It’s here! Introducing: Beyond The Contour‘s Top 100 golf courses in Canada. This list represents the very best golf in the country. Out of just over 2,300 golf courses, our panel of eighteen of some of the most astute architecture enthusiasts and well-travelled golfers identified the beau monde. Coast-to-coast—from Victoria, BC to Port Blandford, Newfoundland—and everything in between, each province is represented at least once (sorry Yukon, NWT, and Nunavut).
To view how we ranked the golf courses, click here.
To view the courses that just missed our top 100, click here.
To read “Changing of the Guard and a Letter To The Past,” click here.
Course write-ups courtesy of Andrew Harvie & Zachary Car unless otherwise stated.
Each photo is given credit unless otherwise stated, as such it belongs to Beyond The Contour.
50. Eagles Nest
26th in Ontario
Admittedly, Eagles Nest is a bit of an odd golf course. So much so that there are a few different styles of bunkering, large hummocks built from an old garbage dump, and a mix between some hilly parkland and faux-links. For this reason, Eagles Nest is a bit polarizing, not only among our panel but in public. Fitting that it splits our top 100 in half at 50th.
Even with different bunker styles scattered throughout, we would argue The mix between sod wall bunkers and massive blow out bunkers is tastefully done. When a bunker’s built into the faux-dunes or stadium mounds, it’s a blowout style bunker; anywhere else, and it’s a revetted pot bunker. An underrated part of Eagles Nest is the journal, which beautifully meanders through the various landscapes to produce one of Canada’s most interesting modern layouts.
49. Royal Montreal
4th in Quebec
Dick Wilson, Rees Jones
Located north of Montreal, on Ile Bizard, Royal Montreal, originally founded in 1873, is the eldest club in North America, and it has hosted a litany of major events throughout its history, including the Canadian Open and the Presidents Cup in 2007. The club has curated a fantastic array of historic exhibits in their stately clubhouse, and a lengthy peruse of them should not be eschewed by any lover of golf history.
The current iteration of the Blue course, a Dick Wilson design that Rees Jones completely overhauled in preparation for the Presidents Cup, is among the foremost “championship tests” in the country, with all of the characteristics one would expect from the work of the “Open Doctor”: narrow fairways that place a premium on driving accuracy; long, brutal par 4s with landing areas flanked by cavernous bunkers; par 3s that require deft long-iron play; and enormous, elevated, multi-tiered greens. The back nine is the stronger of the two sides, with the final five holes, all of which feature a prominent water feature of some kind, providing much drama and an opportunity for both birdies and bogies.
25th in Ontario
Stanley Thompson, Doug Carrick
Located halfway between Toronto and Ottawa, this 1931 Stanley Thompson design has long flown under the radar, primarily because of its location. Yet there is nothing understated about the design, which features a set of par 3s that is as varied and strong as anything in the country.
Thompson’s brilliance shines particularly where the land is less intense, such as on brawny par 3, 3rd, with a downhill tee shot and a devilish green set against a rocky outcrop, on the uphill par 4, 7th, with a clever on-grade green, on the intriguing 10th featuring a sunken green, and on the sweeping par 4, 13th.
47. TPC Toronto
24th in Ontario
“Hoot” feels like a mix between No. 78 North and No. 54 Heathlands, blending the strategic elements of the Heathlands with the scale of the North. As a result, Hoot remains the king of the fan-favourite TPC facility.
The actual ethos of the course lies in the sandy waste areas scattered throughout that direct traffic, and the tall pines that control the vibe. Holes such as the par 4, 3rd and par 4, 7th meander through the topography with bunkers seemingly at the perfect angles into the greens. Sharp doglegs like at the 5th, 6th, and the 12th tempt golfers to take the aggressive line to gain an advantage over their playing partners.
In truth, the Hoot is one of the countries great match play courses, capped off by the gambling drivable par 4, 17th split with a water hazard in the middle.
46. Mickelson National
6th in Alberta
Rick Smith for Phil Mickelson Design
Canada does not have a surplus of massive stadium-style golf courses, but Mickelson National is not only the newest of the bunch, but the best also.
Minimalists potentially will scoff at the contrived nature of literally sculpting a golf course out of the prairie land, a valid criticism, but what Rick Smith, with input from Phil Mickelson, built here is full of strategy. The drivable 7th, for example, is better attacked from the upper left fairway, even though it’s much skinnier. The 10th and 11th elect centreline bunkers direct traffic, while mounding allows bunkering on the outside edges of holes like the 2nd and 15th steer the golfer down the middle.
45. Royal Colwood
9th in British Columbia
While Toronto Golf Club was eastern Canada’s first golf course that really explored elements of strategy and heroism, Royal Colwood was the western counterpart. Macan’s journey through the gentle rolling and rocky terrain became the beacon for western golf, and a true testament to his architecture as it still stands up today.
Perhaps the most identifying feature of Colwood is the majestic Douglas Fir trees towering over the golf holes. In some sense, this is the poster child for the Pacific Northwest, with the 12th, playing over a ridge through a chute of trees, as its mascot.
The true highlight of Colwood is watching Macan’s routing interact with slopes to maximize interest. The 6th and 18th in particular are two of the best holes not only in the province, but the country.
