500 or Less: Essex Golf & Country Club

Reading Time: 4 minutes

In ‘500 or less,’ author Alex Hunter discusses a golf course in 500 words or less to provide a quick overview. Furthermore, the series introduces a “star rating,” which is based off an opinion on fun factor/repeatability, walkability, routing/design aspects, plus cost & conditioning. Check back in next month for the next instalment of the series!

Utilizing flat land to build a golf course to deliver a fun and engaging environment can be challenging. Often, it results in boring and pedestrian design, with holes typically navigating back and forth with circular greens. But Donald Ross’s Essex Golf and Country Club delivers an exceptional adventure from start to finish. The pushed-up greens add a dynamic flair to the flat fairways, and the well-constructed, attractive bunkering will catch many missed tee and approach shots in just the right areas.

While Essex is not long by modern standards, its firm and fast greens offer an exceptional challenge for anybody’s game. Most of the time, they are accessible through a variety of playing methods—whether that is in the air or along the ground, all while the intriguing contours keep the golfer well engaged throughout the round.

Holes & Features of Interest

The short Par 4, 2nd, was instantly one of my favourites on the course. The bunker scheme frames the hole extremely well from the tee, helping the golfer see exactly where to put the ball, making the execution of the shot critical to success. The approach plays to a green that slopes back to the front and quickly falls away at the rear.

Par 4, 2nd from the tee. Photo credit: Doug Zaccari

Similarly, 15 is another short Par 4 that has a great set of bunkers, framing things nicely and asking the golfer to execute a good tee shot to avoid trouble all around. I really enjoyed these holes being sprinkled in amongst the longer, contrasting Par 4’s.

The short approach from the fairway on 15

The Par 5, 3rd, is fantastic as well. A long Par 5 on a short property, it provides plenty of challenge with bunkers that pinch in on both left and right sides of the fairways, adding more strategic necessity to the game. From where my ball was sitting, a sprinkler head is labelled with “Only Tiger”. I quite enjoyed that. The green is bisected by a central ridge which separates the left and right sides of the green. Being in the appropriate section of the green is crucial to success on the putting surface.

275 yards out—a quick reminder I am not Tiger Woods
View from the sprinkler head
The spine in the middle of the green splits the left and right tiers—adding another element of challenge to this long Par 5

The Par 3, 7th, was particularly stunning with the trio of bunkers guarding the approach to the green and two smaller bunkers found at the rear of the green.

The picturesque Par 3, 7th

Because of the mostly flat ground around the property the greens really standout. Below is the Par 4, 9th, sitting like a bowl upside down, falling off on multiple sides with plenty of internal contours.

The 9th’s green falls off on all sides and with it’s many internal contours can propel balls around the putting surface

The 18th is a solid finishing hole, framed well by the large trees, bunkers, and clubhouse. At 433 yards from the back tee, the approach shot typically involves a long iron, which isn’t really a problem at Essex. Golfers can choose to fly it high or even run it up on almost every hole, and that is part of the reason that makes Essex a great course.

The Home hole—plenty of room to run the ball up or fly it onto the green


Rating: 7 out of 10.

Roseland Golf Club

Okay, I went over the self-imposed 500-word limit with this last paragraph. But, I did want to point out to readers there is another Donald Ross design in Windsor which anyone can play. Roseland is an excellent public offering that costs less than $60 to walk and one which I highly recommend. While it certainly isn’t held in quite the same regard as Essex, it still offers a great test with a good mix of short and long holes—-including the two brute Par 4’s at 17 and 18 to finish, that measure 492 and 467 respectively from the back tee. A lovely day can be had at Roseland. I plan on doing a write-up the next time I see the course.

Similar styles but Roseland is a toned down version of Essex at this point in its life


  • Alex Hunter

    Canadian golfer, nice guy, plays fast. Not chasing any lists, just looking to play architecturally interesting courses around the World and make new friends along the way.

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