Canada has the third most golf courses in the world according to Golf Monthly (2019) after the United States and Japan.
The debate of what the “Golf Capital” of the nation is rages on in many countries. The US, for example, with excellent options in Monterey, Westchester County, Long Island, the sand hills of North Carolina and more.
Other countries, like Scotland, have it figured out with the obvious choice of St. Andrew’s. Australia has the Melbourne Sandbelt. And the list goes on.
Golf in Canada is a popular hobby from coast-to-coast, but where is the “home of golf” in Canada?
The areas considered share a geographical location with both quality golf and a decent volume of golf courses. Ideally, locations have public and private golf, but an emphasis on good quality golf courses was heavily considered.
Without further ado where is Canada’s Golf Capital?
Here are a few options we considered.
Victoria, British Columbia
Victoria is blessed with the benefit of having Canada’s most mild climate. Comfortable summers and wet, playable winters and a collection of great private and public golf courses help vault Victoria into consideration.
Victoria Golf Club and Royal Colwood are the two big clubs, being staples on SCOREGolf’s Top 100 for quite some time. Both are from Ireland-born, Victoria-based Golden Age architect Arthur Vernon Macan. Another Macan, Gorge Vale, is a local favourite, and Uplands plays home to the Mackenzie Tour.
For the public scene, Olympic View, a Bill Robinson design, has been on SCOREGolf’s Top 100 and is thought of highly. As is the Nicklaus twosome at Bear Mountain. For affordable options, Cedar Hill gets praise for being a municipal course with interesting green complexes and Cordova Bay and Highland Pacific are also good options.
Southwestern Edmonton, Alberta
A “dark horse” for Golf Capital of Canada, but a sneaky amount of quality golf resides in the Southwest portion of Edmonton, Alberta.
Royal Mayfair, near the city centre, was once thought of as one of Stanley Thompson’s finest accomplishments. Down the riverbanks of the North Saskatchewan River, Edmonton Country Club has flirted with being a Top 100 in the country the last few decades.
About 10 minutes directly south of Royal Mayfair, The Derrick Golf & Winter Club (Jeff Mingay and George Waters) is one for the architecture nerds with classy architecture highlighted by Jeff Mingay’s charming, yet understated architecture style.
Further south, Windermere, Blackhawk and Rivers Ridge all hug the shores of the North Saskatchewan River.
Windermere has been a staple on SCOREGolf’s Top 100 for years, a local favourite from Robbie Robinson.
Next door, Rivers Ridge is a public option that provides the same views as Windermere.
The big ticket, however, is Rod Whitman’s Blackhawk Golf Club. A modern masterpiece, some argue this is the finest golf course in Alberta outside of the Thompson duo of Banff and Jasper.
A heavy-hitter in every sense of the word, Etobicoke is a golf haven. Famous architects such as Willie Park Jr, Charles Hugh Alison and Stanley Thompson dominate this region. St. George’s, a perennial World Top 100 and Ontario’s highest rated golf course, is often in the discussion for Canada’s best golf course, while Weston is the site of Arnold Palmers first PGA Tour win.
Other private clubs such as Markland Wood and Islington, another Stanley Thompson design, fly under the radar, but should not be forgotten.
What many forget about Etobicoke is it is not just the St. George’s and Islington’s, but there are public options, too. Humber Valley is part of the City of Toronto municipal golf course roster and has some charming Stanley Thompson holes along the Etobicoke River. Royal Woodbine, a Dr. Michael Hurdzan design near Toronto Pearson Airport, is one for the modern fans. Centennial Park is also a wonderful golf course for those looking to get an introduction to golf.
To add to the case, Harry Colt originally wrote “Etobicoke, Ontario” on his plan for Toronto Golf Club, the epicenter of strategic golf in Canada. Colt’s plan for the Ladies Nine originally played over the Etobicoke River.
SW Marine Drive, Vancouver, British Columbia
SW Marine Drive benefits from its close proximity to downtown Vancouver, the University of British Columbia, and more importantly, the Fraser River coming off the Pacific Ocean through the Strait of Georgia. Warm winds and current from the Pacific Ocean let the golf courses play year-round thanks to Vancouver’s temperate climate, a rarity in Canada.
