6891 YARDS (PAR 72)
COURSE RATING/SLOPE: 73.0/131
COURSE ARCHITECT: Walter Travis (1922)
COURSE WEBSITE: http://cherryhillclub.ca/
ROUNDS PLAYED: 3
LAST PLAYED: August 22, 2018.
LOW SCORE: 76 (+4)
– Golfweek Best Classic Courses Canada 2019: #17
– Top100GolfCourses.com Canada’s Top 100 2019: #66
– ScoreGolf Top 110 in Canada 2018: #44
– Golf World Magazine, July 1972
For the uninitiated, the Happy Jack’s Open is a two-man best ball contest, with Toast and I teaming up against Harris and his buddy Preston. The losers of the match have to spring for a feast at Happy Jack’s Restaurant in Fort Erie, a lovely Chinese food restaurant.
Toast and I were fortunate enough to win the first annual matchup in 2005, which took place at the newly-opened Grand Niagara Resort. There wasn’t a tournament in 2006 due to scheduling conflicts, something that may be rectified this year by having two events.
Anyway, the private Cherry Hill Club was to be the host of our event, something that excited us all. Harris has an in through his membership at the St. Catharines Club, which is not affiliated with the St. Catharines G&CC by the way.
I played the course about 18 years ago with my father when I couldn’t appreciate it properly so I was really looking forward to seeing the place ‘for the first time’.
Harris and Preston were playfully complaining about the fact that they weren’t receiving any shots during the event. Harry is a 6 or 7 handicap these days while Preston is likely around the same due to a wrist injury suffered playing basketball earlier in the spring. Toast’s fine recent play has him down to a 2.1 while I came into the day as a 3.0. We conceded by saying that a match ending in a tie would see the dinner being purchased by Toast and I.
We were set!
The first hole is a downhill par four measuring 350 yards. I decided before the round that I was going to play aggressively all day – no irons off tees unless the hole absolutely demanded it. So I nailed a driver down the right side and we were off. You can see the approach into the first hole above. I had a 60 yard pitch into the green and two-putted for my par from about 15 feet. Harris made a nice up and down from in front of the green to halve us.
The second is a dogleg left par four measuring 409 yards. Great drive here that left me 137 yards in but my pitching wedge went long. I was able to make a five footer for par here but Toast had already made his putt to halve Harry again, who two-putted.
The third hole is a straight-away 383 yard par four with a diabolical putting surface. The green has a huge ridge that bisects the entire surface and the pin was just on the top part of the ridge, making for tricky putting, something you can’t really appreciate from the picture I took above. I made a pretty routine par here while Harris barely missed his short birdie putt, keeping the match tied.
The fourth hole is the toughest handicap hole on the course, a 428 yard par four that doglegs left. Really good golf hole here with another tough green complex. I hit my first poor shot of the day here, driving the ball well left of the fairway. You can see the approach from the centre in the photo above. I ended up nailing a tree dead-on while attempting a punch into the green and ended up three-putting from the fringe for a costly double bogey. Thankfully, Toast made a solid par to match the steady Harris to keep the match level.
You finally get away from the par fours on the fifth hole, a lovely 188 yard par three with a pond fronting the green on the right side. The pin was tucked on the front left here of a long putting surface that slopes sharply from back to front. I nailed a great 5-iron into the wind but it flew the pin and ended up in the back fringe. I would putt the first one right off the green and wasn’t able to make the comebacker, settling for a bogey. Harry made another routine par to give him and Preston the 1-up lead.
We were able to get that back on the next hole, a dogleg left par five measuring 538 yards. I hit a nice drive and had 258 yards into the green, with bunkers both left and right. I absolutely pured my 2-iron rescue and was able to get to within about 15 feet for eagle. Missed that but tapped in my birdie to get us back to even.
Another par five follows, as the 7th is a short 484 yarder that played as a par four in the Canadian Open back in ’72. The club could easily add another tee box to lengthen the hole, as there looked to be about 30 yards of room in behind the back tee as it stands right now. Anyway, this is a big-time birdie opportunity that I blew after nailing a great drive. I only had 193 yards into the green with the wind helping but my 6-iron drew left into the bunker. By the way, the shot above is of Preston hitting his second into the green. I hit a great trap shot to about five feet but missed the putt for a disappointing par. Toast hit the green in two with an awesome four-iron to about 12 feet and two-putted for birdie, giving us our first lead in the match.
The eighth hole is a beauty: 430 yard par four with two ponds down the left side and a huge bunker down the right. Precision off the tee is a must here. I drew my ball off the tee dangerously close to the second pond but just fell short, leaving myself about 200 yards into the green. I nailed another 5-iron about 18 feet over the flagstick to give me a decent chance at birdie. However, my slick downhill putt scooted about 10 feet past and I missed the comebacker for yet another three-putt and an ugly bogey. It was especially ugly since Toast also three-whacked and Harris made another nice up-and-in for par, squaring the match once again. Harris had parred the first eight holes in a row at this point.
