Falcon Lake Golf Course: Great Golf In Canada's Cottage Country

By Andrew Penner, Contributor

FALCON LAKE, Manitoba - The Canadian Shield is a landmass like no other. Granite bulges out of the ground haphazardly, often stretching out for miles. In between these giant mounds of rock, numerous clear-water lakes glisten against shorelines decorated with spruce and carpeted with mossy slopes.

In fact, thousands of lakes dot this land and provide a unique habitat for birds, beavers, bears, and cottage dwellers. The recreational opportunities for city folk (eager to leave their fast paced lives behind for a while) in the cottage country of Eastern Manitoba and Western Ontario are seemingly unlimited. Fishing, hiking, boating, and golf fill up the days "at the lake."

Many of the cottagers in and around Falcon Lake, Manitoba, near the Ontario border, lean a little more towards the "golf" - for obvious reasons.

Some of the oldest rock on earth is exposed near Falcon Lake, massive outcroppings of Pre-Cambrian granite scoured clean by Ice Age glaciers that retreated 10,000 years ago. In the scars the glaciers left behind cling the roots of spruce and poplar trees - each a reminder of the area's rugged history, now it's heart and soul. It's within this landscape that the Falcon Lake Golf Course was created.

Built by the hard working hands of men from all over the area, the Falcon Lake course was no easy task to create. After much rock blasting, bulldozing, hauling in soil, and shaping this relentlessly difficult plot of land, the golf course was molded to its final form in 1955.

The Falcon Lake Golf Course presents a challenge that fits in perfectly in cottage- country. It's a joy to walk, it's not too difficult (from the regular tees anyway), and offers a wonderful mix of holes. In the summer, when the hot Manitoba sun beats down like fire (Manitoba summers are hotter than you think), the dense forests lining the fairways offer shade to keep you cool. As you stroll alongside the shade, you'll also have an opportunity to pick a few wild raspberries! Of course, it's not always that rewarding missing the fairways at Falcon Lake. The brush is often thick and finding the ball can be a challenge.

Falcon Lake starts gently with a number of birdie chances early. The first is a soft right to left par four with a huge green. Interestingly, the first tee is exactly five steps from the small clubhouse (fittingly, the clubhouse looks like many of the nearby cottages). For this reason the Head Golf Professional, Brian Guenther, needs little lead-time to lock his office door to tee it up. "I'd love to play more, however, things around here go crazy in summertime. I play a bit in spring and after the summer rush is over," stated Brian. "This course is still my favorite in the province," he continued, "and it definitely features a nice start."

The short first allows you to choose a number of club options to start your round. Hint: use the one that will curve the ball slightly from right to left. The second is the first of five excellent birdie chances on the par-5's. When playing from the regular tees at Falcon Lake, the longer hitters tend to "lick their chops" and make birdies in bunches. With the exception of No. 13 (a straightaway 600 yard beast), the par 5's are quite accessible in two shots. No. 2, featuring a wide fairway that also sets up perfect for a draw, is often reached by not just the longer hitters wielding non-conforming artillery.

Falcon Lake is a great shot-maker's course. While three of the first four holes favor working the ball from right to left, holes six, seven, and nine are much more receptive to a fade. In fact, while it isn't a must (a straight ball works well at Falcon Lake too), the majority of the holes will give the skilled player who can work the ball both ways a definite advantage.

The majority of play at Falcon Lake is from the regular tees. In fact, the championship tee markers are rarely used (sometimes they don't even bother putting them out there). "People here are into a relaxing round - the golf course stiffens up considerably from the tips. We'd be in for a lot of long rounds if we had a lot of play from the back," stated Guenther. Take No.5 for example. Already a healthy par-3 of 215 yards from the regular tees, it's an absolute brute at 250 yards (no elevation advantage either) from the back tee markers.

No. 8, another par-3, is a completely different hole from a shady back tee that is used very sparingly. The green is small and you'll go from a 9-iron (from the regular tee) to a 2-iron at the back box as you attempt to smash your ball up to a small elevated two-tiered green completely surrounded by traps and water fronting the green. In other words, it's a potential birdie from the regular tees, but tough as nails from the back.

The back nine features a great assortment of holes in the form of three par-3's, three par-4's, and three par-5's. The entire back nine (with the exception of No.14, which has its landing area pinched by a creek) is a superb driving nine. No. 10, a straightforward medium length par-4, may have the widest fairway in Manitoba (at least in the Whiteshell). For the most part, it's bombs away on the back nine.

No. 16 is a terrific par-4 that sweeps down and slightly to the left from an elevated tee, another great hole to work your draw! The green is large, protected by a large pine to the left and bunkering to the right. All the greens at Falcon Lake feature subtle slopes but are actually quite easy to navigate.

Falcon finishes with another potential birdie chance on a short par-5 that works its way to the left (around the pines) to a large green well guarded by sand. There is loads of space off the tee - reel back and fire! Who knows, perhaps a closing eagle is in the cards?

Falcon Lake is rock-solid golf in a serene, parkland setting - and it grows on you. Ask any Manitoba golf connoisseur and it will get a top-5 provincial ranking from nearly all. Many consider it to be the best track in Manitoba.

Playing golf at Falcon Lake is gratifying and serene. While the golf course doesn't feature a lot of elevation change, the land in the Whiteshell Provincial park moves. The fairways reflect the gentle dips and hollows that the glaciers carved centuries ago - they are the true architects of this special place in the heart of Canada's rugged shield.

Falcon Lake Golf Course
C/O Falcon Beach Post Office
Falcon Lake, Manitoba
ROE ONO
Phone (204) 349-2554

Yardages/Ratings

Blue Tees - 6,937 yards, par 72, 121 slope, 72.6 rating
White Tees - 6,443 yards, par 72, 118 slope, 70.6 rating
Red Tees - 5,964 yards, par 73, 115 slope, 72.0 rating

Green Fees: $34.00

Directions

Falcon Lake is located 126 km east of Winnipeg, Manitoba on the Trans Canada Highway. Falcon Lake is just 15 minutes from the Ontario border and 30 minutes from the city of Kenora, Ontario.

Where To Stay

Falcon Lake caters well to the RV and camping crowd. The Provincial campground is excellent. It's located near the beach and walking distance from the golf course. If you need a room, try the Big Buffalo Resort. The resort features comfortable cabins and is a stone's throw from nearby services - including the beach and golf course. Call (204) 349-2259 to reserve a room.

Where To Eat

Over your propane stove or campfire is preferred. The golf course restaurant is your best bet for eating out in Falcon Lake. If you want to take a drive, Kenora has a number of excellent restaurants. Try Kelsey's on the lakefront.

Other Activities

Whiteshell Provincial Park is full of lakes, rivers, and wildlife - you'll want to go exploring. Take a trip to West Hawk Lake, it was formed by a meteorite and is one of the deepest lakes in North America (great place to scuba dive!). The area is also widely recognized for its outstanding fishing. The lakes in the Whiteshell are filled with trout, walleye, bass, and perch. Rent a boat and hire a guide! Other popular activities in the area include hiking, sailing, beaching, barbecuing, and sitting on the deck with a cold one in hand (amidst the sweet scent of jack pine brought on by a warm, caressing breeze off the lake).

Andrew PennerAndrew Penner, Contributor

Andrew Penner is a longtime member of the Canadian PGA. Author of "One Flew Over the Caddyshack," he also writes for a number of magazines throughout Canada and the U.S.


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