The Niagara Region in Ontario, Canada is home to a plethora of golf courses. At one, there were approximately 40 golf courses (give or take a couple) but due to a variety of reasons whether it be real estate or an economic downturn, some courses have closed.
I’m quite fortunate because, over the years that I’ve played golf, I’ve had the privilege to play most most of the golf courses in the area, save for a couple of private courses. Until recently, one of the golf courses that I hadn’t played in the Niagara Region was Bridgewater Country Club.
Located a mere Par 5 away from an international border crossing in Fort Erie, Ontario lies one of golf architect Stanley Thompson’s creations. For those that are unaware of who Stanley Thompson is, it’s my opinion that he is Canada’s most renowned golf architect. Among his designs are notable golf courses like Banff Springs Golf Club (Alberta), Capilano (British Columbia), and Highland Links (Cape Breton, Nova Scotia).
Bridgewater Country Club was built in 1923 and first opened under the name of Erie Downs Golf and Country Club, and it wasn’t until the 1970’s that it became known as Bridgewater Country Club as it’s known today. Bridgewater Country Club is best defined as a parkland-style golf course as it’s manicured, well-landscaped tree-lined fairways welcomes golfers from the moment that you step onto the first tee and walk off of the 18th green. But, more on that later.
Having never stepped foot onto the property before, I really didn’t know what to expect. Bridgewater Country Club is a golf course that was once private and upon exiting my vehicle while approaching my playing partner (Randy) I made an observation. “Well, it smells private” I said. In saying this, I meant this to be very complimentary. Just looking around at the grounds I took in the surroundings. The curb appeal of the landscaping, the practice green, the bag storage area, and there’s even an air hose for blowing off your golf spikes post-round. Bridgewater Country Club has the amenities that you typically see at a private club. Checking into the Pro Shop was a breeze and there was a friendly atmosphere that just sort of lingered. It felt right and I felt like Bridgewater Country Club felt like a golf club.
As far as the practice facilities are concerned, they are all within a very close proximity to the first tee. A chipping green, putting green, and the driving range are all right there. Paces from the first tee. Talk about convenience!! Just a word to the wise though. Monday is a maintenance day for the driving range. If you have an earlier tee time, there is no range availability until after 8 a.m. Considering the swing issues that I had the night before, I was a little bummed that I didn’t have a last-minute chance to sort myself out prior to tee off. Just a minor inconvenience and something that will not reflect on this golf course review.
So we made our way to the first tee, and the 1st hole at Bridgewater Country aptly named “Bridgewater” is a relatively straight-away Par 4. A creek sits about 250 yards from the “White” tee’s and the fairway slopes down gradually from the 150 marker. There’s an uphill approach to this green complex which features a narrow green with three bunkers guarding that practically act as sentries here. Ironically enough, The Battle of Fort Erie during the War of 1812 took place not too far from here. A beautiful starting hole and it’s only a sign of things to come as you begin your day. Typical of one of Mr. Thompson’s “Ten Priniciple’s of Course Design”. An “easy aesthetic start”.
I won’t give a hole by hole synopsis of Bridgewater Country Club, but holes like the second hole, dogleg left “Sentinel Trap” was one of many holes that my eye loved and again featured the design philosophy of Mr. Thompson. On the left side of the fairway at the dogleg is a “voluptuous bunker”. Hole 4 known as “Cleavage” is what Bridgewater Country Club refers to as it’s ‘most scenic Par 3″ on the golf course. I agree that it’s scenic and I loved the backdrop looking down from the tee, but, for me my eye liked the Par 3 13th “Haunted Willow” more. Ironically enough, the 13th is the only hole without a bunker. The green has a false front, a creek that runs in front of it so an errant tee shot short stands a good chance to find the creek. Quite frankly, Bridgewater Country Club might have the best collection of Par 3’s that I’ve played on any given golf course.
I was amazed by how stunning this golf course was. Hole after hole it just brought more and more to love. Nearly every hole was scenic and an aesthetic treat. Other than a couple of holes that looked mundane such as the Par 5 3rd hole called “Wind Jammer” which plays into the prevailing southwest wind of Lake Erie or Hole #11 (“Power Line”) because of the power lines that run down the right side of the fairway. But don’t mistake my use of the word “mundane” to mean that they’re boring holes. Because, they aren’t and they still hold your attention. But then you get a hole like the Par 5 5th hole (“Eagle’s Hope”) that not only gives you a chance at an Eagle on this short, reachable Par 5 but also features a green complex that almost gives you a “Carolina Feel”. The back to front sloped green sits uphill and is sort of tucked back amongst the trees.
The conditions of Bridgewater Country Club are among the best that I’ve played in Niagara. Well-manicured fairways, aesthetically pleasing bunkers that are very well-maintained, greens that roll true and fast. Speaking of the greens, the turf crew “whipped” the greens in the morning. Ridding the greens of the morning dew that had gathered the night before. Thus, giving the “dewsweepers” true rolls first thing in the morning. As the wind started to blow, the greens really started to show their pace but the speed as far as I’m concerned from the first green on was perfect. They’re fast. As I sit here and reflect, I was amazed at how quick the green on the Par 3 6th (“Chameleon”) was. You do not want to be above the pin on this hole. Lightning. The tee boxes were level and in a state of great repair, the superintendent and his staff deserve many kudos for their hard work and the quality of said work. Although, I will say that someone must have irritated the greenskeeper at some point because the pin placement on #17 was vicious. I liked it, but I can be a bit of a masochist at times.
In conclusion, if you live in Niagara or are visiting the area from out of town and you’re looking to play golf on a golf course that offers quality, a terrific layout, and fantastic conditions. Look no further than Bridgewater Country Club. As far as I’m concerned, Bridgewater Country Club IS Niagara’s Most Underrated Golf Course. A gem!
Until The Next Tee!!