Canadian Golf Holes For the Ages

Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course (Image: Fairmont)

The famously beautiful par-three Cleopatra at Jasper Park Lodge. (Image: Fairmont)

Iconic symbols of our game, Canada’s signature holes are so uniquely beautiful that golfers travel from around the world to play them. Canadian Golf Traveller picks nine holes built for immortality.


Banff Springs Golf Course, Devil's Cauldron (Image: Fairmont Banff Springs)

Devil’s Cauldron, Banff Springs Golf Course. (Image: Fairmont)

4th Hole, Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course, Banff, Alberta

For many golfers around the world, photographs of the Fairmont Banff Spring Golf Course’s legendary Devil’s Cauldron have come to define their mental image of the Canadian game.

From an elevated tee isolated amidst the boreal hush of a Rocky Mountain forest, golfers hit their tee shot over an impossibly picturesque glacial lake to a small sloping and heavily bunkered green set in the shadow of Mount Rundle.

Designed by Stanley Thompson, the most revered of all Canadian golf architects, Devil’s Cauldron has ranked among the world’s most admired par-three holes since its unveiling in 1929. In all the years since, no one has built one better.

7th Hole, Highlands Links, Ingonish, Nova Scotia

In an age when celebrity sells, Highlands Links has for years benefited from the ringing endorsement given it, and in particular its seventh hole, by the great George Knudson.

“This is the Cypress Point of Canada for sheer beauty,” Knudson raved of the Stanley Thompson-designed Cape Breton layout after playing a television exhibition against fellow Canadian Al Balding there in 1965. (For more about this famous showdown, see our feature story A Tee Off With Knudson at Highlands Links).

Highlands Links Killiecrankie (Image: Highlands Links)

Killiecrankie, Highlands Links.
(Image: Highlands Links)

Knudson professed awe for the seventh, a tight par five known locally as Killer, although its given name is Killiecrankie, Gaelic for “a long and narrow pass.” Knudson managed par on the double-dogleg through towering hardwoods, and walked away calling it one of the most magnificent par fives he had ever seen.

18th Hole, Twin Rivers Golf Course, Port Blandford, Newfoundland

Denied the national spotlight only by the remoteness of its setting in Terra Nova National Park, 223 kilometres west of St. John’s, Twin Rivers Golf Course’s 18th undoubtedly ranks among the most spectacular finishing holes in Canadian golf.

Designed by Doug Carrick, the 175-yard par three drops 18 feet from tee to green and plays through the mist rising above a 20-foot-tall horseshoe-shaped waterfall to a small green nestled in the forest.

Though unorthodox, Twin River’s par-three finish is a fittingly wet and wild conclusion to a 6,546-yard oceanfront layout carved through a coniferous forest and defined by two whitewater rivers teeming with salmon.

9th Hole, Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course, Jasper, Alberta

Stanley Thompson, a mischievous man with an earthy sense of humour, pulled his most famous prank at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course’s dramatic ninth hole, Cleopatra.

The 231-yard par three plays downhill to a steep-sided and heavily bunkered green framed by the backdrop of distant Pyramid Mountain. Inspired by the mountain’s name, Thompson — who also whimsically built bunkers at Jasper in the shape of a clam, an octopus, a crab and an eel — painstakingly molded the ninth’s greenside bunkers into the outrageously voluptuous form of the ancient Egyptian queen.

Unamused by Thompson’s gag, hotel officials ordered the architect to go back and mask Cleopatra’s charms.

"Cliffhanger" Par Three (Image: Greywolf Golf Course)

Cliffhanger, Greywolf Golf Course. (Image: Greywolf)

6th Hole, Greywolf Golf Course, Panorama, British Columbia

Seven decades passed from the unveiling of Banff’s iconic Devil’s Cauldron before another hole emerged to challenge its stature as the most talked about par three in the land. The newcomer was Cliffhanger, the aptly named sixth hole at Greywolf Golf Course, an acclaimed Doug Carrick design.

Cliffhanger features a long gut-churning carry over the sheer drop of Hopeful Canyon to a green perched along the edges of vertical rock cliffs. Rugged peaks tower in every direction, evergreens strain toward the sky, and from the green, golfers can see for kilometres down an incredibly beautiful mountain valley.

All that’s missing from this picture-postcard Canadian setting is a Mountie standing on guard at the tee.

18th Hole, Glen Abbey Golf Club, Oakville, Ontario

Internationally famous as the site of 28 Canadian Opens, Glen Abbey Golf Club reaped an avalanche of publicity after Tiger Woods hit one of the most brilliant shots in recent memory on the Jack Nicklaus-designed layout’s 18th hole during the final round of the 2000 Canadian Open.

Woods sealed his victory on the 500-yard par-five, featuring a long and narrow green guarded by a large pond, by slashing a 210-yard bunker shot over the water to the back edge of the putting surface.

So astonishing was the play that since then few golfers have been able to resist the temptation to drop a ball in the same bunker and try their luck.

12th Hole, Algonquin Golf Course, St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick

Offering sweeping views across Passamaquoddy Bay to the state of Maine, architect Tom McBroom’s par-three 12th at Algonquin Golf Course became one of the Atlantic coast’s most celebrated holes the moment of its unveiling in 1999.

Stretching 156 yards from the back tees, the 12th plays severely downhill to a small, cashew-shaped green perched, like an infinity pool, at the water’s edge. Deep bunkers edge the green and gnarly fescue clings to the bluffs above the bay.

Inspired by Pebble Beach’s famed par-three seventh hole, the Algonquin’s 12th can be equally treacherous. Depending on how the wind blows, a safe landing on the green could require anything from a pitching wedge to a four-iron.

18th Hole, Le Geant, Mont-Tremblant, Quebec

For many Canadian golfers, the stunningly dramatic view of Lac Tremblant beyond the green at Le Géant’s par-four 18th hole represents the best of golf in Quebec’s Laurentians.

Designed by Tom McBroom, Le Géant offers one breathtaking vista after another as the fairways twist through stands of white pine, past massive rock outcroppings, and skirt a river at the base of a towering mountain criss-crossed by ski runs.

Like a symphony conductor, McBroom slowly builds momentum before finishing with a wallop on the 18th, the toughest hole on the course, a distractingly gorgeous tree-lined 457-yard beast that takes aim at shimmering Lac Tremblant in the distance.

15th Hole at Oak Bay Golf Club, Port Severn, Ontario (Image: Sharon McAuley

The par-three 15th hole at Oak Bay Golf and Country Club. (Image: Sharon McAuley)

15th Hole, Oak Bay Golf and Country Club, Port Severn, Ontario

Like winning the lottery, the likelihood of any golf course producing a hole capable of attracting national attention is slim at best. So there was understandable excitement when the 2011 launch of Oak Bay Golf and Country Club revealed what is surely one of Canada’s most picturesque par threes.

Designed by Shawn Watters, Oak Bay’s 170-yard 15th plays into the prevailing wind over a marsh to an elevated two-tiered green perched, like an emerald crown, atop a gigantic outcropping of Canadian Shield granite.

Completing this wild-and-wooly Group of Seven setting is a Georgian Bay inlet glimpsed through the trees to the left of the tee box, while another bay laps the rocky shoreline to the rear.