The Kawarthas Golf Trip (Ontario)
The Kawarthas is an area roughly 90 minutes from Toronto. It is a popular vacation spot for visitors from the city.
One of a number of areas in Canada where city dwellers like to go to unwind from the stresses and strains of modern life.
Many will buy or rent a cottage on a lake and spend their vacation messing about in a boat, hiking, cycling or relaxing around a fire pit with friends.
Family connections mean I’ve had the pleasure of visiting the area on three occasions. I’ve managed to take advantage of some of the many golf courses in the region.
As I’ve only spent a short time in this area in total I’ve only managed to play some of the courses once although there are a few that I’ve played multiple times.
Bancroft is a former mining town with a population of less than 4000. Although its population swells during the summer months with vacationers from the city.
It boasts two golf courses in its immediate surroundings. The 18-hole Bancroft Ridge and nine-hole Bancroft Golf Course.
Bancroft Ridge Golf Course
Bancroft Ridge was called Rivers Edge when I played it. The intention was to create a golf community by selling lots around the perimeter of the golf course.
Unfortunately, this didn’t appear to work out too well as there are only a handful of houses that have been built. The majority of Kawarthas visitors are looking for more than just a golf holiday. Indeed the Muskokas offers a greater number of golf options but my understanding is that it is quite a bit more expensive in that area.
Shortly after opening, it was named “One of the top new golf courses in Ontario” by Ontario Golf Magazine.
My impression was that the course was struggling for revenue given its location. The condition, in places, could have been improved.
New owners have renamed it Bancroft Ridge and have re-energized their efforts to attract homebuilders to the property.
The course itself is a little bit unbalanced with the back nine being around a thousand yards longer than the front nine.
By modern standards, there are quite a lot of short par-4s under 350 yards but also several very long par-4s at what used to be the limit of 475 yards. Plus a couple of quite long par-5s at around 570 yards.
The course is quite attractive with most of the holes framed by mature trees. Indeed some of the fairways become almost a must-hit since a visit to the woods is likely going to mean a lost ball (I know a few of mine are still in there!).
There are plenty of water hazards to trap your ball if you don’t get your club selections correct as well. While buggies are available it’s a flat and easy walking golf course unless you happen to be playing in temperatures over 35°!
Prices are pretty good value with membership starting at C$1200. That’s reasonable compared with the price of golf in Canada anyway. Of course, you do lose quite a few months to the weather in Canada compared with the UK. There are also quite attractive deals for people with holiday homes that want to play occasionally.
It doesn’t appear that the website is kept up-to-date with any great zeal. The only recent tweet is regarding the closure of Ontario courses.
It looks like they have a decent core of members and try to organize plenty of events both golf and social through the season. Although Covid-19 looks likely to put paid to that again in 2021.
Definitely well worth a game if you’re in the area assuming Doug Ford has seen sense.
If they can get course conditioning right then this would be a very nice place to play golf and it would then hopefully generate more income.
Bancroft Golf Course
A lot of golfers tend to ignore nine-hole courses thinking they aren’t worth their time. As someone who was a member of a nine-hole course for roughly 10 years, I’m not one of them!
Bancroft Golf Course is a pleasant nine-holer with a set of alternative tees for your back nine. Much hillier than Bancroft Ridge, older players might be advised to think about a buggy.
Only 6150 yards on the card so it makes for ideal holiday golf. It’s always been in pretty good nick when I played it. My favorite hole was the third, a par-3 where you had to carry some trouble to the green setup above the level of the tee.
Built more than 60 years ago, the course offers membership for around C$1000 and an 18-hole green fee is C$35.
A small town of about 2500 people, it sits about 25 km down Route 28 from Bancroft. There are a couple of golfing options close to the town.
Marvel Rapids Golf Course
A very picturesque course which I have returned to every time I’ve been to Canada.
Not massively long. Do you want to play a 7000-yard course when you’re on vacation?
Nice changes in elevation and good use of the water running through the property make this course well worth your time when you’re in the area. Indeed one of the testimonials on their website suggests he drives up from Toronto to play the course!
I love the fourth hole where you play from a slightly elevated tee across the rapids to the green surrounded by trees. Good job it’s not that long a hole!
The green fees are pretty reasonable, for example, if you play after 4 PM and walk then it will only cost you C$27 (£16) for 18 holes.
Owenbrook Golf Course was another that I played near Apsley but unfortunately it now seems to have closed.
Woodview Golf Course
I have only played this course once and that would be a couple of years after it opened. To be honest I wasn’t overly impressed with the condition. Considering the cost to play it you wouldn’t expect to be getting a manicured track, however.
Fairly short, only 2700 yards for its nine holes, it features several “driveable” par-4s and a solitary par-5 of just over 500 yards.
If you’re fairly new to the game or don’t play too often then it shouldn’t prove too taxing for you. Low handicappers or those with champagne tastes might not be particularly impressed.
