CANADIAN GOLF MAGAZINE RATING:
MUST PLAY IF OPPORTUNITY ARISES EVEN IF IT MEANS A SPECIAL TRIP
We know you don’t know Cherry Hill Club. It’s a lowly club located about 30 minutes from the tourist mecca that is Niagara Falls in the quaint Lake Erie town of Ridgeway. It occupies a subtle property, has an understated traditional clubhouse and is hidden from view to those who regularly pass by its northern boundary on Kings Highway #3.
Our tee time was early on a weekday afternoon and, on arrival, we realized we would be one of only a handful of groups teeing off that day. The parking lot had only a smattering of vehicles…many from the other side of the border. Cherry Hill proves popular with our neighbours to the south and there are members who can trace their lineage at the club back multiple generations to 1922.
When fires devastated the Fort McMurray area last year, the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada was forced to cancel its event there. They sought out a club to host a championship to keep their 12 event schedule in tact and Cherry Hill stepped up to the plate. It brought it back into the limelight by hosting the 2016 Niagara Championship, and despite all the attention, Cherry Hill Club remains under the rader.
Needless to say we were excited to get our first look at the course that has hosted not only the PGA TOUR Canada but the Canadian Open and CPGA Championship in years past.
- Type: Private
- Season: May – October
- Architect: Walter Travis
- Location: Ridgeway, Ontario
- Year opened: 1922
- Holes: 18 | Par 72 | Length: 7027 yards | Slope: 133 | Rating: 74.0
Photos do not to Cherry Hill Club justice.
Those who play the course inevitably end up comparing it to another Walter Travis layout at Lookout Point about 30 minutes away in Fonthill, which is routed up and down the Niagara Escarpment. And as much as Lookout Point is a great course, Cherry Hill not only gives it a run for its money, but might actually have it beat. It may not have the elevation changes that Lookout has or the wow factor of being able to see the mist of Niagara Falls from the opening tee shot, but what it does have is a superbly routed golf course that is perfectly bunkered and features one of the greatest and boldest collection of greens we have ever seen.
Walter Travis is one of our favourite architects and what he did with what is a rather flattish type property is extraordinary. The clubhouse sits at its highest point — on the “hill” in Cherry Hill — and from here the 1st, 9th, 10th and 18th holes sprawl out before it. Golfers and non-golfers alike are offered gorgeous views across the golf course from the clubhouse’s back deck.
From this vantage point what you immediately notice is the contouring on and around the greens. Many look like a Pringles chip gone wild. The green surfaces move in wave like fashion surrounded by closely shaved banks and collection areas. For the shaky hand, your knees may start knocking before you even get the chance to take the headcover off for your first putt.
What makes them even more challenging is the green speeds. Running 12 on the stimpmeter the day we visited, we were told that’s average for the club where greens are regularly around 13+. A word of caution for those tackling these surfaces, everything breaks towards the Niagara River, or an easier way to remember, away from the clubhouse. Some of the greens have a lot of slope, but this folklorish reputation shouldn’t be taken lightly no matter what your eyes tell you.
Speaking of green speeds, the general condition of the golf course is flawless. We have not seen a course in better shape all season or in any other season for that matter. Despite all the rain Southern Ontario has received this year the course played firm and fast. We were giddy seeing the tinge of brown throughout the course…just the way a golf course should look.
Having mentioned the bunkers already, our foursome typically wouldn’t find more than two or three combined during the course of a round. Collectively that day, however, we visited 13 of Cherry Hill’s bunkers, which is a testament to how well-bunkered the golf course is. Asthetically, they look beautiful, but strategically, they are placed to bring angles into play and add interest to each shot. Whether it’s a carry angle from the tee or protecting the greens, we cannot think of a single bunker that wasn’t where it should be.
19TH HOLE THOUGHTS
Cherry Hill is the type of golf course we would love to call our home club. It’s a very walkable layout, as evidenced by the majority of golfers who decided to walk the day we visited, and this despite the absurd humidity level and UV index.
It’s an imaginative layout with greens, bunkers and pin locations determining the best lines of play from day-to-day.
It has a strong membership with pride in the club and it’s welcoming to young and old alike even implementing a junior day throughout the summer where the morning sees the course closed to junior play only.
Sitting in the classic clubhouse sipping on a drink recounting our day the only thing we could imagine enjoying more than our round at Cherry Hill Club was multiple more rounds at Cherry Hill Club. It’s one of Walter Travis’ finest, one of Canada’s finest and an underrated gem.
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