Tee Time: A Guide to Top Golf Courses in Toronto
By Grant Fraser. From the Jack Nicklaus-designed Glen Abbey to the subway-accessible Don Valley, there are more golf courses in Toronto than you can shake a club at.
Cardinal Golf Club
As Canada’s only 72-hole golf facility Cardinal Golf Club has something for everyone with four 18-hole layouts located just off Highway 400 at Davis Drive West. Kettle Creek is an executive course consisting of par 3s and par 4s and is perfect for families and newcomers to the game – you can even play foot golf! East Wing and West Wing are intermediate courses and with the new Play It Forward tee system they’re suitable for all levels of play and great for tournaments. RedCrest is an exceptional 18-hole design that challenges the best golfers. With three clubhouses, extensive practice facilities, even an 18-hole mini-putt, Cardinal has it all.
Green fees: $25 to $89 plus HST | Club rentals: $32 | Cardinal Golf Club
Don Valley Golf Course
When Don Valley opened for play on August 1, 1956, it cost just 75 cents to play. Despite the encroachment of city development, Toronto’s favourite municipal course that turns 60 this summer has retained its great value ever since. Although located in northern Toronto near Yonge Street and Highway 401 and accessible via subway (York Mills station), lush vegetation, mature trees and a rolling landscape define Don Valley’s natural beauty. This classic Howard Watson design (he worked for Stanley Thompson for several years) features a traditional variety of memorable golf holes highlighted by Hallelujah Corner—the signature par-5 12th hole followed by the devilish par-3 13th.
Green fees: $35 to $68 plus HST | Club rentals: $25 | Don Valley Golf Course
Glen Abbey Golf Club
Lots has been written about the Jack Nicklaus-designed Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville since it opened 40 years ago, but its days may be numbered with a residential subdivision development looming over its head. Tiger Woods won the Canadian Open there in 2000 after an incredible 213-yard shot from a fairway bunker over a pond to the 18th green. Glen Abbey will once again host the RBC Canadian Open from July 21 to 24, 2016 for the 27th time. No. 11, which leads golfers down into the valley, is one of the most memorable holes in Canada as the 452-yard par-4 descends 200-plus feet into the valley, followed by a challenging forced carry over Sixteen Mile Creek to the green. At the 2004 Bell Canadian Open, Vijay Singh made a par here, a bogey and two triple bogeys – and still won. A golf course everyone should play before it disappears. Eighteen Restaurant overlooks the final green and Sunday Brunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. is awesome, even when the pros aren’t playing.
Green fees: $100 to $235 plus HST | Club rentals: $70 includes 12 balls | Glen Abbey Golf Club
Lakeview Golf Course
In the real estate game the old saying goes: “location, location, location.” And the same thing applies to Lakeview Golf Course, a wonderful muni in Mississauga. This Herbert Strong classic parkland track is not long at 6,340 yards, but bring a hot putter if you want to score. The 16th hole is one of the best risk-reward par 5s around and when you come off that green it’s always fun when you find the original 17th hole – with its treacherous green – is open. (More often than not, the newer green beside the pond is in use, but it always makes me perk up when the tees are on the left side of the creek.) The original hole is only 90 yards, but every one of them is devilish. An up and down from either short or long of the green is near impossible and, if you hit the green from the tee, a two-putt par gives most golfers a real feeling of satisfaction, especially if your ball is above the hole. Poor old Sam Snead once took a nine on this little hole in an exhibition match with Leo Diegel.
Green fees: $44 to $82 plus HST | Club rentals: $40 | Lakeview Golf Course
Turnberry Golf Club
Whether it’s for a unique golf experience or great food at its signature restaurant Nine18, Turnberry Golf Club on Heart Lake Road in Brampton is the perfect venue to combine both. Hard to believe it has been open for nearly a decade, but at the time building a short golf course with two par-4s and the rest as par-3s was a novel approach to trying to shorten the amount of time it takes to play a round. This 3,408-yard, Doug Carrick design features challenging elevation changes and undulating greens that makes for excitement with every stroke whether you’re on the tee or putting for birdie. Hang around afterwards for a drink, enjoy one of the many tasty menu options and enjoy the view. You can even play 12-hole golf later in the day!