23rd in Ontario
Stanley Thompson, Ian Andrew
1932 & 1937
Ongoing Work From:
Is this the best set of bunkers in the country? If it is not, Kawartha is punching way above its 44th ranking. When marrying such dramatic bunkering over invigorating architecture draped over fruitful land, the results were always going be promising.
In truth, Kawartha feels distinctly down to earth compared to some of Thompson’s bigger projects. The 2nd, for example, is sneaky brilliant with a two-tier green sitting on-grade, with the back tier actually lower from the front pad. The 3rd around a massive bunker complex and tree is riveting, merging into the subdued par 5, 4th.
Panelists identified the par 5, 11th, par 4, 13th, and par 5, 14th, and of course the final par 3, 18th as the highlights on the inward nine. With Ian Andrew’s upcoming work to the back nine, we await anxiously to see how this old school favourite improves.
43. Wolf Creek
5th in Alberta
1992 & 2012
It is hard to imagine a better suited site for golf than that of Wolf Creek’s Links course, which meanders gently through wooded forest before emerging into the vast expansiveness of the sandy prairie landscape for the back nine. On that front nine, Whitman’s style is consistent with No. 56 Wolf Creek’s Old course. Small, wickedly contoured green complexes and devilish angles (such as the par 4, 3rd) are eventually replaced for a modern rendition of Whitman’s work closer to Blackhawk, Sagebrush, and Cabot Links on the back nine.
We prefer the back nine, featuring a collection of some of Mr. Whitman’s best holes. The matching par 5’s at the 11th and 15th both play around a shared “Hell’s Full Acre” sandy waste area, while the 13th, titled “Kansas,” rises to a green tucked up on the hillside to the left, while the fairway sits below on the right. In truth, those looking to learn about Rod Whitman’s progression as an architect might find the most interesting case study at Links.
St. Andrews by-the-sea
1st in New Brunswick
Donald Ross, Thomas McBroom, Rod Whitman & Keith Cutten
Following Thomas McBroom’s work in the 1990s, virtually all of Donald Ross’ 27 holes no longer existed. Some for the better—the addition of the par 3, 12th—but the resort had to stay competitive in an increasingly difficult market thanks to Cabot Cape Breton. The natural reaction? Hire the firm responsible for Cabot Links. Rod Whitman and then-associate (now partner) Keith Cutten came in, renovating the Thomas McBroom holes in the style of Ross.
The creation of the new 10th, a quasi-redan infinity green overlooking the Passamaquoddy Bay and the rock & rollin’ par 5, 11th are by far the best golf holes on property.Fans of the old layout will find comfort knowing the par 3, 12th remains, just improved, and the short par 5, 13th continues to impress.
22nd in Ontario
Donald Steel with Tom Mackenzie & Martin Ebert
Classy and understated are two of the adjectives that are commonly
used to describe this facility near St Thomas, Ontario. Founded by Chris Goodwin and John Drake, and designed by Donald Steel in 1991,
Redtail was the first of the handful of ultra-exclusive clubs that have opened in Canada over the last 30 years.
The golf course traverses a gently rolling property bisected by deep ravines, wandering creeks, and holding ponds. As is the case with all of his catalogue, Steel applied much restraint to his design, allowing the land to be the star of the show. Some might claim that the course
lacks interest off the tee, especially on the back 9; however, the putting surfaces and their surrounds are among the most intense,
challenging, and interesting in the country.
40. Cherry Hill
21st in Ontario
Walter Travis, Ian Andrew
Cherry “Hill” is a bit of a marketing ploy, as there’s only one centralized rise in the golf course around the clubhouse and the surrounding holes. Instead, the majority of the golf course is on very flat terrain, solely relying on Walter Travis’ green complexes to pack a punch.
Thankfully, you could argue Cherry Hill has the best set of greens in the country. Travis’ internal contours are evident from the very first hole. Knobs, ridges, slopes, and tiers are scattered throughout the routing.
Don’t believe the greens are as aggressive as we say? Lee Trevino laid up all four days on the par 3, 11th during the 1972 Canadian Open. In 50 years, green speeds have dramatically increased. Good luck!
39. Maple Downs
20th in Ontario
William Mitchell, Ian Andrew
Originally designed by the unheralded William Mitchell in 1954 and routed across some of the best land in the Greater Toronto Area, Maple Downs is another complete overhaul by Ian Andrew, and, just as at Laval-Sur-Le-Lac, the end product he delivered here is exceptional. From tee to green, much restraint was applied, with most holes featuring only one or two bunkers that, nevertheless, greatly dictate the strategy for the golfer who seeks the ideal line into the severely canted surfaces. Andrew allowed the tumbling land and the green complexes to truly be the star of the show; comparisons to Donald Ross’ work are sure to arise from more than a few golfers.
That is not to say, however, that the layout lacks interest from tee to green; in fact, there are few courses in Canada that require the golfer to shape the ball as repeatedly and cleverly utilize the numerous kicker and feeder slopes to work his ball towards the difficult to access hole locations. Yet, by modern standards, the course is quite short, with all of the par 5s being at or under 500 yards—in truth, there seems no better high-end Canadian candidate than Maple Downs to break the mold and set their par at 68 or 69.
