Playing golf in Canada can be about the journey as it is the destination. Courses can surprise and amaze in aspects of beauty, quality and fun. Over my years here are five which I have experienced that I loved. You likely won’t see any of these on top course lists across the country so I’ve created my own modest list which places these gems front and centre. Here they are, in no particular order. The course link will open to my full review:
It’s a Stanley Thompson design so right off the top I suspected I’d love it. I drove direct from my flight to Saskatoon north of Prince Albert to the stunning Waskesiu Lake area in the heart of Prince Albert National Park. The drive was peaceful and the course was sensational. The rich history of this course and its iconic Lobstick Tree is worth asking about. The butter tarts that the course sells may be the best in country but that’s another bucket list in itself. My only wish was that I could spend time in the resort community adjacent to the lake and play this course again (and again). Not the easiest course to access, but the memories made the drive well worth it. My conversation with the Marshall the day I was playing was amazing as he regaled me about the history of this beautiful course. I felt I had gone back in time.
I have written much about my 2015 golf trip to the gentle island. PEI is a golfer’s paradise, providing exceptional value (possibly the best in Canada) with variety, quality and diversity of post-golf activity to make everyone happy. Stanhope didn’t make my top 5 list of courses on the Island but that speaks more to the quality and value options than it does about any shortcomings at Stanhope. A true community course, this course brought a level of enjoyment and relaxation on the Island I had not experienced. Add to it a stunning back nine, with a stretch of golf holes from 12-16 which may be the most underrated golf on the island in terms of sheer beauty. With a breeze off the ocean on a peaceful afternoon, it was a golfing experience I need to get back and relive.
The Thompson-Okanagan golf region of British Columbia provides more diversity for golfer than one might expect. My spring 2016 trip west included an early morning drive (very early!) from Surrey to Chase for a morning round at Talking Rock. First, the drive is amazing through the mountains – so peaceful and relaxing. Arriving in Chase, just north of Kelowna, and the Little Shuswap First Nation community is the Quaaout Lodge and Spa which also houses the Talking Rock Golf Resort. The large log-cabin style conference centre, pro shop and clubhouse set a tone for a tranquil and peaceful golfing experience. The closing holes, notably 15 and 18, are jaw-dropping showstoppers and reflect the natural beauty of the region. It’s well worth the visit. Playing most of the round as a single created a sense of calm and peacefulness I appreciated.
The Niagara Escarpment cuts along southern Ontario from a swath from Niagara to Tobermory and at various points along the way shows impressive prominence in the landscape. Such is the case in Nottawa, south of Collingwood, where Batteaux Creek Golf Club has existed since 2002. While not an annual play, I do try to make time in the fall season to travel the almost two hours north from Toronto, to enjoy this course in all its splendor. Immaculate conditioning, diversity of golf holes, natural hazards and a stunning fall backdrop with leaves changing in golds, reds, oranges and yellows throughout the property and west along the escarpment. It’s more a spiritual exercise than it is a golf game. And for anyone who has experienced this course in the fall, you will know why it makes my list of underrated golf gems in Canada.
This is a rustic, 9-hole course set on Chedabucto Bay in scenic Guysborough, Nova Scotia. The Marine Drive from Halifax to Canso is simply a must if you have the time. From Canso, simply head west to Guysborough. Don’t miss the Rare Bird Pub where after 9 holes (or 18…even 36) you can look over the water and lose yourself in the beauty of this part of the province. The course is simple in its layout and players of all skill level will be welcome. Take time to enjoy the views, what I think to be some of the best you will experience in eastern Canada. My advice for travelers who have time; stop here to get your golf legs and your fix of seafood before making your way north to Cape Breton Island where you will find some of the greatest courses in the country and the world. I love this course, its people and community. It reflects everything I love about golfing in Canada.
This is not an exhaustive list. There are more courses I’ve played I would categorize as underrated. But I would love to hear your experiences, learn about your courses that would make your list (and that I’d need to add to mine!).