Dream Weekend: A golf trip to Toronto, Canada
Plan your next trip with our new Dream Weekend series, combining expert picks from GOLF.com staff and the travel gurus at Travel & Leisure. We’re bringing you the best recommendations for golf courses, hotels, restaurants, and sightseeing–so you can focus on your round instead of your itinerary. Now on the tee: Toronto, Canada.
Welcome to the True North, eh? Ok…maybe not the true north, as Toronto is just across the 49th parallel, but north enough to enjoy some Tim Hortons and colorful money — or rather, “colourful;” we are in Canada now after all.
I grew up just outside downtown Toronto in a suburb called Etobicoke, and in 2010, attended my first PGA Tour event, the Canadian Open at St. George’s Golf & Country Club, just 10 minutes from my house. That track is private, so you won’t be able to play there, but have no fear: the GTA — Greater Toronto Area — is home to more than 100 courses of varying price and difficulty, so you won’t have any trouble finding a tee time while you’re here. What’s more, Toronto boasts a burgeoning culture and food scene, and offers some of the most unique tourism attractions this side of the border.
You’ll likely arrive at Lester B. Pearson International Airport (YYZ) unless you’re flying Porter Airlines to Billy Bishop (YTZ) — a great option if you’re coming from the Northeastern U.S. Once you hop off the plane, head to Royal Woodbine Golf Club, five minutes from Pearson, for a challenging round on the 6,446-yard Dr. Michael J. Hurdzan track. For a neat photo opportunity, just look up: low-flying airplanes buzz overhead all day long. On the course, you can enjoy Canadian beer, or our take on the Bloody Mary — a Bloody Caesar, which is made with Clamato juice. Don’t let the “clam” part get to you: This spicy, briny beverage is one of Canada’s best exports, trust me.
On the way downtown, stop for a drink at Bellwoods Brewery or a stroll through Trinity Bellwoods park. It’s not quite as big and sprawling as High Park, but it’s home to eclectic entertainers and revelers alike.
For lodging, choose between the Drake Hotel or the Gladstone Hotel. These boutique hotels feature great cocktail bars and trendy cafes and are close to the popular Queen Street West shopping area and the trending Kensington Market area. For a fun addition to your Instagram account, take photos in Kensington’s Graffiti Alley.
Grab a bite on King Street West, where you can find restaurants made famous by cuisine magnate Susur Lee, like Lee or Fring’s, the latter which is part-owned by Drake. If that isn’t your style, casual eateries and bars line King West and stay open till the wee hours.
Travel & Leisure Tip: The toasty smell of freshly baked breads and buns is the first thing you notice at Kensington Market’s Black Bird Bakery. Savor Canadian red fife wheat in a variety of breads, and don’t miss the best loaf in the house—the sourdough. Pizza buns, tarts, and other goodies baked in house daily are there for the taking.
Get up early and head to St. Lawrence Market to sift and sample from fresh, local food vendors. You can also grab some antiques and unique souvenirs in an old, brick warehouse building from 1851 (originally a wooden structure in 1803, it was rebuilt after the Great Fire of Toronto in 1849).
Return to Etobicoke for a quick round at one of the local munis — my favorites are Scarlett Woods (par 62) and Humber Valley (par 70). You rarely need to pull out driver on the former, and the latter offers beautiful views of the Humber River Valley along rolling hills.
Another option is to drive just north of the city to Don Valley Golf Course, which has its own take on Augusta’s Amen Corner: the Hallelujah Corner includes their signature par-5 12th followed by a tough par 3. From here, you also get a great view of the Toronto skyline.
After your round, head down to Toronto’s version of Times Square – Yonge-Dundas Square. If you have time, you can shop, see a show at one of Toronto’s many iconic Broadway-esque theatres, or enjoy museums like the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Royal Ontario Museum or Ripley’s Aquarium. If they’re in town, check out a Blue Jays baseball game at the Rogers Centre — if the weather is good, the retractable roof will be open! Toronto’s city hall, at Nathan Phillips Square, provides a photo opp at the famous TORONTO sign.
For dinner, look wayyyyy up (like Drake) at the CN Tower’s 360: a revolving restaurant with magnificent views of the city and Lake Ontario.
Travel & Leisure Tip: Centre Island is a short ferry ride away from the bustling city. Sitting between Ward’s Island and Hanlan’s Point, once on the island, you can rent bikes by the hour to tour the calm refuge, or you can rent a canoe or kayak from the boat rental near the shrubbery maze. Have kids? Head to the Centreville Amusement Park, where tickets (or a day pass) gets your wee one on a spate of rides. Picnic benches, fire pits, volleyball courts, and swimming beaches are all around for your use.
This will be your favo(u)rite day yet, and if it isn’t, I’ll take the blame. Wake up early and head to the Distillery District where you can grab a quick coffee at Balzac’s or a hearty brunch at Cluny. This cobble-stoned neighborhood is a haven for art galleries and excellent restaurants, but is also just beautiful to wander.
For golf, check one off your Canadian bucket list by heading to the Nicklaus-designed Glen Abbey Golf Club, site of the famous Tiger Woods bunker shot at the 2000 Canadian Open. Woods is honored on the 15th with a plaque to demarcate the start of his run, and guests of the course have been known to take a few extra drops in the trap to replicate Woods stunning shot (results may vary). There’s some urgency to play here soon, as rumors of potential condominium developments have made this iconic course’s future uncertain.
If you have the time, drive an hour and a half into Ontario wine country and sample some of the Niagara Bench’s finest wines (including a Canadian delicacy, ice wine). Just beyond that are the breathtaking, Niagara Falls, which, contrary to what any of my Yankee counterparts may tell you, is much, much more impressive to view from the Canadian side. You won’t want to leave to catch your flight out from Pearson, but after a trip like this, you’ll be back.
Travel & Leisure Tip: Late spring, early summer and fall are the most pleasant walking months in the city—and this is a walkable city. September, one of the loveliest months of the year, is also packed with the Toronto International Film Festival fêtes and a spate of other weekend festivals.
IF YOU LIKE HIGH-END SHOPPING: Yorkville
IF YOU’RE INTO BARS AND DANCING: King West/Ossington
IF YOU’RE INTO WINDOW SHOPPING/CHEAPER BUYS: Queen West
IF YOU’RE INTO NATURE: Evergreen Brickworks or High Park