Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Westmount Golf & Country Club

Westmount Golf & Country Club
Kitchener, Ontario, CANADA


6943 YARDS (PAR 73)
COURSE RATING/SLOPE: 73.0/130
COURSE ARCHITECT: Stanley Thompson (1931)
ACCESSIBILITY: Private
COURSE WEBSITE: http://westmountgolf.com/
ROUNDS PLAYED: 1
LAST PLAYED: September 1, 2009.
LOW SCORE: 90 (+17)

ACCOLADES -
- Golf Digest Top 30 in Canada 2015: #16
- Golfweek Best Canadian Classic Courses 2015: #12
- ScoreGolf Top 100 in Canada 2014: #12
- Canadian Golf Magazine Top 100 in Canada 2015: #18


"Westmount was carved out of a mature maple forest, but it’s not the trees that make the course, but the wonderfully uneven fairways which roll and cant in all sorts of interesting directions throughout the round. Westmount sometimes is underestimated for not being as flashy or as intimidating as other courses, but it still remains one of the best tests of golf in the country."
- Ian Andrew

My home course, St. Catharines G&CC, hosted the 2009 Canadian Tour Championship during the first week of September. The course was obviously closed to the membership for that whole week so the club's board and management set out to get reciprocal arrangements with other clubs in Ontario.

To be honest, I was slightly disappointed at the list on first blush. I had been told it was a 'lock' that Hamilton G&CC would be on the reciprocal list, a course I've basically been dying to play the moment I stepped foot on the course to watch the Canadian Open a number of years ago. Well, that lock must have fallen through, because Hamilton was nowhere to be found. Neither was St. George's G&CC, another club rumoured to be on the list.

Most of the courses and times listed were for courses I've either played before or courses that already are regular club reciprocals - our club is part of the Stanley Thompson Alliance, where most of the Thompson courses in Ontario allow limited access to members of other courses by the same designer.

One club that doesn't participate in the Thompson Alliance is revered Westmount G&CC in Kitchener, the 17th best course in the country according to ScoreGolf. However, they were one of the clubs offering a few tee times to our membership during the Championship week.

I had never played Westmount, missing out on a chance to play in the 2008 Ontario Amateur qualifier that was held there when it filled up in only two days. I took that as a positive endorsement and also heard accolades from Harris, who was lucky enough to play it last year as a guest and raved about the experience.

The club was holding a lottery for all the reciprocals and I put Westmount down as my first choice. I think we put Burlington G&CC down as our second choice but I had played there earlier in the year for the first time in the Ontario Better Ball qualifier so needless to say, I was keeping my fingers crossed for Westmount.

About two weeks before the Tour Championship, we found out the results of the lottery - we were going to Westmount!

Westmount is known as one of Stanley Thompson's finest designs, opening for play in 1931. According to the club website, much of the course was cut from bush and swamp, something that certainly isn't evident today - this course is the very definition of a parkland design, with almost every fairway framed by towering maples and pines.

Ryan, Jon and Cal joined me on the trip to Kitchener on an absolutely perfect late summer day. Bright blue skies and temperatures in the high 70s make for great golf weather but bad photographs (unfortunately) when taken in the middle of the day.

It's important to note that my game was in really bad shape at this point of the year. I was coming off four rounds in a row in the low 80s and I was having tremendous difficulty with my ball striking, not a good omen when playing a shotmakers course like Westmount.

That said, my session on the range was okay and I stepped up to the first tee and with a bunch of members watching us, I absolutely crushed my drive right down the pipe on the 557 yard par five.

My approach shot from about 260 yards went well left and I had to pitch the ball back up the hill to a blind pin. I'd go long, which is just a disaster on this heavily sloped green and would three putt from the fringe for the opening bogey.


The second hole, shown above, is a 368 yard par four playing well uphill. The fairway is very generous but I'd still miss it, hitting it into the trees left. I'd have to punch out (the first of many on the day) and still had about 100 yards into another deceptively long green. I'd hit on and barely miss my par putt, settling for my second consecutive bogey. Ryan would stiff his approach here to move to one under.

Unfortunately, the pretty par three 3rd hole (shown above) was out of play on this day due to maintenance so we all got free pars on the 17th handicap hole and moved on to the tremendous fourth hole.


