I will admit, I have been holding off on writing about Lookout Point. A golf course as interesting and unique as Lookout Point, which is unique in Canada, can cause commotion and ellicit spirited debates. In fact, after a debate in the Toronto Golf Nuts forums, I had someone reach out to me via DM: “You’re wrong on Lookout Point,” it said. Clearly, this person was not as big of fan as I am of this 1922 Walter Travis design.
Lookout Point is one of only three Walter Travis designs in Canada. One of the other two—Cherry Hill—is nearby but closer to Buffalo. Cherry Hill also opened in 1922, and as a stroke of luck, Niagara got two Walter Travis designs because he had family in Buffalo.
The golf course opens with a wonderful 418-yard downhill tee shot that on a clear day brings views of not only downtown Niagara Falls, but Toronto some 80 kilometers away.
The fairway is strangely cut in with bunkers swimming in the rough on the left and right sides. Regardless, the second shot is a gentle introduction, and one that would be suitable to take advantage of given the holes that come later in the round.
The second is an exciting middle length par 3 at 174 yards. A bunker left and right await, as does some of the patented Old Man Travis mounding, but the green complex is the main worry for the player.
Some of the green contours can be seen below, as well as a look over to the 17th green.
The third is our first introduction to the exceptional routing at Lookout Point and how it uses the Niagara Escarpment. At 484 yards, this short par 5 is a “best in class” of its type in Canada, and genuinely a marvel for a hole of its length. The tee shot promotes a fade, and gains a distinct advantage to the player who pulls off the shot working down the escarpment.
A nice view of the tilt of the fairway, which will complicate every shot on the 3rd.
After navigating the bunker left and a couple on the right, the golfer is faced with one of the most difficult decisions. The green complex is small and narrow, with a sharp fall to the right (including the harsh collection area on the same side). On a warm summer day, golfers could get short irons in, yet the iron shot does not get any easier.
If the golfer lays up, the wedge shot is best played from a full swing and a comfortable yardage. The green runs hard front left to back right, so a half swing wedge with less spin can see the same result as a long iron some 100+ yards back.
A really good idea is playing to the short left of the green and playing directly down the green (as long as they are not Club Championship fast!). That gives the following view below.
For those who miss the green, left is chipping down the hillside, while the right is generally played from the collection area.
The fourth is a really strong par 4 at 465 yards, and another great hole. To complement the 3rd, which has the escarpment pushing the hole down and to the right, the heavily titled fairway on the 4th falls to the left.
The second shot will be complicated by the topography, and playing to a small, heavily contoured green, 4 is certainly a good score here.
Speaking of the green, it is wonderful.
The 5th, like the 2nd, is another good par 3 to a small green. At 158 yards, the green is slightly smaller to match the shorter yardage.
Continuing the good stretch of golf, the 396-yard par 4, 6th is one of the wildest fairways in Canada. Big, rolling hills that only a sandy property like Lookout Point can produce, and all the fun unpredictability brings with it undulating golf holes. The tee shot is all about finding the flattest lie possible, which can be quite a challenge.
Some may argue that holes like this need to be flattened out or are “unfair,” but golf is unfair for all, therefore fair. If everyone has to face the same obstacles, what is unfair about it? Topography does not benefit a single style of play, but asks questions.
Playing over a small gully, the range of clubs into this green is indescribable as the fairway provides a ton of variety. Some may lay up to the 200 yard marker, or the big hitter may try and get a wedge in.
Fans of classic architecture will notice the Biarritz green, which Walter Travis was a fan of. In fact, when Lookout Point opened, it originally had two Biarritz greens, and when C.H. Alison renovated Grand’Mere, he kept Travis’ Biarritz green.
The 7th is another great par 5, and in contrast to the 3rd, which doglegs to the right and down the escarpment, the 7th doglegs up and to the left.
One of my favourite views on the golf course shows the severity of the site from the right side of the hole.
The green complex is wonderfully nestled into the bottom of the hillside, with a bit of a kicker slope on the right to help guide the ball down.
The 8th is one of the most bizarre golf holes most will see. At 175 yards, this par 3 plays directly uphill. Granted, it is actually a smart way to get back up to the top of the escarpment. Working around a property as difficult as this can provide challenges, and like Thompson’s routing at Capilano where he routed the 9th directly uphill to tackle elevation, Travis did the same here.
