That means she’s less dependent on me and most significantly, it meant that I could get out of the house both days this past weekend for some golf!
Cal, Harry and I ventured across the border on Saturday around noon in order to play Wanakah Country Club, one of our reciprocals at St. Catharines.
The Wanakah website indicates that the course was designed by famed architect Donald Ross in 1899. However, I’m being given conflicting reports by a number of posters at Golf Club Atlas, who say Willie Watson is the real designer.
Regardless, Wanakah proved to be a fun little course and one in superb condition. The first hole is a downhill par four that doglegs slightly to the left and has a cool green complex, something that is prevalent throughout the golf course.
The uphill second is shown below. The tee shot is pretty wide open but the second shot is played to a green perched well above the fairway and it slopes dramatically from left to right and back to front. I hit my second shot about 20 feet left of the flag and I was DEAD. Three putts later and I had my bogey five. Hah!
The front nine is really wide open off the tee and you quickly realize that the difficulty lies in the greens and the approach shots.
One of the highlights of the day came on the par three 7th hole, a 211 yard par three. I hit a horrible five-iron way left and the ball stopped directly behind a large tree. The green is elevated in back and with the pin sitting in that area of the green, I had to open up my lob wedge and take a full swing and hope for the best.
Well, the ball went straight up over the tree and landed about three feet away before rolling about 8 feet by. Crazy good shot that was followed by a sick putt that started a foot or so right of the hole and broke all the way back into the cup for the AWESOME par! Harry had nailed a 20 footer for par just before me after a decent bunker shot so we were having a lot of fun.
Another highlight came two holes later on the 431 yard par four ninth. As you can see below, my drive ended up in the trees left of the fairway, about 185 yards away. I had to aim about 30 yards right, at a greenside bunker, and snap hook the shot in order to have a chance to reach the green.
Great photo by Cal here, getting me right in the backswing. I pulled off the shot perfectly and my ball ended up only 15 feet away from the cup. I’d miss that but tap in for my par and a 38 (+2) on the front side. We all played pretty well on the outgoing nine, with Harry coming in with a 39 and Cal shooting 41 despite two doubles.
The course really starts getting great on the back nine, with more varied topography than the relatively flat front side. Standouts include the par three 12th, shown below, a drastically uphill 174 yard par three.
The green here is unbelievable – Cal had a putt that was only 20 feet away but he was completely dead. He barely touched it and it rolled well off the green. We dropped a few balls and it took us a while but we finally were able to get one reasonably close. Fun stuff!
The downhill par five 14th, measuring 563 yards, is another stunner. You have to navigate around a pond that creeps up on you down the left side right where you’d place your layup. Then, the approach shot is played back up the hill to a great greensite with a putting surface that slopes sharply from back to front. I’d hit my second shot in the water here but get up and down from 115 yards to save my par.
The par three 15th, measuring 206 yards, is the signature hole at Wanakah and it may be one of the prettiest holes I’ve ever seen.
Not only is it pretty but it’s as tough as nails. Very narrow putting surface and water runs in front and curls around the right side as well. You can bail out left but that’s no bargain either, as Cal found out when his hooked tee shot bounced off the stairs left of the green and ricocheted back towards the water on the right, barely staying out. He’d get up and down, as would I from a nasty little lie left of the green to keep a solid round going.
The shortish par four 17th, measuring 362 yards from the tips, is another beauty. The drive is pretty wide open but the approach shot, seen below, is played to a green with a severe false front and is also protected by water on the left and in front.
We all hit great drives here but somehow, only Harry was able to make par and none of us hit the green in regulation despite all being within 100 yards. Nice hole!
I’d also bogey the final hole, stumbling home with a 77 (+5), still a decent round considering it was our first trip around Wanakah and also considering the fact I hadn’t played a full round of golf in almost three weeks. Strange stats though, as I made five bogeys, 13 pars and no birdies, even though I hit 9 of my first 12 greens in regulation.
Cal made a crucial putt on the 18th to shoot 80 and top Harry by a single shot in their grudge match.
We really enjoyed Wanakah – I think it’s a toss up but East Aurora may still take the prize as our favourite reciprocal…it’s a close race though! Good golf course and one we will certainly be returning to at some point.
I followed up that round by shooting a great 73 (+1) on Sunday at St. Catharines, despite bogeying the 18th in disappointing fashion and keeping me from my first par or better round at my home course this year. I hit my first 11 greens and hit 14 of my first 15 before stumbling home on the last three holes. Still, a nice round and I took home four skins on the day (three birdies; one par).
I’m taking the day off on Friday in order to play in the first leg of the Niagara Cup finals against Niagara Falls Country Club (Lewiston, NY). We play at St. Catharines on Friday then head to NFCC on the following Saturday for the second and final leg. I’ve never played NFCC, home of the annual Porter Cup, the second most influential Amateur tournament in American golf behind the US Amateur and I’m PUMPED to say the least.
However, my participation in the second leg will depend on my wife. She is due one week after the event so there is a good chance she’ll pop early. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my little son-to-be holds off so daddy can play NFCC! 😉