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.