The fourth, shown above, is a dogleg left par four measuring 422 yards. It's an intimidating tee shot for the first timer, as you really don't know how much room you have right of the fairway and cutting the corner brings the towering trees into play. I'd actually hit a fairly decent shot but it strayed through the fairway right and again, I was up against the tree. I was able to get a swing on it but had to manipulate things a bit, causing me to pull my shot into the bunker. From there, I'd simply throw up all over myself, skulling it over the green then pitching back long. I'd make a ball-in-pocket double here and as much as I'd like to tell you that this was an anomaly, the ugliness was just starting.


The fifth (above) is a long par five measuring 569 yards. Pretty vanilla tee shot as you can see, where you want to draw it off the fairway bunker in the distance. However, the approach is quite gorgeous, with the green sitting elevated well above the fairway right in the hillside, with a severe right to left cant to the putting surface. I'd once again wet the entire bed on this one - driving it well left, punching back to the fairway, stupidly trying to thread the needle from 260 or so yards and snaphooking my ball into the trees left and giving up when I couldn't find my ball.

Another 'computer double' and I was STEAMING!

"Why today?", I'm asking myself. Playing a tremendous golf course and I have absolutely nothing in my arsenal!

So I'm now +6 through five and the guys are LOVING IT. Cal especially is riding me hard but I find a way to actually put a good swing on my five-iron on the 206 yard downhill par 3 (shown above) and hit my first green in regulation on the day. Some mock cheers for that and then the mock cheering continued when I poured in the sliding left to right 20 footer for the birdie two.

"He's back", Cal says, or something to that effect.

Turns out he couldn't have been more wrong!


The seventh, shown above, is the third par five on the front side, measuring 537 yards. A dogleg right off an elevated tee, I'd drive down the right side, hit a pretty bad shot into the trees left but get lucky enough to be able to hit a lob wedge over the trouble and onto the green. Two greens in a row and I two putt for my par. Am I settled down? +5 through 7 now.

The reachable par four eighth, seen above, is simply a tremendous golf hole. It's only 284 yards from the back tee and everything screams "GO FOR IT!". However, out of bounds lines the entire left side and the fairway is elevated and slopes hard toward the houses on the left. Needless to say, you need to hit a premium shot if you're giving it a go. I felt I had to give it a try despite my difficulties off the tee. I think I even tried to open the clubface to negate the potential hook but it was no use - my shot soared hard to the left and disappeared into the trees. I'd reload and do the exact same thing again.

Holy crap.

We'd find my second ball right on the boundary and I could only advance the ball about 15 yards due to having no swing. Another computer double and I'm starting to go numb. Ryan actually drove the green and three whacked for par here.

No photos of the tough par four ninth, a 408 yard par four. Fearing the snaphooks which have plagued my entire round, of course I hit a monster push into a grove of trees. I'd punch out for the fourth time in nine holes and make yet another double bogey to finish the front side in 46 shots (+9). Cal made a sick chip in for birdie here to shoot an even par 37 while that sicko Ryan went bogey-free on the front to shoot a one under 36. Jon went out in 44 so I was in the back of the bus.

The course was very busy the day we played and we had a relatively long wait on the 10th tee, giving me a bit of time to regroup. The others were off eating hot dogs and grabbing drinks while I just stared down the fairway with my eyes glazed over. I finally came to my senses and kept the driver in the bag on the 337 yard par four, hitting my 4-iron right down the middle. I'd hit my second long but made a nice up and down for my second 'real' par of the day...can't count the gimmie par on the 3rd!

The 11th is a 568 yard par five played off an elevated tee. It's a dogleg right and the approach is played back slightly uphill to a very cool, deep green complex with multiple tiers. I actually hit a decent drive here, just through the fairway left and had a good two-putt par. Hey! Two in a row! Ryan, who finally cracked on the 10th, making his first bogey, stiffed another approach here and made another birdie to go back into red figures. En fuego! Earlier in the year, Ryan played one of the best rounds of golf I've ever seen in person, shooting a lights-out 67 (-5) from the tips at St. Catharines so the dude has game.

At this point, I'm just hoping to stay out of his way and Cal's too, as he's still only +1 on the day.

The 12th is another gorgeous par three, a dropshot 141 yarder from way up high. If I had any thoughts of shooting a semi-respectable score, they ended here. I hit a little punch 9-iron right at the flag...I'm staring it down, waiting it to drop near the pin and watch in horror as it flies the green and goes way down the hill on the other side.

Completely dead, pitching way back up the hill, I go long and three whack from about 40 feet for yet another crushing double. Both Cal and Jon made great deuces here, with Cal's moving him to even par on the day.

