NIAGARA FALLS, ONTARIO – Niagara Falls is a huge tourist draw for Ontario, Canada. But unbelievably only a small percentage of tourists in the region come here for a golf vacation, said Joe Gutzwiller, an avid golfer in this region and member of the fledgling Niagara Golf Trail.
Gutzwiller often plays the massive 45-hole Legends on the Niagara golf complex and the Stanley Thompson-designed Whirlpool Golf Course. He is concerned about bringing new tourists to the area – based primarily on golf.
“Canada can generate tourism dollars by creating interest outside of the area for people to come into the Niagara Peninsula to golf,” Gutzwiller said. “There are two types of markets. We can try to tap into the 12 million to 14 million visitors who are coming here anyway and try to get them to decide to play golf while they’re here. Or, we can go out and try to get golfers to come to Niagara Falls, golf and enjoy some of the other things Niagara has to offer. The area has chosen the latter. It’s new dollars Canada is looking for.”
Niagara Golf Trail Membership
The Trail membership ranges from world class to entry-level courses. The top end clubs here are Legends on the Niagara in Niagara Falls, which hosted the 2004 LPGA Canadian Women’s Open in July, as well as Royal Niagara Golf Club in Niagara-on-the-Lake, site of the 2003 Telus Skins Game between John Daly, Vijay Singh, Sergio Garcia and Canadian Ian Leggatt.
The middle tier is highlighted by Whirlpool, the creation of legendary Canadian designer Stanley Thompson, Links of Niagara at Willodell, which was designed by Thompson’s brother Nicol, and Peninsula Lakes, a stunning 27-hole course built on a reclaimed sand and gravel pit.
At the lower end, there is Peach Trees Golf, which is a family friendly, nine-hole, par-3 course, as well as Rockway Glen, a wide-open, forgiving course that is also home to a working winery.
The membership offers something for every level of golfer.
“When people take a golf vacation, it’s not always four guys, not always four low handicappers, not all guys who are going to play the Tiger (Woods) tees They want a total golf experience,” Gutzwiller said. “Family golfers want to get involved with their kids. You have couples, which are a big part of the traveling golf market to Canada, don’t always want to play the toughest courses. They want to have fun while they’re on their vacation.”
Now Canada’s Niagara Golf Trail targets potential golfers within a 150-mile (240-kilometer) radius of Niagara Falls. Potential visitors can browse the website, which features course descriptions, as well as packages that combine golf, hotels and Niagara, Ontario attractions. The Trail website logs more than 15,000 hits a month and bookings have risen significantly.
Legends on the Niagara and Whirlpool Golf Course alone recorded 22,000 destination golf rounds in 2003. The two courses are part of the Niagara Golf Trail, but the Niagara Parks Commission spends money to market the two courses independently as well.
The future bodes well for Niagara golf. Two more high-profile courses, featuring designs by Rees Jones, Greg Norman and Daly, opened in 2006, which helps make this a more popular spot for a golf vacation.
The Daly design is called Thundering Waters.
Add in some of the attractions Niagara already has to offer – the famous Maid of the Mist boat ride, two casinos, world-class wineries and the renowned Shaw Festival – and the region will one day be a major draw for golfers who like to travel.
Niagara Golf Trail Members
Beechwood Golf and Country Club, Eagle Valley Golf Club, Legends on the Niagara and Whirlpool Golf Course, The Links of Niagara at Willodell, and Niagara Falls Golf Club (Niagara Falls); Peach Trees Golf, and Royal Niagara Golf Club (Niagara-on-the-Lake); Peninsula Lakes Golf Club (Pelham); Rockway Glen Golf Club and Estate Winery (St. Catharines); Whisky Run Golf Club, Port Colborne.
The Niagara Golf Trail Experience
The Niagara Golf Trail courses cover a wide spectrum of price, prestige and skill. There are world-class facilities such as Legends on the Niagara’s two 18-hole courses (Battlefield and Usher’s Creek) and its superb nine-hole Chippawa course, as well as Royal Niagara Golf Club’s 27-hole facility.
They are tough and pricey, but also a treat to play for anyone serious about the game. Whirlpool, Links of Niagara at Willodell, Beechwood and Peninsula Lakes have to be considered must-plays. They’re also friendlier on the wallet and moderately difficult. The other courses are popular with the locals because they’re not expensive and not intimidating. If members of your party are beginners or don’t really care about the prestige factor of a course, they’re good options to explore ahead of the more expensive facilities.
Places to Stay in Niagara, Ontario
Hilton Niagara Falls
6361 Fallsview Blvd.
Phone: (905) 354-7887.
On the web: www.hilton.com/en/hi/hotels/index.jhtml?ctyhocn=XLVNFHF
6733 Fallsview Blvd.
Phone: (905) 356-1944.
On the web: www.niagarafallsview.com/radisson/default.htm
169 Gate St. in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Phone: (905) 468-4966.
On the web: www.bba.notl.on.ca/cranberry
Places to Eat in Niagara, Ontario
Mick and Angelo’s Eatery and Bar
7600 Lundy’s Lane.
Phone: (905) 357-6543.
On the web: www.niagararestaurantguide.com/mick-and-angelos/index.shtml or www.candlelightniagara.com
Tony Roma’s. 5317 Ferry St.
Phone: (905) 354-5317. Or 6733 Fallsview Blvd.
Phone: (905) 356-7662.
On the web: www.tonyromas.com