For those of us living in or near a major urban centre, a break from the hectic hustle and bustle is always welcome. It’s rare to find these sorts of breaks in the middle of a city, but Toronto is fortunate to have a handful of golf courses that offer a getaway — Lambton is one of them.
Despite living in the Greater Toronto Area for a combined 65 years, we knew little of Lambton. Part of the reason is due to the fact that we rarely drive down Scarlett Road opting instead for Islington or Royal York stunting our chances of ever driving by the golf course. We also don’t find ourselves in the west end of the city all that often.
With that said, this part of the city is home to some really great golf. Weston, St. Georges, Lambton and Islington are all within 10 minutes of one another and, having now played each course, they all offer something a bit different.
What stood out immediately about Lambton was that it was a sanctuary among the urban sprawl. Bisected by Black Creek and guarded by the Humber River on its western perimeter, throughout our round we kept thinking how lucky members are to have a tree-lined, parkland style golf course set in a natural valley in the middle of Canada’s largest city.
Lambton has a storied past and you can literally write a book about it (indeed there is one), but the most recent happening of note is an extensive golf course renovation at the hands of U.S. Open doctor Rees Jones. We had not seen the course prior to its reopening in 2011, so all we know is what exists now.
The 1st hole is a strong opener that works its way along the driving range and introduces you to what’s to come. The green in particular is set on what seems like a pretty natural mound (if it isn’t job well done) and can be devilish if on the wrong side of the hole. The opening stretch is strong overall with the 2nd hole featuring an interesting carry angle from the tee while the 3rd tee drops way down into the valley itself.
Lambton features both modern and classic characteristics. Most of the modern comes from Jones’ large bunkers and shaping. This is generally contrasted by greens that have a more classic feel. We didn’t mind this at all and thought it added a unique personality to the course.
Once in the valley, golfers stay there until the 16th hole and the layout unfolds in sets. What we mean by this is a couple of really strong holes are generally followed by a couple of breathers followed once again by a string of strong holes. We found this added an interesting flow to the round. The stretch from 7 through 9 (closest to the Humber) is especially interesting with what we would probably consider the best par 5 and par 3 on the property followed by a very good par 4.
Having seen quite a bit of Rees Jones’ work, we were surprised to find a set of very strong greens that felt “old school” so to speak. The classic influences here were more apparent to us than any other Jones course we’ve played. He opted for gentle contouring and slope instead of distinct plateaus and pushed up greens in keeping with what you would expect from a course like Lambton.
There is a small break in the flow of the routing and it comes between the 16th and new 17th and 18th holes. For most of the round Lambton is a pleasant walk and a cohesive unit. Once off the 16th green, golfers are sent past the backshop and cart shed to the par-3 17th and par-4 18th, which play behind the clubhouse. Though there is nothing wrong with either hole — the par-3 17th is a brute playing to some 230 yards — they do feel disconnected from the rest of the layout. To us, the natural finisher felt like 16, but this is a small quibble for an otherwise solid layout.
Lambton provides a respite from the city in the middle of the city so it’s no surprise the club itself is bustling. When we visited there were multiple junior camps happening, members eating outside and lessons being taught on the range. With the additional nine hole valley course, Lambton accommodates all level of golfers and is a great place for families.
All the benefits of the country without the extended travel.
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