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Aug 16

Golf in Ontario is Everywhere

The Province of Ontario Has a Mania for Golf

I have seen the lower stretch of Canada that lies between New Brunswick and Montreal, and I have spent much time in various parts of British Columbia and Alberta, so I already had an inkling of the national flavor for golf when we reached Niagara Falls this week. Then, we stepped across into Ontario. For those who have not done it yet, the QEW, Queen Elizabeth’s Way, runs from Niagara Falls to Toronto, and sports some lovely country, the same as everywhere else I have seen up close in Canada. However, for a golfer, this stretch of Ontario is an overflowing cornucopia of the game. I didn’t expect it, and have never seen anything like it. Lacking the depth of knowledge to propose such a theory, I’ll propose it anyway. Ontario and golf give me the same impression that Pennsylvania and Ohio give me in terms of legacy – not only the land of Jack and Arnie, but a vast array of fine courses.

Scarcely out of the border booths heading north, where Officer Gagnon viewed our passports carefully, then stared into my eyes for 20 seconds to see if I would twitch, various road signs indicated a variety of services offered at each exit. A few alerted us to restaurants and petrol stations, or to historical markers and scenic views. Golf courses are listed as well, and I don’t even know yet whether all of the regional courses were included. As a devotee, I noticed it right away – road signs with four, five, and six courses listed at the same time, all at the same exit. Some were named for First Nation tribes with which I was unfamiliar, adding a certain poetry to the thought of playing in Ontario. Others were similarly picturesque, such as Settler’s Ghost Golf Club. For reasonable greens fees, one can play an enjoyable round of 18 and share in a paranormal experience, if one is into that sort of thing.

Along the way, the Royal Ontario Golf Club caught my attention. I thought that this course must be the kingpin of the entire eastern Canadian golfing system. It certainly looked royal enough, but when I investigated a little further, I discovered that it only opened in this century. The multiple listings of golf courses, the names of which I tried to remember or jot down as we passed by, continued all the way across the province. By this time, my memory of Niagara Falls was transformed into that of a particularly striking hazard along a profound water hole. As I was shaking my head over the sheer number of courses along the QEW, we headed off toward Sudbury and the northern shore of Lake Superior, and the courses just kept coming. It wasn’t just Buffalo to Toronto – the mania was everywhere.

Perhaps one doesn’t need to play Settler’s Ghost to have a paranormal experience. My wife and I were so locked into the ensuing golf conversation that on three separate occasions, one or the other of us said, “Look, there’s Brooke Henderson!” Maybe it was road fatigue. We quickly agreed that Brooke Henderson plays far too well to require supplementing her income at a Tim Hortons or Husky Station in Ontario.

Many countries feature stretches of verdant countryside, but Canada offers a different sort of walk in the woods. Somehow, the climate – sometimes misty, sometimes clear – conspires with the ground, the forest aroma, and the suspense of the next bend in the cart path, to be Canada, and only Canada. Or, in Ontario, there’s the suspense of the next highway exit. It is unlikely that you will really see Brooke Henderson, but you might see Officer Gagnon, so don’t twitch.

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.