restoration, so it is slightly surprising that they chose this route.  

Scorecard info: http://www.torontogolfclub.com/index.cfm?ID=1558

Brief history of the club: http://www.torontogolfclub.com/index.cfm?ID=153

One of the great clubhouses in golf...

The first hole has been changed significantly, with the entire fairway shifted some 15 yards to the right to avoid liability issues with the entrance road.  The new bunker style is very different than the old style; where once the fairway bunkering at the first was subtle, and frankly not easily seen, it is now obvious.  Probably, it's a change that will be liked by most, but it is certainly less charming.  

Additionally, bunkers have been added on the right side of the fairway (a la no bad shot goes unpunished), and the bunkers are staggered.

Fairway cut run-offs are a Hawtree addition (at least compared to the prior version).  I don't think they fit well.

The second hole is an up-and-over mid-length par-4, with OB running the entire right side of the fairway.  Three staggered bunkers complicate the driving zone.  The green is fantastic, with a front portion of the green being the only portion visible from the fairway.  Over the crest of the hill is a small bowl and a near impossible to access back-right corner that falls-off to the right.

The third is a massive par-4, with (I think) added bunkering down the left and a centreline bunker removed.  Bunker placement + flattish land adds visual confusion on the tee shot, and a cross-bunker adds deception on the approach.  Unfortunately, Toronto is kept to soft for one to play a running approach, which the 3rd green begs for.

The 4th is one of the best par-3s in the city and is a bold and genius piece of routing by Mr Colt.  The green is set just over a diagonal ridge and features some redan qualities.  The green is set just steps over the ridge and tilts away from the tee.

The tee shot at the 5th is played over a rise to a bunkerless fairway that reverse cambers and doglegs left.  The 5th green tilts significantly toward the golfer and demands an aerial approach.

The 6th is an oft forgotten hole at Toronto, but it's a really good one.  The hole has actually been shortened recently so that golfers need not tee off over the entrance road.  I like the change as it makes carrying the left side bunkers are more reasonable proposition for more golfers.

The approach is a very cool one to a sunken green and a bunker set atop a hill short of the green to add visual deception.

The 7th is slightly less fearsome than it once was.  In past, the drop-off to the right of the green was more severe and tee shots missing right ran the risk of tumbling the entire 30 yards to the bottom of the hill.  Hawtree has added tiering to the hill meaning that misses to the right won't leave too difficult a recovery.

The 8th has changed significantly as a steep fall-off has been filled-in and moved.  Golfers now must navigate a series of fairway bunkers before approaching another excellent green.

A gorgeous (and very long) par-4 that unfortunately plays very soft because of its low-lying location.  A stream runs parallel to the DZ before crossing the fairway 150 yards short of the green and then running along the right side of the green.  The stream should not be in play, but that doesn't mean it isn't.

Another approach that begs for a running approach as the green and fairway tilt hard toward the water on the right.

The 10th is (was) a very short par-4 routed over wildly rolling terrain.  A new tee has been added near the clubhouse (probably a 300 yard walk from 9 tee) and the hole can no play near 400 yards.  A great green site tucked into the side of a hill.

More changes at the 11th as the fairway has been raised several feet (a good change) and the entire green lasered and moved several feet to the left (a confusing change -- likely a safety issue).  A single fairway bunker guards the ideal angle of approach...

Into a very uphill green that should only be missed short right; but not too far short-right as balls can funnel a long way back down the fairway.

Maybe the best change on the course, the mid-length par-4 12th was once a very awkward hole as everything left of the centerline bunker was rough.  The fairway was too narrow and constrained by trees.  Hawtree has created an interesting tee shot decision, and the convex green remains as perplexing as ever.

The 13th can play over 550 yards, and up the hill, it is no easy par-5.  Many will choose to lay-up to the flat spot in the fairway short of the fairway bunkers and then will be faced with a completely blind second to a fairway with lots of tilt.

The short 14th is very different looking, with many (too many?) bunkers added short of the green.  Despite the intimidating appearance, there is plenty of room between the bunkers and this massive green that tilts toward the golfer and features more micro-contouring than any other green on the course.  I wonder why they didn't take out those trees over the green.

The 15th has had a new back tee added 80 yards back, which is a bit awkward to get to.  The green site at the 15th:

Another very changed hole.  The 16th tee shot was once a thoughtless endeavour with only a single fairway bunker down the left.  Hawtree has added 4 centreline bunkers running diagonally across the fairway that range from 180 yards to carry to about 240.

Playing a second shot short of the fairway bunkering will leave a short but completely blind approach.

The 17th is near 220 yards and is unforgiving.  A very cool coffin bunker on the left has been changed (no idea why).  Bunkers are well short of the green, which calls for a running approach.  Note the proximity to the 18th tee, literally just steps from the green's edge.

The 18th is often cited as a weak spot at Toronto.  The tee shot need only be 200 yards as longer tee shots risk running through the fairway into the parking lot (left) or finding a drop-off that runs through the fairway.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Thornhill Golf and Country Club Course Review

Thornhill Golf & Country Club 
Thornhill, Ontario, Canada

Architect: Stanley Thompson (1922)

6,666 Yards, Par-72

Rating/Slope: 71.6/138

My Quick Review: A hidden gem in the city.  Thompson's genius in routing, exceptionally selected green sites and clever bunker scheme make Thornhill one of Canada's best courses.

