- Mississauga, Ontario
- H.S. Colt (1912)
- 12th in Canada (SCOREGolf)
Any conversation about the Toronto golf scene, or the Canadian golf scene for that matter, would be amiss without including the Colt course at The Toronto Golf Club.
The club itself was founded in 1876, which makes it the third oldest club in North America behind Royal Montreal Golf Club and Royal Quebec Golf Club (both in Quebec, Canada). However, the current golf course wasn’t built and opened until 1912, where H.S. Colt laid out most of the current layout in 1912, and in recent years, Martin Hawtree has brought back a lot of the Colt glory while updating the layout to play better.
Toronto opens up with a shorter par 4 at 370 yards. It’s a gentle handshake to the club—would you expect anything less from one of the classiest places in the country? A bunker left and two right pinch the landing area here.
Most of Colt’s work at Toronto revolved around his green complexes. Given the site, which is relatively flat, he had to get creative throughout the round. The 1st is low profile, and features some good movement, but nothing too crazy.
I’m going to try and do my best not to spoil the goodness that is around the greens, and it’ll feature a basic description, but a lot of my enjoyment at the Colt course was around the greens, and peeking over the edges and seeing what surrounded the green.
Hole two is a 401 yard par 4 moving ever-so-slightly to the right. Again, the landing zone is pinched by three bunkers: two left, one right.
The green wraps around the bunker short right, and a bunker left also sits directly to the front tongue. A massive ridge defines this green, which runs from the back of the left bunker to the back of the right bunker (east-west).
The third is the first of a handful of long 4’s at Toronto, but at 467 yards, it’s manageable. Thanks to the crew at the club, the course plays firm & fast. The yardage doesn’t always indicate the true playing yardage. Two bunkers on the right at 285 yards to carry are the main hazards here, but from the tee, it looks like there’s a lot more bunkers.
When you approach the fairway, you see there’s a lot more room than you can see from the tee.
The approach plays to a big, sloping green with a bunker right.
The 4th is titled “Colt,” and as the description suggests, it’s supposed to be his rendition of the “redan” template, which is a green sloping hard to the back edge, with the fairway short right kicking the ball on. Usually, short left is absolute death.
The issue here is the entire hole slopes to the back, and the “kicker slope” short right doesn’t kick it towards the green, and kicks it right instead of left.
Still a good hole, however, don’t expect it to play like a traditional redan template. It’s a little funky, and maybe not a bad thing, but certainly not a “redan.”
The 5th is a meaty 4 at 476 yards. Playing out of the pines (the hole is named “Pines Out”), this is a tough tee shot with no fairway bunkers.
The approach here is likely the hardest on the course. Playing slightly up to a plateau green, six bunkers surround this green.
Hole 6 is the one you see driving in all down the right of the road, and doesn’t play too long at 377 yards. Two bunkers left at 230 cover, and a bunker right at 286 fly are the main hazards. For people who think drivers the play, a bunker on the left is 320 from the teeing ground.
The green complex is one of my absolute favorites, with two bunkers left and one short right. That same bunker 320 off the tee acts as a deceptive bunker off the tee for players who hit it left centre, making club selection difficult to judge.
The 7th is a ridiculously difficult par 3, measuring 221 from the back deck. Aptly named “plateau,” it’s easy to see why.
A bunker short left and long right are in play, but realistically, they aren’t that bad considering what looms short right. Anything but down in the valley would suffice.
The 8th is a very difficult driving hole that you’re not exactly sure where to hit it. Two bunkers down the left, two down the right and a gully down the right, it’s a difficult tee ball.
There’s actually more room right. If you have it in you, the play it to aim at the right bunker and blast it over. I wish I brought my yardage book with me to Alberta (they’re back in Toronto—I’m back home for a couple weeks during the Coronavirus fiasco).
The approach shot is a lovely second shot. At only 406 yards, you shouldn’t have too much left in.
The 9th is an excellent mid length par 4 that made Par Six Golf’s Eclectic 18 in Canada. 452 yards, it plays through the bottom of the valley. A creek meandering on the left cuts through the fairway at about 300 yards.
The creek cuts through the fairway and to the right of the green. A bunker left catches bailouts.
The 10th continues to occupy some of the more hilly terrain on the property. In reality, the middle 6 holes contain the most interesting land. At 380 yards playing from an elevated tee shot, it’s a short hole. A bunker left is likely the biggest issue to negotiate with. The fairway is pretty difficult to hit.
