Canada’s Best Cities for Golf

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It began with, what seemingly was, an innocuous question posed by yours truly to the BTC group chat: what are Canada’s best and worst golfing cities?

Then, of course, as it tends to, an endless set of complications inevitably poured in. 

  • How do you define a city limit? (Is Mount Bruno a part of Montreal? If so, is Burlington, for example, then a part of Toronto? Or the GTA. Where do you cut off the GTA? Where do you cut off Vancouver? Calgary? London?)
  • Is a city with a few high end options, but little in terms of depth (i.e. Montreal), better than one with a ton of middling and affordable options, but nothing elite or nearly elite? 
  • What’s the grading scale? The average city-wide Doak rating? Its number of Top 100 ranked courses? –
  • How exactly does one compare a city of barely 100 000 inhabitants with a handful of golf courses to one with three or four million inhabitants and fifty plus golf courses?
  • Is tiny Inverness, Nova Scotia, an elite golfing city in Canada?

Healthy debate ranged on, and on, and on…until we found something else to argue about.

Giving it a few weeks to simmer, I returned to the debate, wanting to finally set it to stone, so to speak. Thus, taking a cue from The EIU’s liveability index, we attempted to broadly grade every Canadian city with over 100 000 thousand inhabitants according to the 2021 census (a nice round number for the cut-off ) based upon a handful of factors. Moreover, broadly, I am using C.M.A.s to define what constitutes each city’s footprint – and even then, some of the selections simply came down to “do locals consider it part of {insert city here}”.

As with any rankings, this is a highly subjective exercise based, at least in large part, upon the gut-feelings of the surveyed panelists, especially further down the list, thereby opening it up to criticism, I understand.

Ultimately, as with any list, it’s a bit of good fun, so don’t take this as an affront to your city, which I am sure is beautiful and grand and scenic and cultured and just waiting to be discovered by the rest of the world, the Paris of the prairies or the shield – no it’s not a perfect science, with an extensive excel document broken-down to the fifteenth decimal to decide which is better between, say, Chatham-Kent and Chicoutimi, that I am willing to provide.  

Broadly, we graded the cities on these categories:

  • ease of accessibility
  • quality to affordability ratio of its public/municipal options
  • historically significant clubs
  • high end options (i.e. its cream of the crop)

In terms of ranking Canada’s worst golfing cities, for once on this site, I’ll refrain from controversy and not include it. Truth be told, we struggled with this exercise. For example, according to any metric, Ottawa, my hometown, isn’t worse than, say, Red Deer or Thunder Bay, but it is. It just is. We all know it is, but I just can’t justify it in writing. Same goes for a few others. So, long story short, I let it drop.

Top 10 best Canadian Cities: 

#1 Toronto (G.T.A)

“Canada’s largest and most globally renowned city, and also its best when it comes to golf. Blessed with a plethora of golf courses from many of the golden age’s best architects, as well as an enticing array from more modern practitioners, both foreign and domestic, simply put, there is no other city in Canada that can match the depth, quality, and variety that Toronto offers. Moreover, the T.T.C. offers convenient service to many of the municipal and public golf courses within the G.T.A.” – Zach

Notable courses: St George’s (2nd), Toronto Golf Club (7th), Devil’s Paintbrush (11th), National Golf Club of Canada (16th), Goodwood (17th), Rosedale (29th)

Best quality to affordability options for public golfers: Lakeview, TPC Toronto – all 3 courses (Hoot – 47th; Heathlands – 54th; North – 78th), Uplands, Markham Wood, Braeben

#2 Vancouver

“Vancouver is more of a 1b than a true number 2 among Canadian golf cities. Vancouver has lots of great public golf courses, the most interesting to me is the Stanley Park Pitch and Putt, as well as the Kings Links. Two courses that are accessible but also fabulous examples of what can be done to create interesting golf on flat sites.” – Ben Malach

Notable courses: Capilano (5th), Shaughnessy (27th), Marine Drive (84th), Point Grey (100th)

Best quality to affordability options for public golfers: Stanley Pitch and Putt, Kings Links, Langara, University Golf Club, Fraserview

