Turf & Rec

Features Profiles
Canada’s largest golf complex


March 24, 2009
By Mike Jiggens


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thumb_cardinalWhat started out as a Northern Adventure mini-putt course and driving range in 1988 is now a unique and unparalleled 72-hole golf experience.

Cardinal Golf Club in Newmarket, Ont. is now Canada’s largest golf complex.

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“What we have been aiming to do is develop a complex where we can grow the game and entertain golfers of all skill levels,” says general manager Bob Kilgour. “With the opening of the championship calibre RedCrest Course this summer we have completed the vision and are truly where the public golfer belongs.”

Cardinal GC features the Kettle Creek Course, an 18-hole executive layout, two player-friendly regulation 18-hole courses renamed East Wing and West Wing for 2009 and the new 5,400 to 6,800-yard, par-71 Kevin Holmes-designed RedCrest Course,  and that doesn’t include 18 holes of mini-putt.

“We have a terrific reputation in the golf community for great value,” Kilgour says. “Our goal with RedCrest is to offer a premium golf experience, but still keep it affordable and fun for the public golfer.”

RedCrest is an exceptional walking course on terrain laced with wetlands, creeks and ponds. A portion of the property was rezoned from industrial, where an old concrete and asphalt plant once operated, and transformed into recreational and open space habitat. Tributaries of the rural Holland Marsh Canal weave throughout the property, creating a natural marshland feel with a few challenging forced carries and water in play on 14 holes.

The beautifully-paced holes roam freely with lush and green bentgrass tees, fairways and greens. Holmes has designed rugged, flashy bunkers to challenge golfers and created raised undulating greens with an intriguing mix of false fronts and roll-off collars that require skill and precision shot-making. The Toronto-based architect is a principal at MBTW/Watchorn and the firm’s lead golf course designer.

“Golfers are going to find a lot of different options to consider when playing every hole. That’s where the course pulls its strength from,” said Holmes, who has strategically pinched fairway landing areas with aggressive bunkering. “They’re going to have to decide if they want to challenge the bunkers or play for the open fairways, and that’s what will make RedCrest an exciting course to play.”

The RedCrest experience will be highlighted by a new Normerica custom built timber frame clubhouse that is under construction and will open later this summer. The 7,500 square-foot facility will feature a quaint dining and bar area, outdoor patio, fully-stocked pro shop and locker room facilities.

Cardinal was founded in 1988 by Dalt Hicks, who grew up beside a golf course that is now long gone in the Willowdale part of Toronto. He took his former sand and gravel pit, Gormley Aggregates, out of operation and converted it into a centre with an18-hole Northern Adventure mini-putt featuring mining equipment and relics that he picked up on a trip to Sudbury. 

Cardinal opened with 27 holes in 1990, followed by Kettle Creek and then an additional nine holes in 1995 to bring the complex up to 54 holes. The King Chamber of Commerce named Hicks “business person of the year 2008” last December.