The Irish golf course architect and writer Pat Ruddy (whose masterpieces include The European Club and Druids Glen on his home turf) created two golf courses at the northern tip of the Montreal Island. The first one was a links-style course called the Irlande or Ireland. The second one, inaugurated in 2002 on the other side of the main highway linking Montreal with the cities along the northern shores of the St. Lawrence River, is the Ile or Island course, a parkland design where perhaps the only common trait with its sister course is the winding shaping of most fairways around hillocks and knobs. Otherwise, this course has lots of trees, water obstacles on half of the holes, marsh flora and fauna, and a totally different atmosphere. It is also a bit shorter at 6,432 yards from the back tees, but it is a par 70, so there is still plenty of length on individual holes.
Old golf design tradition is still alive, as the 9th green is at the farthest spot from the first tee, but this does not really create a problem as the halfway house is definitely there by the 10th tee, while the clubhouse is located far away from the course, on the other side of the highway.This course is not as unique as the Irlande or Ireland course, but it is by no means a more common playground. It has been praised as one of the most beautiful public courses in Quebec very soon after it opened. It has also been the locale for several professional tournaments, and proof that it should not be discounted versus its neighbouring links can be found in the fact that members appear to favour playing the Island course when they want to post a game for their handicap. Indeed, as beautiful a setting as it is, this Ile course has many defences and features, which create psychological pressure.
The Island course is about 10% shorter than The Irish and is a par 70. The first hole is the longest par four on the front and not exactly welcoming. Fairway bunker right and a large bunker in front of the green. The 2nd is a mid-length par three with a bunker rear left. The 3rd is a well-designed hole. There are three fairway bunkers starting on the right about 200 yards out and they progress on a 45 degree angle towards the middle of the fairway and end less than 100 yards from the green. The long 4th leans right and there is a fairway bunker on the inside elbow and water right. The bunker is about 160 yards out so aim left of it off the tee. The green has bunkers front right and left. The 5th is very similar, bunker right in landing area and greenside front right and left. The 6th is the longest par five and at 509 yards, it really isn’t very long. The right fairway bunker is about 280 yards out. The challenge is the twin bunkers in the fairway starting about 180 yards out and they are about 40 yards long. This, if you are not going for it and/or have a questionable lie, some thinking is required. The 7th is the shortest par four on the course, yet it is the number one handicap hole! The fairway narrows as you get closer to the green. The two-tiered green is perched right behind a creek, I do not understand the rating. The 8th is probably the signature hole. A short par five with an island green. Choose wisely. The front closes with a short Florida par three.
The back starts with a long dogleg left. There is a fairway bunker on the right elbow, be left of that off the tee. The fairway runs out about 90 yards from the middle of the green. The 11th is the shortest hole and while the green is a tabletop I do nut understand how it is rated the 8th hardest hole. The 12th and 13th parallel each other and are very similar in look and feel and are only two yards different in length. The 14th is a mid-length forgettable par three. The straightaway par five 15th is the number 18 handicap hole. They got this one right. Three average shots and you will be putting for birdie. The last par three felt like it was shoe horned in between 15 and 17. The 17th is a good hole. Favor left of center off the tee to avoid the right fairway bunker. The green is tucked right a 45 degree angle behind a water hazard. The long 18th is a demanding finishing hole. The hole bends right and the large fairway bunker on the right is 200 yards out. Behind that there is a water hazard that goes all the way to the green and then another water hazard sneaks in on the left about 140 yards out. To par this, you will need to hit two good shots.
Not up to the bar that The Irish set, but heck, if you are there, play them both.
One of the many good points about Club de Golf de l’Ile de Montréal is that this public access golf property has two very different golf courses to offer, and after playing L’Ile, it is difficult to say if it is as good or not as its sister course L’Irlande.
L’Ile (or The Island) is a parkland course, there is no doubt of that. Pat Ruddy, its architect, moved quite a bit of dirt around to create many hillocks and bumps alongside the fairways to toughen the defenses of the design which is generally rather flat. The land appears like old marshy downs near the Rivière des Prairies, a tributary of the St Lawrence river, and has inherited a lot of lakes which come into play but also help in setting the decor with reed forests eating at the fairways.
The opening holes set the tone: the fairways are contoured and not wide, the holes are respectably long, the rough (in fescue grass) is lush, and the greens are not very large and not flat. The par four 1st acts as a warning: straight, but long, narrow enough fairway, and a narrow green which must be carried on the approach shot as a large bunker defends the front. The 5th is apparently a classic par four. Still, it is an interesting dog leg right with reeds on the left side while a big bunker, a small elevation and a copse of trees guard the inside of the turn; the green has a pretty severe slope back to front and right to left, and is defended by two largish bunkers. The long 6th makes the most of the shielding effect of reeds, which hide the right part of the fairway at drive distance.
The last three holes of the out nine make the prettiest stretch of the course. The par four 7th is made more difficult by the narrow fairway, the dip making the drive rather blind and the river crossing it just before the green. This makes for a picturesque and dangerous approach shot. The green is also double-tiered, and defended left by trees, by hillocks behind it and by a slope washing out into the river right. The par five 8th is not very long, but it is only when you arrive at the top of small elevation barring the fairway just after your drive that you realize that the double-tiered green is an island. The par three 9th is very short, and the lake is in lieu of fairway. We noticed that the short 9th is going to be lengthened this year as another green is being prepared, which will add a good 40 yards to the length of the hole and make it more interesting.
The halfway house is a welcome break, because the home stretch does not start in any easy way. The 10th is a par four dogleg with a sharp turn after a narrow drive between two groups of trees, the short 11th presents a pretty small, dome-shaped green surface and the par four 12th has a wide fairway, partly shielded by trees on the right side, good length and a narrow green. The round finishes on an unusually strong note: the par four 17th uses water (and reeds) to render the approach shot riskier, and the 18th is rated the hardest hole of the course, due in good part to the large bunker on the right of the fairway where drives land, and then again an approach shot which will require faith and precision as there is water all along the right of the fairway, while many strokes left short will find either water or the bunker on the left of the green.
As for its sister course, this Island track makes extensive use of an unusual feature. This time it is tall forests of reeds which make many holes seem narrower than they probably are. We would love to come back often and master this difficulty, and would mark L’Ile as much of a must-play as L’Irlande.