Beauties, of course

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:33 AM ET

Doug Carrick has scored an impressive hat trick.

The Toronto golf course architect had his spectacular new designs sweep the top three spots in ScoreGolf's ranking of the best new courses in Canada in 2007.

Humber Valley Resort's River Course, located on the west coast of Newfoundland, landed the top spot. Though relatively unknown now, the 10th hole, a par-4 that drops 180 feet from the tee decks near the clubhouse to the fairway down below, is destined to become one of Canada's most-photogenic holes. With the distant backdrop of the Humber Valley, it perhaps will become one of this country's most famous holes.

"It was a wonderful site with the views of Deer Lake and the Humber River ... there is some great variety on the site, the valleys on the back nine, softer landscape on the front nine. I saw tremendous potential there," Carrick told Sun Media. "It was a challenging site being on a mountainside. It was a great experience and it was a great canvas to work on."

One of the my favourite holes (there were a bunch) was the short, potentially driveable par-4 15th. It hugs the river up its right side which is the aggressive line to the green. Wetlands to the left threaten the safe tee ball that goes a little too far.

"You can make anything from a two to an eight on a hole like that," said Carrick.

In addition to Humber Valley, Carrick's Muskoka Bay in Gravenhurst and Cobble Beach in Owen Sound rounded out the top three on ScoreGolf's list of best new courses in Canada last year.

While Humber Valley is the newest "must-play" down East, you can't make the trip to the Maritimes without playing Highlands Links, the Stanley Thompson classic on Cape Breton, which once again made it onto Golf Magazine's ranking of the top 100 courses in the world. Highlands Links came in at 79th in the world, the only Canadian course to make the list.

It's a treat to play the course, as I did last summer, in the company of long-time head pro Joe Robinson, who grew up in Ingonish and has spent most of his life at Highlands Links.

On the par-4 fourth, a great short hole with a well-defenced, elevated green, Robinson pointed out how the mounding around the green complex has the same contours as the mountains that form the backdrop for the hole. It's that kind of detail that makes the place special.

The construction of Highlands Links in 1938 in the national park was pretty much a make-work project, said Robinson. Steam shovels were only allowed to be used 20 hours a week, so Thompson busied 200 men doing the mounding and shaping by hand.

"He would tear greens up two or three times before he was satisfied," said Robinson, looking at the fourth's green complex. "You couldn't do that kind of mounding with machines."

Highlands Links is known for its par-5s, which come at you back-to-back each nine, holes six and seven and 15-16.

"George Knudson said the seventh was his favourite par-5 in golf," said Robinson. The sixth has made Golf Magazine's list of the top 100 holes in the world (1999-2000).

Though we were riding that day, Robinson made sure I made the 500-yard walk along the edge of the brook between the 12th green and the 13th tee, a pacifiying interlude beside sun-dappled water, a few minutes of solitude, quiet appreciation and rejuvenation before the final third of the round.

THAT'S FREAKY

Some people think golf is a little stuffy, but the folks at Top-Flite are doing their best to loosen things up. They have some attitude with their "Never lay up" strategy and they've introduced a ball called "The Freak," this year, which they bill as the longest two-piece golf ball. At 254.5 yards, it was the longest ball in the Callaway-Top-Flite stable in testing by Golf Magazine.

TAKING IT FOR A SPIN

Callaway has an interesting theory on which it's based its premium Tour balls -- the i and the ix. The four-piece inertia technology has a high-density outer core over a low-density inner core, pushing weight out from the centre of the ball. What's the benefit? It reduces driver spin, but with an iron, once the ball starts spinning it wants to keep spinning.


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