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Top 100 Golf Courses of Canada 2019

07 June, 2019

Top 100 Golf Courses of Canada 2019

Welcome to the sixth biennial edition of our Top 100 chart for Canada, which means we’ve been ranking golf courses to the north of the International Boundary with the United States for a decade now. As we also maintain regional listings for ten provinces, there are now a total of 280 Canadian courses featured on our site. That figure represents just a little over 10% of the nation’s golf facilities but we think they comprise the very best golf offerings that you will find.

When we last updated our standings for this country, some may have been a bit taken aback by the introduction of Cabot Cliffs as our new number one. We obviously weigh everything up very carefully before catapulting a new course straight into the top spot of any national chart so a subsequent World Top 50 ranking for this design at the end of 2017 justified that significant decision.

Cabot Cliffs

Our International Correspondent David Davis visited Inverness last year and gave it this endorsement: “what Coore & Crenshaw have done here is nothing less than magnificent. The seaside clifftop property must have been a real challenge to route a course through. The genius of Bill Coore not only managed that but at the same time put together one of the best layouts in the world and one that immediately takes its place among the world’s Top 100 greats.”

Cabot Cliffs remains in the number one slot but it’s not the only non-mover within our Top 10 because six other courses also hold onto the same chart position. With two of the remaining three layouts falling one position, it means that another Nova Scotia track, Highlands Links (up two to number 4), is the only course to make a positive move inside our elite top tier.

Highlands Links

It’s been a few years since Ian Andrew cleared ten acres of trees and carried out a massive bunker restoration on this classic old course and the longer term benefits of this work are now being seen. Parks Canada managed the property up until three years ago, when Ontario-based GolfNorth won the right to operate the course, along with nearby Keltic Lodge. Green fees have risen and some golfers aren’t happy as course conditioning last summer attracted some criticism.

In a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation interview Graham Hudson, the General Manager, said staff members were doing their best and the course was improving daily, with time and better weather. Part of the problem was the course’s lengthy history and a worldwide reputation. "I'm not making light of it,” Hudson said, "but people have an expectation that we're going to be like their country club in downtown Toronto. We'll never be. It's not designed to be like that."

Shaughnessy Golf & Country Club in Vancouver moves up four positions to number 19, following a drop of nine places last time around. Founded as Shaughnessy Heights Golf Club in 1911, the club had an 18-hole course in play inside two years of its formation. Shaughnessy then relocated to its current site in 1960, engaging the original architect, A.V. Macan, to fashion a new course on land leased from the Musquem Nation. In more recent times, Geoff Cornish and Norman Woods have made changes to the layout and the Canadian Open was last held here in 2011, with Sean O’Hair winning the event after a one-hole playoff.

Further down the chart, the Blue course at Laval-sur-le-Lac in Quebec continues to make remarkable progress. It’s now reached the Top 50 with a seven-place leap from number 57, having previously soared thirty-six spots from number 93 in 2017. The first major project of Mike Weir and his design partner Ian Andrew back in 2011, the remodelling of the course entailed renovating twelve holes and re-routing the other six to make better use of the existing topography. The stated aim of the design duo to build challenging green sites and encourage more aggressive play has certainly paid off.

Laval-sur-le-Lac Blue course

So far, there’s been no mention of any courses in Ontario but a number of 18-hole layouts in that province make substantial double-digit upward moves in the bottom half of our new Top 100.

The environmentally sensitive layout at The Georgian Bay Club (up ten to number 57) lies a hundred miles northwest of downtown Toronto, nestled in a 230-acre property in the Niagara Escarpment region. Opened for play in 2004, the course was designed by architect Jason Straka when he was working in partnership alongside Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry. More than thirty potential course routings were discarded before one was finally chosen, with some holes playing into abandoned quarries to avoid disturbing local habitats.

The Georgian Bay Club

Another hundred miles further north, the course at Port Carling Golf & Country Club (up twelve to number 74) is an early Tom McBroom design that sits in 270 acres of land within the rugged Canadian Shield of Muskoka. Fairways are routed around a heavily forested landscape that’s also characterized by rocky outcrops, streams and lakes. A change of ownership in 2007 resulted in the architect returning to rebuild the first four holes, refurbish all the bunkers and reconstruct every green with A-4 bent grass.

