Glen Abbey Golf Club, the first solo design from Jack Nicklaus, was built on the site of an earlier Howard Watson course and opened for play in 1976. One of Canada’s most famous golf courses, it is located in Oakville, Ontario, west of Toronto and is home to the Royal Canadian Golf Association and Canadian Golf Hall of Fame.
More than a quarter century after it first opened, Glen Abbey is still one of the best public courses in the country. It offers two distinctive nines – holes 1 to 9 are routed on a flat stretch of land around the clubhouse, while the final holes are more dramatic, with many running along a wonderful river valley.
The first nine, though weaker than the inward half, still includes some great holes – among them the par four 2nd with its shallow green, and the tough par four 9th, protected by water on two sides. The real drama, of course, is reserved for the back nine and in particular, the “valley holes” which are strong, strategic holes that make good use of the terrain – the first of these holes is the spectacular 11th, with a drop of over 75 feet to the fairway and treacherous long approach over 16 Mile Creek to the green.
The toughest hole on the card is the par four 14th, which doglegs right and has 16 Mile Creek running diagonally across the fairway. Difficulties at this hole continue onto the green as it incorporates a fiendish horseshoe-shaped ledge that brings about more than its fair share of three putts.
Glen Abbey had major green repairs carried out in 2005. The 11th green was moved twenty feet to the left to expose it to more sun and help increase the airflow, giving a healthier putting surface. This now means a more difficult tee shot as drives must now be in the middle or centre right of the fairway for a clear view of the green as anything else will be blocked out by maple trees to the left of the fairway. Four renovated greens at holes 1, 4, 7 and 12 were excavated down around a foot then old materials removed and drainage replaced before the putting surfaces were reconstructed.
The Canadian Open has been staged at Glen Abbey a staggering 30 times (more than twice as many times as any other national golf club) since it was first held here in 1977 so it has seen many great champions win the top prize in Canadian golf – from international players like Greg Norman in 1992 and Nick Price in 1994 to US star Tiger Woods in 2000, Vijay Singh in 2004 and Jason Day in 2015.