For years my best buddies and I would pile into a minivan and endure a two hour drive just to play the Pine Valley Golf Club located south of Simcoe on the northern shores of Lake Erie. For those who do not know, Pine Valley has always been one of the first golf courses in Ontario to open each spring. It was certainly worth the drive to be able to play an 18-hole golf course on green grass in late March while the rest of our fellow golf enthusiasts were either heading to the deep-south to get their fix or waiting patiently in shin high snow for their local golf courses to open.
Those and many more memories flashed through my mind as my wife and I began our five day “drive about” through Norfolk County. A vacation is the perfect time to not only golf but to appreciate the place and the pace. We found the ‘folks’ of Norfolk to be friendly and hospitable with a strong sense of community. They exude great pride at being Ontario’s #1 growers of 14 different fruits and vegetables including apples, cherries, strawberries, sweet corn and peanuts. A true Garden of Eden indeed! We used Simcoe as own home base and started our tour at….
Opened in 1963 this well-established 6,450 yard par-72 semiprivate course offers tighter tree-lined fairways with average size greens that are in great shape but not much undulation. The rough and under the trees has been cut to almost the same height but around the course perimeter the undergrowth is thick. Unfortunately the bunkers were not as well manicured. A great steal with green fees at only $25CAD for weekdays and $30 on the weekends.
Built in 1961 this par 71 6,211 yard layout was designed on a relatively flat piece of property but has a good mix of mature trees and orchards as well as well distinguished fairways that are reasonably wide but with many swales. The rough here has been cut under the trees that line the fairways to help speed of play and the greens are small but in good shape. 18-hole green fee rates are $30CAD during the week and $38 for weekends.
Originally an 18-hole course, 9 new holes were added in 2001 that intertwine with the original layout. Each nine measures out to around 3,100 yards from the blues with a good mixture of holes. The west side of the course is relatively flat whereas the east side has tremendous elevation changes. You will find that most of the fairways are relatively wide with average size greens that are in good shape. Still, a great test of golf! This semi-private club offers 18-hole public green fees for only $32CAD from Monday to Thursday and $37 from Friday to Sunday.
This 18-hole layout is a par 66 with a total length of 4,829 yards. Pine Valley is a very mature course with plenty of elevation changes on some holes. The greens are medium sized and relatively flat but in good condition. This is fun course with a number of dogleg par 4s where accuracy is more important than distance and it is ideally suited for any caliber of golfer. Under new ownership since 2010, there are plans are to make more improvements and possibly build a new clubhouse. Greens fees are $20CAD including HST for 18 holes. Now you can see why it was worth the drive!
Opened in 2008 and the next year won the “Best New Golf Course in Ontario” by ScoreGolf and Fairways magazines as well as runner-up for “Best New Golf Course in Canada” by Golf Digest. Designed around three creeks (Otter, Cedar and Spittler) that meander through this course, Otter Creek stretches out to a lengthy 7,100 yards from the tips but “no worries” there are six sets of tee blocks to suit your particular ability. Green fees here are $74CAD for 18 holes on weekdays and $82 for weekends but that includes a cart and all taxes. This is a must-play for the avid golfer.
Here are just a few suggestions of what you and your family or foursome might do after a round.
Zip and sip, in that order, at Long Point Eco Tours and Burning Kiln Winery. Start with a guided zip line tour that consists of eight different zip lines, two suspension bridges and a forty-foot rappel. My personal favourite was the 800 feet parallel run alongside Lake Erie with a stunning view across the marshland but the entire two and a half hours has you up close and personal with Mother Nature while learning how we can all be more ecologically conscious and still have fun! Then nip across the road to the Burning Kiln. Tour the newly opened facilities and then retire to their patio for tapas and a glass or two of Cab Frank. No that’s not a spelling error, but you’ll have to visit Burning Kiln to hear that story!
This is one man’s vision of “if I can dream it, I can do it”! Darren Heimbecker, supported by his wife Wanda, is creating the most amazing botanical garden with what could very well be the largest collection of conifers in the world! As you explore their 18 acres you can see their vision coming to fruition – over 2 ½ miles of walking trails, a Greek Temple, statuary and water features including a water fountains with synchronized lights and music and an amphitheatre for evening concerts and events that will replicate the grandeur of the Palace of Versailles. If you want to be inspired and reenergized don’t pass up on the opportunity to spend an hour or two exploring this natural oasis! 519-445-5773
Where else can you play such as variety of 18-hole golf courses for between $20 and $38 with no more than a 5 to 20 minute drive from your hotel? Plus there are beaches, bars and boating. Their mild climate and lengthy playing season truly makes Norfolk County “Ontario’s Garden of Eden”.