Green fees: $25 to $47 plus HST | Club rentals: $25 | Turnberry Golf Club
Uplands Golf Course
Designed by Stanley Thompson, Uplands first opened in 1922 as an 18-hole private course. In 1989, urban sprawl engulfed half of the course and it became a nine-hole gem. Although what’s left makes an unusual routing, the quality is still excellent. You will marvel at the terrain of the property and how Thompson managed to weave some wonderful holes through such a difficult site. The highlight is the eighth hole, one of the best par-3s Thompson ever built – so good that Golf Magazine listed it as one of the best 500 holes in the world.
Green fees: $25 to $33 for nine holes plus HST | Club rentals: $8 for nine holes | Uplands Golf Course
Osprey Valley Golf
I played all three championship golf courses in the same day a few years ago, using carts, with head professional Robert McClure and a couple of my buddies. What a great day, one of the best all-time. I don’t remember how many balls, if any, I lost or how many bogeys I carded, but I do know it was exhausting. But the wings and beer after golf put smiles on our faces and I have been telling the story ever since. Three awesome Doug Carrick-designed golf courses set in the Caledon foothills with a smart clubhouse. If I had to pick just one to play for my next round it would be Heathlands, but neither Hoot nor Toot will disappoint. Here’s an idea, you can play all day during the week for $160 ($180 including cart and taxes). Maybe there’s 54 holes in your future!
Green fees: $74 to $104 plus HST | Club rentals: $55 | Osprey Valley Golf
Angus Glen Golf Club
As Toronto hosted the 2015 Pan Am Games last summer, the elite international golfers teed it up at Angus Glen GC with visions of gold, silver and bronze medals. Angus Glen enjoys a strong tradition as one of the city’s elite public play courses and continues to be at the forefront of creating exciting opportunities for golfers with its Nike Golf Weekend Morning League and the stylish Nike Golf Shop where you can get fitted and buy a set of clubs in just about 30 minutes. The Silo Grill is well known for its signature holiday gourmet brunches and they even offer afternoon tea, British Style, on Sundays for those who tee it up between 2-5 p.m.
Green fees: $120 to $180 plus HST | Club rentals: $56 | Angus Glen Golf Club
City of Toronto Golf Courses
The City of Toronto is home to five outstanding municipal golf courses that form the backbone for affordable public golf within the city limits. For decades these courses – Dentonia Park Golf Course, Humber Valley GC, Scarlett Woods GC, Tam O’Shanter GC and Don Valley GC – have been the courses that youngsters who dream about playing golf have come to for their first lessons or games with their father or grandparent. Today, friendly staff invites golfers of all ages to learn and play the game in a setting that is down to earth and always family-friendly. You can tee it up at executive courses like Scarlett Woods or Dentonia Park and graduate to Humber Valley or Don Valley. Don’t forget that most the courses are easily accessible by public transit. Most of all have fun and enjoy the game!
Green fees: Varied | Club rentals: Varied | City of Toronto Golf Courses
Lionhead Golf Club & Conference Centre
Lionhead G&CC in Brampton is a favourite place of mine to hang out because both courses are always in great condition and on most days the pace of play is excellent. As someone once said, we’re not here for a long time, so let’s have a good time and Lionhead measures up with two solid 18-hole layouts in the likes of the Masters course and the Legends course, which by the way still remains one of the most difficult to play even after 20 years. Small undulating putting surfaces, tight tree-lined fairways, cavernous bunkers and the Credit River that flows through or beside 14 out of 18 holes on the Legends course will leave most golfers speechless. While the Masters course isn’t technically more difficult, it doesn’t give much away due to a fine mix of over 100 well-placed bunkers, nine ponds and two rivers make each hole distinctive and an unforgettable experience.
Green fees: $90 to $165 plus HST | Club rentals: $56 | Lionhead Golf & Country Club
About the Author
Grant Fraser started playing golf at the Scarlett Woods golf course in Toronto more than 30 years ago. An avid golfer, Fraser is the author of two books, “50 of Ontario’s Greatest Public Golf Courses” and “Golf Access” and a contributing writer and photographer to Ontario Golf magazine, Flagstick magazine, Fairways and The Traveling Golfer.