Review: Timber Ridge Golf Course
- Brighton, Ontario
- Public — Daily Fee
- Steven Ward (2001)
What does this mean?
As our resident expert Johnny Prescott outlined, eastern Ontario is a bubbling golf trip destination, with golf courses like Black Bear Ridge improving their resort amenities, Bay of Quinte adding golf, and Timber Ridge, which undertook a bunker renovation and improved the overall conditioning of their golf course in 2022.
I was told October was a great time to visit the area to see some of the fall foliage. We were on the precipice of them really popping through, but there was still nice colouring coming through. We were off.
The opening at Timber is a classic architecture trope of using a par 5 to get as far away from the clubhouse as possible. Shorter at 505 yards, this is a good birdie chance for those who strike it well out of the gate.
I find the actual orientation of the 1st hole quite pleasant, only slightly soured by two trees on the inside corner blocking the direct line from any part of the fairway. There is an argument that it might make the hole easier, but it is the first hole… if it is a half stroke easier, I do not think it matters much.
As mentioned, the hole’s orientation is quite interesting, with the green tucked on the right while the fairway goes left. It is not a perfect comparison, but in spirit, it reminded me of Donald Ross’ famed par 4, 11th at Pinehurst No. 2, where the hole plays up the left, and Ross tucked the green right of the fairway behind some sandy scrub.
Laying up, you will have this view:
Part of the reason I do not think anyone should be worried about removing the two trees and making it easier is because the green complex is absolutely insane. Rip out the trees and bait people into going for it more—at least the long hitters—and test the nerves early.
The second is a fairly straightforward 394 yard par 4, with two bunkers in the landing zone. I did not get a photo from the ground, but I did get a shot from the air with my drone, so we will rock with that.
The approach shot plays slightly uphill to another very interesting green. In the centre, it is almost like someone blew air into the ridge, pumping up the ridge and dividing the back corner from the rest of the green.
The third is a fairly difficult 208 yard par 3 with water right. For Timber standards, this is a fairly tame green, but I think it matches the long par 3 nature of the hole.
Our second par 5 of the day comes after crossing the entrance road to get to the 545 yard par 5, 4th hole. A bunker complex up the left looms, and as you can see below, we are in the thick forest of eastern Ontario.
I liked the way the layup bunkers sit on top of the hillside on the right, which really grabbed my attention (and I imagine the same can be said for other golfers). For whatever reason, it felt like it really messed with my depth perception.
Tee to green, Timber Ridge is a fairly nonchalant golf course. Quality, but nothing overwhelming or special. On the greens, however, it is a different story. Often, they feel like Mr. Ward hit ‘random’ and built some of the craziest public golf course greens potentially in the province. At the 4th, this is the case: a simple approach turned devilish once the golfer learns exactly what is in store.
I thought this was a nice green complex, including the surrounding area.
The 5th is a short par 4 in the trees, playing at a maximum of 355 yards. Doglegging left, I imagine less-than-driver is the play for most people, especially given the prospect of losing a ball on either side of the fairway.
This is a really interesting green complex, with the green rising to about the back third before falling off towards the back edge.
The 6th is a peculiar par 4 at 405 yards, with a tree on the inside corner of the dogleg left and bunkers on the outside right.
A pretty hole in the trees, but just a bit awkward to be among the better holes here. For me, either keep the tree left (maybe a good compromise for my suggestion to rip out the two on hole 1), or remove the bunkers on the right.
Either way, the approach shot is quite attractive over a well-shaped bunker to a three-tier green: high left, low short right, medium back right.
The 7th brings us out of the woods to the second biome of Timber: the open, vast farmland. At 445 yards, this is the longest par 4 on the front nine, with two big bunkers on the left. Longer hitters can take it over the right bunker, but Out of Bounds looms up the right.
After a couple of really spicy greens, I like the idea of the 7th having a more subdued complex—which it does. Architects talk about “compression and release” in a variety of things, but I think having some release from a challenge (the compression) is key for enjoyment in a round of golf.
The 8th is a subtle little 142 yard par 3, which plays slightly uphill and exposed in the farmland.
You really get a sense of the green complexes interest and variety from above.
To end the front nine, a 402 yard uphill par 4 sort of combines the two environments Timber plays through. The tee shot starts in the open farmland, playing back into the trees.
I did not get a photo of the approach for some reason, but it is a pretty simple uphill approach, though the bunker on the right sneaks up on you.
