The Greater Toronto Area’s Eclectic 18
There is no denying the Greater Toronto Area is the strongest golf region in the country. Specifically, the Golden Age greats were around the Great Lakes region, with architects like Stanley Thompson, A.W. Tillinghast, Donald Ross, Tom Bendelow, Herbert Strong, Harry Colt, C.H. Alison and more making a visit or two to Toronto.
In modern times, Toronto has seen Tom Fazio, Doug Carrick, Thomas McBroom, Bob Cupp, and more contribute to the golf landscape, only furthering the surplus of great golf courses the area provides.
The rules are simple: one hole per course, and they have to represent where they fall on their respective courses (ie, if it’s the 2nd hole on their course, it would have to be the 2nd). The map below represents where the ‘Greater Toronto Area’ line was drawn, for clarity.
There is no doubt great golf courses not represented here, as well as great golf holes. For example, St. George’s or Toronto Golf Club have multiple holes that could slot in anywhere. There are some unheralded golf courses represented, and perhaps some surprises. I am a little weaker on some of the lesser-celebrated clubs in the area, but nevertheless, here are the Greater Toronto Area’s Eclectic 18.
#1 — Summit — 470 yards, par 4
Starting on a downhill par 4 against the hillside like Summit’s opening is never a bad call. Sure, it is picturesque and a fun opening tee shot, but the green complex has good interest in it, and strategically—keep it left closer to the hill and open up the green, or bail right and have the bunker come into play more—is textbook.
#2 — St. George’s — 473 yards, par 4
I have long said this might be Canada’s best hole, and I will stand by that. The diagonal ridge that begins left of the tee and ends right of the fairway splits the hole into the upper left and lower right portions, with the upper section opening up the angle and view. The green complex, narrowing in the back against a fall off left and bunkers right, flies under the radar against the strong tee to green game at St. George’s, but it is worthy of its own praise in itself.
#3 — Eagles Nest — 450 yards, par 4
Strategically, there are better holes at Eagles Nest, but this is one of the better looking ones, and certainly the most fun to play. I enjoy the strategy of perhaps playing to the outside corner to gain access to the back left flag, or ripping it over the corner to have a shorter club in.
#4 — Islington — 196 yards, par 3
Thompson built par 3’s better than almost anyone. Primarily, that is because he began his routings finding the par 3’s. As such, Islington’s 4th, perched above the surroundings, is stellar. Some might not like the views of Islington & Bloor, but urban golf is an experience in itself and adds a unique flavour.
#5 — Weston — 445 yards, par 4
Weston unfortunately resides in the most competitive neighbourhood for golf in Canada, but like the 2nd at St. George’s, this is one of Canada’s great golf holes. Willie Park Jr.’s routing takes us over a central ridge, with the fairway falling off on either side. From there, we tumble down into the valley to a very steeply titled complex.
#6 — Magna — 404 yards, par 4
Carrick’s bunker schemes often turn straight holes into doglegs, or taking inspiration from Stanley Thompson for ‘S’ shaped holes. The bunkering scheme eats into the fairway and blends together, making a bit of visual trickery only slightly tainted by yardage books and bushnell’s. Take on the longer carry up the left and gain a proper angle, bail out right and have to go over the greenside bunker directly.
#7 — National Golf Club of Canada — 460 yards, par 4
One of the many long, stern par 4’s at the Greater Toronto Area’s most difficult golf course, but also the best hole at the club that bears the nation’s name. The hole skirts the valley on the left which eventually intersects the fairway, but bunkers on the right provide an ideal angle in. The green, sitting on top of the valley below, is exactly where any competent architect would put it. Superb.
#8 — Uplands — 245 yards, par 3
This has long been celebrated among the best long par 3’s in the country. Rightfully so, too: bunker-less and perched above the surroundings, the green is cut into the hillside of a natural valley, with the tee shot tumbling down into the valley below. Too many trees and the usual neglect have lost the sparkle of this hole in recent years, but for architecture fans, seeing Stanley Thompson’s Uplands, and specifically the 8th, is mandatory.
#9 — Toronto (Colt) — 452 yards, par 4
There are so many strong two-shot holes at Harry Colt’s first North American design, but this one has to be obvious, right? Playing down into the valley with a stream up the left that eventually cuts through the middle and to the right of the green is exciting. Further, the green complex, heavily tilted and devilish, can prove havoc even after ball-striking your way to regulation.
