Review: Hamilton Golf & Country Club (all holes)

Information:

  • Ancaster, Ontario
  • Private
  • H.S. Colt (1919) — West, South
  • C.E. Robinson (1974) — East
  • Martin Ebert (2011) — Short
  • 7th in Canada (SCOREGolf) — West/South

There’s a handful of storied courses in Canada that made even the international golfers ears perk up. In the west, Banff, Jasper and Capilano for Stanley Thompson’s brilliant mountain work; out east, you have Cabot, thanks to no small part to Mike Kieser; and then Toronto, where St. George’s and Glen Abbey fly the flag high.

But included in that list is Hamilton Golf & Country Club’s West/South routing, about an hour and a half southwest of downtown Toronto. Especially after 2019, where Rory McIlroy won the RBC Canadian Open in a new date during the club’s 100th year anniversary.

What you may have not known if Hamilton actually has 36 holes; three nine hole loops (East, West, and South), as well as a short, par 3 golf course built in 2011. Let’s jump into the East first with a photo tour, which is the 9 hole loop not used for tournaments.


The East Nine

Some nice rolling land on the par 4, 1st at Hamilton’s East
While not as prestigious at the West/South, The East has some nice approach shots, like on the par 4, 2nd
Sahalee vibes at the par 4, 3rd
A mid-range par 4, the 4th features a cool approach
A sporty green complex, the long, 200+ par 3, 5th is a standout
More good movement off the tee at the long par 4, 6th
The short par 3, 7th plays entirely over water with a wedge
The reachable par 5, 8th features the same burn that crosses through the famed West/South routing
Church pews define the inner corner of the doglegging left, par 4, 9th on the fantastic finisher to the East

The Short Course

The short course, built by Martin Ebert (I believe. If this is wrong please correct me in the comments) in 2011, the Short Course’s first six holes are built in the spirit of H.S. Colt. Unfortunately I don’t have the short scorecard on me currently, so I can’t really say which holes are inspired by which, but the photo tour is below. I assume some will be fairly obvious, while others won’t be!

About 120 yards, the longest shot on the entire golf course is 150 yards. The first is a warm welcome
A big grass bunker fronts the second green
My favorite hole here, the 3rd at the Short Course is nothing more than a flip wedge
Inspired by H.S. Colt’s design at Wentworth Club in England, the 4th is a 100 or so yard wedge up the hill
A Pine Valley-esque “Devil’s Asshole” bunker guards the green, catching shots that are short
Finishing the 6 hole loop, the longer par 3, 6th is closer to 150 yards
Moving over to the other side of the property, the 7th features a wickedly contoured green
The 8th is 140 or so yards, playing downhill with the infamous burn at Hamilton coming into play on the left
An uphill flip wedge, the 9th is a nice finish to the short course

The routing is weird here for sure, as the first six are near the 1st tee on the West and the driving range, and the final three are close to the South finishing hole and the East starting hole–across the property. The stuff by the practice area are certainly better, but I have no objections to finding more golf holes on property. You can play the three hole loop (7-9), or the six hole loop (1-6), or all nine. Splendid! More courses need golf courses like this, whether it be the three hole loop, or the six hole loop, or both, it’s just such a good use of extra land that surely attracts new players.


The West/South Loop (Championship)

The West/South loop is the famous 18 at Hamilton, designed by H.S. Colt in 1919. This is also the championship loop, and the recent Canadian Open host.

The first hole is a relatively gentle opening hole at 417 yards, moving ever-so-slightly to the left.

The bunkers are carry-able for most players, especially tour players.

The approach plays to a well-guarded green, which one can only imagine how sexy this hole would be with a proper restoration. That’ll be something you notice throughout the bat. Amazing bones at Hamilton, but a little (or a lot) run down. Thankfully, they restore the West/South in 2020 and 2021 I believe, which should bring it back to its former glory.

The second is a mid-length par 4 at 442 yards. It’s a pretty benign par 4.

The approach is something pretty standard that you see on most country clubs. Most of the cool stuff at Hamilton is in the internal contouring that you can’t see in pictures.

The third gets a bit of land movement, moving down into the valley off the tee. It’s only 404 yards, and with the burn in play with driver and three wood, iron is likely the play.

The approach plays back up and out of the valley, to a well-guarded and well-contoured green. This hole after the restoration will likely be really, really solid.

The 4th is back to boring, standard country club golf. 535 yards, There’s some land movement on the left side of the hole. Staying right is ideal to give yourself the best chance at having a shorter club in.

I like the layup here, and it provides interest from inside 150 yards. A bunker that cuts into the fairway is placed about 115 yards from the centre.

The green complex is pretty low profile, but a slight run off on the right side adds some interest. Again, a restoration would make this hole pop a lot more, and make it more visually intimidating, especially with the bunkering.

The 5th is one of the best holes on the entire property without a doubt. 318 yards, moving up the hill to the right, this is drivable for the longest of players (we see you, Rory).