19th in Ontario
Donald Ross, Bruce Hepner
Cutting to the chase: very few, if any, architects could tackle the flat, clay property like Donald Ross did at Essex.
The clinic on architecture at Essex is not without a master-class in routing, weaving its way in and out of its self. The clay drainage swales the golf course interacts with are magnificent to transport water through the property, and as an added benefit oftentimes come into play on tee shots.
Our panel specifically identified the sum of all parts being a key contributor to what makes Essex great. That is not to say there is not a slew of standouts, including the par 3, 7th tucked into the middle of the property with an attractive bunkering scheme.
37. St. Thomas
18th in Ontario
Stanley Thompson, Robbie Robinson, Ian Andrew
Those who get the chance to play “Union” (as it is locally called) will likely gravitate to the holes down in the valley playing alongside the creek, but those creations are actually courtesy of Robbie Robinson. Most of Stanley Thompson’s work plays in the gentle terrain above, relying more on smaller contours and interesting greens.
Holes like the opening three are a true firm handshake to the golf course, though some might not love the 2nd as much as we do. The 4th climbs out of the valley to make room foer the 5th-8th to play over a shared topographic ridge, a main feature throughout.
Credit belongs to Ian Andrew for merging the styles of both architects while seemingly restoring Thompson’s golf course.
17th in Ontario
George Cumming, A.W. Tillinghast
A little known fact is Scarboro was once part of a trio of A.W. Tillinghast golf courses in Canada, but with Anglo-American and the original Elm Ridge both disappearing from Québec, we’re left to appreciate the lone Tillie even more.
Unlike Elm Ridge and Anglo-American, however, Scarboro is a renovation of George Cumming’s original layout. Fans of the 4th and 7th might be shocked to learn those are actually Cumming’s original golf course still being used, but Tillinghast’s own creations, like the 8th, “Tiny Tim” par 3, 11th, and the short 15th.
There are not many golf courses that finish as unusually as Scarboro, but we like the uniqueness of hitting over a road.
16th in Ontario
Willie Park Jr. & C.H. Alison, Doug Carrick
The combination of incredibly sloped greens on a rather hilly property is not only a combination for success, but when paired with Willie Park Jr.’s routing and greens and Captain Alison’s bunkering, Weston is set up for success.
The 2nd hole has become somewhat of an iconic golf hole for Weston, but holes like the 5th, playing over a ridge is more engaging for the senses.
There is discussion of a potential restoration of this already fine layout, and with such a dramatic property riddled with architecture royalty, Weston’s ceiling is sky-high.
8th in British Columbia
It is said Thomas McBroom found 200 possible ways to route Tobiano, which trots its way around land that makes you feel like you’re playing golf on Mars and not the Interior British Columbia. If that’s true, we’re happy to see holes like the 6th and 14th make it, both of which stand tall amongst McBroom’s best par 4’s.
Much of the golf course interacts with the unpredictable desert-ish topography. For example, the 6th, playing to an island green on a plateau high above the sagebrush and fescue, is not only terrifying, but downright mean in the wind. Holes like the par 5, 13th play around a canyon take full advantage of the surroundings, but provide a stark warning: bring your game for Tobiano.
3rd in Québec
Ian Andrew & Mike Weir
One would be hard-pressed to cite a more extreme and successful transformation than the one accomplished here by Ian Andrew in collaboration with Mike Weir. Completely overhauling what was once, according to most reports, a largely uninspiring course with a mix of holes by Howard Watson and Graham Cooke, Andrew and Weir produced an elegant and subtle but amply strategic layout over a nice rolling property in the suburbs north of Montreal. In short, nearly all the strategies from tee to green work—as one would expect from such devout students of the craft—, and they are made prominent by the first-rate conditioning, firm and fast.
Andrew and Weir often apply a compress and release affect, wherein a narrow, tree-lined corridor culminates in a wide expanse of short grass around the green, with the 4th being the most prominent example of this. Whereas the course is often understated off the tee, around the greens, however, it is bold, fascinating, diverse, and, as most who have played here can attest, diabolical. The most note-worthy complexes among the fine set are the crowned 3rd which elicits thoughts of Pinehurst #2; the wide-mouthed, humped, false-fronted 5th, which Andrew claims is modelled after both the 5th and 14th at Augusta National; the classic redan 6th; the 11th set high on a spine with a wicked false front; and the tricky postage stamp-like 15th.
Laval remains Canada’s best example of the kind bold, imaginative renovation that has become prevalent south of the border during this “golden age of renovation and restoration”, at places such as Sleepy Hollow, Moraine, and Old Town.
32. London Hunt
15th in Ontario
Robert Trent Jones Sr. & Robbie Robinson, Rees Jones
Even though Robert Trent Jones Sr. was a partner with and under Stanley Thompson’s wing, his footprint in Canada is rather small comparatively. London Hunt remains his finest work in Canada, although many forget it was in partnership with Robbie Robinson. As a result, London Hunt feels closer to the RTJ Trail than it does Midvale or some of his earlier work.
