If you are like me, most of your free time is spent playing, researching, or perhaps writing about golf (Twitter & Instagram count). Sometimes, it feels like my whole identity is built around the sport, and I am sure friends and family think that way sometimes, too. It is also an outlet both mentally and physically. It provides me with opportunities to explore new places, travel with friends and family, and meet new people.
A few years ago, I became enamoured with golf course designs and architecture thanks to the incredible content from places like The Fried Egg and No Laying Up. That turned into setting goals for each season: play 10 new courses a year, meet 10 new golf friends, and learn one new thing about golf each year. 2022 was no exception.
After playing the likes of Cabot, Highland Links, and St. George’s in 2021, I wondered how to top that. After all, that is 40% of Canada’s Top 10, and three world top 100 golf courses. For 2022, a rough plan revolved around a major trip to Alberta, a weekend at Yale, and a Fried Egg event.
Like many other Canadians, the golf season does not usually begin until mid-April. Typically, around The Masters is when we get nice weather and courses begin to open, with the occasion smaller, more budget-friendly public golf course opening sooner. I began the year at Copetown Woods, one of my favourite local places to play golf. On one of the windiest days of the year, a group of friends and I battled the elements for some fun, but challenging golf around Dick Kirkpatrick’s golf course. After that, my home club opened and the season was off and running.
Even if April is when the golf season begins, May is the start of warmer weather—a taste of summer—and travel golf season as it lets the golf courses recover from a winter and present pristine conditioning. For me, this meant an overnight trip to Cobble Beach Golf Links, a Doug Carrick design with links golf in mind just north of Owen Sound, Ontario. The property features many rolling fairways, tricky greens, and some panoramic views of Georgian Bay.
Like many clubs in Canada, May brings the start of Men’s League and my club was no different, setting up a busy month. Further, at the end of the month, I planned a trip to Yale Golf Course with my friend Drew. We had both learned a fair amount about the C.B. Macdonald golf course through The Fried Egg, and with Gil Hanse’s pending restoration, we quickly determined it was a must-play before the end of the year.
Heading to Yale, our trip began with Inness, a new nine-hole golf course nestled into the Catskills Mountains about an hour outside New York City. Designed by Rob Collins and Tad King—of Sweetens Cove and Landmand fame—this is, in my opinion, a must-play for architecture nerds.
After an excellent round at Inness, which features sprawling, rollicking double greens (as seen above) with two pins on each for double loops to make 18 holes, we switched gears and went to Rockrimmon, a mid-modern golf course on the border of Connecticut and New York. I was unsure what to expect of this Robert Trent Jones Sr. design, but the property was excellent, tumbling up and down a central hillside, with some of the holes playing up top, and others in the valley below and everything in between. The routing was a surprise, and the golf course used the hilly terrain to its full advantage.
After an opening day at Inness and Rockrimmon, the day 2 brought the reason for the trip: we were headed to Yale. We had New Haven Country Club, a Willie Park Jr. design, planned for the same day, but unfortunately, the weather had other plans. Heavy overnight rain meant the entire course was closed for the day, torpedoing our entire day. Thankfully, the hospitality and friendliness of Peter, the club’s General Manager, allowed us to walk the grounds and get a glimpse of Yale, known as one of the most expensive golf courses to ever be built because of the terrain and rockiness of the property.
Walking a golf course and not getting to play is an interesting experience, to say the least. While we walked, the conditioning seemed fine and reasonable for golf, but alas, it was not meant to be. We still got to explore why Yale is held in such high regard of golf course architecture enthusiasts, and in recent years, the darling of the Macdonald/Raynor fan base.
Following our morning walk, we made our way to New Haven before a wicked storm rolled through Connecticut’s premiere college town. An hour delay and we were back, albeit one of the few to actually play that day. Given the weather overnight, the immaculate conditions and fast greens were a surprise, and Willie Park Jr.’s excellent architecture made for the highlight of the trip. Our host Ben could not have been more generous setting us up, and the showers at New Haven might be the best in the world. The golf course was excellent, but I would go back for the showers alone… so good.
En route home on our final day of the trip, we stopped closer to the Canadian/US border at Niagara Falls Country Club, an A.W. Tillinghast design. Relatively easy off the tee, Tillie’s greens are generally the star of the show, and that rings true here. The bunkering is also excellent, and during our round, it became obvious why this is a great host for the famous Porter Cup, which hosts an elite field of amateur golfers from around the world. Past champions include Canadians Taylor Pendrith and Brooke Henderson, as well as Phil Mickelson, David Duval, and Ben Crenshaw. In 2022, Canada’s Katie Cranston won the female division, adding her name to a long list of impressive champions.
