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4th-Annual Southwestern Ontario Golf Guide

Ontario golf offers an affordable and affable respite from escalating green fees in Michigan and Northern Ohio. While Canadians are not necessarily thrilled by the decrease in their buying power, they do realize that the situation they find themselves can sometimes have its positive side.

Michigan golfers entering Canada and Sarnia-Lambton County from the Blue Water bridges have a nice variety to choose from. Phil Winch, of the Sarnia-Lambton CVB is bullish about the 252 holes of golf that their area features. He feels that the area has really put together an attractive golf package.

In addition, Sarnia is the home of PGA professional Mike Weir. Weir has been getting his share of wins lately, most notably he was the one that kept Tiger Woods from his 10 million dollar year. His home course of Huron Oaks serves as the site for the $200,000 Bayer Championship. He returns there each September to tout the highly successful tourmanment.

The courses that attract the most Michigan golfers in the area are Forest Golf and Country Hotel, Sawmill Creek and farther up the coast, Oakwood Inn Resort.

The first thing I noticed on my trip to Forest Golf and Country Hotel was the road construction in full swing in front of the hotel. A newly paved road and a renovated bridge has taken care of the infrastrurcture problems of the past. As I was waiting to turn into the property the second thing that caught my eye, was how green the course looked. While the area did have its share of rain, Debbie Merrit of Forest indicated much of the praise should go to their new supertintendent, "he has just been amazing," she said.

Forest Golf and Country Hotel has long been a favorite of Michigan golfers and businesses. The property offers affordable stay and play golf packages. They have 27 holes, many of them scorecard friendly. They recently added new lodging, for a total of 75 rooms, and they have a new conference area. The golf professional is Andrew Palmer who has been with the property for some time and is the go-to person for your golf needs.

Oakwood Inn Resort is a storied property that dates back into the 20's. Dave Scatcherd, resort owner, has steadily improved the property since his family purchased it. Golfers will find all the amenities of a superior resort, including dining facilities. Summer fun at the resort is further enhanced by its driver and two iron distance from Lake Huron. The course, that plays at 5356 yards, assures golfers that there might be a birdie or two in their round.

Oakwood is located in the resort community of Grand Bend, which offers golfers the opportunity to immerce themselves in a viable Canadian community.

Sawmill Creek -- After suffering through a couple of years of drought, the skies opened up on the Sarnia-Lambton area last year. Sawmill Creek became a river. While the green came roaring onto the parched golf courses, it also started disappearing from the cash register. Most of the golf courses were hit hard, proof of Kermit's lament of "it's not easy being green."

Sawmill Creek Golf and Country Club is a great Bed and Breakfast golf destination. The former home of Bill and Linda Gerrits, Sawmill Creek has been transformed into seven bedrooms, a corporate meeting center, a cigar bar, a memorable 18-hole course that was designed by Rene Muylaert and a first rate practice area. Over a million tons of earth were brought onto the property to create the course. Sawmill Creek comes into play on 13 of the holes with the 6530 yards playing to a par 70.

Other courses in the area include Bonnie Doon, a relatively new and challenging layout, Arkona Fairways, Indian Hills, Sand Hills, Widder Station, Ironwood and Mooretown.

If you really want to get away from it all, visit Blue Mountain, one of Canada's premier resorts. Thomas McBroom, a leading Canadian architect who designed the Monterra course currently ranked in the Top Ten list of Canadian resort courses. The course is played in the shadow of Blue Mountain. McBroom must have a little Pete Dye in him in that he has named #15 the Coffin, # 14 Silver Lining and #10 Stage Fright. Monterra weaves through some of the resort lodging and can be a little tight is some places. The course had bent grass fairways and greens, razorback mounding and spectacular elevated tees to go with its 129 slope and 6581 yards.

Blue Mountain offers great lodging,water slide rides for the kids, tennis, kayaking, hiking, biking and the beach. Green fees are close to $70 in the summer, and dropping to the low $40's in spring and fall.

Nearby Collingwood is a very nice walk around town. There is a ton of stuff to do in the Blue Mountain area.

The area due south of Windsor is about the flattest place on the planet and that's what makes the Kingsville Golf & Country Club truly remarkable. Here is an outstanding facility - 27 holes of rolling terrain with significant elevation changes, lots of bunkers, large fast greens, tight tree-lined fairways, water, multiple tee's and everything you might want to make the 30 minute trip from the Bridge most worthwhile.

If you tee it up on the Gold/Red course you are looking at 6,622 yards, a slope of 134 and a rating of 72.9. If you want something a tad easier try the White/Gold: 6,349 yards, 132 slope, par 72. If you left your "A" game at the tollbooth you may wish to give the White/Red a go: 6,364 yards, slope 126 and par 70.9. But any combination will be an excellent test of golf. Count on it!

Founded in 1927 Kingsville holds a special spot in Canadian golf history, and over the years has hosted many championship events. Golf Director Doug Quick and his staff looks forward to the Ontario Ladies Championship to be held here in 2001.

Along with great golf, Kingsville offers an excellent practice facility. And, the first-class clubhouse, which opened just a couple of years ago, offers an award winning dinning room, informal bar and grille, lockers, showers and most everything you'll find at a top of the line club.

Sutton Creek GC in Essex County is getting a makeover by Matthews and Nelhiebel. According to designer Howard Nauboris, the new 18-hole master plan calls for larger and more numerous bunkers and additional tee surfaces.

As you might expect, the quantity and quality of courses increases as you get nearer to Toronto. Glen Abbey GC, a 1977 Jack Nicklaus course that hosts the Canadian Open, is perhaps the most recognizable to Michigan golfers. Glen Abbey reveals the early design philosophy of Nicklaus. Its shallow fairway bunkers and subtle green contours are very different from his later work. Golfers will note the series of holes strung along a narrow, high walled gorge of Sixteen Mile Creek. Jack never won the Canadian Open at his course, but finished 2nd seven times. Deerhurst Resort designed by Robert Cupp and upstart Thomas McBroom is another striking course. Other notable courses include Hockley Valley, National Pines GC and my favorite the spectacular Osprey Valley course in Alton.

Canadian golf for 2001 will be affordable, exciting and memorable for Michigan golfers.

Ontario Contacts

Bayer Championship http://www.bayerchampionship.com
Blue Mountain http://www.bluemountain.ca 705-445-0231
Forest Golf and Country Hotel http://www.xcelco.on.ca/~foregolf 800-2650214
Kingsville 519-733-6585
Sawmill Creek www.sawmill-creek.com

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