The theme of London Hunt is big: the fairways are spacious, but the bunkers are big and mean as well. The greens themselves are likely on the short list for the biggest of its respective style of golf course. To be expected, the balance between being challenging while remaining fair is a point of pride for RTJ.
31. Predator Ridge
7th in British Columbia
When Doug Carrick got the job for “Ridge,” there were already 27 holes from Les Furber on property that people liked (18 of the holes now comprise No. 119 Predator course). The property was far more dramatic, but parts of the original golf course had to be sacrificed. Today, those holes are the 1st, 2nd, 15th-18th, while everything else is a new property.
There are elements of the Ridge that are as dramatic as No. 26 Greywolf, such as the par 3, 5th or par 4, 6th playing over a massive rock outcropping. The 9th, playing through numerous rock outcroppings, would not be out of place in Muskoka.
Like most places in this tier of courses, the macro is obvious impressive, but the micro-features are what really make the golf course memorable. The set of greens here, and in particular, the surrounding run-offs, kicker slopes and tie-ins, are among Carrick’s career best.
30. Humber Valley
1st in Newfoundland
There’s destination golf, and then there’s Humber Valley, situated on the west side of Newfoundland. In order to get here, one must either drive the 6 hours from St. Johns, or fly into Deer Valley.
At 30th in Canada, we would venture it is worth the journey. The golf course itself interacts with the Humber River twice, transporting the golfer once during the front nine (par 3, 5th), and then for the climax of the back nine with the 14th and 15th.
There’s a shocking amount of elevation change (as evident by the photo of the par 4, 10th above) that Doug Carrick managed to take full advantage.
14th in Ontario
Tom Bendelow & Donald Ross, Bob Cupp
A true inner-city club just north of downtown Toronto, Rosedale is surprisingly quiet. The first hole immediately drops into a quaint valley and doesn’t climb out until the 18th.
The credit on who Rosedale belongs to is a bit of a mess between Tom Bendelow and Donald Ross, but regardless, the style now feels distinctly Ross. The set of par 3’s all have dramatically small greens. Some with run-offs surrounding, like the 4th of 6th, and others with gorge, like the short 16th.
The round benefits dramatically from the interactions with the Don River, which come frequently throughout the middle portion of the round. The true highlight is climbing out of the valley starting at the 14th hole, which produces one of the best finishes in the country.
28. James Island
6th in British Columbia
Until recently, James Island was the private golf course of billionaire Craig McCaw off the coast of Sydney, British Columbia near Vancouver Island. Discovery Land, responsible for successful USA ventures like Estancia, Gozzer Ranch, and Silo Ridge, purchased this Jack Nicklaus golf course, and the future has never looked brighter.
The golf course weirdly works its way directly to the ocean for the par 3, 2nd, par 5, 3rd, and par 4, 5th before working back inland. The ocean disappears until the backdrop of the par 4, 18th, but the 7th, 8th, and the par 5, 16th, unusually utilizing a lake as a centralized hazard for the layup.
5th in British Columbia
A.V. Macan, Les Furber
If the term “players course” ever had such a proper ambassador, we have yet to find it in this country. It makes sense that following the 2011 Canadian Open, Shaughmessy was included in the PGA Tour’s favourite golf courses on the circuit.
What makes Shaughnessy most impressive, however, is the playability merging with a golf course suitable for the best in the world. All eighteen greens allow some sort of run up shot, and oftentimes preferred on holes such as the 3rd and 17th.
While the property is not overly dramatic, Macan’s routing is able to transport the golfer between dry creek bends, small valley’s, and out to the Fraser River to take full advantage of the site’s elements. Pairing that with some of Macan’s smartest green contours, and Shaughnessy has a winner on their hands.
4th in British Columbia
We get it, mountain golf is extremely hit-or-miss. Thankfully, Greywolf is the genre’s absolute best. Doug Carrick’s decision to route the opening three holes directly uphill benefits the pacing down the road as most of the golf course, minus the 14th and 18th, plays downhill.
Most assume Greywolf is a one trick pony, and in some respects, you could argue that is true. It’s more of a compliment to the par 3, 6th, aptly titled “Cliffhanger,” which rivals only the 4th at Banff Springs and the 16th at Cabot Cliffs. But the supporting cast is not to be messed with here. The uphill par 5, 3rd is an impressive three-shot hole up the mountain, while the downhill par 5, 5th might be a better hole than the following hole. The back nine keeps up the momentum with a good finishing stretch, minus the anti-climatic par 4 closing hole.
25. Lookout Point
13th in Ontario
Walter Travis, Ian Andrew
A golf course that is fun is not only the highest compliment one can receive, but it is a key component in Lookout Point’s enjoyment. The more dramatic of Walter Travis’ two Southern Ontario layouts is as wild, diverse, and wonderfully quirky as any course in the country: from a hundred-foot falling tee shots with wide views of the Niagara Escarpment, to sharply side hill par 5s, to a blind uphill 185 yard par 3, to par 4s hidden by deceptive mounding,
to a collection of some of the most unexpectedly contoured greens one
will play. The benign yardage of 6,600 yards forces even the best to adapt to weird lies, small greens, and shots not seen at other venues.
