Glen Abbey Golf Course Review: Nicklaus Design Closing?
Course Name: Glen Abbey
Location: 1333 Dorval Drive, Oakville, ON, L6M 4G2, Canada
Date Played: Summer 2016
Course Type: Parkland
Glen Abbey Golf Course Review: Introduction
Glen Abbey was the first course that Jack Nicklaus designed on his own in 1976. It has played host to the Canadian Open on 30 occasions since then and is arguably the most famous course in Canada because of that. The club is also home to Golf Canada and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame.
In 2015 the club’s owners, Clublink decided that they were going to redevelop the course into residential and commercial units.
The redevelopment plan was opposed by the local authorities. Over the past several years it has progressed through a number of appeals but a final decision will be made at a meeting starting in August 2021.
By early 2022 the final fate of the club will be known although it would appear that the redevelopment plan is likely to go ahead.
If you have any plans to play the course then you need to do so sooner rather than later!
UPDATE: Aug 2021 – The owners have changed their mind and Glen Abbey G.C. won’t be closing.
Glen Abbey Golf Course Layout
The course is split into two distinct sections. Most of the holes are laid out on a fairly flat piece of parkland with a few water hazards. Holes 11 through 15 play down into a valley with 16 Mile Creek featuring as a hazard.
Glen Abbey Hole by Hole
The front nine is undoubtedly the weaker of the two. It starts with a short par five which is only 502 yards from the back tee.
The second is quite a tricky par-4 but the third is probably the standout hole on the front nine.
A par-3 over water with mounding beyond. You need to hit the putting surface otherwise you’re probably faced with a chip off a downslope back towards the hazard.
Glen Abbey appears to be one of the earliest “stadium” courses with mounding around the greens for spectators to get a better view.
The fourth hole has a tricky tee shot for most amateurs as you have to carry water. Good players shouldn’t have too many issues even off the black tees.
Another short par-5 follows with a very well-bunkered green. The sixth is a rather uninteresting straightaway par-4. It just gets you over to another of the more interesting holes on the front nine, the seventh.
Playing 140 yards or so off the gold tees it’s not too long a shot which is good as you’re playing over water again. If you decided to take on the black tees it’s quite a different beast as you are looking at 200 yards from there.
Eight is another fairly plain par-4 but the ninth is likely to catch your attention quite quickly. Water runs along the right-hand side of the fairway for the last hundred yards or so of the hole and in front of the green.
You then have quite a hike over to the 10th tee. One of the few times I’ve been happy to be in a buggy! The hole is relatively straight but the green is quite well bunkered.
We now come to the most memorable stretch of holes on the golf course.
The 11th tee is set around 70 feet above the fairway.
I always enjoy tee shots from a high tee. This one is pretty tricky due to the trees and bunkers protecting the fairway. Should you manage to find the short grass then you’re probably looking at a medium iron over 16 Mile Creek to one of the two greens that sit on the far side.
This hole underwent a bit of a redesign back in 2005 with the green being moved to the left to allow for more sunlight and ventilation. Presumably, the right-hand green of the two is the original green.
Moving on to the 12th, which is another pretty par-3 again played over 16 Mile Creek to a narrow green with plenty of bunkers.
The next hole is a par-5 where you need to carry the creek twice, off the tee and when approaching the green. Playing from the back tee at 558 yards even the tour pros would require two pretty good hits if they are trying to force an eagle. If you decide to play from the gold tees then it’s a much more manageable 528 yards.
From the 14th tee, it’s decision time. How much of the corner can you afford to cut off. Bite off more than you can chew and you’re going to be in the creek. Play too safe and you might be in the bunkers on the far side of the fairway.
The last of the valley holes is a short par-3 which would be not much more than a flick of the wrist for the tour pros playing in the Canadian Open. It features a severely sloping green and you will have no chance if you hit your tee shot beyond the flag.
Climbing out of the valley, mere mortals get a short par-5 although this has been played as a par-4 when the PGA Tour is in town. Even off the black tee it really should be a par-4 for the modern touring professional at just 516 yards. Unless there is a very strong wind in their face they’re probably only hitting a driver and a 5-iron don’t forget.