While enjoying our round at Niagara Falls Country Club—which is close to the actual falls and would make for a good place to sneak away from a family trip to the area—I got bumped up from the waiting list to play in the Ontario Amateur Qualifier at Toronto Golf Club the very next day.
Toronto is among the very best Canada has to offer and is one of the hardest golf courses I have played; it got the best of me. I drove the ball terribly; my short game was horrific; I made too many big numbers, including a 9 on a par four. I did putt well, and it helped me avoid finishing last in a strong field of players. Nevertheless, Harry Colt’s first North American golf course captivated me in a way that courses usually do not do. The greens and their surrounds made for such an exacting and interesting test of golf, the firm and fast conditions made for such a pure golf experience.
June ushers in summer, and as a result, great weather follows. Great weather brings lots of opportunities for golf, and as a result, I ventured out to Belleville, Ontario with a good friend for my second golf trip of the year.
Conveniently located near Highway 401 on the way out to Eastern Ontario, I stopped at Port Hope Golf & Country Club, a place I had heard interesting things about following a recent renovation. The work brought holes closer to Lake Ontario, and some of the photos had whetted the appetite enough to visit the facility. The original holes were not as impressive as the new, which felt like they went for a more links-influenced style. As a result, the new holes play quite a bit different than the rest of the property.
After arriving in Belleville, we played Black Bear Ridge and Bay of Quinte to wrap up the weekend. Generally speaking, both are among the keystone golf courses in the Eastern Ontario golf scene, with Black Bear being a public favourite of golfers across all of Ontario. Designed by the late owner Brian McGee, Black Bear offers a mix of both wide corridors and narrow, with the routing tapping into the forest and the marsh. The bunkering is smart and mostly attractive, and the well-conditioned golf course makes for a great value for public golf around (ish) Toronto.
Bay of Quinte was another exciting golf course, although a bit of a tease with pending changes coming to the golf course in the New Year.
The end of the month brought the Tussle at Tarandowah, a now-annual event of The Duck Club—a group of internet acquaintances-turned-friends through No Laying Up’s Refuge forum. Friday was the quota game to determine team captains and our individual champion. Saturday brought the 36-hole team championship.
Not only did we get to play one of Ontario’s best golf courses, but we also had an incredible amount of fun. It was a great way to reconnect with friends, make new connections, and play some competitive but fun golf.
Initially, the crew started as 24 individuals in 2021, but at our 2022 event, 52 people came out and played. I would recommend anyone who enjoys golf, seeks lighthearted competition, and is keen to play with like-minded strangers to come out and make new friends at an event in 2023.
July was a slower month initially, with no plans for travel to begin the high-season month of Canada’s golf season. But after missing out on playing Yale in late May, I had to figure out a way to get back and play before Hanse’s work began. I arranged a solo trip at the end of the month.
Heading for the New York City area, I began a journey to Farmingdale, New York on a Thursday afternoon with plans to spend the night sleeping in my car for Bethpage’s famed Black course. I had done a little research beforehand, but with things like this, you never know what to expect. I was lucky enough to snag the first tee time at 7:00 on the Black, and what a treat that was.
Friday brought a trip to New Jersey’s Rock Spring Golf Club, a private-turned-municipal golf course that is home to one of four publicly-accessible Seth Raynor golf courses. At $140 USD, the value was decidedly not great for a weekend round, but for fans of golf architecture who want to play a Raynor/Banks, this is certainly worth checking out. The usual templates are here: Redan, Double Plateau, Short, Punchbowl, and more.
I followed up Rock Spring with a highly anticipated late afternoon round at Essex County Country Club. Essex is the brilliant composition of A.W Tillinghast, Seth Raynor and Charles Banks with apparently one of the best back nines in New Jersey, which I can confirm: it is simply incredible. The mixture of templates from Raynor and Banks mixing with original holes from A.W. Tillinghast made for an interesting combination, but one I enjoyed. This place truly deserves its time in the spotlight.
As mentioned, the trip concluded at a return trip to Yale on the hottest weekend of the year. Thankfully, no rain or course closures were in the forecast, but hydration was key. We headed out in the third tee time of the day, and truthfully, the walk earlier in the year allowed for a more enjoyable experience seeing the course for a second time.
Yale is incredible. In certain ways, it reminded me of Cape Breton Highland Links: massive, rolling hills with minor conditioning issues, but a size and scale that nothing else compares to. Sure, the conditioning and current form is less-than-ideal, but the greatness of the golf course is undeniable in my opinion. After the round I spent some time speaking with one of the golf professionals, AJ, about the course, its restoration plans and when I might return.