In recent times, the club’s management has committed Ian Andrew to restore and eliminate some of the neglect that had obscured Travis’ brilliance, and future plans indicate that the club, under the
direction of its incredibly caring and knowledgeable staff, will only
continue to get better.
3rd in British Columbia
A.V. Macan, Jeff Mingay
As he did at No. 84 Marine Drive, A.V. Macan continues to defy common architecture laws about the size of property suitable for golf. At Victoria, the property is sandwiched between the quaint town of Oak Bay and the Pacific Ocean—spiritually mimicking the links courses on the British Isles—while Beach Drive runs through the middle, is anything but “normal.”
The highlight of the round is the stretch of golf to the south of the road starting at the 3rd, highlighted by back-to-back oceanside par 3’s and the short par 4’s at the 5th and 7th, but Jeff Mingay’s brilliant restoration has made the inland holes live up to the oceanside hype.
12th in Ontario
George Cumming, Stanley Thompson, Bob Cupp, Doug Carrick
Situated north of the city in Richmond Hill, Summit is often forgotten in the discussion of Toronto’s best golf courses, yet our placement of 23rd has it right in the thick of things.
The property is extremely hilly, and in truth, it would be difficult to find a more severe inner-city golf course. As a result, the dramatic topography makes way for some pretty extreme moments, such as the opening 1st, the side-winding 9th at the bottom of a valley, and the climb before the fall at the 13th. The uphill closing hole, climbing up the valley the 1st hole tumbled down into, towards the base of the clubhouse, is one of the great closing holes in the country.
22. Muskoka Bay
11th in Ontario
Doug Carrick & Ian Andrew
If there is a harder golf course in Canada, Muskoka Bay is at the very least in the discussion. The swampy and rocky elements at such a dramatic property merge to provide a thrilling ride. Holes like the par 4, 9th, playing through a small rock outcropping to a green far bigger than the eye reveals is exhilarating, or the 1st, high atop its surroundings, is a stark opening hole.
Forgotten in all the flashiness of the drama is the set of greens, which are a highlight in Doug Carrick’s catalog thanks to then-associate Ian Andrew’s creativity. Some greens fall away from the golfer in the front. Others sit high atop the hillside’s falling off on three sides. For fans of Ian Andrew, the redan green a the 6th will feel right at home, but the small details (such as the greens) are what really separate Muskoka Bay from the rest of Doug’s catalog.
2nd in Québec
Since opening in 2008, much has been made and speculated of the privacy and exclusiveness of the club, located about fifteen minutes south of the bucolic town of Magog; once through the gates, however, one who is lucky enough to do so finds an elegant and old-world atmosphere that is never pretentious nor unwelcoming.
The golf course itself sees McBroom operating at the peak of his game; in comparison to the understated and subtle Öviinbyrd, another McBroom design which the club most closely resembles structurally and in terms of exclusiveness, it is big, bold, brash, and unapologetically difficult. From the long and sweeping 3rd and 5th, to the downhill 520 yard 6th with contouring mirroring the far-off mountain ridge, McBroom continues to show the multifaceted strengths. The hundred-foot plunging 10th,side-hill 11th through stately pines that brings to mind Augusta National, and the strategic 17th with a tricky green cut into a hillside just over a meandering creek, round out the set of par 4s that rival the best in Canada.
4th in Alberta
Willie Park Jr., Ron Forse
Another golden age small property, yet jam-packed with action. After the aggressive uphill par 5 (to a green with a knob in the front kicking balls every direction but straight), the golfer is transported to the top of the property. There are many Willie Park Jr. calling cards here—such as the par 3’s being in close proximity (other than the 15th)—but the most obvious are the rambunctious undulations in the set of greens.
As with many great classic golf courses, the routing slowly progresses to the final exclamation point: the 15th alongside the Elbow River; the 16th over the rowdy terrain; the 17th with parts of downtown Calgary looming over; and the epic par 4, 18th falling down the hillside next to the Elbow River.
10th in Ontario
Tom Fazio’s second, and to date last, Canadian course sits about an hour north of Toronto, on one of the best natural properties for golf
in the country. In some circles, Fazio comes under harsh criticism for favouring style over substance; at Coppinwood, however, he managed to find a satisfactory balance between them, allowing the natural terrain
to dictate play where the land is best, and using strategic bunkering and clever green complexes where it is less intense, especially on the front nine. The back nine is the better of the two sides, and among the best in Canada, with the massive punchbowl par 3, 11th, the tumbling 12th featuring a quasi-cape style tee shot, and the roller-coaster par 5 15th being the standouts.
While it did not factor in our assessment, omitting to mention the practice facility, which includes three full-length holes and a wedge range, would be a massive disservice to
the club; in truth, one would be hard-pressed to find a better “player’s club” in the country than this.
18. Beacon Hall
9th in Ontario
Bob Cupp & Thomas McBroom
The contrast in nines is common in small towns across the country when they accumulate enough wealth to build a new nine. Typically, it feels weird and out of place, though at Beacon Hall, it feels like Bob Cupp & Thomas McBroom expose you to what makes Beacon Hall so unique.
The front nine starts in the trees over some hilly terrain, and while it produces good holes like the 2nd, 3rd, and 9th, the best of Beacon Hall comes on the expansiveness of the back nine.