If you live near the course then you could be a member for around C$700. The green fees don’t really stack up that well when you compare them to Marvel Rapids which I think is prettier and a better test of golf.
Reviews on Google would suggest that either the condition has improved a hell of a lot or the reviewers don’t have much golf experience.
Katchiwano Golf Course
Given that most of their website currently appears to be down I’m not entirely sure whether Katchiwano is still open. Since there is a recent Google review I’ll assume they are still going.
Unfortunately for me, it was quite a slow round when I played but I recall the course was in reasonably good condition and was reasonable value for money.
A good number of the courses in the area are only nine holes so the fact that Katchiwano is 18 made it all the more appealing.
Although a little on the short side at only 5100 yards it was nonetheless an enjoyable round of golf with the exception of the speed of play.
Six Foot Bay Resort & Golf Course
In addition to the golf course which opened in 1981, the resort has tennis courts, a baseball diamond, basketball and volleyball courts.
I played the course on the morning of my brother’s wedding so was in a bit of a rush!
One of the more expensive courses in the Kawartha’s but it was one of the better conditioned courses as well.
Stretching to about 6500 yards from the back tees this represents a good solid test of golf for all but the longest hitters. A number of water hazards to test your mental game along with right-to-left and left-to-right dog legs to test your long game.
It’s going to cost you C$50 or thereabouts to play but compared with many of the nine-hole courses that are charging C$30 or more there is just no comparison.
Another pleasant nine-hole course clearly designed for people on vacation looking to play some casual golf.
Even from the white tees the course only stretches to 2765 yards with the longest hole being only 390.
The holes are fairly straight away with not too many trees to cause major problems and very few bunkers should you be struggling with your sand game.
If you are able to play late in the evening then you can get a good deal. 18 holes only cost you C$28 although it’s slightly more expensive earlier in the day.
Haliburton & Minden
Pinestone Resort Golf Course
This was actually the first course I played in the Kawartha’s. I recall a very pleasant 18 holes with tree-lined fairways and the occasional water hazard to test you out.
Another course that isn’t long, originally built in the 70s to host NHL players and executives that were coaching at the Hockey Haven camp.
You will need to shape the ball to get into the best positions on several holes. Bomb ’n gouge merchants probably won’t do that well.
Not the cheapest with peak season rounds costing C$67 before tax although that does include a cart.
In golf, you generally get what you pay for. If you want a well-manicured course you will generally need to up your budget.
Lakeside Golf Club
Overlooking Green Lake, Lakeside Golf Club is another nine-hole course that is longer than many in the area at 3235 yards off the blue tees. The 589-yard par-5 should also provide a good test for even the longest hitters.
The green fees are typical for the area. Membership costs only C$680 which I think represents excellent value if you happen to live near the course.
Several holes offer views of the lake and the course appeared to be kept in good condition. I also had a nice bite to eat in the clubhouse.
Blairhampton Golf Club
For those living in the area, this might be a good choice, 18 holes running to 6500 yards from the very back tees. Plenty of water hazards to keep you on your toes and several doglegs forcing you to work on shaping the ball. There is also a nice practice facility.
Not the cheapest particularly during Covid where you’re unable to share a cart unless with a family member. Twilight rounds are pretty good value though at C$40 if you can walk.
Fenelon Falls & Ennismore
Tamarac Golf & Country Club
Looking at some of the Google reviews this has changed hands in the past few years. There seems to be quite a discrepancy between the reviewers. Some feel this is in good condition and others not so much.
It has been quite a few years since I played the course and I thought it was in reasonably good condition. Assuming you are walking the green fee isn’t too bad just under C$40.
There are a few water hazards to trip you up in the course is reasonably long off the back tees at just under 6500 yards
You have a practice ground where you can warm up.
Eganridge Golf & Country Club
The twilight rate of only C$20 for 18 holes seems decent value to me. This nine-hole course overlooking Sturgeon Lake measures up at 3003 yards.
I recall an enjoyable round on a pleasant, relatively easy walking golf course.
Hamilton Bay Golf
I think I came across this course on my golf GPS. Even now it’s difficult to find much information using Google. Looking at the scorecard I get the feeling it’s probably not the most upscale facility. The nine holes running to 2450 yards with the longest hole being only 372 yards.
The fact there is almost no information on the Internet about it would lead me to believe it’s not one to put near the top of your list.
The Kawarthas Golf Trip: Conclusion
Okay, if you’re looking for championship quality golf then you probably wouldn’t pick the Kawartha’s as the place to go.
Certainly, the high ratio of nine-hole to 18-hole golf courses would suggest most people aren’t looking for anything more than a bit of casual golf.
In spite of this, you still have many golfing options some of which are pretty good.
Unfortunately, some of the better courses in the area were strictly private so were out of my reach.
If like me you’re looking for variety then there’s certainly plenty on offer.
The most well known course I have played in Canada has hosted the Canadian Open on numerous occasions, read my review of Glen Abbey Golf Course.