The ninth is a great par three, 207 yards uphill with a well-protected green. I hit 4-iron over the bunker just right of the green and made a nice up-and-down to salvage par and a halve. Preston made a long putt for par here to bail out his partner, as Harry missed a shortish par putt for the only blemish on his card on the front nine.
So the match was all-square through nine. Harry was playing out of his mind, going out in 37 (+1). I hit the ball great but three three-whacks left me with a 39 (+3). Toast was a bit squirrely off the tee, making three doubles on his way to a 44 while Preston struggled to a 46. We were playing singles matches all around too and Harris was dominating, leading me by one, Toast by four and Preston by five.
I hoped to get back on track with a solid back nine but things didn’t start out well. The tenth is a beautiful looking downhill par four measuring 410 yards. The green is absolutely awesome, as it pitches SEVERELY from right to left. Toast hit a shot that landed on the right front portion of the green and rolled all the way to the back left, leaving an eight foot birdie putt. It was fun just WATCHING his ball trickle all the way back and to the left like that! I drove into the fairway bunker left, duffed my ball out and did well to make bogey while Toast and Harry halved with pars.
The 11th (seen above) is a longish par three at 192 yards with deep bunkers protecting both sides. Another beauty. Harry continued his excellent ball striking, nailing his 6-iron to about a foot and a half. Toast followed with a beauty of his own, falling short of the pin by about four feet. Awesome stuff. I came out of my 6-iron just slightly and ended up in the right trap. I hit a fantastic bunker shot and actually lipped out for birdie but salvaged a satisfying par while Harry and Toast both rammed home their birdies to keep the match square.
The TSN Turning Point came on the par five 12th hole. Playing much longer than its 540 yards due to a strong headwind, with water right off the tee and bunkers left. I drove nicely here and had a little over 260 left into the hole. My 2-iron rescue came up just short of the greenside bunker. Harris was right behind me so it would be a chipping contest to see who came away with the hole. Toast laid up his second shot and hit his third to about ten feet so he was in good position. Preston took himself out of the hole after hitting his second into the water. Unfortunately for Harris, he talked himself into a bad shot when he said “that one would have went right in the bunker” after a practice swing. That’s exactly what happened on the real thing. I had pretty much the same shot but was a bit closer to the bunker, making it a bit easier of a play. I chipped nicely to about three feet to put the pressure on. Harris completely lost his patience, duffing his bunker shot out, chipping long and missing the comebacker to make a costly double. Toast was able to make his ten footer for a second consecutive birdie to win us the hole and I made my birdie on top of him to give us the 1-up lead.
The 13th, shown above, is a visual treat, with bunkers pretty much everywhere off the tee on the 371 yard par four. The green is elevated from the fairway and extremely well-protected. Things looked great for Toast and I as Harry continued his shocking meltdown, driving his first ball way out of bounds right then almost doing the same with his second ball to take himself out of the hole. Toast and I both hit our wedge approaches long and Preston made a shocking 35 footer up the hill for birdie to improbably even the match again! Toast was able to get up-and-in but I couldn’t do the same, making bogey.
The 14th is an absolute brute of a par four, a dogleg left measuring 470 yards and playing into the wind. Harris continued his struggle here, driving next to a tree then unsuccessfully trying to left-hand his way out on a way to a third consecutive double. Toast also got into big trouble here, driving into a ditch left while also making double. It was down to Preston and I who both drove to the same area about 205 yards out. Preston’s iron shot came up short into a bunker while I was able to smoke my 5-iron just on the front fringe. I ended up two-putting that for par to take the hole and give us another 1-up lead.
The 15th (shown above) is another lovely hole, a 380 yard dogleg left par four with a large pond fronting the green and a ridiculously sloping green complex. All four of us drove into fairway bunkers: Harry went right while the other three of us went left. Harry hit a great shot to about 15 feet and looked golden when Toast went long right, Preston went long left and I ended up spinning my 8-iron back to the front of the green. I had pretty much an impossible 45 foot putt, as there is a huge ridge bisecting the green and the pin was on that ridge on the right side of the green. I aimed my ball about 20 feet left and hit the putt up the hill and watched it start falling sharply right toward the hole.
“It’s got a chance!” Toast exclaimed as it trickled almost backwards towards the hole.
As Harris watched in absolute horror, the ball hit the back of the hole and stopped on the back edge for about a second or so…before falling back in for one of the most amazing birdies I’ve ever made in my life!
I let out a huge roar after that one!
Harris was BESIDE HIMSELF in complete disbelief. He was a zombie as he approached his uphill and very makeable birdie putt but left it at least six feet short, giving us the 2-up lead with only three to play. Wow!