The par 3’s at the 11th and 16th are both best in class, while the par 5’s provide risk-reward options perfectly suited for match play.
8th in Ontario
Donald Steel, with Martin Ebert & Tom Mackenzie
Although within an hour from downtown Toronto, Goodwood is incredibly difficult to find, and that in itself is a significant feat in today’s era of technology (it is on Google Maps, however… but not Apple Maps). Upon arrival, the tumbling property cut through the glacier moraine lets you know you’re in for something special.
Such grace and fluidity in the concepts presented are rarely a modern trend. In truth, they align more with the golden age of architecture. But at Goodwood, Ebert & Mackenzie, on assignment for Donald Steel from his routing plan, pull off exactly that. Is there a more difficult set of greens in Canada?
16. Mount Bruno
1st in Québec
Willie Park Jr., Thomas McBroom
As opposed to No. 17 Goodwood, where massive humps, hollows, and ridges define the greens, Bruno’s set are so complex, riddled with intricacies that only experience can see. The complexity is not only a highlight, but is the main excitement of this venerable Willie Park Jr. layout.
There is nothing overly flashy or particularly dramatic here, which may draw criticism from some. But at 16th, in the country in our eyes, it more than holds up with excellent architecture shown on holes like the demanding 8th, thought-provoking 11th, and stunning 14th. The green on the long par 3, 15th truly is unbelievable in the best way possible.
15. National, Canada
7th in Ontario
George Fazio & Tom Fazio
Panelists who voted National GC of Canada number 1: One
The flamboyant persona of Tom & George Fazio’s architecture is a natural fit for “The National Golf Club of Canada” just north of proper Toronto limits, and as a result, stays in the favourites of many Canadians some 50 years after opening.
The layout is quite difficult (and proud of it), requiring golfers to really push the limit of their capabilities. On holes like the 8th or 17th, the Fazio tandem asks, “how high can you hit this,” where the 3rd or 14th allows golfers to play the ground if they so choose.
The most interesting golf comes when the layout interacts with the undulating property in various ways, such as the 7th with a fall off on the left, the 13th dropping into the valley, and the 14th playing directly over a gorge.
6th in Ontario
Rather than many of Thomas McBroom’s other golf courses on this list, Öviinbyrd is rather understated. The reliance on flashy bunkers and overdramatized green complexes is not to be found here. Instead, sophsticated concepts are brought to life over a beautiful piece of ground for McBroom’s magnum opus.
Sure, moments like the par 3, 8th and the par 3, 14th, both playing over the swampy Muksoka land with rock outcroppings, are as “postcard” as anything else McBroom has built, but restraint at the long 7th or drivable 10th continue to impress. The way rock formations sit into the landscape instead of jutting out abruptly is something we wish other courses in Muskoka would call upon.
5th in Ontario
Stanley Thompson, Robbie Robinson, Doug Carrick
A very interesting study into the family tree of Stanley Thompson is part of what makes Westmount so interesting. In fact, Thompson’s golf course has been split up by a handful of Robbie Robinson holes, and in recent years, Doug Carrick has touched up the golf course.
In reality, we almost do a disservice to Westmount describing it as such. Regardless, the opening par 5, 1st over some fruitful terrain is one of the best three-shot introductions to a golf course anywhere, and the par 4, 18th perfectly bookends the golf course.
Thankfully, in between is as charismatic, highlighted by the par 3, 3rd, and the following par 4, the short 8th, and very enjoyable par 4, 14th with a devilish green.
3rd in Alberta
Rod Whitman’s career is an interesting case study into the evolution of architecture trends. At Blackhawk, the concept of minimalism—at the scale and aesthetic of Tom Doak, Bill Coore, and other contemporaries in the United States have been building—was born in Canada.
In truth, Whitman has been building minimalism at No. 56 Wolf Creek Old and No. 43 Wolf Creek for two decades before Blackhawk, but the spaciousness of holes like the 2nd, 11th, and 13th feel distinctly new.
The genius of the routing reveals itself on multiple plays, where one realizes the front nine plays around a central rise and the back nine dives into the North Saskatchewan River valley.
11. Pulpit Club
4th in Ontario
Dr. Michael Hurdzan & Dana Fry
A golf course draped over such interesting terrain ought to provide one of the most stimulating experiences, and thankfully, that sentence rings true for Paintbrush.
The golf course itself is draped over sandy, rolling terrain northwest of the city, where it lends itself to bouncy, links-inspired golf. The 2nd, a short par 5 interrupted by a massive knoll to the left of the green, is unlike anything in Canada. As is the 5th, playing completely blind to a bathtub style green.
Our panelists specifically identified the joys of playing a course like Paintbrush, which provides uncertainly in bounces, results, and score. As a bit of a call back to the Old World, rock formations and rock walls are scattered throughout the property, none better than the part 4, 17th working on a diagonal angle top a semi-boomerang green.
3rd in Ontario
Harry Colt, C.H. Alison, Martin Ebert & Tom Mackenzie
One of the handful of golf courses in Canada to be internationally recognized thanks to a string of Canadian Opens (as recently as 2019’s playing where Rory McIlrory won), Ancaster, as it is locally called, is a brilliant Harry Colt routing.