Out: 3,595 yards, par 34
#10 — Oakdale (Thompson/Homenuik) — 435 yards, par 4
Oakdale’s strength is in its two-holes, which will clearly become evident at the 2023 RBC Canadian Open. I elected for the Thompson/Homenuik routing rather than the Composite Canadian Open loop because that’s the one our panel ranked in the Top 100. The tee shot is played over a topographic ridge to a fairway that is slightly undulating, but the green complex is the highlight.
#11 — Credit Valley — 201 yards, par 3
The Credit River not only provides a wonderful natural water hazard for Mississaugua Golf & Country Club, but also Credit Valley. Particularly, it acts as a Hail Mary carry of sorts on the 11th to an hourglass shaped green. The back right pin is devilish, while the front has the most movement. It is hard to get this much variety in a par 3, but Robbie Robinson did and as a result, it might be his best.
#12 — Coppinwood — 430 yards, par 4
A dramatic par 4 that tumbles down into the valley below, the two bunkers on the left guard the outside corner of this dogleg right. From that side, the green opens up the right side; if the pin is on the left, playing to the inside corner is preferred. Some of the most dramatic land in the GTA is found here, but perhaps none better at Coppinwood than Tom Fazio’s 12th.
#13 — TPC Toronto at Osprey Valley (North) — 554 yards, par 5
Doug Carrick built a lot of golf in Canada, but one could count on one hand how many better par 5’s he built than the 13th at TPC Toronto’s North course. The tee shot gently rises and falls over a ridge to a fairway tilted to the right. From there, the golfer has to find a way to get the ball to turn over to get to the green gently tucked behind a hillside littered with bunkers. It is a perfect risk-reward hole.
#14 — Goodwood — 460 yards, par 4
There is so much good golf at Goodwood that it becomes difficult to select just one hole. For me, the 14th, winding its way through the lowest point of the property to a three-tiered green that falls off in a Pinehurst-esque way, is deserving of the crown.
#15 — Mississaugua — 362 yards, par 4
I played Old Macdonald first, so I instinctively compared the 15th hole at Mississaugua to the 7th there. However, it is here that it came first, and it is deserving of similar praise. The fairway is heavily tilted to the right up the left, which opens up the front of the green. From the right, the fairway is flatter, but the golfer will have to play over the right greenside bunkers that guard the green tucked into the hillside. This is a riveting hole to play.
#16 — Beacon Hall — 240 yards, par 3
Golf writers have compared this hole to the famed one-shot hole at Portrush, although I have not been to Portrush yet. Nevertheless, this is a brute of a par 3 playing over a valley. Thankfully, the fairway opens up on the left and allows those to bail out left if need be.
#17 — Devil’s Paintbrush — 413 yards, par 4
A diagonal rock wall that gets more difficult to carry up the left, but the green receives shots from the left easier than right might not be everyone’s flavour, but it is mine. Truthfully, the rock wall should not be in play, but it helps guide the golfer to the left. The green, like a Mackenzie boomerang tucked behind the hillside, is first rate.
#18 — Lakeview — 455 yards, par 4
There are certainties in a list like this, and it was always going to be the 18th at Lakeview. A dogleg right against Applewood Creek, Herbert Strong’s heroic closer ends on a knoll green sitting high above the surrounds, with a ridge running east/west through the green that further complicates things. The hole only improves from the original tee above the 17th green.
In: 3,550 yards, par 35
Total: 7,145 yards, par 69
19th hole — Toronto Hunt
- Hole 1: Toronto Hunt
- Hole 2: Pulpit Club (Paintbrush)
- Hole 3: St. George’s
- Hole 4: Toronto (Colt)
- Hole 5: Goodwood
- Hole 6: Weston
- Hole 7: Scarboro
- Hole 8: Eagles Nest
- Hole 9: Uplands
- Hole 10: Copper Creek
- Hole 11: Beacon Hall
- Hole 12: Maple Downs
- Hole 13: Turnberry
- Hole 14: National Golf Club of Canada
- Hole 15: Lakeview
- Hole 16: TPC Toronto (Heathlands)
- Hole 17: Rosedale
- Hole 18: Brampton
4 thoughts on “The Greater Toronto Area’s Eclectic 18”
Thanks Andrew. Interesting read as always. Was #4 at Scarboro on the radar?
Yes, it was! Ultimately, it came down to Islington’s 4th is restored and presents a bit better than Scarboro. During the restoration, members did not want to restore their signature hole, which put Islington’s 4th ahead slightly.
18th at Lakeview: Somewhere I’ve read that Strong’s green was at bottom and a little left of knoll/hill. Ian Andrew maybe? Thanks.
I’m not exactly sure where Strong’s green was, but on a 1956 aerial, I see it atop the hill we play today. Whether or not it was moved in 30 years, I’m not sure, but I’m doing some digging into Lakeview now