If Hemingway were to write a story about the Port Colbone country club, he would opt out of the title A clean, well-lighted lineage. The reason is, after its initial four holes were opened for play, the course expanded and changed, but not always in linear fashion. Of the original nine holes, six are still in play. The first nine was completed in 1931, two years after the club was founded. Those holes were in play for nearly 25 years. In the 1950s, expansion took place. Five new holes were in play by 1954, and the final four holes were added two years later.
As the course grew in number, its routing changed. The current 14th looks like it should be an 18th hole, as it finishes in the shadow of the clubhouse veranda. It once was the finishing hole, but that responsibility shifted, as the 16th hole was lengthened, amid other alterations. The 13th green, once a wee, par-three target, was expanded four-fold, into on of the largest putting surfaces on the property.
Port Colborne remains the epitome of the semi-private country club. It boasts a strong membership, but welcomes outside play. Visitors typically get a sense of the firmness and speed of the greens at Port, as their approach shots, pitches, or chips zip past the hole location on the first. The course blends straight holes and doglegs with regularity, and asks the golfer to move target lines to both left and right fairway halves.
In terms of memorability, it’s hard to forget the short holes. They tend to play mid-length to long, and run in all directions but north. As for the par fours, the second hole comes early, and demands an accurate approach amid three siren bunkers. The drivable fifth can be a make-or-break decision midway through the nine. Take on the green, with its guarding pond? Lay back and secure a full pitch? Either way, it’s a fun and dramatic hole.
The par fives on the inward half are both critical to scoring. The long 13th has out of bounds up the right side, and after a good drive, it’s lay-up or go time. A pond begins about 80 yards out, along the left edge of the fairway. The lay-up target is ample, but a fine pitch is needed to access the green in three. The 16th is also a key hole, as it comes late in the round. Its tee shot is the most demanding and, to a degree, the most restricted. Driver is rarely the play off the tee deck, with trees left and a pond beyond the drive zone, both straight and right. Three metal is welcomed after a well-placed drive. The green is the most intriguing on the course, with marvelous undulations and hidden hole locations, and puts a premium on flat-stick dexterity.
The course lies west of the town whose name it bears, The Welland Canal has its origins in Port Colborne, allowing ships to move from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. Chances are excellent that visiting golfers will be paired with at least one member, who will guide them around their first tour of the property. Port Colborne country club is a bit over 30 minutes from the Peace Bridge, making it easily reached from the Queen City of Buffalo.