This week, Oakdale becomes the thirty-sixth still active golf course to welcome the PGA TOUR (insert LIV comment here) to its fairways and greens. Though Oakdale’s composite routing is undoubtedly a step-down in quality from last year’s venue, the venerable St George’s, it should nevertheless provide a fair and entertaining test and present well on TV. With that in mind, here is my ranking of all the golf courses to have hosted the Canadian Open to date. Since I’ve played many but not all, this is an amalgamation of my personal ranking mixed with the opinion of a few others associated with the website. I’ve merely ranked them as pure golf courses, as I would when submitting a ballot for our top 100 list, for example—i.e, not as overall venues or as hosts. And, yes, I understand that most of these golf courses have been significantly altered, for better or worse, in the intervening years since, especially those that have not hosted in decades.
In truth, though, we considered ranking the golf courses as they were when they last did so and also including those that are now N.L.E., but ultimately decided against it. For what it’s worth, St Andrews Club, located in North York and designed by Stanley Thompson and Herbert Strong, would probably be on the cusp of the top 5. Meanwhile, Montreal Municipal, host of the 1967 edition, would be last. For more on the history of this trail-blazing club and disastrous event, follow this link.
1. Toronto Golf Club (Colt)
Quite simply Canada’s best golf course and club. Nary a detail, nor element, that stands out as ingrata.
2. St. George’s Golf & Country Club
Still the pre-eminent “championship” venue in this country, as Stanley Thompson originally intended it to be, nearly a century-ago now.
3. Hamilton Golf & Country Club (West/South)
An always-popular venue among the players, with good reason. Moreover, Colt’s timeless creation has been improved, in certain aspects at least, since it lasted hosted, in 2019.
4. Westmount Golf & Country Club
One of the true blue-blood Canadian golf clubs. Unfortunately located outside of RBC’s acceptable region for hosting the event – i.e. the GTA – this is rock-solid parkland-style golf from start to finish.
5. Mount Bruno Country Club
With Toronto Golf Club, this ultra-exclusive Montreal-area club is one of the true aristocrats of Canadian golf. Far too short and reticent to ever again host the event, this Willie Park Jr design, however, absolutely befuddled those who participated in the 1922 edition of the event, when unheralded American Al Watrous eventually took home the prize at 19 over par.
6. Rosedale Golf Club
A stalwart Donald Ross design traversing some of Canada’s most expensive and distinguished inner-city land. Of course, for reasons similar to Mount Bruno, it will never again play host to the PGA Tour.
7. Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club
The West Coast A.V. Macan design is loved by players and spectators alike, where small, heavily-contoured greens on the banks of the Fraser River feeding out to the ocean make it hard to not see the appeal.
8. Weston Golf & Country Club
Perhaps once Andy Staples completes his upcoming revitalization of this Willie Park Jr original (with the help of C.H. Alison), the Canadian Open might consider a return to the site of Arnold Palmer’s first tour win, for it is one of the most interesting and rousing of the golf courses within the GTA area (and in all of Canada).
9. Scarboro Golf & Country Club
Unique, varied, and wonderful, time and technology have taken their toll on this A.W. Tillinghast design in the east end of the city, which hosted the event four times between 1940 and 1963. Wins here by Bobby Locke, in 1947, and Sam Snead, in 1940, are particular points of pride to celebrate.
10. Cherry Hill Club
A refined Walter Travis effort near the border crossing to Buffalo, Cherry Hill is, undoubtedly, among the more unlikely clubs to have welcomed the tour. The golf course held up remarkably well to scoring during its solo time hosting, in 1972, when the defending champion, Lee Trevino, was so intimidated by the par 3, 11th, that he laid up all four days.
11. Mississaugua Golf & Country Club
A bustling club with a first-rate golf course that has been touched by some of the most known practitioners of the art over the decades since it last hosted in 1947, its sixth time doing so. A return one day soon would be exciting, although discussions on 2022 and 2026, Oakdale’s original dates before COVID-19, have slowed down that hope.
12. London Hunt Club
Were it located within the GTA, then this opulent club, replete with a stereotypical Robert Trent Jones Sr. course seemingly fit for tour golf, would probably be among the event’s recurrent hosts, but alas.
13. Royal Montreal Golf Club (Blue)
In my taste, this is the best large-scale club in Canada, one tailormade for hosting events of this magnitude. For a variety of reasons, internal and external, however, a return to L’Ile Bizard seems out of the question for a good while (though we are excited for the President’s Cup to return next year).
14. Essex Golf & Country Club
A crowd-pleaser whenever this Windsor area Donald Ross design has hosted a professional event, be it regular or senior, a few hundred yards would need to be found for it to host something of note again (ignoring its location).
15. Laval-sur-le-Lac (Green)
Nearly the host of the 2014 (and then again in 2017) edition of the event, albeit on its Blue Course, this Willie Park Jr. original design, which Ian Andrew re-worked significantly and wonderfully, hosted the 1962 edition, won by Ted Kroll. The best “second course” in Canada, its days of potentially hosting the world’s best have passed it by, unfortunately.
16. Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club (Gold)
Reworked by the firm of Dr. Michael Hurdzan into a distinctively modern-feeling layout, it remains one of the recurrent, and finest, hosts of the Women’s open, for which it is best suited, golf course and facility wise.
17. St. Charles Country Club (Ross/Mackenzie)
Perhaps possessing the best architectural pedigree of any golf course in Canada, we are greatly looking forward to the end result of Jim Urbina’s renovative project. Johnny Palmer’s record winning score of -25, posted here in 1952, its sole time hosting the event, has rarely been threatened since.