The start of the back nine is an odd one, though a simple change could make this hole very, very good. 385 yards, we dive into the valley the 9th climbed, with a stream crossing at almost a straight east-west angle. Either lay up to the 150 mark, or try and get it over the stream.
I love to hit the worst shot possible at times like this, so I snipe hooked it into the corner and snapped this photo of the approach:
Here is what it looks like from the proper location to hit it, but from 25 feet or so above the fairway.
For my personal tastes, being able to see the right edge of the green from the tee would be extremely tempting, and allows the golf hole to breathe more. I fear that the high handicapper who obviously cannot get it over the creek has to layup after their tee shot, and removing some of those trees would open up that second shot short of the creek. The bunkering array is very easy on the eyes, though, and I can see why the 10th hole is one of the more photographed holes on Instagram.
Back into the open farmland with the 540 yard par 5, 11th, which plays longer with its slightly uphill nature the whole way.
If a longer player smokes a drive up the right, they should be able to get home in two, but a bit of visual trickery hides the surface from the second shot. This obviously affects the 3rd shot as well, and it can be difficult to pick out the right line (which is way more right than you think). The hole almost has an S shape to it, with the fairway bending right, and then the hole moves left after that (with the fairway much more right than one thinks).
Bailing out way right actually opens up the green, but it becomes easy to get sucked into thinking the flag is a good line. I liked this hole because it is simple, yet effective in tricking golfers without anything annoying.
The 12th almost has the orientation of a Redan template, with the green angled right to left. No redan features, but I thought it might be when I flew the drone in the morning. At 170 yards, there is a very pronounced ridge in the equator of the green.
A drone shot for good measure, because this is one of my favourite shots of 2022.
Who does not like massively downhill par 4’s that tempt you into swinging harder than you should? The 450 yard par 4, 13th tumbles down the landscape.
This is a strong green complex, cut back into the hillside on the other side of the valley. By definition, this would be very close to being a C.B. Macdonald “Valley” template: down, and back up.
After the 13th, the routing does a big circle, with the 14th and 18th tees being roughly in the same place. 170 yards, this is a difficult tee shot to get the correct club. I like the subtle depression short of the green—something you would not expect on an uphill shot—and just enough to stop balls short.
The 525 yard par 5, 15th is a very quality par 5 that comes at a proper time in the routing. This big dogleg left has bunkers on the outside corner. You can see some of the scars from the bunker work, which are still recovering.
The hole is almost an inverted version of the 11th, where the tee shot goes left, and the hole slightly works back right after we get to the landing area. Some waste bunkers and maintained bunkers await golfers coming home.
The green complex is well protected.
Generally speaking, public golf courses are predictable. No blind shots, simple, yet effective greens, and one or two head-scratching moments. I was surprised to see Timber breaking all those rules, with the blind tee shot coming on the 425 yard par 4, 16th playing up and over the ridge.
Why is breaking the blind rule a good thing? Sure, liability on public golf courses is important, but having a single blind tee shot not only increases variety, but tests the golfers nerves. At the 16th hole, for example, it is now a test of who can close out a match, round, etc. I have no issue with blind shots whatsoever, as long as they are not abused.
Cresting the hillside, a well-guarded green with some fairly modern shaping awaits, but for whatever reason, it is very attractive.
The par 3, 17th is a very exciting penultimate hole, and at 160 yards, a chance to have some fireworks. This green is very intense: aggressively sloping to the left, with a kicker slope short right and a little collection area directly short of the front edge, it is a demanding short iron.
Finishing off Timber Ridge is a short par 4 doglegging left around a depression left, with a handful of bunkers to avoid. At 370 yards, longer hitters will likely put driver away unless they love to cook a draw.
A fitting green location to end. Sitting into the hillside above the fairway and below the clubhouse, this is a pleasant way to end.
Like everywhere, Timber Ridge does not do everything right. But it does break some critical rules of bland, public golf that other golf courses in the area wouldn’t dare touch. Between the greens, diving in and out of forest, the occasional blind or semi-blind shot, and some really interesting routing choices, this would be my preferred public golf course in the Belleville area, though I still need to see Bay of Quinte.
Another good thing? Compared to some of the other golf courses in the region, Timber Ridge is a good deal. Well under $100 with cart to play, this would be a great budget stop for any buddies trip, but I can see it being a mainstay after someone plays it once.