Toronto is the third oldest golf club in North America, with only Royal Montreal (formed in 1873) and Royal Quebec (1875) having greater longevity. Its founder and first captain was James Lamond Smith, a native of Aberdeen who emigrated in 1840 and established the club forty-six years later.
Toronto golf club originally played on farmland north of Woodbine before moving to Fernhill a short time after. In 1911, land was purchased on the banks of the Etobicoke River in Mississauga, south west of Toronto and Harry Colt, the prolific English golf course designer, was engaged to create a new course which opened the following year.
It reputedly cost over two hundred thousand dollars to create the course and clubhouse and the international element of the construction was not limited to the course architect – there was a Bulgarian and Romanian workforce and grass seed was imported from Finland, of all places!
An additional nine holes were added to the property in 1921, north of the Colt course, designed by Howard Watson, so Toronto members have had twenty-seven holes on which to play for many years.
The understated nature of the Toronto course befits its membership and Colt created an outstanding heathland track over a fine piece of land featuring many natural undulations with the strength of the course in its par fours, especially the eight from the 5th to the 15th hole. There’s not a par five on the opening nine holes, both of Toronto’s par fives being located on holes 13 and 16 to test the resolve of any golfer beginning to flag two thirds into the round.
Toronto was Canada’s first championship course and was the yardstick against which all future golf courses would be measured. It hosted three Canadian Opens between 1914 and 1927 before falling off the Open rota. Slight changes may have taken place since it was built, but Harry Colt’s work still shines through at this charming private course.
Dating from 1876 Toronto Golf Club is the 3rd oldest golf club in North America. The original course was being engulfed by suburbia, so in 1909 the club purchased new land in Mississauga, and employed renowned English architect Harry Colt to design a new course. Colt was the secretary at Sunningdale, and went on to design many of the world's great courses- so it was a good choice.
In some ways the land at Mississauga resembles his home course at Sunningdale, and Colt has fashioned a timeless heathland type course which is one of Canada's finest.
Three Canadian Opens were held here before 1927, but it dropped off the rota as the professionals overpowered the course. Nevertheless, Toronto GC had a significant impact on Canadian golf- Stanley Thompson grew up caddying at Toronto, and studying the course and went on to become the doyen of architects in Canada.
In recent years Martin Hawtree was engaged to refurbish the course, and by all acccounts he has done an outstanding job, bringing the course back to the top echelon.
As a visitor, the experience at Toronto is as good as it gets. The old world feel of the club house and surrounds and superb service levels make you feel quite special. But it is the course that will bring you back, and I loved the experience.
Colt's routing makes the most of the natural terrain, and the natural undulations make for interesting, strategic golf. The front nine is more difficult to score, but the back nine can give you a chance to recover any indiscretions. I thought the stretch of holes from 9 to 13 quite outstanding.
Notable holes include:
- Hole 2- North- a beautifully bunkered, longish par 4 with green running away left to right, and strategically bunkered.
- Hole 6- Barn- a short par 4 with a large fairway bunker drawing the ball off the tee, and nicely bunkered green
- hole 7- Plateau- a dramatic long par 3 played diagonally over a large chasm
- hole 9- Valley- a very pretty par 5 through a valley
- hole 10- Pulpit- a classic Colt short par 4
- hole 11- Clubhouse- a demanding longer par 4 with an elevated green
- hole 18- Home- a short dogleg par 4 finishing in front of the clubhouse which requires an accurate tee shot to set up a closing birdie. It's a nice way to finish
Toronto Golf Club is a class act, and Martin Hawtree looks to have done a pretty neat restoration job. I thought his restoration at Lahinch was excellent, and Toronto proves that particular job was no fluke.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Harry Colt visited Canada and gave us Toronto Golf Club. Being one of the oldest clubs in the world elevates the stature of this landmark, and with its recent renovation, I’m happy to report that TGC was a memorable day out. Any chance I get to see Colt’s kidney shaped bunkers and breath-taking cross bunkers is an opportunity I can’t turn down. Classic Colt in abundance and the smile returned to my face. The green complexes have survived well with time and the depth perception challenges make you think twice. The stretch of 10 through 17 will make any Colt fan find a way on this Canadian layout.