Scarboro Golf & Country Club

Scarboro Golf & Country Club
Scarborough, Ontario, CANADA

6526 YARDS (PAR 71)
COURSE ARCHITECT: A.W. Tillinghast (1924)
LAST PLAYED: May 3, 2010.
LOW SCORE: 77 (+6)

– Golfweek Best Classic Courses Canada 2019: #11
– Canada’s Top 100 2019: #51
– ScoreGolf Top 100 in Canada 2018: #69

“There is a chance Scarboro is Canada’s most under-rated golf course…once it hits the second hole, Scarboro rarely lets up, demonstrating a creative, clever design, with severe greens and interesting land.”
– Robert Thompson, Noted Canadian Golf Writer

All photos included in this post, with the exception of the scorecard, were taken by professional photographer Clive Barber and posted with his permission. Please visit his official website at

I had the chance to play Scarboro G&CC in one of the qualifiers for the provincial better ball championship with Harris in early May 2010. I always try to pick the best golf course from an architectural standpoint when I enter these events and Scarboro definitely was the top choice in 2010.

It’s the only A.W. Tillinghast design outside of the United States which makes it quite noteworthy in itself, especially with the resume Tillinghast built over his years as an architect, with Winged Foot GC, Bethpage Black, San Francisco GC and Baltusrol GC among his many celebrated designs.

The club recently went through with an extensive bunker restoration by Gil Hanse and Ian Andrew and the results are absolutely stunning. The flat bunker floors give way to steep grass faces and the look is very unique and incredibly photogenic and while I have never seen the course before the bunker work, I have to imagine that the members of the club are quite pleased with the end result.

Before I go into detail about our round at Scarboro and the golf course itself, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the stately Victorian-style clubhouse. It’s a gorgeous piece of architecture and features a wraparound veranda that overlooks the practice green, the 19th hole (another cool feature) and the first tee.

The first hole, seen above, is a relatively straightaway par five measuring 576 yards. There are a couple of fairway bunkers in the landing area, something that we would find out is quite rare at Scarboro, as I believe there are only four total on the entire course. Both Harry and I destroyed drives down the middle and we were off. I had about 280 yards in and hit a hybrid just short of the green and then Harry stood up to his 260 yard shot and almost holed it, with the ball settling about 7 feet behind the hole. He’d make that little tickler for the tremendous eagle three, a hell of a start in a best ball competition!

The second hole, shown above, is an absolute beast. It’s a 213 yard par three that was playing into a stiff wind and features a green that slopes sharply from back to front and left to right, with many balls filtering into the deep trap on the right. There’s also a ditch that runs across the hole short of the green to offer a bit more visual intimidation.

Harris got caught in between clubs I think and hit perhaps the worst shot I’ve ever seen him hit, a wicked slice that went further right than I could have possibly imagined with his hybrid.

“Your hole”, he laughs as I immediately tighten up.

Thankfully, I kept my composure and hit maybe my best ever 4-iron, a soaring blast that landed pin high and stopped about 12 feet away. I’d barely miss my birdie and tap in for the satisfying par.

The third hole is an uphill par four measuring 342 yards. Both Harry and I would par this one with two putts and then we looked over to the fourth tee in horror, as two groups were still waiting on the tee.

You can see why when looking at the hole in the photo above. It’s a terrorizing tee shot, to say the least. 205 yards, downhill with a creek to the right and a tree-lined hillside to the left with a long but very narrow green.

We watched as player after player either hit into the creek or bailed out way left. We’d end up having to wait about 25 minutes before finally getting the tee and the delay did not help us one bit. Harry hit another big slice that presumably went into the creek and again it was up to me to come through…only this time I didn’t. I turned my hands over at impact and hit a pull towards the trees left. We didn’t see the ball come down but it wasn’t as far left as the guys in the group ahead and they found their balls. So I headed down toward the green without reloading.

Bad decision – five minutes would pass and I couldn’t find my ball so I was out of the hole. I watched in agony as Harry dropped, hit a poor pitch to the front of the green and then three-whacked for a triple bogey six, a score that would have to count as our best ball.

From two under to plus one in a single hole. Devastation.

We’d both regroup on the fifth hole, a pretty but long and tight par four measuring 439 yards, shown above. We’d both stripe our drives down the middle and both made routine pars.