The 552 yard 13th is the last par five on the course. It's a dogleg right off an elevated tee then crawls back up hill and around the corner. The green is hidden from view on your second shot and you need to be mindful of leaving yourself a view for your approach as well. A very, very strong hole in my view, one I'd par after finding only my third fairway of the day.

The 378 yard 14th (approach shot shown above) plays quite a bit shorter than the yardage on the card, as the hole plays downhill the entire way. This was yet another hole where the prudent play for me would be a four-iron but at +11, there's not much point in laying back. I'd push my tee shot way right and again be forced to punch out of the trees. Then, to top everything, I snaphook a 9-iron way left of the green, something I didn't think was possible. Chalk up another double. +13 through 14.

The 425 yard par four 15th is another beauty, a dogleg left that curls around the trees that leaves an approach to an elevated green complex that falls off severely in front and to the right. Tremendous golf hole. I'd drive in the trees...again and be forced to hit my sixth pitch out of the day. Double bogey number seven on the day.

I'm numb.

You have to walk back a bit to find the 16th tee, a bit of a quirk in the routing, which overall is superb. Another elevated tee shot on the dogleg right 447 yard par four with a second shot played slightly back uphill (approach shot shown above). I'd hit another big snaphook off the tee into the trees but hit, for me, a miraculous second shot that went under and hooked around the trees, running all the way to the middle of the green from well over 200 yards away. I literally couldn't believe that result after all the poor shots I'd hit on the day. It was quite a difficult putt, as this green is ultra severe but I was somehow able to two-putt it for par.

The solid match between Ryan and Cal continued on. Ryan bogeyed the 15th to fall back to even on the day and a tie with Cal and then both nicely parred the 16th to stay all square.

The 162 yard 17th, shown above, is a pretty par three with a large bunker in front. Overall, a routine midlength one shotter and I'd almost chip in from just in front of the green, making the gimmie par. Cal made an ugly bogey here and fell one shot back of Ryan.

I'm +15 through 17 holes but I was as focused as humanly possible on the 18th tee despite my horrific score. I needed a bogey or better to break 90.

I just can't shoot 90!

I contemplated hitting a 4-iron off the 382 yard hole but it plays well uphill the whole way and the fairway *seemed* wide enough.

So I take out the big dog, tee it up, concentrate hard and swing away.

FORE LEFT!

Another snap hook into the trees. I find my ball RIGHT UP AGAINST THE TREE. Emotionally spent, I have to hit it left handed back into the fairway, then hit my approach shot short from there. Needing an up and down, I chip on to the green and leave about an 8 footer for bogey. I don't even scare the hole, making my eighth double bogey of the day to finish with a 90 (+17), my worst score in years.

Ryan ended up missing a shortish putt on the last that would have given him an even par round but ended up tied with Cal at 74 (+1), tremendous scores for both players who, like me, were seeing the course for the first time. Jon finished comfortably ahead of me with an 86.

What a weird feeling I had after the round as we sat on the gorgeous patio outside just off the 18th green. I had just played one of the finest courses in Canada but had trouble getting satisfaction out of it after posting one of my worst rounds ever. One beer and I was over my poor game, going to the pro shop to thank the head professional for allowing us the privilege of playing Westmount while waxing poetic about the tremendous course they get to see on a daily basis.

This is a true old-school, parkland golf course...a shotmakers delight. You need to be on your game and have all the shots out here to put a score together. While there may not be the 'options' available off the tee and in the fairway that you see on courses like Sagebrush, placement is of paramount importance out here in order to gain access to certain pin positions. There are no forced carries out here and the fairways offer enough width for all players not named 'Matt Bosela'. Everything is pretty much in front of you, with no tricks. A delightful members course, maybe one of the best I've ever played for players of all skill levels.

Is this course difficult, you may ask? Ha. Where do I go with this? I shot a 90 for *@&# sakes! Look, this golf course is a solid test but I played a very poor round of golf. Cal and Ryan's 74s on a course they've never seen before prove you just need to be on your game to score. The greens are slick and undulating and there are a lot of different hanging shots you may face on the slopey fairways. Westmount is a true testament of Stanley Thompson's genius - the routing is almost flawless, with the only blip being the strange walk back to the 16th tee (we had to look for awhile to find where we had to go). It's truly incredible how Thompson gives the player so many appealing downhill tee shots yet rarely forces unnecessarily long uphill climbs from green to tee. He does that by having many holes slowly climb from the landing area to the green, something that isn't really apparent until after the round when reminiscing over the course as a whole. There isn't a weak hole on this entire golf course. Some, of course, are better than others but everything flows beautifully from one hole to the next. You definitely notice how the par fives are front loaded in the round but again, that's Thompson taking what the land gave him in his routing.

