It’s now been almost two full seasons of golf since I published my first ranking of the top golf courses in Ottawa. In the meantime, I’ve revisited most of the best ones in our fair city, often on multiple occasions and with Andrew, whose astute evaluations and comments always bring a fresh perspective to mine. Crucially, too, I’ve now played the end product of both Rivermead’s and Royal Ottawa’s renovations, and I’ve seen more of Ian Andrew’s on-going consulting work at Rideau View. Although, of course, I wish that more local golf courses listened to the improvements that I proposed last year. Moreover, I like rankings, most people like rankings, and so here’s another ranking.
(note: obviously I am extending the Ottawa area to include Gatineau and some communities to the south; however, unlike with the first ranking, I have removed Brockville, Cornwall, Smith Falls, and Hawkesbury from consideration).
#1 – Chateau Montebello
Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, depending on your view of things, nothing has changed since the first version of this ranking, although there is a glimmer of hope (which Andrew will delve into soon). My evaluation still stands: “the best layout in Ottawa, and, if properly restored, one of the best in Canada. Just leave your expectations about service and conditioning back at the country club and you’ll have a great day, I promise.” Not to have this among Canada’s top 100 in our initial ranking is, in my opinion, the biggest blemish on our list.
#2 – Rivermead
Sporty and engaging are two adjectives I’d use to describe Rivermead’s golf course, a Charlie Murray and George Cumming blended design that Jeff Mingay recently cleansed from the massacre Ken Venturi performed upon it in the late 1980s. Its presentation is now neat and unfussy, with plenty of added short grass around the greens to restore playing interest. Hopefully the club will continue its tree removal program, starting with the cluster of unsightly pines about one hundred yards in front of the 7th tee box and, of course, the ridiculous lone tree short and right of the 5th green.
#3 – Ottawa Hunt
As I’ve progressed as a course rater (for BTC and a US publication), I’ve put an increasing emphasis on highly rating historic golf courses whose architecture and aesthetic are still true to the original vision (or at least ethos) of its architect(s)—and the Hunt is currently about as far from Willie Park Jr.’s as you can get. Still, it’s a quite good golf course, over one of the better plots of inner-city property anywhere in Canada. The rolling, sand-based topography is especially well-utilized on the intricately routed south-nine, where, despite all of the subsequent work, you can still sense some traces of Willie Park Jr.’s touch.
#4 Royal Ottawa
Too many trees, way, way, way, way too many trees, everywhere. What is it about seventy-five year old white-haired men and tree fetishes? I want to see your golf course, not your evergreens. Take out the trees and it instantly jumps from 68th, or so, to about 20th, or so, in Canada. Longer reviews, here and here.
I absolutely loved my years as a member at Camelot, and I love going back, but Thomas McBroom’s early phase simply isn’t what I favour. The conditioning, which has been wonky historically, has improved of late, and the club has done much good renovation work in recent years, with McBroom’s help. I’m a little disappointed, however, that they are planning to shift the postage-stamp-esque 11th green to the right – although I understand why, since, in its current location, benched into a steep hill, the green-surface has proved troublesome to grow puttable turf upon. Longer review here.
#6 Rideau View
A niece sporty club, with a passionate membership who deeply cares about their club and course. Ian Andrew’s astute touch continues to improve the golf course, and, unlike at so many other clubs of its vintage in this country, the tree program is quite well managed. Although it does not factor into my evaluation, the new range and short game area are extremely impressive, to boot, and important additions to what has traditionally been the “player’s club” in the city.
#7: The Marshes
When I ranked it ahead of Rideau View, at the time of writing the first version of this list, I hadn’t been back to the Marshes in a few years. I’m afraid to report that, at least on the day when I visited, there has been much unfortunate deterioration to the bunkers, fairways, and greens, to the point that it affected play. Some don’t consider conditioning when rating golf courses, but I do, to a certain extent at least, especially when it comes to, what essentially is, a coin-flip between two courses.
After some years (read: decades and decades) of neglect, the new ownership of my childhood home—thankfully—seems committed to improving the golf course, by removing trees, redoing bunkers, and managing the putting surfaces a little better. However, I sincerely hope that the nasty rumours I’ve heard about Graham Cooke redoing the west course are, in fact, merely rumours.
It’s just so pedestrian, I don’t really know what else to say really – it’s fine. I mean, just look at the picture…
#10 Carleton Yacht
I haven’t been back in a few years, so my initial review still stands: “this is a claustrophobic golf course on which you won’t hit many drivers, even if you are Fred Funk accurate. It’s not great; it’s not bad. I particularly like some of the longer par 4s such as the 4th, 9th, 13th, and 17th. Once again, with some tree removal and a renovation of the greens and their surrounds, I believe that a clever architect could make something of it.”
#11: Kanata Lakes
Some strong and interesting holes, but, on the whole, it’s just too difficult and overly encroached upon by houses for me to really enjoy.
#12: Loch March
A very uneven golf course—high highs, but low lows.
#13: Greyhawk – Talon
If it got really firm and fast, it would be quite interesting to play.
#14: Hylands – North
The front nine near the airport is quite good, but it loses momentum on the more mundane back 9. A pleasant members’ course.
#15: Eagle Creek
Full review to be found here.
#16: Greyhawk – Predator
Like its sibling, it would need to get really firm and fast, but there are some strong par 4s, especially.
It’s a Graham Cooke golf course. It is what it is, that being a very disconnected layout with some interesting stuff to be found on occasion. See this fuller review, from friend of the show, Jordan Jackson.
#18: Le Sorcier
The intense property produced some hair-raising holes interspersed with some real clunkers, too, which hurts the overall product.
#19 Hylands – South
There’s nothing wrong here, but nothing that really elevates it, either.
#20: Meadows – North and South
I’m thinking of the two nines closest to Hawthorn RD (it might not the be the north-south), but these two features some strong and challenging par 4s, in particular, with some good variety of land. Moreover, the price is right.
#21: Greensmere – Premier
If the winds kicks up, this is a nasty test.
The holes nearer to the clubhouse I enjoy. (I haven’t played here in 15 years—who knows anymore—and, no, I’m not going back by my own volition…)
A surprisingly hearty challenge from the back tees.
6 solid holes, 6 average ones, and 6 downright awful ones. But it’s built on pure sand, at least.
Some cool old school charm can still be detected here.