I returned home with an invite on the table to Westmount, a stunning Stanley Thompson design in Kitchener, Ontario. Thompson’s five best golf courses are Jasper, Banff, St. George’s, Highlands Links, and Capilano, but usually, Westmount is considered 6th in his catalogue. The course was absolutely dialed in a week before the Canadian Women’s Amateur. A treat to play in such conditions, which showcased why Westmount is so good.
In Ontario, August brings Club Championship season. Even though my performance was lesser-than compared to the previous couple years, I was happy with 82 & 81, especially following the 93 at Toronto Golf Club in May.
Continuing an exciting season, a mid-August trip to Lookout Point with my buddies Ryan and Evan was a treat. Lookout Point is generally under the radar, even if Beyond The Contour ranked it 25th in the country, so getting to show friends around one of the best in the country, and one of my favourite courses I have ever played, is such a treat. Walter Travis’ abilities really show off at the Niagara-area private club, and the small greens at Lookout are a real treat, especially when paired with the hilly terrain.
August continued to bring visits to excellent golf courses, and a connection I made through Thousand Greens resulted in a trip to Hamilton Golf & Country Club. The opportunity to play the West/South routing, or the Canadian Open/Harry Colt loop—was not in the cards, but my host said he enjoyed the South/East the most, so we played that. I enjoyed both nine hole loops, and the club’s facilities are top-notch. The East nine likely does not get its due, especially following the renovation.
To finish off August, a family holiday allowed the opportunity to play in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec. I chose Le Geant and Le Diable, which I wrote about in detail here. I added to that trip with Chateau Montebello and the Thompson course at Club de Golf Lachute, both of which fly under the radar and should be must-visits for fans of Stanley Thompson golf courses. Montebello is likely the best public golf course in the National Capital Region, and a visit to Lachute came from a recommendation from Beyond The Contour author Andrew Harvie, which I am glad he mentioned the course. The value is off the charts, and playing both Montebello and Lachute in the same day provided an interesting juxtaposition of his body of work. I would highly recommend.
I had previously signed up for a Fried Egg event earlier in the year, but as we all know, the waiting game is difficult, especially as the event nears. Furthermore, it becomes difficult to have to wait to visit a course as interesting as Meadowbrook in Michigan, where the days leading up seem to feel like forever. In my opinion, events like these are both great ways to connect with like-minded individuals who share similar passions, and check out interesting golf courses that you might not usually have access to. Additionally, having the opportunity to chat with people like Andy Staples, who renovated Meadowbrook, is something very few actually get the chance to do. Hearing about his unique design approach, and the thought behind Meadowbrook was a highlight.
The end of the month brought my travel plans to Alberta for Banff, Jasper, Mickelson National, Kananaskis, and Stewart Creek, but unfortunately, the day before I was supposed to leave I caught COVID-19 for the first time and had to cancel. The weather ended up being perfect out west, and I did not get the opportunity to meet up with friends I had planned the trip with. Alas, I rebooked the trip for July 2023. In hindsight, it worked out better for my golf budget, or lack thereof, in 2022.
October brought Fall, frost delays, work engagements and sadly less golf. I missed a solid week of golf in September and tried to make up for it with 3 visits to the revitalized Lakeview Golf Course and a visit to Kawartha Golf and Country Club.
The renovations to Lakeview are well documented on this site, and I think rightfully so. Kawartha, on the other hand, recently opened their tee sheet back up to the public in July 2022 following Ian Andrew’s addition of two holes. It had been awhile since I played Kawartha, and given the chances were fresh and new, I was excited to check out Stanley Thompson’s Peterborough gem once again.
November is pretty hit or miss in Ontario, so I only played one round at my home club. Lack of sunlight, colder weather, rain, and work did not allow me to play, but after 99 rounds of golf in 2022 and a whole lot of travel, I was content with my golf season.
My Favourites of 2022
10 Favourite Courses
- Essex County Country Club
- Bethpage (Black)*
- Toronto Golf Club (Colt)
- Hamilton Golf & Country Club (South/East)
- Lookout Point*
- New Haven
My Favourite 18 Holes*
- Lookout Point
- Essex County Country Club
- Bethpage (Black)
- New Haven
- Bethpage (Black)
- Hamilton (South)
- Essex County
- Toronto (Colt)
- Toronto (Colt)
- Essex County
- Whistle Bear
*These are a collection of 18 holes that would make up a composite course from what I played in 2022. They are not necessarily the best holes, just my personal favourites.
What’s On The Horizon For 2023?
Having played most of the noteworthy public courses within a 5-hour drive of my front door, playing 10 new courses is certainly becoming a bit more challenging. Plans are coming together to get out to places like Grand Mere, Cape Arundel, and Taconic. Additionally, with a trip to Alberta rescheduled, 2023 is certainly shaping up to be another great season.