Review: Innerkip Highlands Golf Club

Innerkip Highlands Golf Club - 5th hole

Innerkip Highlands Golf Club - 5th hole

Innerkip Highlands Golf Club - 5th hole

Course: Innerkip Highlands Golf Club

Location: Innerkip, Ontario

Weather: Fantastic, 25 and sunny with little or no breeze

Green fees: $53

Tees used: Blue – 6333 yards

Score Shot: 82

Time Taken: 4.5 hours

The Course

Quality of service:This is Innerkip…..there is no valet service or young man ready to carry your bag for you but, as expected, everyone was quite friendly at the front desk. I walked on shortly after 11 am with no prior notice (although I did check their online booking to make sure there were open spots). As I walked out the door of the shop I was told by the starter that I was on the tee, even though my time was ten minutes away and I wanted to practice some putting. It’s nice to keep things moving, but there’s a limit as well. The young lady at “Rosie’s Thirst Aid Station,” a half-way snack shack that you pass numerous times throughout the round, was quite efficient at serving the required beverages and hot dogs, even if she wasn’t the real Rosie. On the course there was a lot of mowing and groundwork going on and the staff was always well aware of the golfers around them.

Goat Track or Weekend In Paradise?

Having played Innerkip years ago when it was a nine hole glorified field, but mostly ignoring it for 15+ years (I thought deservedly so), it is pretty amazing to see how well a golf course can age. While there are a few back and forth holes there is also enough challenge and uniqueness that it keeps you interested. What were once rumours of trees lining some fairways are now true evergreen difference makers that can demand more than a few delicate recovery shots. The bunkering lacks a bit of imagination as it’s mainly flat greenside traps with some fairway bunkers mixed in on a couple par fives (#4 and #12). There is a waste bunker on the 376 yard, par 4, 8th hole that adds some variety but being that it’s 40-60 yards off the tees it really only comes into play for the golfers that need that type of disruption the least.

There is little in the way of water hazards to be found on the course. There are three holes (1st, 7th and 10th) that force you to carry a small creek with your approach but it doesn’t deliver near the drama of the recently renovated 346 yard, par 4, 5th island hole and the following par 3, 6th with a large pond fronting the right side of it’s massive green. The 5th, the obvious “signature” hole of Innerkip, is a long way from the 17th a Sawgrass, both geographically and in playability, but it is still lots of fun to pretend you have The Players Championship on the line as you approach it. I actually enjoy the fact that it’s a par four as you’ll have a different shot in every time you play it, as opposed to teeing it up from the same spot for each nerve testing time you hit into it.

Innerkip seems to have a trend of holes running right to left as in the 403 yard, par 4 opener. There are numerous times (1st, 8th, 9th, 15th and 17th) that a well played righty draw can make the holes significantly easier. The 321 yard, par 4, 17th is the best example of this, with it’s elevated tees it would be drivable by a long draw but it narrows all the way to the small green fronted by sand and surrounded by trees presenting a real risk/reward opportunity. The par 5’s, while not laid out with any similarity, are all reachable in 2 by even semi-long hitters as they max out at 510 yards which presents numerous opportunties to gain strokes and add excitement.

On the down side the 105 yard, par 3, second is by far the weakest of the one shot holes and its position, in an intersection consisting of no less than three other greens and three other sets of tee blocks all within a long wedge shot, leaves a lot to be desired. Also, on the “Highlands” section of the course, there are too many upgrade par 4’s (the 3rd, 11th and 15th ranging from 358 to 392 yards) for my liking, and the fact they all share the same hillside makes them seem even more bland.

How the Rock Rolls:

The greens at Innerkip are generally small and flat with gentle sloping presenting the need to have to game to hold them with your approach, more than the ability to putt on them. Putts ran very true although I constantly played for more break than ever actually occurred. The day I played the greens were fairly firm and not easy to hold despite having a fairly significant rainfall a couple nights before. I found the speed of the greens to be very consistent, which is always a plus, but slightly below average speed. The conditioning of the greens is really a high point of the experience as it’s obvious a lot of care is put into maintaining them. Perhaps the golfers ahead of me this day weren’t hitting many greens, but at the very least the patrons chose to help keep the high standards of conditions as I could not‚ find more than a handful of unrepaired ball marks.

Conditioning:

Overall the conditions are what impressed me the most about Innerkip.
If you need bent grass tee to greens, this is not the place for you, but for a $50 green fee I would hazard a guess it would be hard to come by better conditions.

I noticed a couple teeing areas that were crowned a bit more than necessary resulting in an uneven lies on the deck, but it was not a recurring problem.

One other minor issue raised by the great spring weather, was that I noticed some excess grass clippings built up at times, mostly on fairways. That’s pretty nitpicking though.

Making the Cut:

If you’re a low-handicapper that likes to challenge your game this may not be the best place for you. For the other 90% of golfers like me, Innerkip offers the chance to shoot your best score if your game is bang on while still giving you enough problems to deal with if you falter. I was a bit surprised that my round took a full 4.5 hours to play and at times seemed to really lag. With the fact that Innerkip is the likely the best public golf option within 30 minutes of the new Toyota plant in Woodstock, I would suggest that the time of the average round will not be coming down anytime soon.

I walked the course and it didn’t wipe me out but with some fairly long walks between holes 2 and 3, 10 and 11 and 17 and 18 it may seem better suited for carts. When I played I estimate 80% of golfers were carting it.

Hacker’s Highlights:

While people who play Innerkip may not all fall in love with it, I would be shocked if anyone could play the course and hate it. There are more than enough unique and fun aspects to keep you from getting down on the ordinary stretches. For the average “weekend hacker” I would bet the overall experience would be overwhelmingly positive.

Hit to Your Pocketbook:

I may not want to spend $50 to play this course once a week for a full summer, but for a nice change of pace it is hard to beat.

Hacking Away: 100% (based on a green fee of $50)

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