The sixth hole is a pretty long but routine 560 yard par five, as seen above. We had fallen woefully behind the group in front of us after our troubles on the fourth hole and had a GAO official watching us for a bit on this hole. Harry went way right off the tee again, duffed his second and ended up having a long par putt left. I hit a decent drive down the middle, hit a very poor second shot with my hybrid but still only had about 80 yards left. Maybe I rushed the shot but I’d skull my wedge to the back of the green and leave myself about a 60 foot downhill tester. Thankfully, I hit a great lag putt and saved par, dodging that bullet.

Oh how I love holes like the 7th at Scarboro. It’s a little Jezebel that measures only 276 yards from the tips and just screams “go for it” from the tee. The green is well bunkered and sits elevated from the fairway and also features a wicked back to front slope that likely sees more three-putts than any green on the course.

I drove my ball into the front bunker and thought I was in decent shape. I’d hit a decent blast but it caught the false front and tumbled back down the hill. No problem, right? Well, from there I’d duff my birdie chip, finally chip on and do well to two-putt for a double bogey. What a little devil this one is!

Thankfully, Harry did better than I did but only marginally, as we had to take a bogey on a sub-300 yard par four.

What a golf hole!

From there you head across the road to the 413 yard par four 8th hole, which features a blind tee shot with a hillside on the right that only a goat could climb. Or so we thought…

We had no idea where to aim and Harry and one of our playing partners hit big fades around the hillside, both of which I thought were dead. With a lot of doubt in my mind about line, I proceeded to hit my worst drive of the day right into said hillside and would have to make the walk of shame to play my ball.

Thankfully there were stairs (!) that led up to the top of the hill and with the ball at waist level, close to where the picture above was likely taken, I somehow managed to hit an 8-iron down to the flat, about 110 yards away from the green.

Both Harry and the other guy were actually in position A and Harry would make a par to save our bacon on this hole. Still +2 through 8 on our better ball.

You have to walk up from the valley to the ninth hole, passing the ‘Oasis’, the Scarboro halfway house with the very appropriate name. The dogs were really barking at this point – my legs that is – as this course is pretty relentless with the hills and valleys.

Unfortunately, the girl in the halfway house was making sandwiches and we were pressed for time so no drinks for us. We’d have to press on!

The ninth, with greensite seen above, is a 402 yard dogleg left over the creek and I’d hit a wishy washy drive to the left. We almost didn’t find my ball it was so buried in the rough and I could only advance my shot about 60 yards. I’d bogey and Harry would also bogey from the middle of the fairway, as we’d finish the front side in a very disappointing 39 shots (+3) after being two under after one.

I figured we’d need to go two or three under at this point to get in and the 10th hole, seen above, was our last par five so we’d have to take advantage. We’d both play it well and both have makeable birdie putts but neither would drop and we’d settle for par.

The 11th hole, shown above, is a remarkable 110 yard par three that is surrounded by deep, deep bunkers and features a crowned green that repels many slightly wayward tee shots right into those craters.

We’d really throw up here – Harry laid the sod over his wedge and went into the front bunker. He’d need two shots to just get out and would make a double. My shot was decent but hit the right side of the green and spun to the right.

Uh oh!

It would filter right into the bunker and while I hit a good out, I’d barely miss my 15 foot par effort, giving us yet another bogey to drop us to +4. Another short hole gets us!

The 12th is another superlative hole, a par four measuring 416 yards. There are two creeks to traverse, with the second being a 265 yard carry from the tee. That wasn’t an option on this day with the wind into us so both Harry and I hit hybrids into good position. Harry would make a bogey here and it wasn’t looking good for me after I hooked my 4-iron approach well left. I hit a pretty solid lob shot to about 10 feet and made the putt for the big par save, my first real putt made and literally my first one-putt green of the day. Yikes!

The 13th, shown above, is a 417 yard par four that climbs well uphill and features a green that is severely elevated from the fairway. It’s a very strong hole and both Harry and I would make pretty routine pars here to stay at +4.

The 14th, shown above, is yet another super strong par three, measuring 212 from the tips. The tee shot is played well down the hill and was playing into the very stiff wind, with a hybrid shot required from both of us. Harry would get into bunker trouble again and make bogey while I pulled my tee shot left of the greenside bunker. However, I’d hit another great lob to kick-in distance for another unlikely par save.

The 15th is yet another tremendous short par four on a course featuring a number of them. It’s 320 yards from the back tees and is uphill the whole way. One guy in our group tried to drive the hole but I don’t see any merit in that strategy, as the green is very elevated from the fairway and drives would just go into the hill and likely settle into one of the bunkers.

