Above image of 3rd hole is from a painting by Tony Harris
Standing high atop the Niagara escarpment with stunning views of the water, Georgian Bay Club could easily be dismissed as just another pretty face Ė remarkable by its grand location. Upon further scrutiny, the glamorous wood and stone clubhouse surrounded by lush wide fairways in pristine condition reinforce the idea that this is one more picturesque playground in cottage country.
All of the superlatives are true - Georgian Bay Club is spectacular scenery. But itís also a golf course with some serious teeth to it.
|Trouble lurks in every direction on the par-3 17th hole.|
|Clubhouse with 18th fairway in the background.|
Michael Hurdzan and Jason Straka are the architects of Georgian Bay Club and they have crafted a course with exceptional shot values and strategic risk-reward options that wonít be apparent at first glance. The fairways are very generous, the greens are massive.
You could navigate the course with drives down the middle of the fairway and conservative approach shots to the centre of each green. The stats would look good but you might find yourself several shots down to a playing partner who mapped out the correct strategy. This is a course, like the links courses of Great Britain, that needs to be planned from back to front.
Start with each green and determine the pin location for the day. The huge greens contain up to a half dozen possible areas to plant the flagstick. Hitting a green in regulation is no guarantee of par. With serious slopes and contours, being a long distance from the hole brings three putts or more into the equation all the time. When the greens are stimping at 11 or 12, there are all sorts of spots where the ball can run away and hide.
Back up from the green to determine the best angle of approach. Most of the Georgian Bay Club greens are canted one way or another with deep bunkers flashed into the banks and wide chipping areas surrounding. There will always be a best side to approach from Ė partly determined by the pin location but also by your ability to stop the ball in the correct area and what may lie short or long if you miss.
Once you have your approach point, you can look at your tee shot (or second shot on par fives) and figure out what you have to hit to be there. It wonít always be a driver.
Every course has memorable holes and Georgian Bay Club is no exception. On the front nine the par-3 third and the par-5 seventh stand out. No 3 is a mid iron shot downhill to a steeply sloped green that appears to have nothing behind it but water. Actually Georgian Bay is still a long way off but itís an impressive view.
The seventh is a boomerang shaped hole with water along the right side from tee to green. Itís reachable in two but requires exactly the right line off the tee to set up a long approach.
On the back side, No 11 is a drivable par-4 and No 13 is another par-5 that can be reached in two. Exciting risk-reward possibilities but serious trouble and big numbers lurk for missed shots.
The 17th is a hole that you start thinking about before the round starts. Itís a reasonably long par-3 over water to a shallow green framed by fescue and fronted by a deep bunker. Thereís a massive bailout area left of the green but chipping to this multi-tiered, steeply sloped green is no bargain, especially when the pin is tucked way back on the right corner. Par here is an excellent score.
The par-5 finishing hole at Georgian Bay Club is a long slog up the hill to a heavily contoured green with bunkers at every turn. Itís a strong finish to a very strong golf course.
Georgian Bay Club was ranked #25 on the 2013 Fairways Magazine Top 100 Courses in Ontario and is one of my favourites. For readers looking for an opportunity to play this private club, our Private Club Series visits Georgian Bay Club on Monday June 10th.
More articles by Peter Mumford