If you want to ask Travelin' Joe a question, e-mail him at email@example.com. Dear Joe, I’m going to be at Niagara Falls in the middle of July. We will be traveling to Toronto in that same trip. I’ll have time for one or two rounds and would like to keep it under $150 a round. What courses are worth playing in those areas? It is my first trip to Canada so something memorable would be great. Todd Scorza Via email Start by treating yourself to Glen Abbey Golf Club ($120-$235; 905-844-1800, clublink.ca), 35 minutes west of downtown Toronto. Jack Nicklaus’ first solo design, circa 1976, bristles with beauty, variety and challenge, notably on the famous Valley holes on the back nine. It’s played host to multiple Canadian Opens since its debut, with winners that include Lee Trevino, Greg Norman and Vijay Singh. If $235 is out of your price range, wait until after 1 p.m. on weekends and holidays, when the price drops to $160. I would tell you to wait until 4 p.m. daily for the twilight rate of $120, but then it might get dark before you get to the 18th. That’s the short gambler’s par-5 where in 2000, a fellow named Tiger Woods hit one of the greatest shots of his career, a title-clinching 6-iron from a fairway bunker, over a lake to 12 feet.
Another option is Lionhead ($127.5-$137.50; 905-455-8400, golflionhead.com), a 36-hole spread that features the Legends and Masters courses. Both are superbly conditioned, rugged tests slashed by the Credit River, though if you’re looking for a supreme test, do the Legends, which is the pricier, by $10, but also the most memorable, its beautiful, brutal holes set in a well-treed valley.
Also check out Angus Glen ($125-$180; 905-887-5157, angusglen.com), another 36-hole affair, with each of its layouts having hosted a Canadian Open, the South in 2002, when John Rollins won, and the North, where Jim Furyk defended in 2007, with a one-shot win over Vijay Singh. The best value is Saturdays or Sundays, when it’s $125 to tee it up.
Niagara Falls actually boasts a fistful of terrific tracks as well, including Royal Niagara, Hunters Pointe and Legends of Niagara, but if you’re in the market for a thrill ride akin to a barrel over the falls, do the Thundering Waters ($70-$100; 877-833-3259, thunderingwaters.com), a hazard-laced John Daly design that blasts you with a 149 slope from the tips. Dear Joe, We will be visiting my wife’s aunt in the Portland area and the girls are wanting to go see all the Twilight movie sites. Save me! Can you suggest a good course or two less than $100 within reasonable driving distance from Tigard (the area of Portland we are staying)? Paul Stanton Tulsa, Okla. Let me throw you a life preserver—in the form of terrific, affordable golf well within an hour of where you’re at in the Portland area. Be careful at rush hour, though—which may explain why Portland’s public transportation is so stellar. Pumpkin Ridge’s Ghost Creek course ($90-$150; 503-647-4747, pumpkinridge.com) in North Plains is best of the Portland-area publics. Ranked in the Top 50 of our 2010-11 Top 100 Courses You Can Play in the U.S., the public half of Pumpkin Ridge is a superb 1992 Bob Cupp design that twice hosted the Nike (now Nationwide) Tour Championship. David Duval captured the event in 1993 here. It serves up the perfect blend of woods, water and strategic bunkering, as well as a peak price that bites like a vampire, $150, but after 3:00 p.m., you can play it for $90. Better yet, check out the website, which dishes out daily specials that often range from $89-$109.
One of the region’s best values is the Reserve Vineyards and Golf Club ($45-$85; 503-649-8191, reservegolf.com) in Aloha, with two outstanding layouts, the North and the South. Home from 2003-2006 to a major championship on the Champions Tour, the JELD-WEN Tradition, the John Fought-designed South course sports a nifty set of risk/reward par-5s and 114 bunkers. Bob Cupp created the shorter North course, which runs a close second here—but both are terrific bargains, $79 during the week, and a twilight rate (after 3 pm) during the week of $49.
A final choice is the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed Great Blue course at Heron Lakes ($27-$42; 503-289-1818, heronlakesgolf.com), a Portland city course that features muni-style prices with private club challenge. You can walk it for $27 on Mondays and Tuesdays, $42 on the weekend. Its smaller, slightly cheaper brother, the Greenback, is every bit as interesting, though nowhere near the test that Great Blue serves up. Hey Joe, Heading to Atlantic City for a bachelor party and are going to play 18 holes one afternoon. If you could only play ONE course in AC (or somewhat close by), what would it be? We’ve got 12 guys, and people shoot anywhere from the mid 70s to over 100. Price is mildly important, but we’re willing to pay top dollar if the course is worth it. Would love to hear any recommendations you have. Keith Bush Via email If price is only slightly an object, I’ll unhesitatingly recommend Atlantic City Country Club ($99-$225; 609-236-4401, caesars.com/golf/atlantic-city-country-club) for your boys day out. As hall passes go, this is a beauty, with first-class service, a classic clubhouse, outstanding restaurant and top-notch locker room. This terrific old layout dates back 110 years, but was recently renovated by architect Tom Doak, with the result being one of those rare, scenic, tournament-worthy tracks that’s equally enjoyable for those 70-shooters and the 100-plus folks. True, the hefty green fee ($225 on a summer weekend) is a punch in the gut to some, but it also means there’s little riff-raff clogging up the course, so you’ll be able to buzz right through and get back to the less family-friendly aspects of a bachelor party weekend. Prior to 8 a.m. and from 1-3 p.m., it’s $175 per player Friday through Sunday.
For a better bargain, check out the Seaview Golf Club’s Bay course ($80-110; 609-748-7680, seaviewgolf.com) in Galloway Township. Current home to the LPGA ShopRite Classic, Seaview’s Bay is a Donald Ross design, parts of which played host to the 1942 PGA Championship, won by Sam Snead. Recently refurbished by new hotel manager Dolce and golf operations manager Troon Golf, the Bay and its sister course, the Pines, are both solid, historic layouts at a very fair price. Call ahead, as they can cater to bachelor party groups of 12 or more.
(Photo: Larry Lambrecht)