Review: Ironwood Golf Club (Exeter, Ont)

Ironwood Golf Club

Ironwood Golf Club

Ironwood Golf Club

Course: Ironwood Golf Club, Exeter, Ont. (public)

Weather: Sunny & Clear 16 deg F with very little breeze
Green fees: $45 (inc. single cart rider fee & taxes.)
Tees used: Blue – 6179 yards (Whites are 5686)
Score Shot: 86

The Course
Called up as a single wanting to be paired. Got there around 1:20 in the afternoon‚ and paid. One of the girls behind the counter took me out and introduced me to the group (nice touch). Welcomed warmly by a father out for a round with his two sons. A nicer group would be tough to find. This neck of cottage country is an area I frequent. Visitors come from all around as it is less than 40 min. from Masonville Mall in London to course, 20 min from sun & fun of Grand Bend. Originally a 9 hole designed by Dave Fergusson, a former assistant to Stanley Thompson. Those original holes opened in 1965. A redesign including adding 9 more holes occurred in 1990 by John F. Robinson.

Goat Track or Weekend in Paradise?: Ironwood is a relative short course playing only 6179 from the blues but with a respectable 120 slope. The fairways are generally separated by pine trees so some challenge comes from these as wayward shots will likely involve hacking out sideways. However straight hitters will find the fairways wide and receptive. The entire course is bordered by a beautiful conservation area complete with hiking trails. Cart riders can double check yardage in free Goflogix‚ GPS units.

Consider the first hole and tee shot a driving range warm up. Yes there is a pond and trees to the left but the width of fairway is so wide and the hole so short (308 yards) that you can whale away.
If the first hole has loosened you up and left you all warm and fuzzy the 335 yard par 4 second hole will wake you up. Common lay ups will fall close to a crossing creek (at 225 yards) so remember when your going to lay up…lay up. It is the green though that challenges. It is a forbearer of the course and what’s to come. The greens are multi-leveled with undulations all over. Although fairly slow, 3 putts are a distinct challenge.

The third hole completes the warm up with a challenging par 4. Out of bounds for you slicers along the right, you need a good drive as a hilly creek crosses the fairway for your approach.

A few holes later you are rewarded with a par 3 over a wide pond on the 7th hole. By this point in the round I had moved to the white tees from the blues to match up with my playing partners (strictly for their convenience and not my rough game…sticking to that story). This change in tees took the hole down from my 3wd/driver territory 226 to hybrid/long iron range of 177 yards. The hole is slightly uphill so factor that in.

This is quickly followed by the 8th hole. My partners being regulars gave me some great course management advice. The hole goes over water that only those aqua phobic will worry about as it is only 50 yards to cross, but the hole dog legs left. The tree they aimed me at to cut the corner left me with a short iron in and an easy par.

A convenient phone with menu board ensured that some inexpensive yet tasty burgers & crispy onion rings awaited us at the turn. Food was ready to go but still hot so some care goes into the process. Other members enjoyed a small yet well positioned patio. How many of you have gone to a higher priced course that features an ornate patio with absolutely nothing of value to watch? Not here. You can choose to watch the 1st hole tee shots or the incoming par 3 7th hole shots (pay attention, may need to duck between sips!)

The 10th opens up fairly benign which is nice since you need to loosen up again after a quick bite. The following 11th hole requires you pay more attention again as accuracy is a necessity. There is an out of bounds farmer’s field on left, trees right and the green in distance appears as a tight chute.

Throughout the round the cart girls were frequent visitors. No need to remain parched as they came often, remembered your favorite beverage and prices were very inexpensive. In keeping with the folksy atmosphere they wear a flowered protective pit helmet.
The 15th hole is a par 3 completely surrounded by pine trees and although a huge green it is set up to scare slicers with not one, but two bunkers on the right side. From the whites it was 186 a reasonable challenge. From the blues at 214 even the course website acknowledges its difficult to hit. At a previous tourney they offered free beer and nachos to each of the 100 players who hit the green. Unfortunately for the tourney players (fortunate for the course) only fifteen of the players met the task.

How the Rock Rolls: Ironwood features average length fairways with above average size greens. Just making the green is not a reason to celebrate. You could be as much as 60 feet away and with the undulations and elevations, I found it very refreshing. The speed is a little on the slow side, but I was informed that in mid summer it quickens.

Conditioning: Tees were generally good although a little spotty. Fairways and greens were nice and green, crosscut clearly. Good this early in spring. Rough was generally thick. Balls had a definite habit of sitting down as the grass stands straight up. This leads to fat shots or fliers. There were nice touches of gardening and flowers. With the surrounding farmer’s fields and conservation grounds the only sounds were birds chirping and laughter from the easy going groups on bordering fairways..

Making the Cut: Ironwood is a very enjoyable course. Low handicappers should leave with a great score but will enjoy the multi leveled undulating greens. From the right tees there is enough bail out areas for the high handicapper to ensure they do not leave their round demoralized. I judge equivalent to $$$ spent. With these low prices my expectations were low but it was a surprisingly fun track.
Hacker’s Highlights: If you have played everything in London make the trek up. If you are spending time at your cottage in Grand Bend or camping at the pinery, drive down and enjoy the day.

Hint: Have your mate meet you after the round and reward them with a bite in the nicely finished dining room, complete with stone fireplace. Menu and specials were surprisingly broad.

Overall Value: At $45 for a prime rate including cart I easily give Ironwood a 110% rating

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