Canada's Toughest Golf Course


The Royal Canadian Golf Association asked Canadian golfers to vote on Canada’s toughest golf course and they’ve certainly made themselves heard loud and clear! Over the past few weeks, the RCGA has received over 300 votes for what Canadian golfers think is this country’s most difficult golf course.

Votes came in for courses right across the nation, from Victoria Golf Club on the west coast to Admiral’s Green in St. John’s, N.L.  It’s obvious that Canadians are knowledgeable and passionate about the game of golf, as evidenced by the insightful comments that accompanied some votes.  

The following are the top-3 most difficult courses as voted on by Canadians:

1. National Golf Club of Canada, Woodbridge, Ont.
One course was continually mentioned by voters and seems to have a firm hold in Canadian golf folklore as being the toughest track around. That course is the National Golf Club of Canada, located in Woodbridge, ON. The National received 21 percent of the votes, well ahead of any other contender. The National is famous for its fast, sloping greens and the demand it places on accurate and intelligent shot-making…nothing less than perfect will suffice.
2. Royal Montreal Golf Club (Blue Course), Ile Bizard, Que.
The Royal Montreal (Blue Course) received the second most votes at 10 percent. The Blue Course has recently undergone a renovation at the hands of golf architect Rees Jones in preparation for the 2007 President’s Cup. Mr. Jones is well known for his ‘doctoring’ of venues for the US Open so it should be no surprise that the Blue Course is perceived by voters as ‘tough as nails’.

3. Highlands Links, Cape Breton, N.S.
Receiving the third most votes (5 percent) was the venerable Highlands Links, located in beautiful Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Highlands Links is not particularly long but there is not a flat lie to be found on the wonderful, rolling terrain. Legendary Canadian golf architect Stanley Thompson is said to have buried huge boulders in the fairways when the course was built.

Readers who took part in the poll had a lot to say about Canada’s toughest golf courses.  Read below for comments that came in on the voters-choice, top-10 most difficult courses:

(The) National Golf Club of Canada (Woodbridge, Ont.)
“The course penalizes every missed shot or poorly conceived shot…the course demands focus, commitment and precise execution on every shot…tough off the tee and tougher around the greens…tough but fair…brutal from the tips…extreme test from the back tees…I would find it hard to believe that anything could be harder than The National on a tournament day…breaking 80 is like breaking 70…just punishing on every hole…every time I play I leave battered and bruised…The National is the only course I’ve seen provincial champions make 9s and 10s on…green complexes are the most protected and difficult I've ever faced…holding the greens was hard enough, but even chipping to them was tough as nails…the course is just tough all around…narrow fairways, well bunkered and fast greens… if you make an error, it keeps on compounding until you finish the hole…game over, no course even sniffs the shot difficulty from tee to green…top college players are struggling to break 80…very punishing course, especially in tournament conditions…it's probably top-5 in North America, right up there with US Open venues…you cannot let up for a second…its length, demanding iron shots and slick greens all combine for a most humbling golf experience…forces the golfer to work the ball and hit an assortment of golf shots…Lee Trevino was quoted as saying it’s the toughest course he's played…nothing compares to it, it's that simple…it’s very obvious, nothing else comes anywhere close…year in, year out, always the toughest…tough greens, long holes, numerous water hazards and well placed bunkering make the National Golf Club of Canada Canada's toughest golf track….super-fast greens and very demanding of shots into the green…”

The Royal Montreal Golf Club – Blue Course (Ile Bizard, Que.)
“With the changes instituted for the President's Cup, RMGC is the toughest course in the Quebec and Ontario region…precision, distance and course management are all a must to have any chance of success on this baby…greens are tough, par fours are long and tough…easy to make double bogey without losing your golf ball…traditional, old-fashioned course with small tricky greens…all the long holes seem to play into the wind…Kentucky Bluegrass rough it typically long and thick, even for regular member play…it's tough, but it's not manufactured toughness, it's natural…not a course with too many penalty strokes, but you'll always walk off thinking you should have been 4 or 5 strokes better…Blue course is by far the toughest in Canada with the new changes…no comparison…small, elevated greens make scoring extremely difficult…low scores are only achieved with superb iron play and exceptional putting…after modernizing the entire course, this has quickly become one of the most challenging courses I've ever had the pleasure of playing…testy bunkering makes this the ultimate golf challenge…insane course…combines the difficulty of length, speed of greens, undulations, water and general intimidation to provide the toughest challenge, both mentally and physically…the scenery is so breath taking that it's hard to concentrate on the golf…

