Summit Golf Club – Tradition Never Goes Out of Style
Routed in 1912 and with design completed in 1919, Summit Golf Club, based in Richmond Hill, Ontario enjoys the benefits of traditional and historic design from George Lyon and Stanley Thompson, and recent updates from another Canadian golf architect, Doug Carrick. I had the pleasure of playing this course as a guest at a media event in the summer season and Summit showed off all its’ splendor. This is a private course but with no pretense; staff are courteous, professional and helpful to guests.
Participating in a shotgun start our group was assigned the 7th hole and I was surprised to see how close we were to an adjacent road. And while recent renovations from Doug Carrick were designed to alleviate this issue, the fact is there is only so much which can be done. Moving the tee box right and opening up the left side of the fairway as a preferred landing area makes sense but it is still an intimidating opening tee shot.
First impressions begin before teeing the ball up. The short game practice facilities located on the front grounds outside the clubhouse are majestic and impressive, offering a wide array of short game options. A large practice green is closer to the clubhouse. One minor concern is that the range is located some ways away, requiring (for me, anyway) a need to cart down to access the range facilities. But like the others, they were clean and well stocked and gave me time and space to prepare for my round.
The course is fantastic, the design brilliance is how most tee shots are slightly elevated giving the player a good luck at landing options. I love the routing and while our group rode in carts, it is a course I would love to walk. It would be a brisk walk mind you, as the course is adjacent to protected natural lands which have subtle slope. The one feature of this course which provided the sternest test for me are the greens. At Summit over two thirds of the holes have elevated greens, some more subtle than others. The greens themselves are fabulous. They roll true and with a consistent quick pace. Take extra time to read them as there is subtlety in slope. My lack of success did not detract from the fun and the challenge of trying the figure them out.
The course comes in under 6900 yards from the tips and while Doug Carrick was brought in to add some length, in addition to redesign greens, the course enjoys a unique design feature with a 37-34 routing. The back nine is considerably shorter than the front with 4 par 3’s. The pursuit of length strikes me as odd, but Summit is not alone in this quest.
My favourite holes were 1, 18, 7 (surprisingly, despite the intimidating tee shot) and 15. The opening and closing holes set an impressive tone and I walked off the course seeking an opportunity to redeem myself for a score that did not align with how well I played; the greens got the better of me. But I did walk off feeling fortunate to experience one of Canada’s more traditional, enjoyable and quality courses.
Aura – 9 out of 10 – The drive up to the course created that this was going to be a special experience. The short game practice facilities and the stately clubhouse provide a welcoming environment, while set just off Yonge Street. The opening hole is one of my favourite openers I have played is some time, creating a feeling of excitement and comfort with its elevated tee.
Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 9 out of 10 – The conditioning was flawless and the team at Summit clearly take pride in this property. Tee boxes were immaculate, fairways very clearly distinguished off the tee and the rough was fair and not too penal. Greens are generous in size and provided (for me anyway) a natural defense from low scores. The bunkers, one of Stanley Thompson’s signature features, framed greens very well and provided a fair challenge. Conditions were consistent, and this is important and impressive, similar to the practice facilities.
Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – 9 out of 10 – I would be proud to be a member at Summit. While private courses are simply not an option for me, the people I met and the overall experience gave me pause for consideration. And the course, well, it is simply a course I would never tire playing. With strong opening and closing holes, and diversity of routing and hole design in between I hope that I can tee it up at Summit again one day and seek to exact some revenge on those greens.
Highlight (what is great about the course) – The pursuit of length confuses me but I respect it. The number of par 3’s on the back nine provide some scoring opportunity. Elevated tees create a real summit feel on many holes and for golfers of all skill level this will make Summit inviting and playable. But what sets this course apart for me are the people. Every person I met, every one, were welcoming, helpful and demonstrated a sense of pride for this course. That matters a great deal to me.