The Doak 0s of Canada

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Everyone loves playing, writing, and reading about great, historically noteworthy golf courses; however, there are some others scattered about this fine land that merit to be mentioned for reasons totally opposite. Tom Doak, whose now-famous scale for grading courses is the go-to-metric among the industry, defines a “Doak 0″ as, “a course so contrived and unnatural that it may poison your mind, one I cannot recommend under any circumstances. Reserved for courses that waste ridiculous sums of money in their construction, and probably shouldn’t have been built in the first place.”

To put it another way, and to clear up some confusion that might potentially arise from this piece: these are not, necessarily, the worst golf courses in whichever town, or county, they find themselves in. A “Doak 1” is not, according to the logic of the Doak Scale, necessarily then a “better” golf course than a “Doak 0”; in fact, most “Doak 0s” probably could be, depending on the evaluator’s eye and taste, “Doak 4s or 5s” just as easily. The respective failures of these singled-out perpetrators, compared to your local dog-track, let’s say, can thus be defined like this: your local dog track, in terms of ambition and financial commitment and probably the cost of playing, never sought to be anything greater than your local dog-track; whereas a “Doak 0” was originally conceived with some kind of desire to be better than said local dog-track.

Note for the sake of those who care more about their standing in the fickle and overly-sensitive golf industry than me (something that isn’t hard to better, mind you), I have protected the identity of my fellow plaintiffs. Therefore, you can direct your complaints and anger (and lifetime bans) solely at me—not that receiving a lifetime ban from any of these places would, in any way, shape, or form, keep me up at night, but I digress.

First off, though, here are three candidates that were each put forth by one surveyed participant, yet spared from making the final list thanks to a nihil obstat provided by at least one other person. They are:

Black Bear Ridge (my selection, so I’ll defend it): Awkwardly routed, overly narrow, bland greens, bunkers that are off-scale for their purpose, ill-placed trees set in the lines of play, and a horrible walk, perhaps a professional architect could have made something of this otherwise popular and well-thought-of place, but alas.

Stewart Creek: Less ‘effortlessly draped’ and more-so as forced into the mountain side of Canmore, Alberta. Gary Brownings efforts here rarely have a shining moment to defend against claims of “this maybe should not be a golf course,” other than, well, an occasional view or sparsely-used interesting feature.

Le Maitre: It doesn’t get much more vanilla and mailed in as this.

The Doak 0’s of Canada

Fox Harb’r: Giving Graham Cooke this piece of land along the Northumberland Strait is akin to giving Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher the ball at the edge of the eighteen yard box. And just as Conor Gallagher, if given such a high X.G. chance to score, is far, far more likely send the ball careening fifteen rows into the Matthew Harding Stand than into the back of the net, Graham Cooke squandered the golden opportunity he was gifted here by splotching heavy-handed containment mounding everywhere—including along the water—, building a set of vanilla-bland greens, digging holding ponds, opting for a weird bunkering scheme featuring three or four different styles, and weaving an uninspiring routing wherein the golfer only experiences the water to the left of the last 3 holes. For all of these reasons, Ron Joyce’s passion project is likely the biggest miss in Canadian Golf, though it is getting an upgrade from Thomas McBroom and Doug Carrick, which began last year.

Photo credit: Fox Harb’r Golf Resort

Eagle Creek: If ever there was a golf course that screamed “1988”, this is it—an era, in golf architecture at least, for which no one is pining. Just about all of the misgivings of the “dark ages of architecture” can be found on this Ken Venturi layout, in full force: narrow, soft, overly-penal, over-shaped, and absolutely infested with black flies and goose dung.

Photo credit: Brewcee’s Golf Blog

Le Geant: Sometimes, quite simply, a golf course should not have been built on a certain piece of land, and Thomas McBroom’s Le Geant is a prime example of this. As the saying goes, and in his defence, you can’t make chicken salad out of chicken—. In truth, I am lukewarmly fond of the back nine, which features some picturesque views of the ski-town of Mont-Tremblant across the valley and some interesting holes, such as the 12th, 14th, and 18th. However, the few good scattered-about moments are far from enough to overcome the fatal flaws elsewhere, especially on the front-nine, which traverses land that should have been left for bears or hikers, not cart-riding golfers. Of all the things I despise about this course, the handful razor-thin greens that are perched halfway-up nearly ninety-degree slopes, and thus sit largely blind to the fairway, are the most irksome features. Or maybe it’s the ever-faithful six hour pace of play, the result of having hacked thirty yard wide corridors out of virginal Canadian mountain territory.

Royal Ontario: Honestly, go look at the aerial and it should, in turn, be perfectly clear why it’s on this list. Golf course aside, using the “Royal” name without proper declaration is an… interesting move.

Lionhead, Legends: Disgustingly difficult, devoid of fun, and a complete mess, another unfortunate harbinger back to the “dark ages” in Canadian golf architecture, where dead-night unfortunately lingered far longer than in many other parts of the world. Like Royal Ontario, another Iggy Kaneff project, the aerial of the layout tells the story far better than my meagre words can. In my estimation, this is among the top 3 most difficult golf courses in Ontario, along with The National and Muskoka Bay.

Photo credit: Cohere Design

Woodington Lakes, Legacy: Another absolute architectural mess. Always windswept, and yet another nightmare to play.

Photo credit: Woodington Lakes Golf Club

The Rock: How this course came into existence is a whole article in itself, and what came of this mad process certainly didn’t bear tasteful fruit: a golf course likely to cause P.T.S.D., as a friend of mine put it. This Nick Faldo/Britt Stenson/David Moote design is a triple-bogey farm with exposed rock everywhere, segmented fairways surrounded by provisional-ball inducing forest, and a patchwork end product. It’s never a good sign when a golf course gets tinkered with extensively in the few years after being unveiled, and The Rock, which was originally supposed to be another Muskoka mega-resort before suffering a still-birth, has gone through a fair-bit of cosmetic surgery to make it somewhat playable. Rumour has it that during his ceremonial first round, Nick Faldo could be heard cursing the course loudly and proposing changes that needed to be made.

Photo credit: Best Golf Trips

Furry Creek: I played here more than a decade ago, but a recent hole-by-hole tour which I watched on Youtube confirms that it is just as insane as I remembered it being, that my memory hadn’t been corrupted despite my best efforts to corrupt it. Like Le Geant, this mountainous and plunging-gulley segmented piece of property should have been left to elks, bears, and mountain goats. In truth, though, whereas I wouldn’t recommend playing any of the aforementioned golf courses to even my worst enemy, this Robert Muir Graves design is almost worth seeing just to comprehend how truly bonkers it is; in fact, there’s a strange perverted pleasure to be had from playing here—one similar to watching a really, truly awful slasher flick or a Canadian comedy such Fubar or Elvis Gratton. And, at worst, you’ll get a few great Instagram pics from your round. Moreover, the drive to and from the course, in whichever direction you go, is probably the most scenic in Canada.

Photo credit: Furry Creek

I am sure there are a few more, and please send your nominees my way (mainly so that I know where not to play.)


2 thoughts on “The Doak 0s of Canada

  1. Cardinal 18
    Black Diamond
    Bancroft Ridge
    Hockley Valley
    Rebel Creek
    Royal Niagara
    Royal Woodbine
    Batteaux Creek
    Silver Lakes

    1. Matt, of these, I’ve only played Black Diamond and Royal Niagara. Although I don’t think R.N. very good, it’s probably more of a Doak 2 or 3 than a 0, imo. Black Diamond is a good shout that I’d completely forgotten about!

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