Hole 1: Lookout Point Country Club -- Par 4, 423 Yards
The perfect combination of forgiveness and demand can be found at Lookout Point's 1st. The view of Niagara Falls in the distance is stunning and the extra seconds of hang time on your tee shot is thrilling. Still, Walter Travis' nasty bunkers await an errant tee shot, and one of many severely tilted greens will punish those that don't spend enough time on the putting green. There is no better way to start a round of golf in Ontario than to play Lookout Point's 1st.
Honourable Mentions: Rocky Crest, Heron Point, Devil's Pulpit
Hole 2: Devil's Paintbrush Golf Course -- Par 5, 468 Yards
Devil's Paintbrush is the best modern golf course in Ontario, and it's short par-5 2nd may be its most interesting hole. A visually daunting tee shot with a bunker of epic scale guarding the right side of the fairway. Those successfully finding the fairway are left to decide whether or not to take on the massive centreline feature guarding the green and give the green in two a go. Finding the green, though, is no guarantee of a two-putt, or even a three-putt really, as the 50,000 sq ft double green rolls in a way that would make Perry Maxwell blush!
Honourable Mentions: Kawartha, Ridge at Manitou, Burlington, Lakeview, St George's
Hole 3: Muskoka Bay Club -- Par 4, 399 Yards
On a golf course known for its bold features and difficult, the third hole may be the most subtle hole on the golf course (and it's by far my favourite!). The hole flows perfectly with the rolling terrain and architect Doug Carrick has cleverly routed the hole such that the tee shot is played over a diagonal ridge. Carrying the ridge on the bold line to the left leaves a much shorter approach, but fail to carry the ridge and the golfer is faced with a very difficult blind approach.
Honourable Mentions: Osprey Valley (Hoot), Georgian Bay Club, Bigwin Island, Toronto, Hamilton, Lookout Point, Rocky Crest, Deerhurst
Hole 4: Toronto Golf Club -- Par 3, 190 Yards
Martin Hawtree recently completed a sympathetic restoration at Toronto Golf Club, but I was very happy to see that he had the good sense to the leave the 4th hole alone. In a clever piece of routing, Harry Colt set the green just steps over a diagonal ridge on a piece of ground that tilts not-so-subtly away from the tee. Though some par-3s will intimidate golfers with water, bunkers and OB, the 4th is as tough a par-3 as there is in Ontario.
Honourable Mentions: St George's, The National, Beacon Hall, Coppinwood, Legacy Ridge, Osprey Valley (Heathlands), Oviinbyrd, Twenty Valley, Rosedale
Hole 5: Weston G&CC -- Par 4, 424 Yards
In a bold piece of routing, Willie Park Jr's 5th at Weston plays up and over a rise in the fairway before heading downhill and crossing a stream. The tee shot is a demanding one, requiring either a bold carry over a dip in the fairway on the left, or a tee shot near the bunkers on the right, from where the golfer will have a blind approach. The green is simple in shape and contour, but its steep back-to-front tilt fits well with the land and ensures that only a precisely placed approach will leave a simple putt.
Honourable Mentions: Hamilton, Beacon Hall, Allandale, Bond Head (North), Lookout Point, St George's, Osprey Valley (Heathlands), Port Carling, Mad River, Couchiching, Grandview
Hole 6: Port Carling -- Par 3, 173 Yards
A stunning (and difficult) par-3 with the green set at angle to the tee over a gorge that runs down into Marion Lake. With a bit of wind only a precise tee shot will find this narrow green. A steep diagonal ridge 1/3 the way back makes finding the right portion of the green essential.
Honourable Mentions: Kawartha, Lookout Point, Bigwin Island, Coppinwood, Rosedale, Grand Niagara, Rocky Crest, Mad River
Hole 7: Oviinbyrd Golf Club -- Par 4, 482 Yards
A perfect use of land in an ideal setting. The beauty of the 7th hole at Oviinbyrd Golf Club may disarm the golfer, but he must stay focused to have any hope of making par on this monster par-4. Fortunately, the hole normally plays downwind, and the golfer may be able to make use of two speed-slots down the left-centre of the fairway. While the fairway is generous, the approach calls for precision as an aerial approach is required unless the golfer can fit a draw up the right side of the green. Heck, getting pin high in 2 is a feat in itself.
Honourable Mentions: St George's, Toronto, Deerhurst, Devil's Pulpit, Scarboro, Essex, The National
Hole 8: The Summit G&CC -- Par 4, 412 Yards
A stunning downhill par-4, played to a fairway that lays between tilted and impressive landforms. Admittedly, I'd like to see the mowing lines widened, but the movement in the fairway and the semi-blind drop-down green reminds me of the 13th at Thompson's Highlands Links. The perfect combination of beauty, demand and quirk!
Honourable Mentions: Uplands, Bracebridge, St George's, Devil's Pulpit, Oviinbyrd, Scarboro, Osprey Valley (Heathlands), Cobble Beach, Wyndance
Hole 9: Bigwin Island Golf Club -- Par 4, 403 Yards
Though the 6th and 18th holes at Bigwin Island are the most photographed, I believe the 9th hole is the most interesting hole on the golf course. Carrick, paying tribute to Willie Park Jr and C.B. Macdonald, has designed a clever 'bottle' hole, where the golfer must decide whether to take on the left-side carry for the ideal line, or whether to bail-out right to leave a difficult approach over deep greenside bunkering. The 9th at Bigwin is a hole that is fun to play over and over!