Highlands Links (Cape Breton, N.S.)
“There's not a flat lie anywhere off the tee, the wind howls, there's bush, water, elevation, spectacular scenery and every drive (including the one to get there) is memorable…I'm a 12 handicap and the last time I played there it took me 7 holes to make a par…miss the fairway and you've got a penalty…small greens…if you are anywhere near par after 2, count yourself lucky…you will use every club in your bag and never have a flat lie…tight fairways, uneven lies, a great Stanley Thompson layout…narrow fairways, undulating greens, dramatic changes in elevation, uneven lies…a true test of links golf…

Shaughnessy G & CC (Vancouver, B.C.)
This Vancouver course hosted the 2005 Canadian Open and more than held its own against the PGA Tour pros. “When they want to make it tough it’s as tough as any course around. Beauty and difficulty make it one of the best and most difficult courses in Canada…the tree-lined fairways and the ability to drastically change the course to challenge the best players in the world is a testament to its difficulty…was rated the 2nd toughest golf course on tour in 2005, behind the very difficult Pinehurst at the U.S. Open…during the Canadian Amateur it was the hardest I have ever played…
Bear Mountain G & CC (Victoria, B.C.)
What else to expect from a golf course designed by the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus? “From the tips, oh my god…has everything, length, hazards, tough greens…a long, difficult and undulating course with long rough…for first time players this is arguably the most difficult golf course in Canada…

The Links at Crowbush Cove (Morrell, P.E.I.)
Seaside location makes an already tough course even more difficult. “Exposure to the north shore gales...'nuf said…no easy holes…tough weather conditions often, tough carry to some fairways
Wolf Creek Golf Resort (Ponoka, Alta.)
Wolf Creek is a frequent host of the Alberta Open and consistently has been a great test for the pros .“The Wolf" holds true to its predatorial name…the layout and yardage may appear benign; however when the wind howls on this links style course, the Wolf bears his fangs…
Eighteen Pastures GC (Mission, B.C.)
Back-to-basics, rustic golf course is a shot-makers delight. “Formerly known as Iron Mountain this course is built on a mountainside near Mission, BC. There are few level lies and most often the golfer is posed with a "downhill-sideways-uphill" spot to hit from…totally savage layout…narrow fairways, and lots of elevation changes making distance control difficult…
Devil’s Pulpit GC (Caledon Village, Ont.))
One half of a dynamic duo with Devil’s Paintbrush, ‘The Pulpit’ truly can give players nightmares. “The greens are very difficult to read accurately, what appears to be uphill may in fact be down hill or side hill or uphill…a truly challenging course with magnificent views of the Niagara Escarpment…long par 4s, fescue and very fast/tough to read greens…
Dakota Dunes Golf Links (Saskatoon, Sask.)
Dakota Dunes makes the most of its ideal terrain for golf…there are times when you’d swear you were in Ireland. “Really, really tough when the prairie winds blow…from the tips it's one of the toughest longest courses in Saskatchewan, if not Western Canada…


So now that Canadian golfers have had their say, which courses in Canada really are the most difficult? Every RCGA member course is rated for Course Rating and Slope Rating by qualified raters using a very specific set of evaluations and calculations. You can be sure that the ratings are thorough and accurate as course raters are highly trained and devote countless hours to their work.  (Contact your provincial golf association to learn more about becoming a course rater).

Course Rating is the core measurement of difficulty because it indicates the playing difficulty of a course for a scratch golfer under normal course and weather conditions. Course Rating is equal to the average of the better half of a scratch golfer’s scores. Here are the 10 highest (including ties, all from the longest set of tees) Course Ratings in Canada:

Course (City)                                                                                           Tee                  Rating
Woodington Lake Golf Club Inc. – West (Tottenham, Ont.)                      Green              76.9
The Club at Bond Head - South Course (Bond Head, Ont.)                      Black               76.8
Coppinwood (Uxbridge, Ont.)                                                                   Champion        76.4
Lionhead Golf & Country Club – Legends Course (Brampton, Ont.)         Black              76.3
(The) National Golf Club Of Canada (Woodbridge, Ont.)                          Gold                76.3
Royal Oaks Estates and Golf Club (Moncton, N.B.)                                   Black              76.2
Royal Montreal Golf Club – Blue Course (Ile Bizard, Que.)                       Champion       76.2
Eagles Nest Golf Club Inc. (Maple, Ont.)                                                    Eagle              76.2
Muskoka Bay Club (Gravenhurst, Ont.)                                                     Black              76.1
Grand Niagara Resort (Niagara Falls, Ont.)                                               Black              76.1
St. Andrew's Valley Golf Club (Aurora, Ont.)                                           Green              76.0
Lionhead Golf & Country Club – Masters Course (Brampton, Ont.)          Black              75.8
Taboo Resort, Golf & Spa (Gravenhurst, Ont.)                                         Black              75.6
Tangle Creek Golf Club (Thorton, Ont.)                                                     Platinum          75.6
Oviinbyrd Golf Club (Foots Bay, Ont.)                                                      Black              75.6
Northern Bear Golf Club (Edmonton, Alta.)                                               Black              75.6
Club de Golf de l'Ile Montreal (Montreal, Que.)                                          Or                  75.6
Rattlesnake Point Golf Club (Milton, Ont.)                                                  Gold              75.6
Glen Abbey Golf Club (Oakville, Ont.)    Black  75.5

