Municipal golf courses tend to be overlooked in the world of golf. For starters, they’re often the cheapest options in the city, and subconsciously, we associate price with quality (if I’m paying more I expect better). As a result, municipal courses are dominated by novice golfers, causing pace of play issues, and perhaps, poor conditioning due to the lack of insight into the etiquette of golf.
With all these preconceived notions, it can be tough to appreciate a good municipal golf course. Enter: Lakeview Golf Course.
Herbert Strong is not a name known around Canada, but perhaps it should be. He was an excellent golden age architect, primarily responsible for Canterbury in Cleveland, and Engineers outside of New York City.
What most don’t know, however, is he did a bit of work in Canada. He was the original architect at Manoir Richelieu in the Charlevoix region of Quebec, and he also designed Lakeview Golf Course adjacent to Toronto Golf Club in Mississauga.
Starting out, the opening hole is a slightly crammed short par 4. At 335 yards, it’s likely less than driver for most. Interestingly, like St. George’s, Toronto, Mississaugua, Rosedale, Scarboro and other Toronto courses, Lakeview also works around a river at the bottom of the property. The opening hole plays down in that valley.
On the approach, two bunkers left and one right frame the green. The main defence, as with most of Herbert Strong courses, are the crazy green contours, which you get a taste of on the first with its severely back-to-front tilt.
The second is a brilliant golf hole. After the relatively benign introduction at the first, the 426-yard second is a bit more meaty. Playing to a generous landing area, getting the tee ball in play is critical.
A ditch bisects the hole and every golfer has to play across it. I imagine back in the day, when the golfer missed the fairway, this was much more in play, but today it’s nice to look at. Mounding wraps the back of the green, while a single bunker left and right protect the complex.
From the second green, you also get a wonderful view of the river valley in which the golfer dives up and down on the back nine. This sort of foreshadowing—just like a well-written novel—provides anticipation throughout, all while the reader/golfer has a looming thought of “where is that?”
The third is a delicate little 136-yard par 3. Pressed up against bush to the right, with a slightly elevated green, it requires a bit more attention than the scorecard lets on.
The fourth is a shorter par 4 at 381 yards. With a straight tee shot, a bunker complex on the right hides a pond behind. Staying away from the right is best.
I think my biggest takeaway when playing Golden Age designs is the green location selection. There’s often so much variety, and they always found a way to bring different ravines or ridges into play. On the fourth, yet again, the golfer plays over the depression area that came into play on the second to a green tucked much closer than the previous iteration.
The fifth is a monster par 5 at 596 yards where Strong asks the golfer for their biggest drive of the day.
The second shot is all about getting it to a spot you’re comfortable approaching the green from or getting it up as far as possible (depending on if you hit the fairway).
To the right of the layup area, some beautiful chocolate drop mounding.
The approach shot looks relatively simple…
…until you get to the green and you realize how good the complex is. An upside-down bowl, or perhaps a turtleback, shots feed away from the centre of the green. Like Pinehurst No. 2, the pin looks like it’s barely on the green on the back half. Absolutely brilliant.
Turning back towards the fifth tee box, the sixth is a long 441-yard par 4 into the teeth of the wind. One mean bunker complex on the left — curiously utilizing the “Merion Eyelashes” (fescue growing out of the back side to provide a look like eyelashes) — on the left side of the fairway awaits.
This is just another excellent green complex. A ton of movement towards the front left and two bunkers on the right are exactly where I’d imagine you’d hit it with a longer club if you needed the ball to feed. Even more-so in the early 1900’s when some were coming in with Mashies, this would be a stout par 4.
The seventh is a short par 5 doglegging to the right. In the landing zone off the tee, a single tree on the inside corner of the dogleg pushes shots to the left.
This is likely a good birdie opportunity for most. Getting around the corner off the tee sets up a very good chance to get home in two.
For those who elect to layup, a bunker left comes into play. The green complex, sandwiched into the corner of the property, is fronted by a bunker left. The front pin location is particularly dicey as the front entry is quite small.
It’s not the strongest hole, but I think the seventh is a part of what makes Lakeview so special. Firstly, the contrast with the long par 5 fifth is brilliant. It’s close to 120 yards shorter! These different looks provide a lot of interest day to day.
It also gives a bit of insight into Herbert Strong’s routing prowess. Working towards the corner of the square property, he certainly could have routed it directly against the property line on the right. This would have created safety issues and pace of play issues, even when the course opened. His decision to extend it left and swing it back right, squeezing the green into the corner, is a wonderful move to make each shot on the short par 5 play harder, and bring O.B. more and more into play the further along you go.
