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Home is where the birdies are

When I began this blog, I had the idea that I was going to write about all the great places you can go golfing in Ontario. For the most part, I've stayed true to that ethos. And don't get me wrong about what I'm about to write ... it's just a little different, since it's in my own back yard.

Being a resident of St. Marys, I have a few choices to consider when it comes to playing locally: I can get in my car and be in my spikes ready to tee off at no less than 10 courses within 20 minutes. But one of those is close to my heart for a few reasons.

Science Hill Country Club is pretty basic in a lot of other people's eyes, but I'm here to tell you that there is nothing wrong with that. Playing at 5,791 yards off the blue/back tees, we're not talking about an overly long stretch of holes, and you only have water come into play on seven of the 18 holes (it could be eight, but only if you count going REALLY far to the left on your approach into #18). The traps aren't exactly penal, and this season has been one where I've adopted the approach of taking my ball out of traps due to the lack of rakes so it's really a non-consideration.

So what makes this course worth writing about? Well, for starters I've never broken 82 here ... that alone means it's something of a challenge for me, my personal 'white whale', if you will. There are trees all over the course and there is enough rough to keep you honest: case in point was my last round there with Mr. Golly (I've played there with him a few times). I lost one ball on an errant tee shot that I hooked into the rough off #15 tee, and it was a head-scratcher that I couldn't find it but it also proves my point about there being just enough trouble to keep you on your toes.

I love that this is an affordable course even with a cart if that's how you want to play, and the walking rate is even better ($52.50 for 18 & 1/2 a power cart/ $35 to walk). But the charm of this country parkland course comes in walking it and taking in the views of the surrounding landscape as you do. Strolling down the 5th fairway offers you a view out over the nearby river valley, while the perch atop the 8th tee box (the highest point on the course) gives you a panoramic view of nearly every hole on the course. And when you play during the fall season, your views starting at #15 and running through the 18th are full of colourful trees and the odd woodlands critter bolting across the fairway before you shoot.

This is only part of my connection to Science Hill. The bigger part of it comes from my earliest memories of playing golf with my father, as this was the first course he took me to when I made it clear I wanted to learn and get better at the game. Having grown up in Stratford and gotten a taste of golf on the local muni there, it felt like a real treat to me when dad would put our clubs in the back of the station wagon and we'd strike off for St. Marys to play.

Science Hill was home to a lot of firsts for me in this game, too: first time I hit the fairway on with my driver, first time I cleared a water hazard on my first shot, first birdie-birdie stretch of holes, first time breaking 90 ... and the first time I beat my dad's score during a round. While neither of us were ever going to threaten Jack Nicklaus for his PGA Tour card, it still felt like a big thing at the time for me.

Call me sentimental all you want, but this is a course that will always hold a place in the game as far as I'm concerned. It's a playable track with a lot of fun little challenges that make playing golf fun ... what else could you ask for out of a nice stroll in the parklands?

For more information about Science Hill Country Club, click the logo for the course in the story above.

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