#16 is the shortest hole on the course at 138 yards but has a deep bunker fronting the green and bunkers left and right as well. I came out of a pitching wedge here but was just right of the green. I was able to hit an awesome chip shot to a very undulating green and ended up about a foot and a half away from my par. Harry destroyed his wedge, going about 20 yards long and made yet another double. When Preston couldn’t make his par putt, I was able to tap in mine to give Toast and I the 3&2 victory in the match and yet another dinner courtesy of Preston and Harry!
The 17th is a straight away par four measuring 402 yards. The green is pitched severely from back to front like many out here and I barely missed an eight footer for birdie, settling for par. Toast made his fourth birdie of the day after stiffing his wedge shot to pull to within one of me in our $5 match, giving him a chance to square things on the last.
The 18th is a doozy of a par five: 571 yards through a shoot of trees, uphill all the way and into the wind. Bunkers left and right in the landing area. And oh my goodness…the green complex here?! UNFREAKING BELIEVABLE! Slopes everywhere, tiers everywhere. As described by Toast on his blog, legend has it that Arnold Palmer five-putted this green during the ’72 Open and declared he would never again step foot on Cherry Hill’s grounds again. Whether it’s true or not is up for debate but it makes for a great story! Anyway, I again hit a good drive only to find it ended up in the left hand bunker. I hit a four-iron out to give myself about 120 yards into the green. Toast hits first and lands short in the greenside bunker so I decide to up-club to a pitching wedge. Bad decision. I end up on the back fringe with an unbelievably difficult downhill breaking putt. I kid you not…the thing was a QUADRUPLE BREAKER!!! After weaving left and right four times, I ended up 10 feet past. I missed that too, making bogey but Toast had just as much trouble and made double, giving me that match 2up.
What an interesting golf course!
The bogey on the last gave me a 37 on the back nine and a pretty nice 76 (+4) for the round, a score I’m very happy with. I ended up winning all my matches which made the day all the better! Toast came in with a solid 38 on the back for an 82 while Harry’s struggles on the back, going +9 on his last seven holes meant a disappointing 81. He was playing great but one mental error just snowballed for him. Preston wasn’t at his best healthwise and came in with an 89.
Harris and Preston again didn’t skimp on the dinner, as we feasted on egg rolls, Happy Jack’s rice, Shanghai Noodles, sweet and sour pork, crispy beef, shanghai shrimp and a few other dishes. Great stuff and highly recommended!
As indicated earlier, there are tentative plans to have our third annual tournament sometime later this year to make up for last year’s missed event. However, it will be on Preston’s home turf at a ClubLink course. He is favouring Greystone GC right now, a track I haven’t played before and one that sounds pretty tough.
I literally used every club in the bag here. The Travis-design demands accuracy off the tee through the strategic placement of bunkers, which are plentiful out here. Lots of doglegs, lots of options to roll shots in. Great old-school course. There aren’t really any forced carries at Cherry Hill and that makes for a very playable design for every level of player.
If you hit the ball well out here, you can score. The greens are likely the course’s best defense but they roll extremely true. So if you have your touch, you can still score. From a variety perspective, Travis didn’t have the greatest piece of land to work with here, as the course is pretty flat throughout. However, he mixes up the holes well, incorporating many doglegs to encourage bending the ball off the tee. There aren’t many tricks out here; what you see is what you get. Memorability would likely one of the weaker attributes of the course. It’s an extremely lovely golf course but there aren’t a lot of ‘wow’ moments out here. It’s just good, solid golf.
Lots of towering pine trees and gently rolling land make for a pleasant looking golf course. The cut of the bunkers is pretty non-descript compared to the other Travis course I’ve played at Lookout Point, however. That said, Ian Andrew completed a bunker restoration project in 2009 and I’ve heard rave reviews about his work.
Cherry Hill is very well maintained. The course was playing pretty firm and there was a bit of brown grass out there due to the dry conditions but that just makes the course play that much better. The greens are gorgeous and roll extremely true. You are hard pressed to find divots out here.
It’s a very peaceful experience walking the fairways here, with the gorgeous trees framing the holes so beautfully. It is an enjoyable walk, something we all commented on a couple of times during the round.
Cherry Hill is a wonderful old design and a course we plan on playing again later this year. Highly recommended!
UPDATE – JULY 2012
I had the distinct pleasure of playing Cherry Hill for a second time and for the first time since Ian Andrew did his restoration work on the course.
The bunkering has been largely restored and the overall look has been enhanced greatly after Ian’s work. Some new tees have been added (par three 5th and the par four 17th are two that immediately spring to mind) and the angle of play has changed significantly on both of those holes.
The course has improved with these changes and the critics agree, as Cherry Hill has just re-entered ScoreGolf’s Top 100 in Canada list at #77 after falling out for the first time in 2008.
UPDATE – NOVEMBER 2019
I was fortunate enough to visit Cherry Hill again last year and the course continues to get better and better. Here are a couple of photos of the work down on #1 and the excellent par three 11th holes.