#3 Victoria

“A return to our Pacific coast brings us probably some of the most unique golf in Canada, with this being the adopted hometown of A.V. Maccan, probably Canada’s greatest historical architect not named Stanley Thompson. His work is on display here at his home club Victoria and its sister Royal Colwood. The public scene is newer and more resort focused, but Victoria punches well above its weight thanks to A.V.’s contributions to the golfing landscape.” – Ben Malach

Notable Golf Courses: Victoria Golf Club (24th), Royal Colwood (45th), Bear Mountain – Valley (39th Public), Bear Mountain – Mountain (46th public)

Best quality to affordability options for public golfers: Highland Pacific, Gorge Vale, Olympic View

T-4 Montreal

“In compiling this list, no city elicited more debate than Montreal, my (and the cultured man’s) favorite Canadian city. Sure, its private golf scene is wonderful and likely the 2nd best in Canada, yet on the public side….well, there’s really nothing to speak of, outside of Pat Ruddy’s Ile De Montreal’s Ireland Course, which is good but didn’t make our top 100 public list. Moreover, it’s hard to overlook some of the historically callous work that has been done over the decades, as well as the relative inaccessibility of the golf courses from the downtown core. For all of that, it suffered.” – Zach

Notable Golf Courses: Mount Bruno (16th), Laval-Sur-Le-Lac – Blue (33rd), Royal Montreal – Blue (49th), Laval-Sur-Le-Lac – Green (60th)

Best quality to affordability options for public golfers: Ile de Montreal – Ireland, and ?….

T-4 Edmonton

“As much as this pains me to say as a Calgarian, Edmonton is the better golf town with cool public golf being spearhead by Kinsmen and Victoria Park. As well as two of the best modern private courses: the Derrick Club and Blackhawk. Edmonton is also home to the only course to have hosted the Canadian Open in my native province, that being Royal Mayfair, in 1957. Lets hope Golf Canada changes that sooner rather than later!” – Ben Malach

Jeff Mingay’s sporty Derrick Club

Notable Courses: Blackhawk (12th), Royal Mayfair (79th), Derrick Club (92nd), Priddis Greens

Best quality to affordability options for public golfers: Kinsmen, Victoria Park, Redtail Landing, Coal Creek

#6 Kelowna

“Perhaps more known for its wine and scenery, Kelowna’s golf scene is no slouch either. In particular, the area offers an incredibly strong roster of resort and publicly accessible golf courses, highlighted by Doug Carrick’s Ridge course at Predator Ridge, which some cite as his best. Overall, though, Kelowna’s roster is lacking a true top flight player, with the aforementioned Predator Ridge – Ridge being a Matt Stajan/Tyler Bozak type: not quite a first center, but a very good second one.” – Zach

Notable Golf Courses: Kelowna Country Club, Predator Ridge – Predator (119th), Gallagher’s Canyon (76th public), Okanagan – Bear (98th public)

Best quality to affordability options for public golfers: Predator Ridge – Ridge (10th public), Tower Ranch (23rd public), Fairview Mountain (61st public)

#7 Winnipeg

Although not a city that likely springs to mind as a great one for golf, the ‘Peg is nevertheless blessed with an enticing array of historic golf courses, albeit on the private side. It struggles somewhat to offer many (or any) appealing public options; however, Assiboine, which was once a Thompson, reportedly provides good value.” – Zach

Notable Courses: St Charles (68th), Pine Ridge (72nd), Elmhurst, Niakwa

Best quality to affordability options for public golfers: Assiboine, Windsor Park

#8 London

“Tons of options for golf – a good mix of private and public. Being far enough away from K.W. and the G.T.A., the courses here are a lot more affordable” – Alex Hunter

Notable Golf Courses: London Hunt (32nd), Highlands, River Bend

Best quality to affordability options for public golfers: Tarandowah (58th), Thames Valley, Echo Valley

#9 Calgary

“Some people are known to have a soft spot for their home town, I am notoriously not one of them. The reason being that Calgary could and should be a top 5 city in this country for golf but instead we plowed over two Willie Park Jr courses and ran a highway through the only Harry Colt course west of the Mississippi. That leaves only one truly classic course left in the city to be enjoyed, that being the ultra private Calgary G&C, which is solid but not great due to lots of middling renovation and restoration work taking place there over the past 50 years. The easiest and most succinct way to describe my feelings about Calgary golf is great land but that every course in the city needs a major rework to highlight why it’s good. It is to the point these days that I limit my golf there when I am home, as it’s frustrating as a shaper and architect to play bad golf on good land. 

