Essex Golf & Country Club – Course Profile

Essex Golf & Country Club
LaSalle, Ontario, CANADA

6673 YARDS (PAR 71)
COURSE ARCHITECT: Donald Ross (1929)
LAST PLAYED: June 26, 2020.
LOW SCORE: 79 (+8)

– Golfweek Best Classic Courses Canada 2019: #16
– Canada’s Top 100 2019: #36
– ScoreGolf Top 100 in Canada 2020: #49

“An absolutely beautiful depiction of how to do an interesting golf course on flattish terrain.”
– Ben Crenshaw, Professional Golfer and Golf Course Architect
(As said during the 2002 AT&T Canada Senior Open)

The history at Essex dates back to 1902, when a number of members of Walkerville Country Club, upset with the poor playing conditions, decided to establish a new club. The Oak Ridge Golf Club was originally a 3400 yard course built on a nearby farm, one that would expand by 44 acres later that decade, allowing them to erect a suitable clubhouse.

However, the membership soon started to outgrow the site and in 1909, the club would exercise an option to purchase a new piece of land at nearby Prince Farm. Oak Ridge members would be forced to play at Walkerville for two years while their new course was being built and during that time, the club would officially be incorporated as Essex Golf & Country Club.

The new nine hole course would open for play in 1912, with the club expanding to 18 holes by 1915. However, the membership still felt the course lacked in too many areas, with criticism directed toward the lack of length, the flat green sites and not enough sand traps.

By 1928, the club had purchased over 125 acres of land on Matchette Road and were fortunate to retain the services of famed architect Donald Ross to design a championship golf course on their new site. Ross, who had designed esteemed courses like Oakland Hills, Franklin Hills, Roseland Park and Detroit Golf Club within the Detroit/Windsor area, provided the routing for Essex but is rumoured to have only visited the site one time. The construction of the course was left in the very capable hands of John Gray, the longtime greenkeeper at the club.

Construction began in the spring of 1928 and the brand new, 6683 yard course would officially open for play in July 1929. Accolades soon followed and Essex has long been considered one of the finest representations of the genius of Donald Ross here in Canada.

The land on which Essex G&CC sits is anything but remarkable, with little in the way of elevation change throughout the round. However, Ross routed the course brilliantly, utilizing drainage swales to add some visual flair and adding movement through clever use of doglegs and strategic bunker placement. With the flat terrain and modest green-to-tee transfers, Essex may be one of the easiest walking courses in the country, another major plus.

The one defining feature of the course to me, other than the majestic trees on the property, are the well-contoured greens, which are uniformly much larger than average and feature false fronts and dramatic fall-offs throughout.

At less than 6700 yards from the back tees, this isn’t a course that’s going to wear you out tee-to-green but going low will be very dependent on how you navigate these large and very tricky putting surfaces.

The club has hosted a number of big tournaments over the years, including provincial amateur and professional events but gained a lot of notoriety when they hosted the Canadian Open in 1976, which was won by PGA Tour rookie Jerry Pate and featured a star-studded field that included Jack Nicklaus. In 1998, the club would host the du Maurier Classic, then a major on the LPGA Tour (won by Brandie Burton) and in 2002, the AT&T Canada Senior Open visited Essex and was won by Tom Jenkins.

Essex has been featured on countless top 100 lists throughout its history and was just named as the 49th best course in Canada according to ScoreGolf. Personally, I would have Essex closer to the top 30 in the country but to each their own.

Essex G&CC is one of the most historic clubs in Canada and a day spent here is one to be cherished.

All photos within this review are the property of Now on the Tee. The use of any photograph, in whole or in part, for any reason other than viewing them on this site, including copying and reproduction online or in print, is strictly forbidden without written consent from Now on the Tee.

There is a rich history at Essex, with some notable events showcased on the clubhouse exterior near the practice green
Photo by Now on the Tee
So much for a gentle handshake! The very tight tee shot on the par four 1st hole immediately grabs your attention
Photo by Now on the Tee
Just short of the green on the first hole
Photo by Now on the Tee
The 324 yard par four 2nd hole
Photo by Now on the Tee
The approach at the second from the right rough
Photo by Now on the Tee
The tee shot on the 524 yard, par five 3rd hole
Photo by Now on the Tee
A good look at the very wide and deceptively long 3rd green
Photo by Now on the Tee
The 4th hole, the longest par four on the course, features a phenomenal two-tiered green that is raised significantly on the right
Photo by Now on the Tee
Looking at the excellent 4th green from behind
Photo by Now on the Tee
The 194 yard par three 5th
Photo by Now on the Tee
A challenging approach awaits on the 448 yard par four 6th
Photo by Now on the Tee
One of the prettiest holes at Essex is their shortest, the 160 yard par three 7th
Photo by Now on the Tee
The approach shot at the mid-length par four 8th hole is among the most picturesque at Essex
Photo by Now on the Tee
Looking back down the 8th fairway from behind the green
Photo by Now on the Tee
You need to work your ball both ways at Essex, with the tough par four 9th calling for a high draw off the tee
Photo by Now on the Tee
The beautiful Tudor clubhouse provides a lovely backdrop on your approach shot on the 9th
Photo by Now on the Tee
IMG_2447 (2)
You need to be long and straight off the back tee on the 500 yard par five 10th
Photo by Now on the Tee
The short approach on the 10th hole
Photo by Now on the Tee
The 11th, as seen from the inside part of the dogleg, is easily the toughest driving hole on the course
Photo by Now on the Tee
The well-bunkered par three 12th hole, measuring 188 yards from the back tee
Photo by Now on the Tee
The tee shot on the reachable par five 13th hole
Photo by Now on the Tee
A well-placed pond guards the left side of the approach area on the 13th
Photo by Now on the Tee
Another look at the 13th green, as seen from the 16th tee
Photo by Now on the Tee
The tee shot on the par four 14th hole
Photo by Now on the Tee
Some overhanging branches on the right require a high fade approach at the 14th
Photo by Now on the Tee
The lovely dogleg right par four 15th
Photo by Now on the Tee
The approach on the 15th hole
Photo by Now on the Tee
Drainage swales add visual interest on the photogenic par four 15th hole
Photo by Now on the Tee
The 383 yard par four 16th hole
Photo by Now on the Tee
Yet another ridiculously picturesque shot of the 16th, as seen here by the 18th tee
Photo by Now on the Tee
You will need to avoid this row of bunkers that line the right side of the fairway on the 16th
Photo by Now on the Tee
From the approach area, this bunker in the foreground looks to be right in front of the green but in reality, you have plenty of room beyond it to run a shot onto the putting surface
Photo by Now on the Tee
The 17th is the longest one-shotter at Essex, measuring a brawny 219 yards
Photo by Now on the Tee
The approach from the right side of the fairway on the 435 yard finishing hole
Photo by Now on the Tee
Another look at the 18th green, with the beautiful clubhouse in the background at Essex G&CC
Photo by Now on the Tee

Matt Bosela

Proud Canadian | Golf Architecture and Travel Aficionado



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