Legends at Lionhead: One Tough Golf Gal

We humans have a habit of giving personalities to objects, places and even weather.

On a brutal winter day, someone might say “She’s howling out there.” Planes are usually discussed like women. “She’s a sturdy old bird.”  Hurricanes are always christened with names,male and female.

I think we do it so that we can relate better to whatever we’re dealing with, even golf courses.

The demanding Legends course at public Lionhead Golf & Country Club in Mississauga, Ontario (just west of Toronto) has been characterized through the years in media stories as “a beautiful brute” and a “stern task-master” to name but a few.  Certainly, many golfers have had interesting ways to describe the Legends, some of which aren’t fit for print.

And that’s fine. The Legends was conceived from the start to be one tough track that would seriously challenge golfers, but also deliver incredible conditions, professional and friendly service (including parking lot service) and a great clubhouse. The service is a key parts of the equation, but at the end of the day, it’s the course that resonates with golfers.

Designer Ted Baker succinctly said that Legends was conceived as making “par elusive,” and that pithy phrase is not debatable.

At 7,402 yards from the tips with a staggering Slope of 155, Legends at Lionhead is known as one of the toughest courses in North America (third toughest according to Golf Digest in 2003). The middle tees (blue) are 6,409 yards with a Slope 148, which is still tough.

It is all of that with forced carries over the Credit River, approach shots to elevated greens surrounded by bunkers, and intimidating views from tees and fairways.

The first hole at Legends is notorious. It calls for a solid strike that must avoid a pond left and a bunker right to leave an approach of about 150-170 yards to carry the river and front bunkers to a sliver of a green.

Some think that it’s Exhibit No. 1 that Legends is an extreme course that’s too tough for most golfers and even unfair. Frankly, I used to think that until I got to know it better.

Bunk! On most every hole, you have options to hit a less risky shot if you don’t think you can pull it off, hit to the wide side of a green or fairway, or layup.  (That includes No. 1: you can layup in front of the greenside bunkers.) No one holds a gun to your head, demanding you make a shot, although your golf buddies might certainly stick the needle in if you don’t try. But isn’t that part of the fun?

Sure, there are a number of forced carries, but in golf like other sports, there comes at time when you have to deliver. (After strike two in baseball, your choices are pretty limited.)  In golf, getting the ball airborne is not an unreasonable demand.

It’s precisely the incredible challenge that Legends sets before golfers that makes it such a delight. There are no “ho-hum pars” at Legends. Score well for your ability and you know that you’ve hit some good shots, made excellent decisions and managed yourself pretty well.  If you didn’t score so well, many golfers lick their chops at the prospect of taking another run at it.

A round at Legends will give you an honest appraisal of your game and your ability to handle tough situations—in any environment. How you show up on the golf course is an accurate barometer of how you show up in the rest of your life.

You’ll also learn a lot about your partners and their ability to manage risk, honestly evaluate their own abilities and keep their emotions in check. No wonder that Legends is so popular for business games. A little shared adversity leads to greater connection with anyone.

Certainly, no one with KaneffGolf offers any apologies for the difficulty of Legends. They’re quite proud of it.

The Legends at Lionhead: She’s tough, but certainly fair.

For more information, visit www.kaneffgolf.com

About Tim O'Connor

Tim O'Connor is a golf coach, an award-winning writer, and speaker. Tim takes a holistic approach, coaching golfers in the physical and mental aspects of golf. He co-hosts the Swing Thoughts podcast with Howard Glassman, and is the author of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story. He plays bass in CID—a Guelph punk band!