The golf courses are even more notable than year round weather, however.
The private clubs like Marine Drive and Point Grey are well-known and respected, while Shaughnessy is the international juggernaut of the bunch, playing host to Canadian Opens and being world-renowned.
If you’re not quite convinced yet, it’s not all private clubs.
McCleery Golf Course is one of three strong municipal golf courses part of the Vancouver Parks department, while Musqueam is home to an executive style course with a learning academy on the shores of the Fraser River, providing a bit of something for everyone here.
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
A relatively new addition to the discussion, but one that deserves respect.
Cabot Links, the flagship resort on Cape Breton, is home to two World Top 100’s with Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs, and a sporty par 3 course from Links designer Rod Whitman and frequent collaborator Dave Axland.
A trip down the Cabot Trail, one of the world’s most picturesque drives, brings you a bit of the Golden Age with Stanley Thompson’s Cape Breton Highlands Links, another SCOREGolf Top 10, making this the only region with three Top 10’s.
To add to the case, two modern designs from Canadian architects Graham Cooke and Thomas McBroom also sit on the island.
At The Lakes, the golfer will find a dramatic golf course overlooking the Bras d’Or Lake, capped off by the signature par 4, 6th, which tumbles down the rocky terrain.
At Bell Bay, on the other side of the Bras d’Or Lake, is a classic Tom McBroom design with his usual design elements. The golf course climaxes on the par 3, 17th, playing over a gorge, and finishes strong coming home.
Granted, the area of Cape Breton is much more spread out than other regions listed here, with about 2 and a half hours of driving between Cabot Links and Highlands Links, but being on an island, and the quality of golf, it was tough to ignore.
Kelowna, British Columbia
Certainly a favourite among Western Canadians, Kelowna is an upbeat resort town dominated by Lake Okanagan, quality restaurants, wineries, hiking, and yes, golf.
Tower Ranch, in the Kelowna city limits, is a favourite, with McBroom’s design playing over difficult terrain.
To the North, Predator Ridge, a high-end golf resort features one of Les Furber’s best designs, and likewise for Doug Carrick, where the Ridge course is a highlight.
For a bit more of a classic feel, Gallagher’s Canyon winds through tree-lined terrain, playing host to the Mackenzie Tour, while Kelowna Golf & Country Club is the old-school semi-private country club, with excellent greens from A.V. Macan and Jeff Mingay, with a bunch of really quality golf holes.
For those looking to ball out on a budget, Kelowna has quite a few options as well.
Two Eagles in West Kelowna is a fun par 65 golf course that does not feel like it’s an executive style layout, while Okanagan Golf Club’s Bear course is also more affordable than Predator Ridge and Tower Ranch.
Port Carling, Ontario
The most diverse group of golf courses in the Muskokas lies in Port Carling, where modern and classic designs come together to create a sneaky good golf destination.
Rocky Crest and Lake Joseph are Thomas McBroom designs operated by Clublink, and both have appeared on various Top 100 lists in Canada.
Muskoka Lakes, Stanley Thompson’s first solo golf course to open, is an excellent old-school charmer. As is nearby Windermere, a Nicol Thompson, George Cumming, and Stanley Thompson design.
On the modern, private scene, Öviinbyrd is one of Canada’s most exclusive, and Tom McBroom’s best design. A joyful golf course playing among the rocks and swamps of the Muskoka Region is restrained and sophisticated.
Port Carling, both wild and rambunctious, shows the two sides of McBroom. At only 6400 yards, it’s a short golf course, yet incredibly difficult and hilly.
To round out the Port Carling group, The Rock, a design from Nick Faldo’s firm, is public, and said to be among the hardest in the nation.
What’s your vote for the Golf Capital of Canada?
Is it a modern option like Cape Breton or Port Carling? Or perhaps a region with more classic golf courses like SW Marine Drive or Etobicoke?
Either way vote below by leaving a comment!