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Ontario Golf Course Review

Willow Valley Golf Club

Our first experience at Willow Valley was a media day in May of 2000 - a grand opening of a sort. The course was new, but even then it was awe inspiring. To play the course now - when the conditions are absolutely perfect is a real treat.

Willow Valley is a 18 hole championship course designed by Canadian golf course Architect, Graham Cooke and Associates. The course is located off of Highway 6 in Mt Hope.  Its proximity to "the mountain" near Hamilton causes wind to come into play during most of the year and the dramatic bunkering and mounding, and the water features and natural hazards on the course make it a fair test of ability for all levels of golfers. We were most impressed with the well-maintained and well-defined fairways and the dramatic undulating greens.

Willow Valley Golf Club | Ontario  golf course
Willow Valley Golf Club | Ontario golf course

There are four sets of tee boxes. The Gold Tees (recommended for handicaps of 7 and under) playing 6,522 yards, the Blue Tees (handicaps of 8 to 16) playing 6,207 yards, the White Tees (for those with handicaps of 17 to 25) playing 5,815 yards and Red Tees (handicaps of 25+) playing 5,205 yards. Pin placement is designated in flag colors of red for front, white for middle and blue for back. The score card at Willow Valley is one of our favorite new formats - offering players space to mark fairway shots, greens in regulation, # of putts, # of sand saves, etc. A map of the course is also provided on the score card and a yardage book is available. 

Willow Valley Golf Club | Ontario  golf course
Willow Valley Golf Club | Ontario golf course

There are a number of environmentally protected areas throughout the course and players are allowed a no penalty drop at point of entry if a ball enters one of these areas.

The opening hole at Willow Valley is a short par 4 with an environmentally sensitive area in front of the tee boxes and along the left side of the fairway. There is plenty of room to land on the fairway but you will need an accurate approach shot onto the green which is guarded by water and sand on the left. The second hole is a long par 4 and is the #1 handicap on the course. It is a dogleg left with water, a large tree and environmentally protected area skirting the left side of the fairway. The landing area at the turn mid-fairway is protected by mounded rough and bunkers and slopes to the right. The fairways then narrows drastically toward a ridged, long, sloping green. #3 is another par four with a large landing area in front of some marshland. Unless you're a long hitter, you'll want to lay up here. The fairway widens a bit for an approach to a very small but playable green. The fourth is a short par 5 with an uphill tee shot to a very generous fairway with links-style grasses on the left dotted with stadium bunkers. The fairway narrows and winds in and out of bunkers towards the green. #5 is a long Par 3. Marshes and bunkers border the right and the fairway slopes the same way. The large and very undulating green presents a challenge no matter what the pin placement. The sixth is another long par 5 with bunkering on both sides. Its better to hit to the right off the tee on this long uphill climb for a downhill approach to the green which is nestled behind a small stand of hardwoods. A pond borders the left side of the approach and the green. The #7 hole is a short par 4 with generous landing area and a slight uphill approach to a heavily bunkered green.  #8 is an interesting and distracting little par 3 with water coming into play. The generous green is two tiered with the bottom tier sloping toward the water. If the flag is on the bottom, its better to drop the ball near the top of the green and let it roll down. Anything hit toward the bottom of the green will most likely roll off. A short, dogleg right, par 4 finishes the front nine and challenges you with numerous distractions. Tee off is over water to a generous landing area. The approach is to an elevated green guarded by natural area and sand. Large trees, mounding around the green and the view of the clubhouse in the background make this a very pretty hole.

Willow Valley Golf Club | Ontario  golf course
Willow Valley Golf Club | Ontario golf course

The back nine starts with a short par 4 (if played properly). Water guards the left side of the fairway and long hitters may choose to go over this harzard, but a safe shot is toward the large willow on the right. From there, depending on pin placement, you'll have a good approach to a slightly ridged green that slopes to the left. Number 11 - the #2 handicap on the course - offers a long fairway that valleys down and then climbs to an elevated green guarded by deep rough and sand bunkers. Long hitters will see the deep bunkers and hazards around the green on their first shot. The twelfth hole at Willow Valley is a long uphill par 4 with generous fairways. Avoid the small set of bunkers on the left off the tee. The fairways narrows at about 100 yards for the approach to a nice sized green with a bunker on the left front. Be careful not to go long on your approach shot as there is a hidden water hazard behind the green.  #13 is a nice and easy par 3 to a two tiered green with some interesting pin placement possibilities while the fourteenth is a par 4 dogleg right.  Water comes into play at the turn of leg but you can carry the water if you can hit it 226 yards or more. A safe shot is to the 150 yard marker or further, but approach the green with caution as sand comes into play and the water on the right remains a distraction. The green is an interesting undulating amoeba shape. The fifteenth hole is a pretty little par three over water. Simple, but challenging as distractions abound. There is a small landing area to the right of the tiered green. #16 - a long par 5 follows with the most interesting fairway on the course. Beautiful bunkers and undulating bent green carpet carries you down into a valley and then up to an elevated green that is also well-bunkered. Long hitters will love this fairway, but you'd better hit straight or you'll find yourself in sand. The green is two tiered with an expansive top section. Number 17 is a beautiful par three over water to a large, meandering green. Huge mounding with bunkers on the right front seems to overpower the green and may come into play depending on pin placement. The eighteenth - a par 5 - is a beautiful but difficult finishing hole. Unless you're a long hitter, the uphill tee shot is to a generous landing area where your next shot will be blind. The landing area is well mounded on both sides with bunkers. Your second shot is to a sloped, but generous fairway with an approach to an undulating uphill green and a view of the clubhouse.

Willow Valley Golf Club | Ontario  golf course
Willow Valley Golf Club | Ontario golf course

If you live in the Greater Toronto/Hamilton/Niagara area this is a course that should be a regular on your golf schedule. If you're planning a visit to Toronto or Niagara Falls or are just looking for a great golf experience - the drive to Mount Hope for a round or two is well worth it!

Willow Valley Golf Club | Ontario golf course

For detailed information on Willow Valley Golf Club - click here.

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