Most players will have a short iron or wedge into this green. Keeping the ball left off the tee makes the 2nd shot easier, while bailing out right gives you the front right bunker to deal with.
The 11th is another difficult mid-length par 4 at 426 yards. I struggled to feel comfortable on the tee, and maybe that’s just me. But I feel like the angle of the fairway really tests you mentally.
To a green tucked into the hillside, almost like a punchbowl with a bunker short left, it was one of my favorite iron shots on the golf course.
Footsteps from the clubhouse, the 12th tees back down into the valley the 11th climbed up from. Only 390 yards, the centreline bunker is the main defence off the tee. A double fairway, with the left having no bunkers (but a worse angle) and the right having numerous bunkers (but a good angle) is a decision the golfer must decide on.
Once you get the ball in play, you’re greeted with a gentle approach shot from the right, and a difficult one from the left over the bunker pitching hard to the right.
The greens at Toronto, while not flat, are not as extreme as say a National Golf Club of Canada or St. George’s even. They’re more subtle, moving elegantly and almost gracefully. It’s a direct representation of the club: low-key, classy, and old school; perfectly executed by Colt & Hawtree.
The 13th is the first par 5 on the golf course. Typically, this is to be avoided my most architects in fear of having golfers bored. Well, most architects aren’t Harry Colt. I don’t see it as an issue, but more of a “confidence in his craft” where Colt was able to keep the first 12 holes interesting without a three shotter. The 13th is a longer par 5 at 556 playing uphill the entire way.
It’s not the widest hole on the golf course, so keeping it in play is probably the best move. From there, the layup is uphill and blind. There’s a couple bunkers closer to the green that I would consider 2nd shot bunkering, but I suspect newcomers don’t have the confidence to layup with that long of a club.
The 14th is a brand new Martin Hawtree hole. At 175 yards, it’s a mid length par 3. Bunkering short guards the green well.
I think it’s a very good par 3, and fits in well with the rest of the golf course. The bunkering staggers to the right, so there’s more room than you’d think.
The 15th is a very mean golf hole. 463 yards on the card, par 4, keeping it out of the one fairway bunker left and one fairway bunker right is the first obstacle to avoid.
This green is surrounded by bunkers literally everywhere. Most will have a longer club in. In the final round of the Canadian Amateur in 2017, this hole played at 4.41 (+0.41).
There is, however, much more room than it looks. Short and left is a good bailout if you need to.
The 16th is the second and final par 5 on the golf course. 516 yards, it’s important to avoid the slew of bunkers in the middle of the fairway. Keeping it left lets the ball potentially run out into the final one, while taking it right is a longer carry. A very fun tee shot.
A better look at the bunkering in the fairway perfectly staggered. Every golfer has to navigate them eventually.
From there, you play over a ditch that won’t be in play for most. The second shot, if you layup (hitting the tee ball in the bunkers almost guarantees this), is uphill with a semi-blind look at the green.
Looking back, you can see the topography you played over:
The 17th is a stern par 3. 225 yards, there’s an ample amount of room to run the ball up. A bunker short left and short right await mishits.
The 18th has to be one of the biggest question marks in Canadian Golf. While it’s not a poor hole by any means, I’m just not sure it’s the epic finisher that Toronto Golf Club deserves. After some wonderful Colt bunkering on the first 17 holes, the last hole features some fairly average land, but bunker-less. It’s short, as well, as 345 yards.
I will say that the green location is quite strong. Over a little gully with the clubhouse to the left and people on the patio watching, it’s easily the best hole. I wonder how much more epic it could be, however. An interesting choice in my opinion.
The 18th hole being weaker than the rest does not change how good Toronto Golf Club is. Being 12th is Canada is the understatement of the year, and I’d have it firmly in my top 10 in the country. There’s only two H.S. Colt’s in Canada, and I think this is the better of the two (the other one is Hamilton). Now, that may change in 2022 once Martin Ebert and his crew have restored/renovated Hamilton, but Toronto is wonderful, pure golf.
It’s a must play in North America. The best part? It’s a rare look at “Heathland Era” golf that you don’t see on this side of the pond. It is truly unlike any other golf course I’ve seen in Canada, and it’s all for the better.
If you want to read more about the history of Toronto Golf Club, I wrote about it for Par Six Golf here.