Course of the Week: The Club at Bond Head

There’s nothing remotely dainty about the two courses at Bond Head. The brawny landscape could have been airlifted from the Scottish Highlands and the holes are bold and rugged and unforgiving. And when the wind howls, as it often does, you’re in for a fight.

Bond Head was conceived in the brilliant minds of Dr. Michael Hurdzan and Jason Straka of Hurdzan/Fry Architects, whose designs are often featured in Top 100 lists throughout the world. Their work on Devil’s Pulpit and Devil’s Paintbrush in Caledon, as well as Georgian Bay Club, Dundarave in PEI and Le Diable at Mont Tremblant are world renowned and regularly included amongst the best courses in Canada.

The two layouts at Bond Head exhibit a similar inspired approach – creative routing, exceptional views and bold holes, dripping with character. The South course is pure Scottish links with wide fescue-lined fairways and massive undulating greens; while the North is more reminiscent of the inland Scottish courses like Gleneagles, with sudden elevation changes and greens perched on hillsides. The South is longer, more exposed and tougher to putt. The North has more elevation, some quirkiness and perhaps more character. Neither course is a pushover and each has some holes that will thrill and a few that can haunt you.

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North Course, Hole No 8, Par 5, 595 yards

Both courses have spectacular par-5’s. The 8th hole on the North course is one of my favourites. When you come around the corner at the top of the hill and look down on the tees below, then across the gully to the broad sweeping expanse of fairway that bends away to the left, it’s like something is daring you to give it a go, bite off a little more than you think possible.

Reilly Erwin, Director of Operations at The Club at Bond Head concurs. “The par 5’s are definitely the strongest feature on both courses. They’re stunning to look at and fun to play. We have a really good mix of lengths – everything from reachable holes around 500 yards to brutes like the 12th on the South course that tops out at 662 yards.”

Players will be divided on which course they prefer.

There’s a stretch of holes on the outward leg of the North course that might be the best run of holes on either course. No 4 is a double dogleg par 5 that works its way uphill through a pine forest. It’s reachable in two shots but the raised green is well protected with deep bunkers and chipping areas; the 5th is so natural looking that perhaps all they had to do was cut some trees and pull out the stumps. It’s big sweeping curve that bends left and then drops sharply downhill to a long narrow green.

No 6 is quirky – a 300 yard par 4 that goes straight uphill. Maybe Dustin Johnson could drive it but the prudent play is a hybrid to one of three plateaus, then a wedge to the sharply sloped green.

The 7th hole (pictured at top) is a postcard – a tee perched on the highest point on the course and a potato chip green about 150 yards down the hill with virtually no bail out area – it drops away on all sides. The backdrop is stunning – absolutely miles and miles of hills and farmland as far as you can see.

Then there’s the 8th – my favourite – a demanding tee shot to a canted fairway bordered by wetlands on the left. The second shot has to be spot on to give you a reasonable approach to the green. It’s no picnic either – a sharply sloped putting surface with nasty roll offs to the left and deep, flashed bunkers in front and right. Even after three good shots, par is not a given, especially if your approach is above the hole.

One of the intriguing features to the South course is that it’s almost 600 yards longer than the North, yet is has three driveable par 4’s. You can be forgiven if you don’t try to hit the 1st. At a measly 300 yards downhill, it’s reachable but a wetlands in front prevents all but the serious bombers from giving it a go. Besides, it’s usually the first shot of the day.

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South Course, Hole No 1, Par 4, 356 yards

But No 6 is just a shade over 300 yards from an even more elevated tee and looks very inviting – at least if you can overlook the gaping bunkers to the left and the lake on the right. Lots of bail out room on the left will leave you a short wedge to the raised green with the lake lurking behind. Definitely one of the most thought provoking holes on the course.

Likewise No 11 is driveable and usually plays downwind. The card says 360 yards but it’s a dogleg with nothing but fescue between you and an eagle putt. On a straight line our range finder said 285 to the front. Who wouldn’t try that?

If you’re feeling good after making birdie (or maybe eagle) on the 11th, hang on to your hat for No 12. It’s the longest hole on either course. Even from the Blue tee it’s over 600 yards. You can divide that number any way you want but you still have to hit at least three good shots on the wide sweeping fairway to find the broad slope of short grass that’s big enough to park a fleet of buses. The hole is a monster and most sane people would be delighted with a par.

There are lots more holes of every variety that stand out at Bond Head. No 17 on the South is a 200 yard par 3 that might be the most demanding shot on the course; No 17 on the North is a par 5 that marches straight uphill; and the finishing holes on both courses are no piece of cake. Just because you’re almost done doesn’t mean that you can relax.

When you do finish, however, the clubhouse is just like the rest of the course – massive, bold, inspiring. A cool drink on the deck overlooking the South course and practice range is a wonderful way to top off a memorable experience and plan your next assault on Bond Head.

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