Spectator viewing areas
One of the first courses specifically designed for use on the PGA Tour, Jack Nicklaus made sure to include plenty of viewing areas for fans to convene in when putting together Glen Abbey. With the course set up in an outwardly expanding circle away from the clubhouse, nearly all of the action happens either close to the clubhouse, or near specifically designed spectator mounding and/or grandstands. Add in the innovation of “The Rink” surrounding the par-three seventh, and fans being able to witness good golf on a variety of holes is all but a certainty.
Spectator Mounding & “The Rink”
The host to a record 30 Canadian Opens, Glen Abbey has seen its fair share of incredible moments. From Jack Nicklaus finishing runner-up an astonishing seven times, to Tiger Woods’ arguably best shot of all time, to countless other moments, nearly every hole holds a significant piece of nostalgia in Canadian golf fans’ hearts. Several plaques strewn throughout the course signify some of these standout moments, as does the wall of champion’s plaques located directly in front of the clubhouse. No matter where the new home of the Canadian Open is, or if it just ends up rotating around the country, those courses will always feel like a house, while Glen Abbey felt like a home.
A setup practically unheard of around the rest of the PGA Tour, one of the reasons players enjoy this track is the opportunity to record up to four eagles in one round. That’s right: all four of the the Abbey’s par-fives, numbers two, 13, 16, and 18, are easily reachable with a good tee shot. Unless the wind is way up, all four holes play well under par each year, as well. Saturday’s third round this year resulted in the four holes averaging 4.423 strokes, 4.936 strokes, 4.167 strokes, and 4.218 strokes, respectively. Aside from the 13th, those are essentially playing as difficult par fours. Case in point: the finishing 18th gave up more eagles than bogeys (a ratio of 11 to 5).
Throw in the drama factor, with three of the last six holes & two of the last three being so gettable, and it leads to an exciting finish, year-in and year-out.
As easy as the par-5’s are here, it’s almost matched by how nice the par-3’s are. Number 15 tends to play a little easy due to its length, but offers a gorgeous view and plenty of great spots to spend the whole day watching. The other three par-threes though, numbers four, seven, and twelve, are quite difficult. During the third round on Saturday, the fourth hole averaged 3.141 strokes and yielded just 11 birdies. The seventh was even tougher, at 3.244 average strokes and just eight birdies given up, compared to 25 bogeys. And, finally, the 12th: some argue it’s the best hole on the course, with Sixteen Mile creek running in front of it and the full valley in view behind. During the third round, it averaged a 2.987 scoring average, giving up just nine birdies all day.
This course features some of the most unique and breathtaking views of any golf course in Canada. Upon walking off the 10th green, players stand perched atop the 11th tee, peering down into the distant fairway that will greet them after one of the most daunting shots on the course. (This week, another writer deemed it “drop-dead gorgeous” and I can’t think of a better description.) From there, they’ll be transported some 150 feet down, the most significant drop of any hole on tour. There they will be met by great views and a daunting stretch from the 11th through the 14th, before coming out of the valley with the picturesque, uphill 15th hole; the first of four gettable holes to finish one’s round. There’s no doubt these holes won’t be touched by real estate endeavours; but with the holes on the upper shelf likely to be bulldozed for that very purpose, the lustre of these holes will sadly be diminished.
The prospect of moving to a new date on a better course with a better spot on the calendar is no doubt a big positive for the Canadian Open moving forward. And while the field and the status of this event will likely increase in the coming years, those who remember the golden era of this event being played at Glen Abbey, or even those whose recent memory recalls Tiger’s shot in 2000, Mike Weir narrowly missing out on a win in 2004, Jason Day beating out Bubba Watson by a stroke in 2015, or Jhonattan Vegas’ back-to-back triumphs the last two years, the memory of this place is sure to live on in Canadian lore for years to come.