eQuinelle – Immaculate and Fun For All Skill Levels
eQuinelle is one of a small number of courses I know who have mastered social media engagement with their members and the public. As a public player with a bucket list to consider, this course provides timely and relevant information and shares just enough to whet the appetite. When a business trip to Ottawa was scheduled this spring, I knew I had to make it a priority to play a round there. The course is relatively new, less than 10 years old, and is only about 30 minutes outside of Ottawa, in Kemptville and very close to the Rideau River.
I had heard much about the superb conditioning and the staff commitment to service and both did not disappoint. The course is set among an even newer and growing housing development but this did not impact play in any way. While I am generally not a fan of houses in such close proximity to a course, the layout of eQuinelle is player-friendly and foresight of design to protect homeowners in more vulnerable parts of the course was evident.
I arrived as a single on an overcast late afternoon and was greeted and advised there was openings to get off quickly. I was fortunate to be invited to join a member of the grounds crew who was just about to tee off and appreciated the company and unique insight to the course. And while practice facilities are good, I passed up opportunity to use them to enjoy a leisurely afternoon with my playing partner.
The first tee will demand your attention. The first hole was one of my favourites; a forced carry over water on a dogleg left where players can take on as much of the dog leg as they would like. Playing from the whites (course length 6198) made the hole 385 and that took some pressure off. Two points of distinction from that opening hole were consistent throughout the course: first, the tee boxes may be some of the finest I have ever played off, they were perfect. And second, the course is straightforward in its layout. With few exceptions, the hole is clearly presented.
Fairways were fabulous, with sand bottles available near yardage markers to help maintain conditioning. The defense of this course are its greens – they are generally large and with some slope but not enough to be silly or unfair. Greens are often approachable and players can run balls up. A brilliant design philosophy, as it makes the course playable for all skill levels. The course is well bunkered and greenside rough will also help create a need for accuracy on approach shots. Off the tee, however, it is more spacious. Few holes have significant trouble and only then on one side.
The clubhouse, like all facilities, is relatively new and very polished with capacity to host larger groups, events and tournaments. The pro shop is clean and comfortable and check in was easy and efficient.
The front nine is a greater challenge, with more water hazards in play than the back. The layout of the front is more dynamic and while I would be more critical of a seemingly mundane back nine, it simply isn’t true. For example, holes 12 – a beautifully framed short par 4; 16 – a signature par 3; and 18 – a stunning par 5 closing hole with water left, all reflect an intelligent layout which focus on fun, playability with sufficient challenge for skilled players.
The pride to which my young playing partner had in this course was evident throughout the afternoon. He shared insight on the detail and quality which is expected of the grounds crew – tip of the golf cap to the Superintendent – and shared his reflections on his favourite holes. It was a fun experience and won’t be my last trip to eQuinelle. It is a course I’d be proud to be a member at. I love the feeling that if I played well I could score exceptionally well, but that the course would also prove penal for errant play. It is a fun and fair test of golf which I feel would appeal to players of all skill levels.
Aura – 7.5 out of 10 – You are not likely going to find this course on national top 100 lists but it is an exceptional public course in the Ottawa region.
Value (cost / experience) – 8 out of 10 – Looking at their website, peak fees are under $95 before tax, including cart. Graduated rates throughout the day, along with some good deals spread out throughout the day are also available. Non-residents can join for just over $3000 but this rate drops if you’re part of the residential community around the course. The best rates are available on their website and folks who are value conscious can find what they’re seeking.
Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 9 out of 10 – This is where eQuinelle shines. Tee to green, the conditioning is superb. Players and staff take great pride in the course and it shows. And while the layout of the back is not as dynamic as the front this did not detract from my enjoyment. The course is very walkable with no significant elevation change. The tee boxes were in exceptional condition. Greens rolled true and consistent, not too fast for a public course which helps ensure good pace of play. The greenside protection was diverse and penal at times but never unfair. Fairways were superb.
Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – 8 out of 10 – I left feeling like I would like to come and experience this course again. It’s not the most dynamic layout and is not the most challenging course I will play this year. But it may be the fairest test and quite possibly one of the most fun. To me, that means something.