It was a few years back that building architect Brian Brisbin and auto-parts supplier Udo Petersen envisioned a nine-hole course to complement a weekend retreat they had established a few hours north of Toronto, on the shoreline of Lake Manitouwabing. Golf architect Thomas McBroom convinced them that a full 18-hole course would not only fit but would make more economic sense, appealing to a wider range of private members. From deep within that forest, amid granite outcroppings, black-ash wetlands and seasonal bogs, McBroom honed The Ridge at Manitou, the Best New Canadian Course of 2006. (It's a private golf club, but limited play is available to guests of the nearby Inn at Manitou.)
McBroom calls his work "an immersion into the landscape," and it is indeed a glorious sample of the visual beauty of the Canadian Shield. But frankly, The Ridge is almost indistinguishable in looks from McBroom's other nearby designs, like Lake Joseph Club, the 1997 Best New Canadian Course, the second of McBroom's five triumphs in this category.
What sets The Ridge at Manitou apart is its quaint, boutique nature. Intricately designed around rock ridges, white pines and century-old hemlocks, the par-72 layout--6,815 yards from the back, 6,300 yards from the members' tees—is more about position and finesse than brute ball bashing.
The Ridge is less demanding, more fulfilling, especially on the short, downhill 18th, just 503 yards from the black tees. It's a dogleg left around pines, hemlocks and humps of rock, the second shot playing over a stream ravine into a rolling carpet of pristine turf that pours onto a green gracefully positioned at the edge of a serene cove of Lake Manitouwabing. To the right, framing this postcard view, but not blocking it, is a tasteful stone and rough-pine clubhouse designed by Brisbin. The 18th is the stuff of perfect playoffs in waning twilight.
BEST NEW CANADIAN 1. THE RIDGE AT MANITOU__
McKellar, Ont. 6,815 yards, par 72, $185 (U.S.). Thomas McBroom, designer. 705-389-9577. ridgeatmanitou.com 2. THE C. AT BOND HEAD (SOUTH CSE.)
Beeton, Ont. 7,496 yards, par 72, $145. Michael Hurdzan, Dana Fry and Jason Straka. 905-778-9400. theclubatbondhead.com 3. BLACK BEAR RIDGE G. CSE.
__ Belleville, Ont. 7,094 yards, par 73, $78. Brian Magee 613-968-2327. blackbearridge.ca.