James Island, Domaine LaForest, Redtail, Memphrémagog and Goodwood. All golf courses in Canada located close to major cities that so few have seen or heard of.
For years, Goodwood wasn’t even an actual place. It didn’t have a name or address, and to this day, it still has no contact information or website and nobody really knows how membership works unless you’re “in.”
In recent years, Goodwood has developed a reputation as one of Canada’s best golf courses. It has become a mainstay in the top 30 in SCOREGolf’s Top 100, but there’s little public knowledge about this mysterious Donald Steel (with help from Tom Mackenzie and Martin Ebert) design northeast of Toronto.
The strangest thing about Goodwood is how easy the starting three holes are, especially for a course of Goodwood’s pedigree. Perhaps it was the rumours of how difficult/strong Goodwood is, but the opening three holes are quite inviting.
We start off with the 550-yard par 5 first, which tumbles straight down a hill. From the back few tees, the fairway bunker on the right is not visible, and it’s a bit of a weird visual for the first swing of the day. The line is left of where you likely think it is.
From there, a single bunker cut into the left side of the layup area awaits, but I suspect most will actually be able to get home in two here.
Around the greens Goodwood is incredibly difficult. A singular small-sized bunker guards the short left side of this green, but the main defence is the incredibly tedious chipping/collection area short right. Pairing that with how much movement is in the first green and you have a very fun first hole.
The first par 4 of the day is a drivable 322-yard two-shotter. A massive single bunker bisects the fairway with bunkering short left and short right.
The preferred layup is down the right side for those who elect to do so. This, however, grants you a wedge over the big blowout bunker. For the golfer who is aggressive down the left, they’re rewarded with a much better second shot coming in.
The third will likely be described as “quirky” by most, but I’d prefer the term awkward. At 528 yards, it’s a more than reachable par 5, but because of the angle of the dogleg to the right, it’s a pretty weird tee shot. A bunker left is in play, but what’s looming is a pond on a straight line through the dogleg. The fairway becomes pinched enough in the landing area with driver that it’s likely less than driver for most.
Turning to the right, the pond flanks the entire left side of the hole. The layup is relatively standard with one bunker right.
In one of the examples of what makes Goodwood quite enjoyable and smart, the bunker short right of the green looks like it’s pressed against the front edge. But upon closer inspection, you see that there’s quite a bit of room between it and the green, making it quite a smartly placed bunker for those going for it in two.
The fourth is a big dogleg left working its way up a hill. This tee shot is difficult and this is one of the subtly great holes at Goodwood. Doglegging to the left, the fairway is canted hard to the right. Tough to get it on the inside corner. Thankfully, it’s just a tick over 400 yards, so it’s manageable.
As we work our way up the slope, the green complex is hidden, only defined by a bunker left, right and a bit of a false front.
The fifth is one of the strongest par 4’s in not only Ontario, but Canada. At 489 yards, this tee shot plays to a blind landing area with a hidden bunker up the left. Three bunkers on the right outline the holes width.
You can see the hidden bunker below.
Over some rumpled, rolling ground, the approach plays quite a bit downhill. Those who smash a big drive will be handsomely rewarded with a shorter club in. Even still, two bunkers short right, a collection area wrapping around the front and left side of the green, and some pretty good movement in the putting surface make this hole tough from start to finish.
Dipping into the trees, the 216-yard par 3 sixth is a healthy par 3. With a single bunker short right, it’s a relatively tame looking hole, but the green complex, with its back level, is pretty difficult.
The seventh is a brilliant little 430-yard par 4. Like the fourth, we dogleg left up the slope, but playing from an elevated tee, this is a really fun tee shot.
After successfully navigating between the two fairway bunkers, the approach shot is a doozy. One bunker on the left of the green complex supports the notion that a draw is preferred in here, but the fairway contours promote a fade.
This green is another interesting one, with three individual tiers.
The second par 3 on the front nine is a bit shorter than the sixth at 180 yards. Depending on where the pin is, the hole changes entirely. When the pin was on the left side, like it was the day I played, the big bunker short left was a menace. When it’s on the right side of the green, the collection area short and right are certainly in play.
The ninth is a sublime long par 4. At 484 yards on the card, it’s a beast. Two big bunkers on the inside corner of this dogleg right shape this Cape style tee shot.
Those who flirt with the bunkers are rewarded with a simple-ish approach shot in, but those who don’t have to deal with these menacing things.
The approach shot is a tad more “normal” than the last couple, playing slightly uphill to a green flanked by a bunker short left and short right.
Once again, this green complex is absolutely brilliant with a ton of great movement.
Starting out the inward nine at Goodwood is the 447-yard par 4, 10th, which has a beautiful tee shot.
