A beginner's guide to the Toronto golf scene

Big-city isn't necessarily a bad thing.

When you think of Toronto, you probably think lots of people -- it is, after all, the largest urban area in Canada -- and lots of skyscrapers, but "The Big Smoke" is also home to lots of of good golf options.

From tour-tested public tracks to some of the finest private facilities north of the border, here's a golf-first guide to Toronto:

Play where Tiger Woods and the pros compete

Tiger Woods pulled off one of the most remarkable shots of his career -- and there have been a lot to choose from -- in the Greater Toronto Area, and you can try to replicate it during a round at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville. During the final round of the 2000 Canadian Open, Tiger smoked a six-iron from a fairway bunker on No. 18, flying his 218-yard approach shot over all sorts of wet stuff, making birdie and eventually winning by one stroke.

Designed by Jack Nicklaus and accessible to the public, Glen Abbey has hosted the Canadian Open a record-setting 26 times, with Greg Norman, Nick Price and Lee Trevino also among the star-studded list of champions.

There are two more tour-tested layouts at Angus Glen in Markham, where both the North and South courses have hosted the Canadian Open. The South Course re-opened this spring after a multi-million-dollar renovation.

With its punishing pot bunkers and gnarly fescue grass, Doug Carrick's design at Eagles Nest Golf Club in Maple offers a linksy look, while Wooden Sticks Golf Club in Uxbridge features a collection of replica holes from some of the most famous courses in the world, if you're into that sort of thing.

Private golf clubs in the Toronto area

If you have friends or business connections in the Greater Toronto Area, you might have the key to accessing some of Canada's best courses. In fact, the National Golf Club of Canada in Woodbridge is currently No. 1 in SCOREGolf Magazine's Top 100 Courses in Canada. Be warned, the George and Tom Fazio design is also one of the toughest tests around, with a scary slope rating of 152 from the back tees.

St. George's Golf & Country Club , which is the work of famed Canadian course architect Stanley Thompson and is a fixture on the rankings of the best courses on the planet, is a bit more gentle and has a wicked finishing stretch. The greens at St. George's are being rebuilt this summer.

If you're a history buff, shoot for an invite to Weston Golf & Country Club , where Arnold Palmer notched his first of many PGA Tour triumphs at the 1955 Canadian Open.

Great Ontario golf awaits in nearby Muskoka

Toronto residents have access to some great golf destinations within an hour or two's drive. For starters, point your rental car to the north and a couple hours later, you'll wind up in the Muskoka region, a rugged stretch of Canadian Shield and home to some of Canada's most scenic public courses.

The must-play of the destination is Muskoka Bay Club , another Carrick design that gets good right away. In fact, the first hole, a dramatic downhill assignment, gives you a great taste of what to expect over the next four hours and change.

If you're staying awhile in Muskoka, you might also want to check out Rocky Crest Golf Club , Taboo Resort Golf & Spa or Deerhurst Highlands .

Wait, there's more: Bigwin Island Golf Club , a top-notch track that is accessible only by ferry, offers public golf in May, June, September and October.

What to do off the golf course in Toronto

A trip to Toronto wouldn't be complete without a trip to the Hockey Hall of Fame, which is jam-packed with artifacts -- including the Stanley Cup -- and offers virtual-reality experiences so you can try to score a goal on Jonathan Quick or stop a shot from Sidney Crosby.

Baseball might be America's pastime, but the Toronto Blue Jays have delivered a couple of World Series titles to the Great White North. Check the schedule and splurge for a field-view room at the Renaissance Toronto Downtown Hotel, where you can watch the Jays -- or the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts -- from the comfort of your suite.

If you dare, try the EdgeWalk at the CN Tower, where you'll be harnessed for an outdoor stroll 1,168 feet -- that's more than 100 stories -- above the ground.

Sound dangerous? Maybe just have dinner in Toronto's tallest structure instead.

Wes Gilbertson covers the NHL’s Calgary Flames and writes golf features for Postmedia in Calgary, Alta. When the snow melts, he's living proof that thin mountain air doesn't turn everybody into a long-drive specialist. Follow Wes on Twitter at @WesGilbertson.
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A beginner's guide to the Toronto golf scene
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