In 2005, five years after his first Canadian course opened for play at Royal Oaks in New Brunswick, Rees Jones and design associate Keith Evans ventured north of the International Boundary to lay out another public golf facility at Grand Niagara Golf Club. It’s universally accepted that they accomplished their goal of creating a fair, challenging and interesting layout that’s not short of visual excitement.
Set within a large 350-acre parkland property, the course is imbued – in the words of the architect – with a “neo classic, old-style look” which is ready for both the modern player and his or her modern equipment. With rolling fairways routed alongside the Welland River, water plays a strategic part in proceedings at several holes. Sand also forms a major hazard, protecting many of the elevated greens.
Feature holes on the front nine include the par four 5th, where a creek intersects the fairway as it doglegs left to the green, and the long par three 6th, which plays to a two-tiered green that’s fronted by a large bunker to the front right side of the hole. On the inward half, the 16th is a strong par four that requires precision off the tee to avoid the long bunker complex that flanks the right side of the fairway.
Commonly referred to as the best public course in the Niagara region and it's a fair assessment. The greens, in particular, are in wonderful condition and the bunkering is superb. The fairways are wide, but you'll usually find a decent lie if you stray into the rough. The layout is still challenging enough with the mixture of bunkers and water, which are complemented by some potentially excellent pin placements. There are also several water hazards in place to keep your approach shots, in particular, honest.
Best Hole: 14-A shortish par 4 that dog-legs left, with a creek running through the middle roughly 100 yards from the green. The hole is lined with trees either side, so hitting the fairway is vital. Alternatively, there's the suicide shot over the creek. The green is then two-tiered, which directly dictates how difficult the second shot will be, a deep bunker also guards the green for anything short.
Grand Niagara is a stadium design by Rees Jones and sits on a relatively flat piece of land near Niagara Falls Ontario. It may be a little easier to walk but there are plenty of hazards to keep you on your toes. The fairways are wide and the rough is forgiving making it very player-friendly. The back two sets of tees however force you to carry a number of your drives over marshland. The sand bunkers are in great shape and the greens are impeccable. To read more of Dave Finn's articles visit www.golftravelandleisure.com