With the fairway sloped hard off a hill from the left, the two bunkers on the right are certainly in play. However, the approach shot is a bit more tedious, with left being death and short right having two menacing bunkers.
Working towards the top of the property, the 398-yard par 4, 11th is a quirky, but fun par 4. Doglegging hard to the right, less than driver is likely ideal. It’s tempting to try and cut the corner, but severe punishment lies ahead for those who don’t pull it off.
From here, the golfer plays over a sand quarry of sorts to one of the most severe greens on property. The approach is a beauty.
As you approach the green, you realize how nasty short of the green actually is.
The green complex has humps, bumps and ridges, and it’s pretty difficult to describe how this moves… all I need to say is it moves a lot.
The 12th is a sporty 363-yard par 4 that plays to a blind-ish landing area. From the tee, you see two bunkers splitting the fairway.
As you crest the hill, you’re greeted with a beautiful look at another difficult green. A massive false front awaits, and death is all up the left while bunkering hugs the right side.
Tumbling down to the bottom of the property, the 230-yard par 3, 13th is a very difficult one-shotter.
Continuing down in the valley, the 14th is a strong 465-yard par 4. Two bunkers—one left, one right—defend the tee shot. They’re both cut into a diagonal ridge, with the right bunker being further along than the left.
Depending on where you hit your tee shot, you may or may not have a view of the green. Those who smash driver and challenge either the left bunker on the carry or the right bunker on the rollout will be rewarded.
This is without a doubt the most aggressive green complex here, and I’m not even sure it’s close. Three dominant ridges separate the green into different portions, making iron play critical. Those who miss the green will almost certainly make bogey or worse. Left, specifically, is seven or eight feet below the green complex. Here’s a view of the collection area left.
And a view of the green complex:
For my money, the 14th is the best hole on the golf course. We can’t forget about the view from the 17th, which outlines the hole magnificently.
From the very, very strong 14th to the reachable 15th, the 522-yard par 5 provides a welcomed chance to get a shot back that the golfer might have given up on the previous hole. The tee shot, playing to a semi-blind landing area, provides an interesting look. A single bunker left seems to be the aiming point, but for those who want to give it a go in two the proper line is over the right.
After navigating the dogleg right tee shot, the hole moves slightly to the left in a very Donald Ross-switchback way. The second and third shots both play uphill.
The narrow green complex is yet another good one, meticulously shaped to provide a lot of movement while providing feeder slopes into certain pins.
Heading back up to the top of the property, the par 4, 16th is an absolute animal of a golf hole. At 496 yards, it typically plays directly into the wind. The tee shot moves slightly to the left, but a big fairway allows a big swing.
From here, the approach shot requires a Hail Mary over the gully below to a green cut on the other side.
For those who come up short, your ball will likely run all the way down, which is some 60-70 yards below.
In reality, this is a hole that some might find too aggressive, and perhaps given the conservative nature of some modern architects in Canada, this could be considered over the line. I won’t dispute the risky choice to build this hole, but I think the risks taken here make it among the most daring, yet memorable holes in the country.
The final par 3 is a stout 201-yarder playing a bit uphill. A bunker left and right frame the entrance to the green, but it’s really the green contours that make the hole play differently, depending on where they cut the pin. For those who have played TPC Toronto’s Heathlands course, it’s a similar hole to the 12th, but perhaps a bit more graceful with the defined areas on the green.
Finishing off on yet another reachable par 5, the 557-yard par 5, 18th is certainly a bit awkward. The hole moves pretty far left, but the tee shot is blind, so it’s incredibly difficult to figure out where to go. This would be fine, of course, if you would land on the flats up top, but the hole works down into the valley.
From the top of the hill, you can see the wild topography the finishing hole works over.
From the bottom of the hill, where most if not all drives will finish, it’s a blind layup.
Yet again, the green complex is the star of the show at Goodwood, with a primary ridge on the left centre of the green feeding balls around. It’s beautifully framed by some of the rugged bunkering that dominates the property.
A spotlight on the green complex, which is a lot of fun.
Even the relatively strange 18th couldn’t ruin what is a really good modern golf course, and among Canada’s best. The options presented, and the fact that the ground game is actually encouraged, is a rarity in Canada. It’s a welcomed change, and one that shows that Goodwood is in the elite level of Canadian Golf.
Unlike Redtail—another Donald Steel design—which is an overall bland piece of land, Goodwood’s interest comes from various aspects. The routing, which dances up and down the ridges of the property, is exceptional. As are the greens, which are perhaps the best in the country I’ve yet to see.
Goodwood is an experience like none other, but the golf course is the star of the show.