Finishing the front nine is a rare flat hole at Lookout, and a gettable par 5 at 522 yards from the black markers. A holding pond may come into play left, but there is a good amount of room here.
The second shot feels like Travis’ iteration of The Great Hazard found at Pine Valley’s 7th. Travis consulted on Pine Valley in 1915 with George Crump and the general influence Pine Valley had, it does not feel like a stretch to assume Travis likely saw inspiration. In both holes, the golfer is forced to play over a hazard. At Pine Valley, a cluster of bunkering awaits; at Lookout, a ditch.
The green is well guarded, but bigger than most of the other greens at Lookout.
Like the opening nine, the 10th starts atop the high escarpment tumbling down. In a much more demanding fashion, the fairway heavily tilts to the left.
The approach is much more demanding as well, with a harsh fall off short, left, and long.
Like the outward nine, the inward nine starts 4-3, but similar to the relationship the 10th has with the 1st, the 11th is much more demanding. At 195 yards and O.B. on the right, the golfer needs a good strike here to find the small green.
The 12th is another short par 5 at 501 yards. A wider fairway is a welcomed change after a demanding 10th and 11th.
For those with the length to get home in two, the second shot is a Hail Mary of sorts over a ditch short of the green.
Laying up provides an undulated lie, but with a wedge, manageable.
Heading home, Lookout finishes with six par 4’s in a row. The 13th is one of the finest on the golf course. At 443 yards, the golfer plays from a blind tee ball up and over the ridge to a Hog’s Back fairway falling off on the left.
A look at the fairway below, which is just brilliant.
While the approach is not as attractive as the tee ball, it plays to one of the most difficult greens, yet it is hard to see from the fairway.
Similar to the tee shot on the 13th, but on a much smaller scale, the 14th slightly rises over a hillside.
A middle or short iron will await on the 423 yarder. Playing directly over a beautifully sculpted chocolate drop mound. Some may find Travis’ style a bit contrived or forced, especially with some of his mounding, but the change of pace and difference in his style against other golden age architects is refreshing.
The first of two 334-yard par 4’s is a bit of a wacky roller coaster, but one that I am personally a fan of. It is hard to describe, but hopefully the picture below provides some answers (and likely some questions too!).
The rolling terrain is quite interesting, and the grass bunker, bunker left and tree right provide a lot of interest.
This green is deadly, perched above the surrounding area with bunkering short left and short right.
Originally, the 16th and 17th combined to be a massive 600 yard par 5, but now, they’re split up to make two par 4’s. The tee shot plays over the same gully the 12th approach and 13th tee shot play over.
The green is a bit out of fashion with the rest of the golf course. As opposed to the internal contour that only Walter Travis seemed to be able to build, it features one big tilt.
The penultimate hole is a bit longer than the previous two at 418 yards. Providing a nice, wide fairway, the golfer feels comfort following a demanding stretch of golf.
The comfort does not last too long as the second shot plays up to a dicey Travis green. If you can believe it, this was the original 16th green. The fall off on the left is epic, and really a ton of fun to play around.
The final hole plays directly uphill to the base of the clubhouse, with a slew of bunkers up the right and one left.
Originally, the approach shot here doglegged up to the right into the woods as opposed to the left like it does now. The green is not a traditional Travis green, and like the 16th, features one massive tilt to the front.
Following the original 17th doglegging into the hillside, the 18th played alongside the current 9th to the current chipping and putting green. This finish likely would have been better than the current one, which stumbles home a bit following the creative 15th.
Regardless, Lookout Point is an excellent golf course, and one that I fail to see the criticisms for. The routing is excellent: from the use of side slopes at the 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 7th, to the flatter holes at the 9th and 12th. Downhill lies and uphill lies can be found, as well as revealing and blind shots, too.
The greens are also interesting. Cherry Hill’s biggest strength is its greens, and Lookout Point features a lot of similarities, albeit not as interesting 1-18. Lookout Point is unique in Canada’s golf landscape, and honestly, unlike anything else in the country. This is a huge perk for me, and why I see it some 50 spots higher than SCOREGolf’s Top 100 ranking has it.
For anyone who does not like Lookout Point, I suspect they have only played it once. If they have played it multiple times, then we just see golf different, but I have Lookout Point top 25 in Canada, and would suggest it among the “must plays” in Ontario. Notwithstanding the architectural merits of a clever routing with great greens and a course with options, the fun factor is off the charts, and it is why Lookout Point is truly a spot that I would want to be a member of.