The course lays on a remarkable piece of land right in the middle of Kitchener, with rolling topography and towering trees framing all of the holes. A truly beautiful parkland course. We played at the end of the summer on a perfect day and a perfect week. Conditions were ideal, the greens rolled fast and true and the course is maintained just how you'd expect considering its stature in the top 20 in Canada.

All of us were pretty giddy after the round, even sourpuss ole me after my tough day. A true members golf course. You could tip it up every day here for the rest of your life and not be left wanting more. It's also a great walking golf course. The land is certainly challenging but again, the routing never forces the player to make excessive climbs or descents.

I certainly wish I had scored better out here but there is no disputing the obvious - Westmount G&CC is one of the very finest golf courses in the entire country.

There isn't a weak moment to be found anywhere on the property and I truly can't wait to get a second crack at this gem in Southwestern Ontario. This is a course that all Stanley Thompson aficionados must play to complete their education.


5 comments:

  1. Thanks for the play by play and pics....I am joining this year and live a few blocks from this amazing course! Once I get set up...happy to host you and your pals for another chance to take on Westmount! I know what it is like to want to play these great courses....attayloris@yahoo.ca

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  2. Though they are indeed Thompsonesque and excellent, holes 5-6-7 weren't in existence till the early 1960s, several years after Thompson's demise. (I'm not sure who is responsible for the new holes but they certainly fit in well. They were also very swampy in their early days.) Prior to the rebuild, the first hole was a shortish par 4, with the elevated tee where the lower parking lot is now, facing about the same direction as the practice range does now. Hole 2 was a mid-length par 3 in the same direction, and hole 3 was a longish par 5 coming back toward what is now the practice green (might be the same green). Hole 4 was present-day hole 1, so two par 5s in a row. Later, you'd go right from present-day Hole 4 (then 7) to present-day Hole 8. Everything else is pretty much as Thompson designed it (as far as I know), although some of the green complexes are now much more, uh, complex.

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  3. Great pics and course overview, but I hate the way you count your score and grew increasingly distracted by it as I read through.
    There is no universe in which you "shot" 90, as you say more than once. You may have been spared your true score by the way handicaps are calculated, but if you were playing with me there is no way I would let you walk around saying you "shot" 90. You didn't even complete holes 4, 5, 8 and 14 (and perhaps 9 and 15 - you don't mention if those were real or "pocket" doubles). You hadn't hit the green in 3 attempts on #4, but gave yourself an up and down to count 6. Counting the lost ball, you were at 5 strokes on #5 and not even close to the green. Same thing on #8 (after you were three off the tee), but it was only a par 4. I don't see you coming out with anything less than an 8 or 9 on #8. Very conservatively speaking, there were at least an additional 10 to 12 strokes not recorded on top of the 90 you say you "shot". Sorry to break it to you, but in the real world you did not break 100 that day.
    There is no point saying you "shot" 90 when you don't count your bad holes. You need to play better or take your lumps, rather than relying on a "pocket double" safety net which would allow any 5-year old to shoot 108.

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    Replies
    1. Wow. I've been TOLD!!

      I appreciate you getting through my drivel and still taking the time to post a comment. You'll be happy to know that the post you commented on is well over five years old and I made the decision years ago to stop talking about my game or scores when writing course profiles.

      Most of the time, anyway.

      Again, even though you do a great job of slamming every word I wrote, I appreciate that you got through it and still took time to comment. Hopefully I've improved as a writer since 2009.

      Matt - "Mr. 100+ at Westmount"

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    2. Just to add on, in case you read this:

      I didn't mean to be sarcastic at all but re-reading my reply, I can see how one would get that impression.

      I sincerely appreciate you reading AND making a comment, even a negative one. I'm taking it as constructive criticism and I realize that no one likes hearing from "that guy" who constantly talks about his round, shot by shot. It's boring and egotistical and that's one of the reasons I tried to stop (or severely limit) that practice.

      When I started this blog, it was meant more as a personal diary of sorts or something for my buddies to read and laugh about. It's evolved over the years and I hope my recent posts reflect that maturity.

      Cheers - hope to keep you on board as a reader of the blog.
      MB

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