For people who layup, it’s a fairly standard wedge up the hill. The green has some pretty good movement, and still provides interest. The best play is hit it left side fairway up the hill so it’s a fairly on-grade approach.

The 6th is a meaty par 3 at 224 yards playing over a gully. Pinched by bunkering left and right, this is a tough approach.

The 7th goes back down into the valley, and is my vote for the best hole on this nine hole loop. 412 yards, there’s two bunkers on the left side of the hole.

This hole is weird though, to me. I mean, the bunkering on the inside corner of the dogleg is completely different than the rest of the course, and feels closer to H.S. Colt’s actual bunkering style. But it feels like they just decided to restore these two bunkers and that’s it.

What’s even better about this is the greenside bunkers, on the same hole, aren’t restored either! So it all feels very awkward, and feels very half-baked, even though it’s perhaps the most interesting hole on this side.

The 8th is pretty much the same hole as the 6th, but 14 yards shorter at 210 yards. It plays over the same gully, with a grass bunker short left and a bunker right.

The 9th is a cool par 4 moving down into the valley. Unlike the 3rd and 7th, which swings back up and out, this one stays down, which gives a bit of variety to the golf course. It’s another mid-length 4 at 438 yards.

The approach does play slightly uphill, to a raised green complex, but not to the same extent as the other two downhill par 4’s.

The 10th kicks off the South nine, and the championship back nine. Right off the bat, you notice some really, really bad grassing lines on the left side. That lonely bunker out on the left is where the fairway should be, but instead it’s not. At 392 yards, it’s a short 4 with hazard right that driver is certainly not in play. Yet another hole that goes down and up the valley (seeing a pattern?).

But this is one of the best green complexes on the entire hole, bunkered quite well and with some crazy contouring. The green complex becomes even better with more width from the fairway, in my opinion.

The 11th is a 481 yard par 4 doglegging very aggressively to the left. Big players can cut the corner over the tree on the left.

The approach plays slightly uphill, so nothing too crazy here.

The 12th is another par 4 that’s horrendously grassed. The fairway is about twice as wide as it should be, and it’s quite obvious. This is a 386 yard par 4 back down into the valley.

The green complex is quite cool, tucked into the hill with bunkering everywhere.

The 13th is a 237 yard par 3, and unlike the past two long par 3’s, this one works. The green has a heavy tilt to the left, and the short left collection area is quite nasty. This is the “rink hole” that was heavily televised during the RBC Canadian Open.

The 14th is by far the worst grassing lines I have ever seen, ever, of all time. The hole moves to the right, but you can barely see the fairway from the tee because it’s so far right to make it hard to hit during the tournament. Ridiculous.

At 443 yards, with the fairway so far to the right, this is an awkward hole, and plays quite hard. The approach isn’t too bad, fronted by two bunkers short left.

The 15th is a cool par 4, moving to the right, around a massive bunker complex that would look so nasty with a proper restoration. At 411 yards, it’s not too long, but it’s a tougher tee shot.

The approach is fairly regular, nothing too crazy here. The green slopes pretty hard to the front.

The 16th is a 185 yard par 3 playing up the hill, which virtually plays similar to the par 3’s on the front in terms of yardage. The hole falls off quite hard to the left, so anything down on that side is death. Anything right is falling off really hard to the left, which also isn’t ideal. Basically, just hit this green.

The 17th is a nothing hole moving back towards 18 tee. At 548 yards, it’s reachable in two, so it’s a good birdie opportunity before the difficult 18th.

I imagine the 17th was quite a difficult hole back in the day, as you can see the fairway move up slightly around where they might’ve carried the ball.

But again, the layup is quite interesting. I imagine this hole will look quite good with the restoration, and add some visual deception.

The green complex features some interesting bunkering.

The 18th is the most famous hole on property, and one of the most famous holes in Canada. At 442 yards, this is a long par 4 due to the fact that the player has to layup off the tee because of the burn. I’d say the best play is to get 180 in, which leaves a mid to long-ish iron up the hill.

I’m not a huge fan of this tee shot with modern equipment. Back in the day, this would be a very stout par 4 that required driver, but with today’s length, the layup feels very forced.

The approach shot, however, is world class, and reminded me of Riviera’s 18th (although I’ve only been so far, sadly!). Uphill, to a natural amphitheatre at the base of the clubhouse, this 18th hole is built for a tournament finish.


So there you have it, Hamilton Golf & Country Club in its entirety. I’d say the entire property is good. I’m not a huge fan of how a lot of the 4’s go down and then back up, or require a layup off the tee, but with a proper restoration, the West/South could be quite good. Is it top 10 in Canada right now? Not in my opinion, but one day, I could see a stern case for even top 8.

The East nine is enjoyable, and the Short course is quite good as well. Hamilton certainly has it all, and would be a great spot to call home.

Have you played Hamilton? Think I have it wrong or right? Let me know in the comments below!

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