By: Gabrielle Tieman

Nothing quite says summer like golf. Once the air warms up and the greens dry out, courses become flooded with golfers – and the Niagara Region is no exception.

An internationally respected golfer’s paradise, the Niagara Region boasts over 50 of the most beautifully tailored and artfully designed golf courses in the world – creating the greatest concentration of golf facilities in a single region in Canada.

But, with 50 golf courses throughout the Niagara Region, it can be hard to decide which courses to schedule into a vacation. Niagara has simplified the choosing process, compacting seven of the must play courses open to the public into the Niagara Golf Trail.

Heralded as a golfer’s dream, the Niagara Golf Trail has something for every golfer. Whether you are a seasoned veteran or a casual player, there is a course that caters to your individual ability, price range and preference.

The trail’s courses range from world class to entry-level, all designed by the best in the sport. Featured courses on the trail include Beechwood Golf and Country Club, Grand Niagara Golf Club, John Daly’s Thundering Waters Golf Club, Legends on the Niagara Golf Complex, Royal Niagara Golf Club, Whirlpool Golf Course and new this year is Seneca Hickory Sticks Golf Course, the first American course to join the trail.

To find out more about the Niagara Golf Trail, golf packages and green fees, visit http://www.niagaragolftrail.com/.

Grand Niagara Golf Club

When a course is designed by an architect as internationally celebrated as Rees Jones, you are guaranteed an exceptional round of golf. In its tenth season, the Grand Niagara Golf Club does not disappoint, with uniquely crafted holes that pay homage to world-renowned courses.

Known as the “Open Doctor,” golf architect Rees Jones is famous for revitalizing PGA championship courses across North America. Upon completing his design for Grand Niagara, Jones told reporters he had “built a golf course worthy of a major championship.”

Bob Culig, PG member of Canada and head golf professional at Grand Niagara, says what Rees Jones has done for this course is make it user friendly.

“All skill levels can come and enjoy the course and what we have to offer,” said Culig. “Even the most experienced golfer can receive a challenging game while someone less familiar with the game can get out, have fun and enjoy the nature of the course while learning how to golf.”

But as a championship golf course only minutes away from Niagara Falls, crowds could be a worry; but Culig guarantees golfers never feel rushed at the Grand Niagara.

“When you are playing it is like you and your partners are out by yourself,” said Culig. “There is so much land, it is a large property, and even though you’re not by yourself, it feels like it – even on those busy days. [Rees Jones] has taken a large piece of property and made it very nice for the golfer who enjoys being out in nature.”

Operating as a semi-private facility, the Grand Niagara caters to locals who are looking for memberships and individuals who want to drop in for a game.

Beechwood Golf and Country Club

Having recently celebrated its fiftieth anniversary, the Beechwood Golf and Country Club boasts a rich history along with a tough game of golf. Located in St. Catharines, it sits on preserved history, a landmark which was once the scene of “musket fire and fighting,” and the site of the Battle at the Beech Woods in 1813.

This par 72 layout and semi-private establishment features gently rolling terrain, contoured fairways and strategic water hazards that combine to make each hole a unique experience – and equally as difficult.

Golfers can expect to find eighteen classically designed holes, each moderately difficult. Another semi-private facility, Beechwood is a welcome course for locals and tourists alike.

John Daly’s Thundering Waters Golf Club

A landmark golf course in Canada, Thundering Water’s Golf Club is famed golfer John Daly’s first signature golf course in the country. Located in Niagara Falls’ Fallsview Tourist District, it is a mere 1,500 yards from the iconic Horseshoe Falls – and just as impressive in stature.

Sitting at a challenging par 72, this John Daly signature course is not to be taken lightly. Designed in collaboration with Canadian golf architect Bo Danoff, Thundering Waters brings Daly’s “risk for reward” strategy to life and places it onto the fairway. Combining nature’s tranquility with obstacle treachery, Thundering Waters features sweeping fairways, sculpted bunkers and creeks all nestled between sand dunes, which combine for a difficult, yet, enjoyable, game of golf.

