UXBRIDGE, Ontario, Canada - If you're a fan of replica golf courses - you know, the ones that duplicate holes as closely as legally possible - then Wooden Sticks Golf Club northeast of Toronto is a good bet.
On the other hand, if you're someone who despises those kinds of gimmicky, touristy golf courses, don't worry - Wooden Sticks has 10 completely original holes, designed by architect Ron Garl, that will suit you as well.
Wooden Sticks is one of Toronto's most popular upscale daily fee golf courses. In fact, it's so popular with corporate outings that the weekday green fee is more expensive than the weekend.
But public play is always welcome, so long as the course isn't booked out by a company, and those who tee it up here will play holes inspired by courses from Augusta National to the Old Course in St. Andrews.
In total, there are eight "inspired-by" replica holes here. The first hole features an Oakmont-style "church pew" bunker, but the rest of its design is original. Additionally, three holes are loose renditions of those in Pine Valley; you'll notice these immediately by their wild and large waste bunkers.
But whether you're into replica golf courses or not, one thing everyone will agree on is the condition of the golf course. Part of Wooden Sticks' appeal is the rolling, permeable land it sits on, a landscape that's practically perfect for golf.
"The course sits entirely on sand and gravel, so it drains extremely well," said Doug Kirkpatrick, head professional of Wooden Sticks, on a rainy morning that led to suspended play at Glen Abbey during the Canadian Open. "It can rain for 24 hours here and the course can still be in good shape."
From tee to flag, Wooden Sticks' bent grass is tour-ready, and the greens are quick and firm. Though the rough isn't punishing, there are wild, heathery areas, especially around some of the bunkers, that will swallow up your ball if you're not careful.
Wooden Sticks Golf Club: The verdict
Obviously, variety is going to be exceptional when you pool some of the world's most famous holes together. In fact, there is such a difference between Scotland-inspired pot bunkers to wild, sandy Pine Valley-replica holes, to the St. Andrews-ish 10th and 18th double-fairway with no bunkers, that at times it's tough to really believe you're on the same golf course from start to finish. Of the three replica par 3s here, it would be difficult to replace any with a more famous rendition. These include the 12th at Augusta National, the "Postage Stamp" from Royal Troon, and the 17th from TPC Sawgrass.
Green fees range from $145-220 CA (weekend early morning and after 2 p.m. is the cheapest), but the fees cover much more than just golf, including two full meals, non-alcoholic drinks and snacks in your golf cart, yardage book, range balls, and a souvenir -so expect to make a day of it here.
There are five sets of tees at Wooden Sticks, playing 7,012 yards from the championship tees. The course is part of the Highlands Golf Trail, which features upscale courses all north of Toronto. Wooden Sticks is the furthest away of the bunch in Uxbridge, 50 km northeast of the city.
After Wooden Sticks, stay and play in Toronto
If you're looking to stay in the heart of Toronto's action, check out the new 122-room boutique hotel Le Germain in the city's entertainment district, located behind King St. right across the street from Second City comedy club and Wayne Gretzky's restaurant. The hotel is also an easy walk to the Rogers Center (formerly SkyDome) and CN Tower.
Guestrooms at the Le Germain are ultra-stylish and feature original art from Toronto's James Lahey. Rooms are also decked out with extremely comfortable bedding, and, if you're regretting leaving them to go home upon checkout, they're actually for sale.
There's even an added touch for golfers: a small rooftop putting green, where you can enjoy a cocktail and some fabulous views of the city. Business travelers are well catered for with amenities like free WiFi, 24-hour fitness center, in-room massage treatments, and even personal shoppers - if you'd rather golf than run errands in your spare time.
If you'd prefer to stay outside the city, consider one of Wooden Sticks' own luxury cabins, which have two bedrooms and four beds. Stay-and-play packages are available.
Behind the par-5 3rd hole, which resembles the famous 13th at Augusta National, a Masters-esque scoreboard sits with results from that year's tournament.