Toronto: Canada’s Great Unsung Golf Destination

Toronto skyline from Lake Ontario

When people talk of great Canadian golf destinations, Toronto is inevitably overlooked in favour of Whistler, the Alberta Rockies, Muskoka, Mont-Tremblant and other popular resort areas. Yet Canada’s largest city tops them all. Found within an hour’s drive of Toronto’s downtown core are more than 200 courses, including several of the country’s top public-play tracks. Among North American cities, only sun-baked San Diego and its suburbs can claim a higher density of golf facilities.

Golfers can choose from Canadian Open venues Glen Abbey and Angus Glen, as well as other acclaimed layouts scattered across a stunningly varied Southern Ontario landscape that includes deciduous and hardwood forests, rivers, lakes, valleys and rocky escarpments. Featured prominently on the play list are courses by top architects such as Jack Nicklaus, Doug Carrick, Tom McBroom and Ron Garl.

Of course, the city Canadians tend to either love or loathe offers numerous other diversions, including waterfront concerts, Blue Jays baseball, art exhibits and a vibrant nightlife and restaurant scene.

But for visitors who prefer green fairways to bustling streets, the biggest attraction of all is the opportunity to discover the best courses of a major Canadian golf destination whose time has finally come.

 

Glen Abbey Golf Club

The world-famous Jack Nicklaus-designed layout, located about 30 minutes west of Toronto in Oakville, hosted the Canadian Open in 2013 for the 26th time. With tight traps, fiendishly contoured greens and water hazards that come into play on 11 holes, the Abbey is a championship test in every sense.

 

Angus Glen Golf Club, Markham, Ontario

Angus Glen Golf Club has hosted two Canadian Opens. (Image: Angus Glen)

Angus Glen Golf Club

Angus Glen’s South Course grabbed the attention of the golf world in 2002 when it hosted the Canadian Open. Designed by Toronto-based architect Doug Carrick, the South offers a roller-coaster routing through 93 hectares of former pastureland north of Toronto near the city of Markham. Angus Glen’s equally strong North Course, a collaboration between Carrick and American architect Jay Morrish, hosted the Canadian Open in 2007.

 

Eagles Nest Golf Club

A links-style course carved through a decommissioned sand-and-gravel pit just north of the city near the town of Maple, Eagles Nest is another outstanding design by Carrick, who more than any other modern architect has put his stamp on Toronto golf. Carrick masterfully shaped ugly wasteland into a gorgeous yet daunting course booby-trapped with more than 80 sod-walled bunkers (some so deep they’re equipped with ladders) and hectares of ball-snaring fescue.

 

Copper Creek Golf Club, Kleinburg, Ontario

Copper Creek Golf Club is a Doug Carrick design that plunges into the Humber Valley. (Image: Copper Creek)

Copper Creek Golf Club

Unlike his initially unpromising site at Eagles Nest, architect Carrick had a far more exciting piece of land to work to work with at Copper Creek, a picturesque 7,097-yard course north of the city near the town of Kleinburg. The real fun begins with a plunge at the fourth hole into Humber Valley, where Carrick switches from a links-style approach to a more classical design, allowing the valley’s contours to dictate his routing.

 

Wooden Sticks

This unique replica course by American architect Ron Garl offers golfers the chance to play famous holes they might otherwise visit only in their dreams. Located in the town of Uxbridge, northeast of the city, Wooden Sticks offers superb recreations of eight of the world’s most famous golf holes, four other holes designed in the style of legendary Pine Valley, as well as six entirely original holes.

 

Osprey Valley

Carrick worked minimalist magic at Osprey Valley’s three courses, located in the rolling hills of Caledon to the northwest of the city. Heathlands Links offers a mix of deep pot bunkers, mounds and fescue roughs. Osprey Valley Toot is more of a traditional parkland layout than Heathlands, with raised greens and elevated tees. Osprey Valley Hoot, meanwhile, is a sand-wasteland course in the style of Pine Valley.

 

Hockley Valley Golf Course

Like Doug Carrick at Osprey Valley, Toronto architect Tom McBroom took full advantage of the rural setting in shaping this links-style layout about a 20-minute drive north of the airport. McBroom’s routing through the heavily wooded Hockley Hills rises about 90 metres and then plunges as much within a span of several holes.

 

Lionhead Golf and Country Club, Brampton, Ontario

Lionhead Golf and Country Club offers two challenging Ted Baker-designed courses. (Image: Lionhead)

Lionhead Golf and Country Club

Wickedly fast greens, water on 13 holes and dozens of sand traps spell trouble as Lionhead’s Ted Baker-designed Legends course weaves its way through the forests and wetlands of the Credit River Valley to the northwest of Toronto. Lionhead’s second course, Masters, is a Baker design only marginally less challenging than Legends.

 

Royal Woodbine Golf Club

As much as golfers might like to spend their entire Toronto visit playing golf, many are pressed for time. An ideal option for the harried is Royal Woodbine, a course so conveniently located that Lester B. Pearson International Airport is literally a runway-length away. Course designer Dr. Michael Hurdzan has mined his 6,446-yard track with 75 bunkers and placed water hazards on 17 holes.

 

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