Thornhill G&CC is something of a hidden gem, despite its recent recognition as the 17th best classic course in Canada (GolfWeek) and the 84th best course in Canada by ScoreGolf -- for what it's worth, I think Score has it woefully underrated.

Thornhill borders the once much acclaimed Uplands GC, which is now a 9-holer with one of the world's most difficult par-3s (my review:http://onegolferstravels.blogspot.ca/2012/06/uplands-golf-club-course-review.html).  Though the course is only a few kilometres from the city, and is situated on Yonge St, one of the busiest streets in the world, once on property one is blessed with a sense of seclusion as he is treated to ideal and rolling golfing terrain.

For those interested in tournament pedigree, Thornhill was the site of Byron Nelson's 11th consecutive victory in 1945...

The course is short by modern standards, playing to a 6,666 yard par-71, but a plethora of uphill shots, fairways that often tilt toward the tee, a demanding set of par-3s and clever bunkering keep the course relevant and interesting for most.

The first tee is set atop a steep drop-off and the first hole plunges into a valley.  Though the first tee shot is dramatic, the first hole is one of the least interesting on the course.  

Nonetheless, the green shape and specifically the green site are particularly well done, a theme that is constant throughout the golf course.

Holes 2-4 are routed over the only flat terrain on the golf course, but Thompson's clever use of a stream running through the property adds interest to these holes.  Amazingly, these 3 holes are the only flat holes on the property!  At the 2nd the stream guards the left side of the DZ and runs along the side of the green.

At the 3rd the stream is again in play, crossing the fairway 100 yards short of the green.  The 3rd is something of an awkward short par-4 requiring a forced lay-up for most, but once again the green site is exceptional well done, tucked into a corner of the property.

Bunkering at Thornhill is spectacular.  The bunkers fit well with the landforms, but also maintain the unique Thompson flair in bunkering.  

The 4th is a wonderful par-4.  Though there is no elevation change, the rolls in the 4th fairway must near 6 feet high.  

The 5th is the first of a very difficult set of par-3s.  For the critics among us, it is possible to argue that while each hole is interesting, as a set there is not sufficient variety as the four par-3s range from 171-192.  The 5th plays more uphill than it looks (and it looks way uphill!) to a green that is completely blind from the tee.  The good news is that the green is much larger than one would think; the bad news is that the bunker / fall-off right of the green is much deeper than one would think.

The 6th is a massive par-4, played up and over a rise.  Bunkers on the inside of the dogleg must be challenged if one wants to find short grass on this reverse-camber fairway.  Thompson's use of forced perspective here is very well done.  A pair of bunkers set into a hill 100 yards short of the green are meant to look green side...

BUT clearly are not as this picture from next to one of them shows!

The back of the greens at Thornhill are often very protected.  A perfect example at the 6th...

The 7th is another uphill par-3, this one playing to an angled green:

The first two par-5s at Thornhill are very big holes.  The 8th plays to over 580 yards thanks to a new back tee and the water guarding the lay-up zone is once again a key determinant of strategy:

Ian Andrew has called the mid-length par-4 9th one of Thompson's best par-4s, and it is easy to see why.  A very natural looking golf hole where the majority of the interest is around the green. The green is 3-tiered and surrounded completely by bunkering.

I believe the 10th was once a shorter par-3, but a new back tee near 190 yards has been added.  The hole is unforgiving, once again playing uphill to a green surrounded completely by bunkers.  Bunkers benched into the hill over the green should not be in play but work to make the green feel smaller.

The 11th is a reverse dogleg, with a ramp short of the green encouraging the ground game.  Mowing lines make a running approach more difficult, but it remains the preferred way to play the hole.

The 12th is an epic par-3, requiring an all-carry 190 yard tee shot to a tiny green (amazingly, this hole played to 215 yards in 1945!).

A funnel fairway at the 13th will have most well-struck tee shots ending up in the same spot, 190 yards short of the green and leaving a semi-blind approach.  Only the longest of hitters can consider playing over the fairway bunkering.

The 14th is a quirky up-and-over par-4.  The tee shot is completely blind, with a tee shot of some 240 yards required to crest the hill and to have a view of the green.  Once over the hill, the approach is straightforward with a ramp short of the green that begs for the ground game.  The 14th green is one of the best on the course as the green edges form something of a punchbowl, and a large hump rises from the green's centre.

The 15th is a very downhill par-5, playing to over 600 yards.  Staggered fairway bunkers in the driving zone, and a pair of bunkers jutting into the lay-up are 150 yards short of the green, ensure that every shot on this par-5 must be properly considered.  

The 16th, aptly named Goal Posts, requires a tee shot to split a pair of trees to find the fairway.  Ideally, the golfer will approach from the left as the tilt of the land from the right makes shots from that side easier to control.

A reprieve, the 17th is a very short par-5, playing to only 450 yards.  Tee shots must carry 240 yards to crest a hill that will leave a view of the green; fail to do so and the tee shot will funnel back some 20 yards to a lowpoint in the fairway, from which a lay-up is mandated.  Golfers going for the green must carry a cross-bunker 40 yards short of the green, but must be careful not to go long as not only is this the most severely contoured green on the course, but it may be the most tilted too.

The 18th is a short par-4 that may call for less than driver for some as the stream is only 300 yards to reach.  Fittingly, the green site is wonderful, the back of the green protected, and Thompson's most creative bunker on the course is present left of the 18th green.