Windermere Golf & Country Club (up twelve to number 87) is located less than half an hour’s drive north of Port Carling on Lake Rosseau and the club celebrates its centenary this year. Nine holes were initially brought into play, followed by another three in 1923, before an additional six holes completed the 18-layout three years later. General Manager Jim MacLeod was appointed in 1972 and during his twenty-one years at the club he installed a series of ponds and drain lines to help improve drainage on the fairways, thus preserving the design intent of the original architect, Stanley Thompson.

The highest climber in our new table lies to the south of Toronto, less than ten miles from the Peace Bridge at the east end of Lake Erie, linking Fort Erie with Buffalo in New York. The course at the Cherry Hill Club (up sixteen to number 66) dates back to 1924, two years after the club was founded, when Walter Travis was engaged to design the 18-hole layout. Thankfully, most of his work remains intact. Robbie Robinson upgraded the course before it hosted the Canadian Open in 1972 and Ian Andrew has since made further improvements by installing new putting surface drainage and constructing additional tees.

Cherry Hill Club

Matt Bosela had this to say in a review he posted a few months ago: “What an interesting golf course. The Travis design demands accuracy off the tee through the strategic placement of bunkers, which are plentiful here… Travis didn’t have the greatest piece of land to work with here, as the course is pretty flat throughout. However, he mixes up the holes well, incorporating many doglegs to encourage bending the ball of the tee.”

The highest of four new entries makes an impressive entrance at number 68 and it’s the Gold course at The Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club, positioned close to the capital’s international airport. The Gold course is the club’s original 18-hole layout, designed by Willie Park Jr. in 1921. Tom McBroom upgraded the holes in the early 1990s before Michael Hurdzan completed the reconfiguration and reconstruction of the South and West nines (comprising the Gold course) in 2015, ahead of the Canadian Women’s Open which was held here two years later.

The Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club

Unfortunately, one of the 18-hole layouts dropping out of our Top 100 table is the very highly-regarded Sagebrush in British Columbia, where Rod Whitman set out the course a decade ago. The club ran into serious financial difficulties as a private facility five years ago and never really recovered from that position. It’s such a pity, as our regular contributor Matt Ward termed it a “rollicking fun adventure – with few lulls – and plenty of grand stages where you’ll find out soon enough if your game is up to the task.” Hopefully, it won’t be too long before golfers are teeing it up here again and the layout subsequently reappearing in the upper echelons of the national rankings.

Making a welcome return to the chart at number 80 is the Mt. Lorette layout at the Kananaskis Country Golf Course in Alberta. Devastated by severe flooding six years ago, the Mt. Lorette and Mt. Kidd courses dropped out of our listings whilst they were being rebuilt by Gary Browning. Both have now re-opened for business so expect to see them feature more prominently when we re-appraise our Canadian Top 100 in 2021.

Finally, another track that's too new to make the cut this time is Doug Carrick’s Nest at Friday Harbour, on the western shores of Lake Simcoe in Ontario, which debuted in August last year. The centrepiece of a multi-million dollar residential development that also includes a 1,000-berth marina, the course was shaped using around two million cubic metres of earth removed during construction of the harbour, with fairways blending into existing areas of wetlands and forest. Don’t be surprised if this large-scale new build project also makes the next edition of our Canadian chart.

To view further details of our latest rankings of the Top 100 Golf Courses of Canada click the link.

We've also updated the regional rankings for the ten Canadian Provinces. To view further details of our newly revised Canadian Provincial tables, click the following links:

Alberta Top 40
British Columbia Top 60
Manitoba Top 10
New Brunswick Top 5
Newfoundland and Labrador Top 5
Nova Scotia Top 15
Ontario Top 100
Prince Edward Island Top 10
Quebec Top 30
Saskatchewan Top 5

If you have any thoughts to share about our latest national rankings then please use the “Respond to this article” link at the top or bottom of this page. We welcome feedback when we revise our charts so feel free to get in touch if you've got something to to say.

Jim McCann
Top 100 Golf Courses


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