The following edited extract is from Dr. James M. Harris’s Stanley Thompson and Icons of Canada .If you would like to purchase a copy of this book you can do so via the Stanley Thompson Society https://www.stanleythompson.com/store by clicking the link.
“One the property was secured there was little question Stanley Thompson would be chosen to design the ladies’ golf course, albeit with some suggestions from Ada Mackenzie. The board of the newly formed Ladies’ Golf Club of Toronto initially baulked at the $50,000 construction fee but agreed to go ahead. A contract was signed on December 17, 1924.
Of interest, the greens were established with the same stolons of creeping bent grass from Stanley’s nursery west of Toronto that he used for the greens at the Jasper Park Lodge GC. The finished product has kept a low profile over the decades, giving it the status of one of the best kept secrets of Toronto golf. Stanley was well aware that most golfers don’t shoot low scores and he tried to make his golf courses enjoyable for the duffer and at the same time difficult for the ‘crack’ player.
The Ladies’ Golf Club of Toronto officially opened on August 23, 1926. The course was first tested as a championship course with an exhibition match between Ada Mackenzie and the three top American golfers of the day in front of a gallery of about 1,000 people on October 1, 1927. The club has survived the inevitable ups and downs over time but continues to thrive. A sensitive update has been done by David Moote but the course is basically unchanged since it opened.
Ladies’ Golf Club of Toronto is unique as the lone women-only golf club in North America. Men are now allowed to be members but they can be guest cardholders which gives them partly restricted playing privileges and services in the clubhouse. Those men who have played the Ladies’ find it an excellent test of golf. Today’s club continues to have a great deal of pride in the legacy of their founder Ada Mackenzie and they are also proud that in 1924 Stanley Thompson was their man.”
The Ladies Golf Club of Toronto is famed for being the only true ladies golf club in North America. Now, while they do allow Male guests and some affiliated male “memberships” (mostly spouses) the club has and will always be focused on supporting women’s golf.
Interestingly, the course has 20 holes on the property. Golfers who want to play just 9 holes can play an alternate routing back to the clubhouse which includes holes 1-7, 8A and 9A. I have been lucky enough to play all 20 holes and have the back nine all to ourselves when we played this course.
Originally designed by Stanley Thompson the course plays at 6000 yards from the back tees and in recent years has seen some changes to the course. The club sold some land at the far end of the property a few years ago to better support the club operations and as a result some of the holes have changed recently.
Of interest the second hole was redeveloped and is a magnificent Par 3 surrounded by bunkers and has lots of rolling undulations in the green. Hole 6 was also improved, one of the more scenic holes on the property, this short Par 4 has a great centre line tree, and the green site is tucked into a small hillside with a great bunker which fronts the green some 20 yards short.
The course isn’t long for most golfers with a 10 or less handicap these days, but it certainly is still challenging. Many of the holes take driver out of your hand with the design and trees lining the fairways – leaving the golfer with similar clubs they might have into a longer course. The older holes all have smaller and sometimes severely sloping greens that will break a lot more than you think.
The finishing stretch at Ladies is likely the highlights to your round at the course. The Par 4 15th green site is framed well by bunkers and is a wonderful approach shot hole. The Par 3 16th descends deep into the valley, the drop shot tee shot is a nail bitter. Can’t go left, can’t go long and short must either come short or carry a small creek. The Par 4 17th was my favourite hole. This driveable 270-yard Par 4 is exciting. Driving the green is possible but be aware of the bunkers and going anywhere left plays into the hazard. The finisher is a neat Par 3 which plays uphill to a blind green site. It’s probably not the best finisher out there but I enjoyed the challenge. The natural contours and ripples in the terrain are nice to look at. The green site is very tricky, missing left or right is not advised (right is likely bouncing off the driveway, left is towards the members patio and leaves a really tricky up and down).
Overall, Ladies is a solid test of golf even with its shorter length. I would give it a 3/6 (Par) on the Top 100 Golf Courses ranking. The course isn’t anything special, and in Toronto it doesn’t stand out amongst any of the other quality private clubs.