On a fairly hilly site with Ancaster Creek side winding its way around the bottom, Harry Colt—who you could argue is the greatest architect of them all—put on a master-class in routing with triangles. As a result, the interactions with the creek come at various points in the golf holes: on the 3rd & 18th, for example, the golfer potentially has to lay short; other times, the creek is hardly in play, though it is still there (the 7th, 10th, 15th, for example).
None of our panelists were able to see Hamilton during the fall of 2021 following Martin Ebert & Tom Mackenzie’s extensive renovation, but we await curiously to see how high Hamilton can get.
2nd in British Columbia
Rod Whitman, Richard Zokol & Armen Suny
After being closed since 2014, Sagebrush made a triumphant return to the golf scene in the summer of 2021. The golf is way too good here to be grown over, with individuality at every turn. The two greens at the 7th and 16th are the biggest outside of Old Macdonald (Bandon), and the shared fairway at the 11th and 14th is a whopping 150 yards wide.
Aside from the memento highlights, there are some all-world golf holes scattered around these rocky hillsides. The up and over 2nd, with the Nicola Lake in the background is exhilarating, the 5th, where you can putt from the fairway is unique, and the bunker-less 8th is a roller coaster. The short 12th is said to be inspired by Pine Valley, and the shelf par 4, 15th is quirky and fun.
As an added interest, Sagebrush is a bit of a “who’s who” in the Canadian architecture scene, with Jeff Mingay, Keith Cutten, Riley Johns, and Trev Dormer all providing a hand at one point or another to the original trio of architects.
8. Banff Springs
2nd in Alberta
Stanley Thompson 18
Stanley Thompson, Robert Trent Jones Sr., Les Furber
Nearby Jasper Park Lodge was Stanley Thompson’s first great golf course, but Banff Springs was what propelled him into being Canada’s first megastar in the architecture world.
The par 3’s are excellent: the combination of the long 10th, playing over the Bow River and the narrowing 13th’s ying to the short 2nd and 8th’s yang. The heavyweight is the famous Devil’s Cauldron at the 4th, where ther golfer places over a glacier inlet to a semi-punchbowl style green.
Aside from the usual Thompson par 3 standouts, his bunkering style, which cuts into landing areas on diagonals, is a strategic marvel and got the most out of a relatively flat piece of ground at the base of the Rocky Mountains.
Originally, Banff Springs used to start at the Fairmont Banff Springs over Spray River at the 15th and conclude alongside the Bow River at the base of the hotel at what is the 14th, but a routing switch in the 80s messed with the flow of what once was one of the great out & back routings in golf. Regardless of the current state, Banff continues to be one of Canada’s best and worthy of holding a spot in our top 10.
2nd in Ontario
Harry Colt, C.H. Alison, Martin Hawtree
Panelists who voted Toronto Golf Club number 1: one
After Harry Colt’s initial 1911 visit, Toronto Golf club became the benchmark in which golf courses in Canada were measured against, and in some respect, still are.
First time visitors will be surprised how demanding this golf course is at the benign length of 6800 yards. The stark contrast between the Hail Mary type shots at the 4th, 5th, 7th, and 15th juxtaposition nicely against the ground game at the 9th, 13th, and 17th provides balance, while the progression of the routing, beginning in the flats before playfully dancing around the creek starting at the 9th continues to prove inspiring to this day.
With only two par 5’s, the two-shot holes provide the majority of the interest. The diabolical pseudo-redan at the 4th and C.H. Alison’s par 3, 14th are some of the standout 3’s in a great collection of one shot holes. For Canadian golf, there are few places we would rather spend a day at.
6. Cape Breton Highlands
3rd in Nova Scotia
Stanley Thompson, Ian Andrew
Panelists who voted Cape Breton Highlands Links number 1: One
Designed by Stanley Thompson in 1939, Highland Links was and remains one of the world’s best-routed layouts. In fact, one could claim that a sample of nearly all of the foremost types of Canadian golf can be found among the eighteen here: holes across rumpled, quasi-links land; holes featuring ocean vistas; holes traversing mountainous terrain; holes along a low-lying riverbed; and holes of the more traditional parkland kind. Its variety is its strength, and, despite the large acreage which it covers, the golf course never feels disjointed nor sequestered, the truest testament to Thompson’s brilliance.
Unfortunately, in recent years much of the discussion about the course, which is owned by Parks Canada, has focused on its poor-conditioning, lack of drainage, and sylvan overgrowth, as well as the unfortunate and out of place remnants of the renovation done by Graham Cooke’s firm in the mid-1990s. Thankfully, Ian Andrew was hired to nurse the course back to health following the extensive damage it sustained from Hurricanes Earl and Igor in 2010, and since, he has managed to recover much of brilliance and uniqueness that had been lost to neglect over the years. At the time of publication, the conditioning may not yet be quite up to the standard most would expect from a course repeatedly ranked among the world’s 100 best, and there still remains some overgrowth to clear; however, such imperfections are merely minor bothers among the surrounding brilliance of one of the world’s true golden age gems.