Slope Rating indicates the relative difficulty of a course for bogey golfers, as compared to the difficulty of the course for scratch golfers (Course Rating). Ten elements of the golf course, in addition to length are used to calculate the Slope Rating. Put simply, courses with a high Slope Rating tend to be very difficult for the bogey golfer. Here are the 10 highest (including ties, all from the longest set of tees) Slope Ratings in Canada:

Course (City)                                                                                               Tee              Rating
Taboo Resort, Golf & Spa (Gravenhurst, Ont.)                                           Black  153
Lionhead Golf & Country Club - Legends Course (Brampton, Ont.)            Black  152
Bear Mountain Golf & Country Club (Victoria B.C.)                                     Golden  152
(The) National Golf Club of Canada (Woodbridge, Ont.)                             Gold  152
Heritage Pointe Golf & Country Club (DeWinton, Alta.)                                Gold  150
Tangle Creek Golf Club (Thornton, Ont.)                                                      Platinum  149
Mad River Golf Club (Creemore, Ont.)                                                          Gold  149
Thundering Waters Golf Club (Niagara Falls, Ont.)                                      Daly  149
Osprey Valley Resorts – Hoot (Caledon, Ont. )                                           Gold  149
Links at Crowbush Cove – Crowbush (Morell, P.E.I.)                                  Black  148
The Club at Bond Head - North Course (Bond Head, Ont.)                          Black  148
Grandview Golf Club (Huntsville, Ont.)                                                        Gold  148
Lionhead Golf & Country Club - Masters Course (Brampton, Ont.)             Black  147
OslerBrook Golf & Country Club Inc. (Collingwood, Ont.)                            Black  147
Beacon Hall Golf Club (Aurora, Ont. )                                                          Black  147
Timber Ridge Golf Course (Brighton, Ont.)                                                   Gold  147
Woodington Lake Golf Club Inc. – West (Tottenham, Ont.)                          Green  146
The Club at Bond Head - South Course (Bond Head, Ont.)                         Black  146
Muskoka Bay Club (Gravenhurst, Ont.)                                                       Black  146
Oviinbyrd Golf Club (Foots Bay, Ont.)                                                         Black  146
Glen Abbey Golf Club (Oakville, Ont.)                                                         Black  146
Angus Glen Golf Club - South Course (Markham, Ont.)                              Gold  146
Predator Ridge Golf Resort – Peregrine (Vernon, B.C.)                              Black  146
Royal Ontario Golf Club (Hornby, Ont.)                                                       Black  146
National Pines Golf Club (Innisfil, Ont.)                                                        Black  146
The Golf Course at Silvertip (Canmore, Alta.)                                             Professional 146
Heritage Pointe Golf & Country Club (DeWinton, Alta.)                                Gold  146
Granite Golf Club (Stouffville, Ont.)                                                             Black  145
Redtail Golf Course (Port Stanley, Ont.)                                                      Black  145
Eighteen Pastures Golf Club (Mission, B.C.)                                                Gold  145
Royal Niagara Golf Club (Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.)                                 Black  145
Coppinwood (Uxbridge, Ont.)                                                                     Champion 144
Greywolf Golf Course (Panorama, B.C.)                                                    Grey  144
Seguin Valley Golf & Country Club Inc. (Parry Sound, Ont.)                       Black  144
Carnmoney Golf Club (DeWinton, Alta.)                                                      Gold  144
Royal Oaks Estates and Golf Club (Moncton, N.B.)                                     Black  143
St. Andrew's Valley Golf Club (Aurora, Ont.)                                             Green  143
Angus Glen Golf Club - North Course (Markham, Ont.)                               Black  143
Wooden Sticks Golf Club (Uxbridge, Ont.)                                                   Black  143
Fox Creek Golf Club (Dieppe, N.B.)                                                              Black  143
Springbank Links Golf Course (Calgary, Alta.)                                            Emerald  143

For a more detailed look at how the difficulty of a course is measured, click here.

Thank you to everyone who submitted their votes for Canada’s Toughest Golf Course!