I’ll admit, Sault Ste Marie, Ontario isn’t the first place I considered for a golf trip. Driving from Toronto, it took me seven hours to get up north of Lake Huron, but when I pulled into Crimson Ridge, I was intrigued; rocky landforms akin to Muskoka with beautiful fall colours in early October. I was excited to see what many had told me was Kevin Holmes magnum opus.
The opening hole at Crimson Ridge is pretty odd. At 388 yards, it’s not overly long, but drops way down into the valley. In some way, it’s a Cape hole, with the creek on the inside corner running alongside this dogleg right. A bit of tree clearing to open up the views of the creek would’ve been ideal.
The two bunkers you see through the fairway are a better line to approach this green, with a single bunker on the right angling the green to the left. It is a short hole though, so you likely won’t have to really worry about strategy just yet.
The 2nd hole is a brilliant par 5 measuring 570 yards. A single bunker on the left complicates the tee shot a bit. The fairway, dramatically sloping to the right, adds interest as well.
After the tee shot, the hole slams down the hill and to the right. This, of course, is doubled by the hanging lie for right-handed players, which accentuates the holes shape. With a big drive in the summer, I could see this being a reachable par 5, but after a famous Great Lakes storm, it was soft, and there was no chance of getting home in two. For those laying up, a single bunker on the left is the ideal angle in, so the closer you can play towards that the better you are for the third. You can get a sense of the slope of the hole below.
On the approach shot, it’s a fairly standard third. A bigger bunker on the right, while a faux-pot bunker, left guard this green. With only a single ridge in the middle getting it on the right tier is optimal.
Looking back, you are greeted with a wonderful view of the terrain you just played over.
Playing uphill, the 196-yard par 3, 3rd is a demanding approach shot. Two bunkers on the right define the lines to play. It looks like a reverse redan from the tee, but it doesn’t play like one. The green is rather tame.
Working atop the hillside, the 4th starts the flattest stretch of the golf course. At 433 yards, it’s a longer two-shotter, with bunkering on the right side.
The approach shot from the fairway looks normal, with three bunkers—one left, one right, one long—surrounding this green.
However, the green complex is full of interest. Especially given the pin I had the day I played.
The 5th sort of felt like a throwaway hole to me. Without a bunker in play, it’s a good chance to hit a good tee ball.
The green complex is well guarded, with a pond short and left, a bunker right, and another bunker left.
The 6th is another okay golf hole lacking much in the way of interest. I suspect it was tough to route the golf course without using this flat part of the property.
The green complex is perched above a water hazard short, as well as a bunker left, right and short right.
The 7th is another healthy par 3 at 203 yards. Two bunkers on the right are certainly in play, while the bunker left is a bit in front of the green, but certainly in play on a mishit.
The 8th is absolutely a risk-reward hole, and the only hole with the beautiful river that runs through the property directly in play (you play over it on the 1st and the 17th, but it doesn’t come in play on those two). At 515 yards from the back deck, it starts with a good drive avoiding the bunker on the left.
From the fairway, you see the green benched into the hillside behind the creek, which runs directly in front of the green. Those who hit a big drive will be faced with a choice to either go for it or lay back. In the layup area there isn’t any trouble, while the green is surrounded by it.
A closer look at the green complex with the creek, which is a wonderful location.
I was fond of the 353-yard par 4, 9th. Playing slightly downhill, three bunkers (two left, one right) are in the fairway. Something less than driver is likely ideal to keep the ball in play.
A bit of tree clearing would benefit this hole immensely off the tee, which is overly tight. As you continue down the hill, you see how spacious the hole actually is.
The approach shot is a beauty, playing uphill slightly to a well-protected green.
Starting off the back nine is a rather plain 522-yard par 5, doglegging to the right. A single bunker right, the tee shot is best suited to the left to avoid the O.B. up the right.
From there, the hole plays relatively flat to the green. Bunkering sits in the layup area both left and right.
The approach shot is interesting, however. The front knob cleverly hides the view of the putting surface, which is interesting with wings going to the front left, front right and back.
A closer look from behind.
A look from the ideal layup area on the right of the fairway. The green complex is well guarded.
Working through the flats yet again, the 12th is a middle length par 4 at 394 yards. Strategically, this hole is among the better holes at Crimson Ridge. Two bunkers guard the left side of this miniature “S” shaped hole. Golfers are asked to carry those bunkers for a better angle in.
The reward for those who bite off the line on the left will be a good angle into the right portion of the green, and have to worry less about the water short right.
This green is also excellent, with quite a bit of movement. A fingerprint in the middle divides the green into four regions and provides a lot of fun.
To a well-guarded green surrounded by three bunkers, there’s a healthy amount of movement in the green complex.
The 14th is a longer par 3 at 187 yards, playing longer with a carry all over water, other than the front right side of the green.
On the approach, the green is wide open, allowing for a variety of shots into the green.
Starting the finishing trio steps from the parking lot, the 411-yard par 4, 16th plays longer than the yardage suggests, working its way up the slope to the right.
The green, perched above on the hillside, is a stunner, with one bunker short left and one short right.
The green, with a front tongue, is quite demanding even once you’re on the surface.
The 18th is a pretty dramatic tee shot. At 577 yards, this longer par 5 plays shorter than the yardage. Over the rock outcropping with a view of Sault Ste. Marie, it’s a stunning tee shot, but the hole doglegs left at an awkward yardage, and really doesn’t work for the tee shot.
Once you turn the corner, it’s a relatively standard par 5 coming home. A single tree and two bunkers left in the layup zone awaits.
The green is well protected to finish the round off. Two bunkers right and one left hug tight to the green.
What matters is it’s a fun round of golf, for a great price, and the definition of a hidden gem.
I’d recommend this golf course to anyone, especially in the fall with the lovely fall colours shown here.
Have you played Crimson Ridge? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.