18. Royal Ottawa Golf Club
Having the distinction of being the last Canadian Club to have hosted a major championship, the 2000 Du Maurier Classic won by Meg Mallon, this Quebec-side club is now too short and cramped to again host the Men’s Open, but nevertheless remains one of Canada’s blue-blood clubs and most charming places for a game.
19. Thornhill Club
A thoroughly interesting Stanley Thompson on a harsh and difficult property.
20. Royal Mayfair Golf Club
Another one-off host, little-known Wes Elis held off Jay Hebert, winner of the 1960 PGA championship, to claim the title at this Stanley Thompson golf course, which has since been touched, rather too heavy-handedly, by both Ted Locke and Les Furber.
21. Lakeview Golf Course
Once regarded as one of Canada’s most difficult tests, as evidenced by the high winning scores both times it hosted the event, in 1923 and 1934 respectively, this Dixie Road-adjacent municipal golf course subsequently fell on harder times, but recent work by Cam Tyers has provided a promise of brighter days to come. Replete with old-school charm and a wonderful array of holes skirting Applewood Creek, which bisects the property at its low point, at less than one-hundred dollars a round, this Herbert Strong golf course remains of the best values in Canada, where one can amble in the winning footsteps of Clarence Hackney and Tommy Armour, among others.
22. Riverside Country Club, NB
A hilly Donald Ross golf course located on the outskirts of Saint-John, NB, it’s hard to fathom the world’s best having ever descended upon this remote area of the country, but, according to those who have played it, the golf course remains among Canada’s most underrated. Ron Pritchard’s solicitous hand is foremost to credit for maintaining the golf course largely as Ross intended it to be, and its future, which will continue to be overseen by a similarly caring and skilled pair of eyes, is exciting.
23. Rivermead Golf Club
The namesake club of the trophy given each year to the low Canadian at the Men’s Open, Rivermead hosted the 1920 edition, won by James Douglas Edgar, his second title in a row. Long a local favourite, once Jeff Mingay’s fine and caring work here is unveiled, a return to the national spotlight is sure to follow.
24. Beaconsfield Golf Club
Another Stanley Thompson golf course that lost its way slightly since it last hosted, in 1956, Jeff Mingay’s and Christine Fraser’s on-going work will revitalize its best elements. As a result, hosting a fifth Women’s Open in the near future seems quite easy to envision for the club.
25. Oakdale Golf & Country Club (Composite)
All in all, it’ll provide a good test for the tour. It’s a bit straight-forward and predictable, and thus less-interesting and provocative, than the better Stanley Thompson projects.
26. Point Grey Golf & Country Club
The recent work on the golf course is eye-catching, and, if done to the entirety of the golf course, it should rise up any such future rankings.
27. Kanawaki Golf Club
Host of the 1929 edition, won by Leo Diegel, his fourth and final title, this Montreal area golf course would definitely benefit from a refresher, as time and neglect have taken their toll on it. Still, it’s an often engaging and thought-provoking test of golf, a serene step-back in time, if you will.
28. Niawka Country Club
Once host, much work has been done to Thompson’s original golf course, though it remains a solid effort, all things said.
29. Lambton Golf & Country Club
Rumored to be in line for a future Open, for the club squarely resides within RBC’s preferred footprint, if you’re into Rees Jones designs, then this golf course should appeal to your sensibilities. Like many, I don’t, so I’m not the biggest fan of it, but it undoubtedly fits a certain purpose.
30. Club de Golf Islesmere (Bleu/Blanc)
There are still some traces of what was, probably at one time, a good Willie Park Jr. layout, but, by now, these have been buried and tainted by decades of neglect and mismanagement, like so many of Quebec’s historical golf courses (though this is, thankfully, changing, slowly but surely). An exciting candidate for a restoration.
31. Club de Golf Pinegrove
Located to the south-east of Montreal, across the Saint-Lawrence, Pinegrove twice hosted in the 1960s and produced two notable champions, major winners Kel Nagle and Tommy Aaron. The holes that criss-cross the creek, which snakes through the western portion of the property, are quite interesting and noteworthy; however, the rest of the golf course falls a tad flat. The club, however, has produced a number of high-end golfers of late, including Joey Savoie and Etienne Papineau, who is in the field at Oakdale, this year.
32. Glen Abbey Golf Club
After years of over-exposure and over-ranking, the pendulum of popular opinion seems, perhaps, to have swung too far in the opposite direction. The Abbey, built to host large-scale golf tournaments, designed by Jack Nicklaus with the professional game purposely in mind, isn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, a totally irredeemable golf course, nor is it a Doak 0, as some have suggested. It’s a fine, albeit dated and largely inoffensive golf course, with a strong stretch of holes once it dips into the valley. It doesn’t need to host another open, don’t get me wrong, but, all things said, it is still a cool place to play a round.
33. Richelieu Valley Golf Club
Boasting Lee Trevino as its champion, Richelieu Valley is, like most of Glen Abbey, for example, a bit forgettable. If considered in a vacuum, then it’s a good enough golf course, but against some of the more acclaimed hosts, it falls short.
34. Angus Glen Golf Club (North)
The newer of the two golf courses at this busy complex, located north of Toronto, sees Doug Carrick at his least inspired. Overly wide with no real reason for being so, soft, mundane, but usually well-conditioned, it’s just a slightly too pedestrian golf course. There’s nothing offensive to be found here, but nothing that really stands out, either.
35. Summerlea Golf Club
Again, it’s just kind of bland and forgettable, but a good local place for a game and a lively club ready and willing to host a litany of amateur events, a credit to them.
36. Angus Glen Golf Club (South)
The most head-scratching renovation I’ve come across, from a firm whose work I, in fact, quite like otherwise. What occurred, here, is odd, and I am sure there is more to the story than just what meets the eye, because it doesn’t make sense, considering the obvious talent involved.