Glen Abbey Golf Club – Oakville, Ontario

Oakville, Ontario
Established 1976

Architect: Jack Nicklaus
Par 72, 7112 Yards
Slope 140


As the home to the Canadian Open, Glen Abbey has seen some of the world’s greatest golfers grace its links. The prestigious event has cast Abbey in the limelight and has undoubtedly helped to cultivate it well-known stature. However, some golfers, both novice and pro, as well as some golf fans, have come to question whether the course has… well, run its course, so to speak and whether the Open should be moved to another locale.

This Jack Nicklaus designed course features his own “spoke” scheme, which was fashioned with the spectator in mind.  However, Abbey was his very first foray into golf course development and some say that it shows.  It was built at a time when architects essentially created the terrain by moving the land as opposed to working with what was naturally occurring. The result of this is unnatural features that are split between elevated holes and those that are set in the valley.  Overall, the course is beautiful but only a few holes, particularly those on the back 9 are considered exceptional.

Given the concept of building a course that was geared to the audience and their viewing pleasure, with wide open and elevated vantage points, it’s understandable as to why the Canadian Open favors this club. But it also makes sense that some golfers and fans see the course as flawed.  Rumour has it that Abbey might succumb to urban sprawl and be bulldozed in favour of yet another housing development. But before that happens… if it happens… we decided to play the course and find out for ourselves.

Indeed, the course seems to be split, with the front 9 playing across tableland and the majority of the back half focused on the valley.  For obvious reasons, the back half presents some of the most scenic holes as well as the most challenging.

Hole #1 is fairly short and straightforward that plays as a Par 5 on a narrow green. This leads to a 414 yard/Par 4 on the 2nd Hole.  The green has an uphill slope with a bunker in the front and a dip in the back. Although it presents a bit of a challenge as well as scenic experience, it still isn’t considered a standout.  The front half continues with a mix of primarily Par 4s and 5s, with Hole #5 throwing a dogleg into the mix as well as a massive bunker and an undulating green.

Hole #7 plays over water and across the slightly contoured green. Again, a dogleg right appears on Hole #8 with a bunker protecting the inside. It’s on Hole #9 that more of an increased challenge is presented with a 458 yard Par 4 that features a small lake running in front of the downward sloping green.  Several bunkers lay behind the lake and the clubhouse can be seen just beyond.

It’s not until Hole #11 that Nicklaus takes us to the valley where the creek and towering trees combine to create a stunningly beautiful backdrop, as well as natural hazards considering this Par 4 hole plays on a downhill fairway lined with those imposing trees as well as a bunker to the right and the creek just beyond.

Hole #13 is a Par 5 that starts out relatively easy with a straightforward shot but lands the ball with a question as to whether you should layup in front of the creek or attempt to drive over it.  If the creek was skinny, the decision might be easier but the fact that its fairly wide means the risk of feeding your ball to the water unless you get it right. Then there’s the question of how to play the green considering the bumps and swales.

With the roadway running overtop, again the creek factors into Hole #14 – a Par 4 shot that sees the water hazard split the play on the diagonal with an elevated green.  For obvious reasons, this can be played several different ways and can be an exciting challenge.

Challenge and fun can be found on the 16th Hole as well, with a Par 5  dogleg that veers dramatically to the left.  Abbey finishes with another Par 5 on a 524-yard hole that plays over a sizeable lake to a surface of very little depth with bunkers behind.

All considered, we were rather fond of Glen Abbey, not only for the fact that it has been played by the best, but also because, as the first design from Jack Nicklaus, it’s special.  And despite that the front 9 seem a tad simplistic and Nicklaus repeats some of his over the water layouts, there is plenty of variety in the valley holes to keep players challenged and interested.

Although we can understand why some golfers see the course as flawed, we are not among those that wish to see the Canadian Open moved, or do we want a housing development to sully the memories of so many tournaments and great plays.  Abbey should remain just as it is.


By Scott McAlpine
Photos by Chris Heighington

One thought on “Glen Abbey Golf Club – Oakville, Ontario

  • July 21, 2017 at 1:14 pm

    Totally agree, Abbey should stay as it is and the Canadian Open should remain there. It’s an icon, it would be BS to bulldoze it for MORE homes. #SaveAbbey


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