Skip to main content

The Cliffhanger, also know as the 6th hole, at Greywolf Golf Course in Panorama, B.C.

1. 4th hole, Fairmont Banff Springs, Banff, Alta.

For many golfers, photographs of the Devil's Cauldron at Fairmont Banff Spring Golf Course have come to define their mental image of the Canadian game. From an elevated tee isolated amid the boreal hush of a Rocky Mountain forest, golfers hit their shot over an impossibly picturesque glacial lake to a small sloping and heavily bunkered green set in the shadow of Mount Rundle. Designed by Stanley Thompson, the most revered of all Canadian golf architects, Devil's Cauldron has ranked among the world's most admired par-three holes since its unveiling in 1929. In all the years since, no one has built one better.

2. 7th hole, Highlands Links, Ingonish, N.S.

Highlands Links has for years benefited from the ringing endorsement given by the late, great George Knudson. "This is the Cypress Point of Canada for sheer beauty," Mr. Knudson raved of the Stanley Thompson-designed Cape Breton layout after playing there against fellow Canadian Al Balding in 1965. The Hall of Famer professed awe for the 7th, a tight par-five known locally as Killer, although its given name is Killiecrankie, Gaelic for "a long and narrow pass." Mr. Knudson managed par on the double-dogleg through towering hardwoods, and walked away calling it one of the most magnificent par-fives he had ever seen.

3. 18th hole, Twin Rivers, Port Blandford, Nfld.

Denied the national spotlight only by the remoteness of its setting 223 kilometres west of St. John's, Nfld., Twin Rivers Golf Course's 18th hole undoubtedly ranks among the most spectacular finishing holes in Canadian golf. Designed by Doug Carrick, the 175-yard par-three drops 18 feet from tee to green and plays through the mist rising above a 20-foot-tall horseshoe-shape waterfall to a small green nestled in the forest of Terra Nova National Park. Though unorthodox (because it's rare for a course to end on anything other than a par-four or par-five), Twin River's par-three finish is a fittingly wet and wild conclusion to a 6,546-yard oceanfront layout carved through a coniferous forest and defined by two whitewater rivers teeming with salmon.

4. 9th Hole, Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, Jasper, Alta.

Course designer Stanley Thompson, a mischievous man with an earthy sense of humour, pulled his most famous prank at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course's dramatic 9th hole, dubbed Cleopatra. The 231-yard par-three plays downhill to a steep-sided and heavily bunkered green framed by the backdrop of distant Pyramid Mountain. Inspired by the mountain's name, Mr. Thompson – who also whimsically built bunkers at Jasper in the shape of a clam, an octopus, a crab and an eel – painstakingly moulded the 9th's greenside bunkers into the voluptuous form of the ancient Egyptian queen. Unamused by Mr. Thompson's gag, hotel officials ordered the architect to go back and mask Cleopatra's charms.

5. 6th Hole, Greywolf Golf Course, Panorama, B.C.

Seven decades passed before another hole emerged to challenge Banff's Devil's Cauldron as the most talked-about par-three in the land. The newcomer was Cliffhanger, the aptly named 6th hole at Greywolf Golf Course, an acclaimed Doug Carrick design. Cliffhanger features a long gut-churning carry over the sheer drop of Hopeful Canyon to a green perched along the edges of vertical rock cliffs. Rugged peaks tower in every direction, evergreens strain toward the sky, and from the green, golfers can see for kilometres down a scenic mountain valley. All that's missing from this picture-postcard Canadian setting is a Mountie standing on guard at the tee.

6. 18th Hole, Glen Abbey Golf Club, Oakville, Ont

Internationally famous as the site of 25 Canadian Opens, Glen Abbey Golf Club reaped an avalanche of publicity after Tiger Woods hit one of the most brilliant shots in recent memory on the Jack Nicklaus-designed layout's 18th hole during the final round of the 2000 Canadian Open. Mr. Woods sealed his victory on the 500-yard par-five, featuring a long and narrow green guarded by a large pond, by slashing a 210-yard bunker shot over the water to the back edge of the putting surface. So astonishing was the play that since then few golfers have been able to resist the temptation to drop a ball in the same bunker and try their luck.

7. 12th Hole, Algonquin, St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, N.B. With sweeping views across Passamaquoddy Bay to the state of Maine, this is one of the Atlantic coast's most celebrated holes. Architect Tom McBroom's par-three 12th at Algonquin Golf Course stretches 156 yards from the back tees. The 12th plays severely downhill to a small, cashew-shaped green perched, like an infinity pool, at the water's edge. Deep bunkers edge the green and gnarly fescue clings to the bluffs above the bay. Inspired by Pebble Beach's famed par-three 7th hole, the Algonquin's 12th can be equally treacherous. Depending on how the wind blows, a safe landing on the green could require anything from a pitching wedge to a four-iron.

8. 18th Hole, Le Géant, Mont-Tremblant, Que. Designed by Tom McBroom, Le Géant offers one breathtaking vista after another as the fairways twist through stands of white pine, past massive rock outcroppings, and skirt a river at the base of a towering mountain criss-crossed by ski runs. The par-four 18th hole is considered the best golf in Quebec's Laurentians. Like a symphony conductor, Mr. McBroom slowly builds momentum throughout the course before finishing with a wallop on the 18th, the toughest hole, a distractingly gorgeous tree-lined 457-yard beast where players take aim at shimmering Lac Tremblant in the distance.

9. 15th Hole, Oak Bay Golf, Port Severn, Ont. Last season's launch of Oak Bay Golf and Country Club revealed one of Canada's most picturesque par-threes. Designed by Shawn Watters, Oak Bay's 170-yard 15th hole plays into the prevailing wind over a marsh to an elevated two-tiered green, perched like an emerald crown atop a gigantic outcropping of Canadian Shield. Completing this wild-and-wooly Group of Seven setting is a Georgian Bay inlet seen far to the left, while another bay laps the rocky shoreline to the rear of the tee box.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Interact with The Globe