These aesthetically pleasing sights also function as interesting obstacles for the gentleman golfer. The course tests your accuracy and offers a challenge for golfers to improve their game. Though not for the weak of heart, the course is friendly to golfers of all skill level.

Legends on the Niagara Golf Complex

The largest of the seven courses on the trail, Legends on the Niagara Golf Complex has not one, but two exceptionally crafted eighteen hole championship level golf courses. This natural setting is a golfer’s dream getaway, sitting on one thousand acres of natural turf, water hazards, sand traps and landscaping. If this wasn’t enough, the course also plays host to an extremely large driving range and bonus 9-hole course.

The impressive Battlefield course is located on the north side of the Legends on the Niagara property. Designed by Canadian golf architect Douglas Carrick, a veteran who has created a truly unique course that challenges every level of golfer.

The course features a nice mix of wide, links style holes with generous fairways and greens that are bound by dense forest and brush.

The second course, Ussher’s Creek, located on the south side of the property, is one of Canadian golf architect Thomas McBroom’s finest achievements.

This challenging course features thick stands of trees, wetland hazards, knee-high fescue rough and impeccable conditioning from tee to green. These all combine to make Ussher’s Creek a classic parkland course.

Both courses feature four sets of tees, catering to all levels and encouraging play from juniors to the most advanced golfers.

Royal Niagara Golf Club

Known as a must play course of international standing, the Royal Niagara boasts 7,000 yards of sculpted fairways, rolling greens and water, designed by landscape architect Ted Baker. Baker, the founding member of the Stanley Thompson Society, is known for preserving famed golf courses throughout North America.

Tucked away next to the historic Welland Canal, Bruce Trail and Niagara Escarpment, the unique golf course incorporates natural landscapes to make for a difficult course. Although heralded for being a championship golf course and fairly challenging – it was host to the Telus Skins Game in 2003 – Velizar Amoff, operations manager at the Royal Niagara, says the course has a little something for every level of golfer.

“The course has five sets of tees so it is accessible to all calibers of players,” said Amoff.

The golf club’s three individually designed championship level 9-hole courses allow golfers who place a high premium on originality to thoroughly enjoy themselves.

Amoff said it is the unique layout of the course and its convenient location to the border that keeps tourists coming back to their courses each season.

Whirlpool Golf Course

Revered as one of the highest rated and renowned golf courses in Canada, Whirlpool Golf Course is an 18-hole championship public course in the Niagara Region. The course features challenging designs by renowned golf architect Stanley Thompson, one of Canada’s most accomplished and respected golf course architects.

Before Thompson’s premature death at 59, Thompson designed and remodeled over 145 golf courses– with the majority throughout Canada. Known for his strategic design tactics, Thompson was steadfast in his belief that golf must be played with the mind as well as the body. His courses reflect this thoughtful design tactic in its artfully crafted sand traps and bunkers.

Dramatically situated next to the Niagara whirlpools, it is hailed as one of the most challenging courses on the Niagara Golf Trail. But this should not dissuade any golf lovers to try out this course. Its intrinsic design and prestige that accompanies its 72-year heritage makes for an appealing course for all experience levels.

Seneca Hickory Stick Golf Course

A new partner with the Niagara Golf Trail, Seneca History Stick Golf Course is the trail’s first American partner. Located in Lewiston, New York just over the border from Niagara Falls, this picturesque public course is aptly named to reflect the presence of the rare and protected Shellbark Hickory trees that line the course.

Designed by architect Trent Jones, whose repertoire consists of over 500 golf courses throughout the United States, is known for working with nature when designing a course – and Seneca Hickory is no exception. The course mirrors with its natural surroundings of lakes and mature trees to create a serene course for all playing levels.

And don’t overlook warming up before you hit the greens. Seneca Hickory Stick boasts some of the most realistic practice facilities in the area, including a natural grass driving range, vast putting green and designated grass and sand chipping areas.

Off The Trail

International Country Club of Niagara

ICC is a beautiful 27-hole golf course located in Stevensville, and has a wide variety of hole designs. It is a great mixture of large greens, wooded areas, several bunkers and ponds, making for a stunning visual, as well as a challenging course.