1st in British Columbia
Stanley Thompson, Doug Carrick
Capilano’s routing is so highly regarded that even Robert Trent Jones Sr., Thompson’s protégé at the time, tried to claim credit for the details in the dirt. While not true, he had it right: Capilano is one of golf’s great routings, tumbling down the West Vancouver mountainside.
The golf course begins tumbling down the hillside towards downtown Vancouver for the first six holes, featuring views of the city skyline, Vancouver Harbour, and the Lion’s Gate Bridge. After a brief refrain, the journey begins back up to the clubhouse at the 9th before ending in the bowl around the clubhouse for the final five.
What is particularly interesting is, unlike Thompson’s par 3 calling card, the par 4’s standout. The side shelf 2nd is sporty; the narrowing 7th green is terrifying, and the bunker-less par 4, 13th, climbing back to the clubhouse playing over a gorge, might be the best of them all. Amongst many other praises, Capilano’s finishing five holes are often cited as the best finishing stretch in Canada.
4. Cabot Links
2nd in Nova Scotia
Panelists who voted Cabot Links number 1: two
Set between the bucolic town of Inverness, Nova Scotia, and the Gulf
of St-Lawrence on a perched strip of land that was formerly a coal mine, Cabot Links, a 2012 Rod Whitman design, is one of the few authentic links in North America, and it certainly lives up to the then hitherto unheard of hype it generated prior to opening for a Canadian project throughout the golf world.
A veteran architect and shaper who has worked for some of the best-known modern firms, Whitman’s dexterity at blending the work of
nature with the craft of hand and machine means that it is nearly
impossible to determine the great effort and time that were needed –
both from him and from Ben Cowan-Dewar, the visionary and owner of the project—to transform the scarred and ruined property into the natural-looking, rumpled, varied, and thought-provoking end product.
From the strategic and quasi-drivable 3rd, to the 500 yard cape-style 5th bending around the harbour of the town, to the thrilling up-and-over 10th going straight out at Gulf, to the cliff-hugging 15th and 16th , the set of par 4s here is among, if not the best in Canada. Furthermore, the crisp fescue, coupled with the ever-present coastal wind, necessitates the use of the ground game and emphasizes Whitman’s astute contouring of the greens, which, as a whole, are also among the exceptional in the country.
3. Jasper Park Lodge
1st in Alberta
Photo credit: Beyond The Contour
Among the admirers of Jasper Park Lodge, Stanley Thompson can rest proudly knowing Alister Mackenzie, George Thomas, and Tom Doak enjoy the first of the “Thompson Five.”
The golf course journeys around this mountain landscape, providing an ebb & flow unlike anything else in Canada. The card-wreckers come often at the 3rd, 4th, 8th, 9th, 15th, but mixed in are legitimate birdie opportunities for most golfers at the 2nd, 5th, and 10th. To a keen eye, one notices most of the card wreckers are Thompson’s par 3’s, while the par 5’s pair to make a plethora of “half par” holes for maximum enjoyment.
The golf course climaxes on Lac Beauvert, where the “Bad Baby” par 3, 15th is sandwiched by two world-class par 4’s before climbing out of the valley to end on what Dr. Mackenzie called “the best finish in the world of golf.”
2. St. George’s
1st in Ontario
Stanley Thompson, Robbie Robinson, Ian Andrew & Tom Doak
Panelists who voted St. George’s number 1: four
Photo credit: Beyond The Contour
Nestled in the quiet suburb of Etobicoke near downtown Toronto and Toronto-Pearson Airport, St. George’s has been an institution in Canada, hosting six Canadian Opens, including 2022’s edition.
It is not the Canadian Open’s that make this the best golf course in Canada. Rather, Stanley Thompson’s routing traverses over undulating terrain, utilizing the land by routing golf holes at the bottom of the valleys instead of on top to produce the most interesting stretches.
The opening eight, for example, are perfectly executed, highlighted by the demanding 2nd, revealing 3rd, and the seductive 8th tucked behind a natural hillock. The inward stretch starting at the 12th makes golfers hold on until the finish, showing the teeth of the golf course and proving Thompson envisioned this as his championship style golf course. A masterful bunker restoration from Tom Doak & Ian Andrew has St. George’s about as close to the top as one can get.
1. Cabot Cliffs
1st in Nova Scotia
Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw
Panelists who voted Cabot Cliffs number 1: seven
Much was expected of the second course at the resort thanks to Coore’s and Crenshaw’s involvement—their first project in Canada—as well as the pictures that widely circulated of the now world-famous 16th green site and the heroic, diagonal cliff hugging tee shot on the 17th. As evidenced by its immediate ascension to the top of nearly every ranking of Canadian golf courses, the American duo delivered on the promise, weaving the layout— featuring six par 3s, 4s, and 5s—around the tremendously diverse and rolling property of marsh, wetland, forest, and links-land along the Gulf.
Holes such as the plugging and uber-wide 2nd, the punch-bowl 6th with a unique front to back tiered green, the up and over par 5 15th, and, of course, those perched along the cliff immediately catch the eye; however, it is the more subtle, and often unexpected, architectural details and the clever shaping work—particularly the bunkering and the green complexes—that elevate the course from a collection of great holes to a truly cohesive, consistently wonderful whole.