All of this being said some very progressive political moves by our city government has made golf very accessible to all, with a public golf facility in almost every corner of the city accessible.” – Ben Malach

Notable Golf Courses: Calgary Golf and Country Club (20th), Mickelson National (46th), Redwood Meadows (90th), Glencoe – Forrest (102nd)

Best quality to affordability options for public golfers: Canal at Delacour, Heritage Pointe, Winston

#t-10 Kitchener/Waterloo:

“The presence of Westmount, one of Canada’s elite, undoubtedly bolsters Kitchener/Waterloo’s standing; however, the booming city also features an enticing array of secondary golf courses, especially for public golfers, the most noteworthy and best value of them being Thompson’s Rockway.” – Zach

(photo courtesy: Alex Hunter)

Notable Golf Courses: Westmount (13th), Deer Ridge

Best quality to affordability options for public golfers: Rockway, Doon Valley

#t-10 Windsor

“Roseland, Ambassador and Essex are are great golf courses – having 3 really good offerings in such a small city is quite the impressive feat. On top of that the two public courses are some of the best value in Ontario. Your dollar goes a lot further here.” – Alex Hunter

(photo courtesy: Alex Hunter)

Notable Golf Courses: Essex (38th), Beach Grove, Pointe West

Best quality to affordability options for public golfers: Roseland (77th public), Ambassador (91st public)


7 thoughts on “Canada’s Best Cities for Golf

  1. As a former Toronto resident and current Ottawa resident, the golf options here do suck. But surely with the Private courses in the area it bumps it into the Top 10? Hunt, Royal, Rivermead, Camelot, Rideau View is quite a good top end. With Marshes, Rockland, and Montebello (if that counts) rounding out the public side. Maybe it’s just the over saturation of awful golf that takes it out of the running…

    1. Ottawa was considered for sure. Ultimately, as you say, the relative inaccessibility/lack of quality (Bello was outside the range) hurt it. Moreover, the big privates, RO and OH which I both like, are currently pale shells of what they once were during their halcyon days. Ottawa, where I still reside, is more of a case of it being not what it should, considering everything. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Thought your choice of Blackhawk in Edmonton was prudent. Would have added Riverside as a good choice for Public. Played there with Old Boy’s & often got the World Right!!! Would have added Black Bull in Pigeon Lake as one great course to play. Also Glen Abbey in Oakville is not shabby either.

  3. Hamilton – great selection of public, plus some wonderful lesser known Private Courses. Glendale, Dundas Valley
    I include Burlington with Hamilton and not GTA. Hamilton is definitely not part of Toronto : )

    1. Ian, I think you bring up a good point. Hamilton in itself probably isn’t a Top 10 city for golf but if you include the Burlington and Dundas areas it definitely elevates it.

      Good public options: Copetown Woods, Mystic, Chedoke Bedoe, Willow Valley

      Private options are high end with Burlington and Hamilton. But also some lower key places that are still really good at Glendale, Dundas Valley, Beverly, Heron Point

  4. Wow!! Many of you Guys are very informed. With you on GHA, would add Niagara Region [esp. Whirlpool] also, Ottawa/Hull/Eastern Ontario has some amazing Courses. So has Eastern Canada; even played Chester in the “Fog”. May have been Self-Inflicted there. IMHO: GMA should be #4 on it’s own. You have really ticked off the Calgary people as true picking Edmonton maybe the better choice!! Edmonton has a better Hockey Team!! But that’s ok!
    As still a “Leaf’s” Fan!!
    Simply; All of Canada is Great to Play Golf; we do have awesome & creative Designers, period.

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