The eighth is an awkward hole. At 353 yards, it’s short, but the creek is located at weird yardages. It’s not a long carry, and perhaps it’s the trees pinching the landing area, but the entire thing is just a bit odd for me.
Part of what makes it an awkward hole is the visuals. You don’t get a good sense of what’s there. A closer look at the landing area and creek.
After the tee shot, it’s back to business with a wickedly tilted green to the front.
Offsetting the short par 3, third, the long par 3, ninth, clocking in at 217 yards, is a wonderful long three. Two bunkers on the front right side of the green defend the ideal line to the green sloping to the front left.
As you approach the green, you realize the contours are much more extreme than it appears. In fact, three dominant ridges separate this green complex. As opposed to some of the modern architects who build two or three big ridges into their greens, these are small enough to be graceful to go over, but big enough to cause a headache on the wrong level.
The second of back-to-back par 3’s kicks off the back nine over the entry road. 151 yards, it’s a much more manageable hole.
The 11th is another excellent mid-length par 4 of 421 yards. The tee shot plays over a small ridge to a semi-blind landing area.
Yet again, the green site selection is optimal, with the 11th green being cut on top of the hillside, falling off to the left.
The 338-yard par 4, 12th starts the stretch down in the river valley. The tee shot is pretty awful in 2020. Hitting downhill towards the river, it’s nothing more than a flip iron to stay short. For those who think they want to get aggressive, perhaps don’t. It’s something of a 90-degree dogleg, and I’m not even sure where you’d aim.
But once you turn the corner, my goodness, what a golf hole. The green, cut on top of the knob some 30 or so feet above the golfer, provides an exhilarating wedge shot.
The 13th is another strong par 4 at 424 yards. Doglegging to the left, the fairway best accepts a slight draw around the trees.
Three bunkers short of the green will not come into play, but provide a great look at what a potential restoration at Lakeview would drastically improve. A restoration of these three deception bunkers would blend in with the green complex and the surrounding bunkers, and make an approach shot from the right side — the sub-optimal side — look menacing.
This green complex, especially for a middle to longer par 4, is quite small, and with the ridge running east-west through the middle, it plays quite a bit smaller.
The 14th works its way back to the 12th green complex. Another shortie at 344 yards, avoiding the bunkers on the left, curiously employing the ‘Eyelash’ look yet again, is ideal.
The green complex slightly narrows towards the back, sandwiched between the harsh fall off left, right and long.
The 15th is an excellent, and frankly superb, golf hole. 331 yards, this hole swings hard to the left.
From the fairway, there’s a big bunker cut into the hillside short that hides anything over it. You can see the flag, but it’s a mostly-blind second shot in.
As you approach to the green, you realize the bunker isn’t in play.
Finishing off on a high note, one of Canada’s best green complexes awaits. Take a look for yourself, but pictures do not do it justice.
The 16th is a bit of an awkward par 5, but quite a fun risk-reward chance down the stretch. At 476 yards, it’s certainly reachable in two. To get there, the line off the tee is much further left with modern technology than you’d think.
I’ve never been a fan of being entirely blocked out on the second shot on a reachable par 5 (it sort of nulls the concept of a reachable par 5, and doesn’t encourage the hero recovery shot). Part of why I think the 16th is awkward is anything right fairway is likely a pitch towards or over the creek.
For those who manage to cut the corner on the left, you’ll have a nice look down. The hole narrows up quite dramatically between the stream on the left and a hillside right, and the green itself is quite narrow.
Another look at this green complex, which is quite a doozy.
The 17th is a wonderful little golf hole. At 95 yards, it’s nothing more than a flip wedge for most, but finding the green is incredibly difficult.
A look at the green surrounds, which are just nasty:
From the short pitch 17th to the healthy 454-yard closer, Lakeview’s flow is excellent. A tough tee shot, two bunkers left and the same stream that dominated the back nine runs up the right.
From there, the elevated green complex is awesome, with a bit of a false front. No bunkers are needed here; what a closer.
I’ll admit: Lakeview is likely not for everyone. It’s a bit rough around the edges after decades of neglect, but for those who can look past the municipal golf course conditioning and occasional pace of play issues, it’s a ton of fun. Some of the country’s best green complexes, as well as a strong routing and a lot of interesting shots, make Lakeview one of the best deals in Canada, and one of the provinces best public options.
Dare I say it: Top 100 in Canada.