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Review: Whirlpool Golf Club

By David "Tigger" Shulist,
from Two Guys Who Golf

The Whirlpool Golf Club which borders the whirlpools on the Niagara River in Niagara Falls, Ontario is not only a beautiful golf course, but is an exceptional value for its challenging layout. The first thing you notice - and it literally jumps out at you - is the aesthetics of this course. Everything is immaculate; from the pavers that lead you from the bag drop to the pro shop, the clubhouse and the caddyshack to the elaborate floral renderings that dot the course. The fairways, teeboxes and greens are perfectly manicured.

The course is run by the Niagara Parks Commission (they have their own world-class horticultural society) and it's obvious why this course is considered one of the regions highlights.

We arrived about ½ hour early for our tee time on a day that the course was fully booked. Instead of having us wait around, the staff found a spot for us with two seasoned Niagara golfers, Mike and Joe Burke. It was nice to play with folks who were familiar with the course, but it was not necessary because as first timers to the course, we noted that every hole is well-marked, the score cards are very informative and the tee boxes have hole descriptions provided. There are 5 sets of tee boxes. The golds play over 7200 yards and can be very challenging. Its important to choose your tee box wisely.

Our front nine round was a real treat. After a straight, easy par 4 warm up hole, we were introduced to the second and third holes (par 4 and par 3) which are located in the Whirlpool Golf Club signature area. A very beautiful fountained water feature is surrounded by flora. The backdrop of the second green and the view from the tee box of the 3rd hole make it hard to concentrate on your shot. But concentrate you must or you'll find yourself in the drink. The 4th and 5th holes are par 5s. Both are challenging with bunkering coming into play at about mid-fairway level. The fairways tend to "squeeze in" just where you should drop your first shot leaving you with a sand or rough shot if your don't tee off well. #5's green is elevated and long and would provide for some interesting pin placement opportunities for course managers. The 6th hole is a 174-yard par 3 with an immaculate and very large green.

There is a fairly generous out of bounds area lining the fairway on the 7th hole. We noted that throughout the course you would find an incredible variety of trees.

Willow Oak, Pine, and other species that are all well established and give Whirlpool a very stately and elegant appeal. The 8th and 9th holes are both par 4, the 8th being the easier. The fairway on the 9th hole gives you ample opportunity for a good lie at about the 150-yard mark - you can bring out your big club - and you'll want to set yourself up for your approach to the slightly elevated green.

We were equally impressed with the back nine. #10 opens up to an expansive fairway off an elevated tee and is a long par 4 - and along with the 11th hole that follows, is another big dog experience. #12 - a 175 yard par three warms you up for the #13 par 5. This hole doglegs to the left with a fair amount of bunkering just at the turn - where you need to place your ball. Even with good ball placement, its still a fair hike (about 250 yards) to the green. This hole demands a bit of thought and skill. #14 is another par three that plays over a water feature. #15 is a easy 475 yard par 5 with an elevated green. #16 is a 343 yard par 4 that we called the bunker hole. Recently installed and immaculately sculpted bunkers line and intrude upon the fairway along the left side and in front of the green on the right side. It's a beautiful sight and it takes a bit of skill to place your ball so that you have a decent approach shot.

The gold tees are very elevated. Another par 3 greets you on the 17th while the homestrech 18th hole - a long par 5 to an elevated green at the clubhouse gives you the opportunity to break out the big club again.

We would happily play this course over and over. To put it simply it is beautiful. The natural setting, the sound of the water rushing through the Niagara River, the peace and elegance of the numerous hardwood trees all give The Whirlpool an ambiance of its own. Its tee box selection and its layout make this couse appealing to both the casual and the experienced golfer.

The conditions were immaculate and although the course was busy during our round, we found that the design of the course prevented it from looking so. Our partners for the round, Joe and Mike Burke, said that the course can become very busy in the prime tourist months of summer and that other players become more noticeable on the course but not so much as to detract from your round. It is not a course that would allow you to feel "crowded". The Whirlpool's pro shop carries basic equipment and is very well stocked with golf clothing. Dining and drinks can be had in the clubhouse, on the patio and at the caddyshack.

They have some very nice banquet facilities and given their location in Niagara Falls, we could imagine a nice wedding there. Overall we felt that the Whirlpool is a course that demands your respect - if not because of its beauty, then because of the nature of its design and levels of challenge. Take your best manners with you and have lots of fun on this course.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • whirlpool golf course review

    trevor berns wrote on: Aug 19, 2011

    Played this course in august 2011. I had played it about 5 years ago as well and had fond memories - sadly, the course was not up to par this time.
    On the positive side the course itself in my opinion has great potential with a pretty layout and some challenging narrow fairways and elevation changes.
    The first two holes are simple but a good start to any course. However what follows is a lack of understanding of public golf.
    I am a 10 handicap and scored well there but still did not enjoy my round like i should have. And my friends who are more recreational golfers really found it too challenging. (normally we all play the blue tees at any course).
    There are too many par 4s playing well over 400 yards and not nearly enough variability in the needlessly long par 3 yardages (4 par 3s over 200 yards at the blues). One would be better off to study the scorecard and then vary the tee boxes they play from hole to hole to design a better playing golf course.
    Finally, the course was in terrible condition. The tee boxes were the only areas with decent maintenance. Many fairways looked like someone had airbomed them -- GUR signs were abundant. The only decent greens were the practice area and the 18th. Sand bunkers were underfilled.
    My advice is for the mgmt there to have a serious look at moving tee boxes and better manicuring the course.
    In the meantime go play Ushers Creek at the Legends of Niagara
    -- It's a great course in beautiful condition.


      • RE: whirlpool golf course review

        Kris wrote on: Aug 24, 2011

        The whole area has had a terrible drought all summer (my parents live there and had a 38 day stretch with no rain), so that is why the conditions are bad I'm sure. However, as to the course being unfair, don't play the tips. It's a Thompson classic, and designed to play difficult from the tips. It may hurt your ego, but play a different set of tees. It and Highland Links are the only Thompson courses I've played, and both are amazing.



    CARL ORCUTT wrote on: Oct 26, 2004