Honourable Mentions: Redtail, Toronto, Cherry Hill, Beacon Hall
Hole 10: Burlington G&CC -- Par 5, 485 Yards
I would love to have seen this hole before all the trees were planted, with what would have been a great view of the lake beyond the green. In current form, even if slightly over-treed, the heaving terrain and restored bunkering make the 10th at Burlington a very good golf hole. The first two-hundred yards of the hole are over flat land, but once one reaches the driving zone, one finds some of the most interesting golfing terrain in the province. The fairway first dips and tilts right. Golfers not wanting to challenge the narrowed lay-up area 100 yards short of the green (which also happens to slope significantly leftward) can play to the 150 yard marker, which sits in a small, flat hollow in the fairway, from which the approach is completely blind. Fairway bunkering is cleverly placed and appropriately deep and the green is small and contoured -- an excellent combination for a short par-5.
Honourable Mentions: Osprey Valley (Heathlands), Cobble Beach, Lookout Point, Oviinbyrd, Beacon Hall
Hole 11: Deerhurst Highlands -- Par 4, 450 Yards
We return to Muskoka to find the best 11th hole in Ontario. A classic reverse dogleg, where the golfer is tempted to play to the inside of the dogleg, but the ideal line (as protected by fairway bunkering) is from the outside of the dogleg; the golfer must choose, shorter approach or preferred angle. The green is perhaps over bunkered, but the combination of the greenside bunkering, fall-off right of the green and green shape emphasize the strategic merit of the hole.
Honourable Mentions: Cherry Hill, Coppinwood, St George's, Lookout Point, Muskoka Bay, Legacy Ridge, The National, The Briars
Hole 12: Coppinwood Golf Club -- Par 4, 430 Yards
The best hole of one of the best modern courses in the country. The 12th is routed over the most interesting terrain on a great piece of property. With the green in view from the tee, the Line of Instinct draws the golfer farther right than is advisable, as a miss to the right leaves a very awkward lie at best, and a lost ball at worst. Playing to the 150 yard marker leaves the golfer with a level approach to an interesting 'winged' green, while longer drives will leave a very uphill approach to a skyline green.
Honourable Mentions: Hamilton, The Summit, St George's, Wyndance, Thornhill
Hole 13: Kawartha G&CC -- Par 4, 391 Yards
Honourable Mentions: Devil's Paintbrush, Lookout Point, Twenty Valley, Lake Joseph, The National
Hole 14: St George's G&CC -- Par 4, 480 Yards
A very pretty par-4 tucked into the corner of the property. St George's is blessed with perfect land for golf, and Stanley Thompson did not let that land go to waste. At the 14th the golfer is challenged to hit his tee shot over a rise to a blind driving zone. A stream runs down the right side of the hole a protects the ideal line into a tamely contoured diagonal green. The green lay perilously close to a stream (same one as before) and its right and rear sides are tied into the side of a hill. The stream may push approaches to the right, but recoveries from there are near impossible.
Honourable Mentions: Bigwin Island, Cherry Hill, Lookout Point, Mad River, The Summit, Oviinbyrd, Westmount, Rosedale
Hole 15: Westmount Golf & Country Club -- Par 4, 425 Yards
If this list of the best 18 holes in Ontario were an actual golf course, no doubt the golfer would be begging for a respite from the string of difficult par-4s, but the 15th at Westmount is just too good a hole for it not to be included. Golfers looking to leave a shorter approach into this well-protected green will want to play down the left side of the fairway, though danger lurks as a slightly pulled tee shot will leave the golfer blocked-out by trees. The well-contoured green sits perilously atop a steep drop-off that is more intimidating in person than it will ever be in pictures. On a golf course known for it's strong 4s, the 15th is probably the best.
Honourable Mentions: Scarboro, Toronto, Coppinwood, Cataraqui, Osprey Valley (Hoot)
Hole 16: Beacon Hall Golf Club -- Par 3, 223 Yards
Beacon Hall's 16th is a great and demanding uphill par-3. Though there is ample room to play short-left of the green, the Line of Instinct draws the golfer toward the pin and all of the trouble. As the green lay at angle to the tee, the farther right the golfer play, the longer the carry required to reach the putting surface. Miss short or right and making bogey is quite the feat.
Honourable Mentions: Lambton, Rocky Crest, Glen Abbey, Hamilton, St George's, Devil's Paintbrush, Mad River, Scarboro
Hole 17: Lakeview Golf Course -- Par 3, 142 Yards
Upon seeing the 17th at Lakeview Golf Course, those familiar with Herbert Strong's work will link the hole with the '2 or 20' 14th hole at Engineers Country Club in Roslyn, New York. Sadly, a longer but softer 17th hole has been added and the original 17th at Lakeview has been taken out of play at least some of the time. The hole measures only 142 yards, but an extremely back-to-front tilted green means any shot from long of the hole risks running off the front of the green.
Honourable Mentions: St George's, Scarboro, Legacy Ridge, Cobble Beach, Grandview, Devil's Paintbrush