Harry and I took the more prudent play and laid up with hybrids, leaving routine wedge shots into the long and narrow green. I hit a beauty to about eight feet and Harry was about 20 feet away but would blow his first putt off the green and miss the comebacker. It was up to me and I hit a perfect putt on the very harsh right to lefter and watched as the ball cruelly came to a stop on the lip just on the high side.

“How did that putt not fall?”, our playing partners asked. Wish I could answer that one!

The 16th, seen above, is yet another tremendous short par four, with this one measuring only 284 yards. This one reminded me quite a bit of the driveable 8th hole at Westmount G&CC in Kitchener – there are some dips in the fairway and there is trouble running all down the left side, with a slight opening in front and a deep bunker in the front right.

Harry would hit hybrid here, as the hole was screaming downwind but he came up slightly short. He’d hit on and barely miss his birdie putt. I drove into the front bunker and blasted out nicely to about 7 feet. From there, I was able to coax in the putt for my first birdie of the day to get us back to +3 and actually thinking we might have a shot at qualifying.

I still figured we’d need to birdie the last two holes as we reached the lovely par four 17th hole, a 379 yard downhiller shown above.

There is a creek that runs across the fairway about 270 yards away from the tee so we had to hit hybrids off the tee to avoid it. From there, I hit an 8-iron to the back and would barely miss again, matching Harry’s par as we moved to the last hole.

Look up the word ‘quirky’ in a Canadian dictionary and you may find a picture of the tee shot on the 18th hole at Scarboro.

I wish I had a picture of the tee shot – you have to hit over a green, tarp-covered chain link fence that protects the cars travelling on Scarborough Golf Club Road to a blind fairway with a hillside to the right and trouble left.

We literally couldn’t believe we had to go in that direction! None of us had played the course so we were pretty dumbfounded. I hit what looked to be the weakest drive, a bit of a fade around the hillside on the right but that turned out to be the money shot, as I was dead-nuts perfect and only 94 yards from the pin.

The green, shown above, reminds me a bit of the 18th at Bethpage Black, as it sits well above the fairway and features a significant false front. So significant that one of our playing partners had to drop due to having a sprinkler head in his way.

With a rules official watching, he dropped three times and all three times his ball rolled down the hill, giving him the ability to place his ball. He did so successfully, went to get his club and then was stunned to see his ball had rolled all the way back down the hill from a stationary position.

He’d have to play it as it lied and would bogey. I’d again hit a really strong second shot in here and both Harry and I had great chances at birdie. Both of us would barely miss, giving us a par and an even par 35 on the back nine for a total of 74 (+3).

Not bad with a triple right? Well, we’d be in a bit of anguish the next day when we found that the cut to get into the tournament outright was 72 and the alternates were the guys who shot 73.

Again, another year of so close, yet so far.

We’d finish T11th out of the 40 teams in the qualifier, our best finish yet by position. I shot a 77 (+6) on my own ball and Harry came through with an 80, both good scores on a very tough golf course.

I can’t speak highly enough about the experience of playing Scarboro. The routing is kind of unique in that it doesn’t feature the traditional ‘loop’, with nines returning to the clubhouse. You basically set out through the course, across the road and eventually come back, finally reaching the clubhouse again on the 18th.

Conditioning was absolutely spectacular. The greens were reminiscent of Oakmont and I can’t give a higher compliment. They had to be running at about an 11 or 12 on the stimp the day we played and with the slopes on those greens, it was as much challenge as you could ask for.

We loved the variety out there, with many short fours that presented multiple options and a very challenging set of par threes. The bunkering, as indicated previously, is tremendous both visually and from a playability standpoint. The course is a hell of a great walk too – both Harry and I were exhausted by the time we climbed the fairway on #15 and would have likely paid big money for a comfortable Muskoka chair to sit in as we caught our breath before hitting our approach there!

The best thing I can say about Scarboro G&CC is that it is super fun to play and after finishing 18 you want to head right back out and challenge the course again, a trademark of all great courses. I very much agree with Robert Thompson in the quote at the beginning of this review: Scarboro may be one of the most underrated courses I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing. It’s currently listed as the 53rd best course in Canada according to ScoreGolf from the 2008 ranking and that was actually improved from their standing in 2006 so the work Hanse and Andrew did with the bunkers has been notable. I would imagine the course will continue to climb when the publication re-ranks the courses later in 2010.

I think Scarboro stacks up against the best this country has to offer and believe it matches up favourably with a place like Westmount, which I also loved. Perhaps it would fall slightly below that course but my point has been made. Scarboro is a wonderful members course, one people could play every day and feel still feel challenged every time.

I can’t wait to go back and play it again!


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