30 AUG 2017: “Golf is deceptively simple and endlessly complicated,” the late Arnold Palmer once remarked. “It satisfies the soul and frustrates the intellect. It is at the same time rewarding and maddening—and it is without a doubt the greatest game mankind ever invented.”  

I agree. And, on the occasion of Canada’s 150th birthday, this proud Canuck is waving the Maple Leaf in honour of our country’s long and storied golf heritage.

Golf was an Olympic sport at the 1900 and 1904 Summer Games. Ontario-born George Lyon won the Gold in 1904. Canada’s victory remained uncontested until the sport returned to the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. Also in 1904, The Canadian Open Championship was initiated making it the third oldest National Open championship in the world. . We are a nation of 5.7 million avid golfers and 2,300 courses. To celebrate “the greatest game mankind ever invented,” take a swing through some of Canada’s best.

STANLEY THOMPSON’S LEGACY

The late Stanley Thompson was Canada’s finest golf course architect. Between 1920 and 1953 he designed or remodeled 145 courses from coast to coast.

Known as the “Toronto Terror,” the florid-faced Thompson had a proclivity for fancy cars, thick steaks, fine cigars and Canadian rye whisky. His genius was in refusing to impose a course on its setting. He moved trees and rocks only if essential because he believed in preserving the natural beauty of the landscape. As a result, his courses unfold in sublime harmony with Mother Nature. He also believed that courses should be pleasurable to play by golfers of a wide range of abilities. Maybe that’s why I have never met a Thompson course I didn’t like. Some of his best are Banff Springs and Jasper in Alberta and Highlands Links on Cape Breton Island.

SWING BACK IN TIME AT THE FAIRMONT BANFF SPRINGS

In 1928, Stanley Thompson was hired to design the Banff Springs Golf Course on the “roof of the world” in Alberta’s Rockies. Banff held the distinction of being the first track on the planet to cost more than one million dollars to construct in a setting so scenic it would bankrupt the English language to describe.

Banff’s Heritage Golf Experience allows you to play the course as Thompson originally routed it—and with the appropriate equipment in tow. Your caddie, clad in plus-fours, will help you choose from a selection of hickory-shafted clubs, including a brassie, spoon, jigger, mashie and niblick. You’ll also get three balls pressed to replicate those gutta percha orbs used in the 1930s.

To enhance your Heritage Experience, the distance from the tips has been reduced to compensate for the antique technology. You might want bring along some vintage duds for a photo op.

GLEN ABBEY AND THE CANADIAN GOLF HALL OF FAME & MUSEUM

The inaugural Canadian Open was played at Glen Abbey in Oakville, Ontario in 1977. The course was Jack Nicklaus’ first solo foray in golf design. Several historic sporting moments have occurred here, including what some consider to be Tiger Wood’s greatest hit. He blasted his second shot from a bunker on the par-five 18th and holed his third to score an eagle at the Canadian Open in 2000. For the 29th time this past July, Glen Abbey hosted the RBC Canadian Open.

On the same property, enthusiasts should visit the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame & Museum. Its unique artifacts include our crown jewel, the 1904 Olympic trophy donated by George Lyon’s family, plus several interactive displays.

GO EAST WHERE GOLF IS BOOMING

While the golf industry has been in a bit of a slump since the economic meltdown of the 1980s, golf is thriving In the Maritimes.

Opened in 2015, The Links at Brunello, minutes from Halifax winds its way through stands of pines and over wetlands and rocky outcroppings. Big greens, wide fairways and only 38 bunkers are all part of the plan to make golf fun, fast and playable. Another innovation is the opportunity to play by the hole. If you don’t have time for eighteen, you can play as little as one.

The Algonquin Golf Course in St. Andrews by-the Sea, New Brunswick has a distinguished pedigree. First opened in 1894 with design input by legendary Donald Ross (of Pinehurst No. 2 fame), it was currently renovated by Canadian architect, Rod Whitman. The seaside tract overlooking the Bay of Fundy reopens August 2017 with eight new holes.

No celebration Canadian golf would be complete without a nod to the tremendous success of Cabot Links and Cliffs in Inverness, Cape Breton.

When Cabot Links opened in 2012 it caused a sensation in the golf world as Canada’s first and only true links course. When the sister course, Cabot Cliffs, opened officially to the public last summer, Golf Digest had already awarded it “Best New Course in America” for 2015 and number 19 on its list of the Top 100 Courses in the World!

Fifteen minutes away, the Glenora Distillery names its “water of life” Canada Single Malt because only whisky distilled in Scotland can be called Scotch. Now this area of Cape Breton not only boasts Canada’s only true links courses, but also North America’s first single malt whisky distillery. Two more reasons to toast “our home and native land.”

 

 

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author

Anita Draycott

Quite aside from being an award winning writer, whose travel articles and photography regularly appear in golf and lifestyle publications and websites, Anita Draycott is a self confessed golf fanatic, who has chased dimpled white balls over five continents.  

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