The 36-hole Lionhead golf complex is one of six golf facilities owned by successful Bulgarian-born developer and philanthropist Iggy Kaneff. His KaneffGolf operation currently offers golfers in Ontario a total of 144 holes for play, with plans for another course to open at some point in Caledon.
Ted Baker has been Kaneff’s architect of choice when expanding his golf empire but many feel his design style is too penal for the average player. As the scorecard for the Legends states: “Legends is rated the most challenging golf course in Canada and the third most challenging public access course in North America”.
Small heavily contoured greens, tight tree-lined fairways and deep punishing bunkers all contribute to the high degree of difficulty when playing here and the back markers can only be played by professionals and low handicap amateurs as they are rated a massive 77.5 with a severe slope of 155.
Consider also that the Credit River comes into play at more than half the holes on the card and you’ll understand why teeing it up on the Legends course is not for the faint of heart, even for those playing from the forward tees.
Set in the valley and flood plain of the Credit River, this parkland design offers a combination of heavily forested holes, well-positioned bunkers and forced carries over wetlands and ravines.
With a course rating from the black tees of 77.5 and a slope of 155, the Legends is the most challenging golf course in Canada according to Golf Digest. Fortunately, only professionals and low handicappers are permitted to play from the tips and ONLY with pre-approval from the Pro Shop. For mere mortals like myself I would suggest moving up to the whites. At 6,253 yards and a slope of 136, there is still plenty of bite to this layout.
The opening hole has always been my nemesis setting the stage to prove that accuracy plus distance is important here. From the black, gold and blue tee blocks you are starting from an elevated tee position. From the white, red and green you start in the valley. Either way your opening drive needs to cover a pond on the left and a massive bunker on the right. From there you are left with at least a 150 yard carry over a river to an elevated green protected by four bunkers in front. To top it off, the shallow but wide green has a crest making putting even more difficult. Welcome to the Legends. Be prepared to be humbled.
The 358-yard second hole appears to be more sublime, but you still need to avoid a huge bunker on the left and contend with three others that encircle the green. The par-5 fourth hole is a little more forgiving but beware of the false front on the left side of a narrow green that runs diagonally.
The 6th hole requires a right to left drive to a narrow fairway for any chance at conquering this short par-4. Anything left and you are either in the bunker or on a side hill lie. Anything right and you are blocked out by the trees.
The par-4 11th is ranked the #1 handicap hole on the course and justifiably so. At 400 yards your uphill second shot needs to carry a meandering ravine and bunker. Bogey is a good score here.
Lionhead has long been revered as a premium priced public facility in the Greater Toronto Area but not for the faint at heart. The difficulty and cost of green fees make it hard to justify for the average golfer, but I can not wait to play it again.