The final par-4 seems to have almost more sand than grass and certainly, you will do well to avoid a visit to a bunker on this stout par-4.
The final hole is a short par-5 even for amateur players at less than 500 yards of the gold tees. There are plenty of bunkers to catch you off the tee but the real decision comes with your second shot. Do you have the ammo and guts to clear the water that protects the green or are you going to lay up short and to the left?
Famously Tiger took on the carry with a six-iron from one of the bunkers going on to beat Grant Waite to win the Canadian Open in 2000.
It’s always nice to be able to play tour courses that you are going to see on TV. You can compare yourself somewhat with professionals. Despite this Glen Abbey is unlikely to really get your juices flowing. The only standout holes are the valley holes plus the third and the seventh.
I’ve seen from a few other reviews that the pace of play can be a little on the slow side. To be honest these days it’s almost impossible to find a “famous” golf course that you could get around in a reasonable time.
My brother and I were actually very lucky to have a clear run because there’d been some sort of event on that day. For some reason, the front nine was surprisingly empty at the time we teed off. The brisk pace of play we managed certainly added to our enjoyment of the course.
We took advantage of the twilight rate which included a buggy. The starter asked us to please avoid slow play and make sure we were around in no more than four hours (it might have been 4 ¼). I think he was a little gobsmacked when we handed the cart back just over two hours later. We would have got around a bit quicker but we had some slow players in front of us on the last three holes!
That’s not likely to happen very often at any course though really!
I can usually walk a course in a little over two hours, my fastest round being about one hour and 50 minutes. Had I been playing on my own then I probably would have managed it in under an hour in a buggy!
While not prepared to tournament speeds they were certainly reasonably quick and true. Given the green fees being charged one would expect no less.
Again the fairways were well presented but that is to be expected at a venue charging these sorts of prices.
Sorry to be boring but the tees were in good condition.
We decided the gold tees would be sufficiently difficult for us and I think that proved just about right.
Many people are critical of some early Nicklaus designs because they tend to feature a lot of left-to-right dog legs which would suit Jack’s fade.
It is certainly true that there are more left-to-right than right-to-left holes. If you tend to play with a draw then you are going to find it more difficult than if, like me, you play with a fade.
It’s probably not much of a challenge for tour players these days. That was probably shown in the sort of scores that were winning the last few opens that were played there.
If you’re an average club player then it’s likely to test all facets of your game, especially your nerves with a number of shots over water.
Off The Course
We decided not to sample the delights of the Glen Abbey clubhouse as we expected that food and beverage prices would be in line with the green fees!
Taking a quick look today at the cost of Sunday brunch it would appear we were correct. C$43 seems like an awful lot to pay to me.
Looking at the current online booking options it’s going to cost you C$240 for one round. Although there is a twilight rate of C$145 which is definitely the route I would take!
Even the twilight rate seems a little excessive ($115/£85) given that only the valley holes are the truly memorable ones.
Obviously, you are paying for the privilege of playing a course that has been a 30-time PGA tour host. I suppose in comparison to the sort of rates you might pay for the very top echelon of courses ($500 or so) this doesn’t seem so bad.
Knowing that the course is going to close would make me more likely to play if I hadn’t already managed to do so.
If you happen to be in the Toronto area during 2021 then you might want to give yourself a treat because it looks highly likely the course will soon close.
Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ]
Where is Glen Abbey Golf Course?
Glen Abbey Golf Course is located in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. Their full address is 1333 Dorval Drive, Oakville, ON, L6M 4G2.
How much are Glen Abbey Green Fees?
The standard green fee is listed as C$241 and the twilight rate is C$165. That’s approximately $179/122 based on the exchange rate in May 2023. Looking at the online booking system it would appear you can actually play for quite a lot less if you are prepared to book just a few days in advance.
Is Glen Abbey Golf Course Closing?
Glen Abbey Golf Course was due to be sold off to real estate developers but that threat has now receded and the course is still open for play.