In 1957, Arthur Stollery purchased around 230 acres of farmland in Markham, north east of Toronto, for his horse and cattle breeding business. Thirty-five years later, he and designer Doug Carrick began transforming part of the acreage into the first of Angus Glen’s golf courses – incidentally, in the quirky world of naming North American courses, Angus Glen comes from the type of cattle that were once bred on the former farm – Aberdeen Angus!
Such was the quality of the golf facility that was created, the South course hosted the Canadian Open only seven years after it came into play and the North course which was opened in 2001 held the Canadian Open in 2007 after it was toughened up by none other than Davis Love III.
But professionals are not the only golfers who have appreciated the strengths of the South course. Angus Glen is maybe Canada’s top executive golf destination and the South course has seen many hundreds of corporate golf outings take place during its first ten years in existence.
This wonderfully groomed course offers a mix of various design features from subtle, natural holes in open, rolling terrain with dramatic elevation changes to deep-faced bunkers which the architect designed to penalize unless a formidable recovery is played.
Angus Glen’s beauty is enhanced by Bruce Creek winding throughout the property with adjacent patches of wetlands. Three lakes also present additional hazards, the most prominent of which is at the 475-yard, par four, double dogleg opening hole. Water not only runs up the right side of a narrow green but also eats into the entrance to the putting surface.
Another couple of holes are worth mentioning. At the par four 10th hole, the golfer is forced to lay up in front of Bruce Creek before playing to an elevated green that’s protected by bunkers front left and back right. Then, at the last hole, accuracy and distance off the tee is essential to avoid the trees and Bruce Creek on the left, giving a clear opening at an easier angle to an uphill green with a pond on the right.
Angus Glen is, without doubt, one of Canada’s premier public golfing facilities with a clubhouse that will more than meet ones golfing needs as a 19th hole at the end of a round.
Many courses have their selling points. For great Canadian private clubs like St. George's, The National GC of Canada or Hamilton, it's the fact that their courses always are ranked within the top ten in the country. A place like Glen Abbey can't compete with those three from an architecture standpoint yet it is still the most famous course in Canada due to the exposure from hosting an unprecedented 30 Canadian Open championships.
For Angus Glen Golf Club, the notoriety comes from the fact that there are few courses that can match them for service excellence and for that reason, it's one of the most popular corporate and tournament destinations in Canada. It doesn't hurt that the club has 36 holes of solid, Doug Carrick-designed golf.
Angus Glen was a labour of love for Arthur Stollery, who began the process of building the golf course in 1992 on this 1200 acre parcel of farmland. He would pass away two years later but his family made sure to complete his vision and the South Course was born one year later in 1995.
I had the chance to play Angus Glen in July as a guest of one of my business partners. We were playing the more heralded South Course on that day, which hosted the Canadian Open for the first and only time in 2002.
Highlights include the intimidating opening hole, a 475 yard par four with a partially blind downhill tee shot. The player is immediately at attention on the approach, with bunkers left and a pond short right protecting the green. This is no warmup hole!
The 405 yard par four 5th features a creek that runs down the right side before cutting in directly in front of the putting surface, which is also protected by a pond on the right. Another tricky hole.
The 6th is a 208 yard par 3 from an elevated tee played to a long, narrow green surface protected by water front right and bunkers left while the 7th hole is another beauty - a 530 yard, reachable par five played from an elevated tee.
The majestic 9th is a 550 yard par five, featuring a wide fairway with some serious slopes that can propel well-struck drives up to 30 yards further.
The 435 yard par four 10th is ultra-challenging. The tee shot must avoid a bunker right but there is also a creek that runs through the fairway about 290 yards or so from the back tee that must be avoided. From there, the approach is uphill to an elevated, two-tier green protected by bunkers short left and back right. The 11th is another brute, a 455 yard par four that usually plays into the wind. Deep bunkers frame both sides of the fairway but thankfully, the green accepts a low, running approach.
The par three 12th is another picturesque hole. It's a hefty 249 yards from the back tee deck and again plays into the prevailing wind. The hole is nicely framed by two large maples but the green is elevated and protected by deep bunkers in front in addition to a naturalized hazard area that runs in front of and along the right side of the hole. A heck of a test.
The par five 16th, measuring 550 yards, features an upper and lower fairway in the layup area, making the player decide whether to give it a go on the second shot and mess with the very deep bunkers about 100 yards out or play it safe by laying up well right. It's actually a cool risk/reward hole and I got thwarted even though I took the conservative route.
The 209 yard par three 17th features a reverse redan green and sits in a lovely setting. It's similar in look to the 12th, with the 'goalpost' type trees and the bunkers front right but plays differently. Pretty golf hole but another test.
The 18th is a terrorizing finisher, measuring 420 yards from an elevated tee down to a fairway protected on the left by a naturalized area. The second shot is then played well uphill, over a creek to a green that sits in an amphitheater setting with the majestic clubhouse in the background.
This is definitely a course that was built to host tournaments. It is quite playable for every level of player, especially from the tee. This is certainly one of Doug Carrick's trademarks as a designer - he's always believed in width off the tee while trying to challenge the player with the approach shot, rewarding proper positioning in the fairway.
The architecture is solid but not particularly inspired – soon after opening, the course was considered to be among the best in Canada but in the past decade, it’s stature has fallen considerably to the point where it doesn’t have a place on any Canadian top 100 list.
That said, I don't want to take anything away from the place. I really enjoyed the golf course - it's a lot of fun for all players and there are some really cool risk/reward opportunities sprinkled throughout the layout.
The South is a very solid course, perhaps not good enough to regain a spot within Canada’s top 100, perhaps not good enough to travel long distances to play but it's certainly a fun and solid test of golf that won't leave you disappointed if you’re in the area looking for a game.
My full Angus Glen South course profile and pictorial can be found here: http://nowonthetee.blogspot.com/2010/03/angus-glen...