Changing Of The Guard & A Letter To The Past

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With the release of the near misses of our top 100 (No.’s 101-125) and the first batch of Beyond The Contour‘s Top 100, we imagine a lot of questions need to be answered. Well, we are happy to listen, communicate, and answer. For starters, the process, and methodology (or lack thereof, even) might be a good place to start.

Before we get inquiries of people using the contact form above wondering where their home course is, we want to acknowledge: we reviewed over 200 golf courses. Those courses remain Canada’s best, and unless we completely missed one or two, a course that was even considered is amongst the best in the country. Our goal was simply not to post the same top 100 as SCOREGolf or Top 100 Golf Courses, though our list is similar (76 of the same golf courses with SCORE, and 81 of the same golf courses with Top 100), we wanted to provide a unique perspective. A third voice in a way, with perhaps an unusual flair: those who build and write about golf courses for a living helped us put together the list, a rarity amongst Magazine rankings worldwide.

Glen Abbey Golf Club. Photo credit: The Heart of Ontario.

Simply put: any course considered for such lists is of quality. Many of whom were extremely close to making the list and battled hard amongst panelists. For example, Windermere (No. 127) near Edmonton was a fierce debate, with half of the total panelists ranking that individual golf course voting for it inside the top 100. Or perhaps Glen Abbey (No. 140), a poster child for Canada thanks to the most Canadian Open’s hosted in Canada. Two votes inside the top 75 and two votes inside the top 100, though it did not garner enough support from the other panelists to make it (three panelists voted for it outside the top 125, dragging it down). Likely the most interesting case of this is Manoir Richelieu (No. 164), which really hurt itself with the new St. Laurent nine from Darrell Huxham, which was one of the two nines on the ballot. Perhaps a higher mark would occur from Tadossauc & Richelieu, which uses the original Herbert Strong land and provides less craziness and more stability in the concepts presented.

So, who replaced these classic Top 100’s like Nicklaus North (No. 146) or Deer Ridge (No. 129)? The results seem to sway towards fun and unique golf courses. For example, Terra Nova’s Twin Rivers course features back-to-back par 3’s and par 5’s on the inward nine all while teasing its interaction with the Atlantic Ocean (*cough* *cough* Cypress Point). Perhaps we can turn to Lachute’s Thompson course, which has unusual makings for a Thompson course, with six of each par scattered throughout its southern Québécois property. Regions like Saskatchewan, Manitoba can now champion multiple Top 100’s—long overdue in our eyes. Northern Ontario even got in on the party with Whitewater. Astute observers will notice Whitewater is a McBroom, who has traditionally been a staple in these sorts of lists for five seperate decades now. But Whitewater stands out among his own crowd, and as a result, we wanted to identify that.

Granted, Canada is quite a large country, and that in itself established an issue only a small-scale panel could overcome. Say, for example, we found 150 people to be on this panel. In order for a course to meet the same requirements we set (3 people of 18, or 16.67%), we would need a total of 25 people to go see each and every golf course to qualify for the top 100. Admittedly, our panel is not exactly normal in their golf trips (for most, it helps to be in the industry). But our small panel helped us lock into some lesser-known golf regions and see what needed to be seen. As a result, our ranking produces a very wide-range spread of courses—and we have not even seen over half of the list yet!

Are these golf courses better than some of the usual suspects? Well, we think so, as evident but the placements on our top 100. Our panel particularly liked how adventurous a course like Twin Rivers works its way through the landscape. So much in fact that it ends on a par 3 playing over a live waterfall. Or perhaps Elmhurst already has a leg up on a course like Seguin Valley (No. 170), where Elmhurst gets the advantage of playing on sand. As a result, Ross was able to find more nuances and unique features.

The main theme from this new list, or at least what we hope Canadian’s can see, is there is a wide variety of “top 100” golf in Canada. If you like Wildstone (No. 161) more than Stewart Creek (No. 93), then great! Or perhaps you prefer Credit Valley (No. 171) more than Oshawa (No. 91). Regardless, we welcome the debate, but our list represents a new way of looking at a top 100. Our choices belong to courses that have a sense of individuality and their own unique identity in Canada’s landscape. In essence, they provide something you cannot find elsewhere.

No. 171: Credit Valley

A renewed interest in courses that provide features you would not find elsewhere; a keen eye for courses that balance fun, shot variety, and playability; we are cheerleaders for engaging architecture and getting the most out of a property while still providing a way for every level of play to enjoy the features. Gone are the days, at least at Beyond The Contour, where overly difficult courses that provide a singular route to the green, alienating higher handicaps and other groups of golfers, dominate the scene. Gone are the days of a Golf Digest-esque 1990s way of thinking about golf architecture.

If there is one takeaway from this article (and the accompanying list), it would be Canada is a big place with lots of unique golf courses. If your course did not make it, then we apologize, as we do not see the golf the same. Maybe, just maybe, Beyond The Contour has helped identify new courses to you that are as good as anything in the country and our hope is you take the time to seek out the “unusual suspects” that you might not have thought of before. Or, perhaps, you completely discredit our ranking entirely because you’ve never heard of Whitewater, Twin Rivers, or even some of the new additions coming on February 16 when No.’s 51-75 releases (hint: rural Québec, Saskatchewan, and yes, more Manitoba). At Beyond The Contour, our new Top 100 represents a changing of the guard in our mindset towards golf architecture in this country. We hope it is here to stay.

For any specific inquires, feedback, or questions, please contact us below.


  • Andrew Harvie

    Based in Toronto, but having lived in Alberta, British Columbia, Montana, Arizona, and Texas, I have been lucky enough to see over 400 golf courses and counting!

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