I will admit, I had biases going into Bond Head. I am always skeptical of golf courses with the frivolous, fingered and very modern looking bunkering. For one, I always feel like it has never really served much of a purpose and really just increases the maintenance needed to keep them up to snuff.
There are examples where it works, of course, like Banff Springs mimicking the mountain peaks, or a handful of excellent Tillinghast golf courses, but I have found that more times than not, it just feels useless.
This led to a preconceived idea of what Bond Head’s North course would be like—never a great start going into a golf course, but I made the 45 minute or so journey north of the city, and I am happy I did.
The routing starts on a gentle note. A middle length par 4 at 407 yards, the opening tee ball is at the highest point of the golf course, and other than a bunker right, it is a generous landing area.
The golf course is pretty extreme all things considered, but some of the fall offs around the greens are quite severe. At the 1st, anywhere but short is dramatically below the putting surface.
The second is the first of a handful of uphill holes that I suspect are controversial. At 415 yards, there is almost a “Bottle” template to it (a middle bunker sequence dividing the hole into two sections), but for me, it is a bit overdone. In total, the driving zone has 7 bunkers, when I think two or three could have achieved the same goal. Nonetheless, the strategies are good, with the upper left fairway having the easier second shot in, but harder tee ball (and opposite with the lower right fairway).
From the right fairway, the approach shot over a grouping of menacing bunkers, really pops out. For those who can, the upper fairway is much preferred as the right fairway is quite demanding coming up to the green.
After the climb up that occurs during hole two, the third is a gentle 198-yard par 3 set a flat piece of ground. Bunkers left and right will ask for a good shot, but the hole does not really provide anything overly unique or new.
The fourth is an easy par 5 at 537 yards from the furthest deck back. A bunker on the right creeps into the fairway, really pronouncing the dogleg.
From there, the hole goes up to the right before moving back down to the left. Essentially, the hole plays around a couple big bunkers on the left which certainly can make a layup difficult.
The approach shot is visually interesting, with the big, aggressive bunkers looking directly at the golfer.
I was quite impressed with the dogleg left par 4, 5th, which was a strong par 4 at one yard shy of 490. A bunker on the inside corner is the main hazard to avoid, while a bunker on the outer corner is a secondary hazard for those who are long enough, yet do not take an aggressive line.
The green complex and its surrounds are really extreme, meaning the long iron most will come in with must be accurate. Anything long or right is not going to be gentle on the next shot.
The sixth is one of the most bizarre golf holes I have ever seen, but even to this day, I still have trouble deciding how I truly feel about it. The card lists 349 yards, but the severity of the golf hole means it plays quite a bit longer. Driver off the tee is the play.
The slew of bunkers cut into the hillside really guides the golf hole up to the left, and would be a pain to be in. Like the tee shot, the approach shot plays dramatically uphill.
The climb up 6 really makes sense when you get to the beautiful 167-yard par 3, 7th. I can understand making the climb up for arguably the best vista on the golf course, and the green perched above the surrounds is easy on the eyes as well.
At the bottom of the property, the 602 yard par 5, 8th will likely be the most difficult tee shot for most. Bunkers right, a single bunker left, and bad news even further left, this is a demanding tee shot on a long golf hole.
The tee shot is gently downhill, but from the middle of the fairway the hole climbs up slightly.
For those who like to lay up with intention, the left side is preferred, but brings in a lost ball with the mixed grasses and fescue. Two big bunkers cut into the front right of the green.
The 9th is a good uphill par 4 to finish the front nine. At 408 yards, the tee shot is to be respected with a grouping of bunkering on the right of this gentle dogleg right.
The green is built up, with bunkers left and right to catch wayward shots.
The back nine starts on a high note with a strong 453-yard par 4 playing over a ridge. A bunker in the middle is a good directional bunker, but may come in play depending on how windy it is.
If the greens are firm, the right side of the fairway is preferred thanks to a single bunker on the left angling the green to the left.
The 11th is a really cool golf hole, but an absolute menace at 268 yards (!!) from the back tee. The concept of a “Redan” template is utilized here, with a kicker slope on the right that can help those really long holes funnel in. The green does not slope to the back left, so not a perfect replica of the famed North Berwick template, but a nice modern homage.
Continuing the good stretch of golf, the 12th is a gettable par 5 playing over a gully. The hole is framed nicely on either side, and the task is simple: middle.
At 521 yards from the back deck, this will be a short par 5 for most golfers, giving them the chance to be green side in two. Only the front left portion of the green is acceptable for run up shots; anything right will end up in the green side bunker.
For those who elect to layup, a straightforward wedge awaits.
Following a rather aggressive opening two-thirds of the golf course, we transition to the flatter piece of property with the 420-yard par 4, 13th. That is not to say the holes are boring—they provide the perfect reprieve from the rambunctious routing.
The approach shot is more approachable from the right hand side, with two big bunkers cut into the right of the hill which the green sits atop.
The 14th is a rather mundane par 3, but difficult at 220 yards slightly uphill. There is a generous bail out on the right side which is friendly.
I liked the 15th hole, which was a good 448-yard par 4 swinging around a couple bunkers in the fairway.
The green is rather nondescript, but there is enough movement to be interesting enough. The tee shot really makes this hole for me.
The 16th is a really cool little par 3 at 162 yards with a skinny green snaking around the landscape. With a ridge running through the middle, there are two distinct tiers. Depending on where the pin is, being on the wrong side can be a nightmare!
The 17th is likely another controversial golf hole, and mostly because it goes straight uphill. At 548 yards, this middle length par 5 plays quite a bit longer. Bunkers are dotted up the left and right, really demanding a good tee shot over the gorge.
The tee shot is not as uphill as the next two, which go straight up the countryside. There is quite a bit of room to the left, but the green sits on the right.
As seen below, the green is perched high above the left side, where a bunker sits eagerly awaiting.
The 18th is a healthy finish to a stern test, and the only fitting conclusion available. At 476 yards, the bunkering on the left must be challenged for the premiere angle in.
After getting past the tee shot, the green has two bunkers on the right. This green is subtle and could cause putting fits, so finish strong.
If I had listened to my biases about Bond Head North, I would have missed an interesting golf course. The criticisms of being too difficult or far too penal are astute and accurate, but perhaps overcome by playing the correct tee or even one up.
There are holes here that do not work—like the 6th—or holes that are good in concept but probably poor in execution—like the 2nd—but overall, I found Bond Head’s North course to be enjoyable. I could see others not finding it appealing, but regardless, if I had listened to my preconceived notions, I would have missed an enjoyable golf course.