May 6, 2021
Nestled in southwestern Ontario’s seemingly never-ending farmland, the Town of Petrolia is a small rural community with a big reputation.
Most well known as the birthplace of the Canadian oil industry, a pipeline for NHL talent, and the home of one of Canada’s top playhouses, Petrolia boasts another gem that is undergoing a resurgence.
Kingswell Glen Golf Club is one of Ontario’s oldest golf courses, having originally opened in 1895 as a six hole playground for the aforementioned oil barons that called Petrolia home.
Today, it is an 18 hole mixture of classic and modern architecture that offers a small community a gathering place and one of the best value courses you will find in the province.
A compact front 9 featuring a number of short par 4s and a pair of reachable par 5s, Kingswell Glen is a warm hug of a course that is playable for everyone. Forgiving off the tee, the front nine’s best defence are the undulating greens that are as pure as you’ll find at any course, public or private.
The 2nd hole is the best example of this. A short, driveable par 4 with no real danger to note off the tee, your approach better find a landing area below the hole or you will be faced with a devilishly fast downhill or sidehill put that breaks more than some of the greens at Augusta National.
This is a theme on the front side, as both the 5th and 7th holes feature incredibly challenging greens requiring smart approaches as well.
And while the greens may require special care on approaches, the hallmark of the opening side at Kingswell is again, how playable it is. This is evident on the 2nd, 4th, and 8th holes, but emphatically punctuated on a straight away Bu9th that offers players a wide fairway with plenty of room to feel comfortable swinging away.
Like the rest of the front, however, approaching the green is where things get tricky. This time, though, it isn’t the putting surface that is confounding. It’s finding the putting surface.
Located a solid 20 feet below the level of the fairway, the 9th green is blind to golfers upon approach with a cluster of trees short and left of the hole and trouble long and to the right. Once you’re on the green though, the pure putting surfaces shine through again and any frustration at struggling to give yourself a look at a putt goes away.
Completed in 2001, Kingswell Glen’s back 9 is not quite as compact as the front, and is punctuated by walks through historic oil fields with views of still operating wells.
Beginning with a fairly straightforward stretch that features a par 3, par 4, and par 5 from holes 10-12, the back begins to buck its head and showcase tight and winding fairways starting on the 13th hole.
A gradual dogleg left, 13 forces players to hit less than driver off the tee before hitting a short iron into a deep but narrow green.
The short par 4 transitions into the long par 3 14th that has one of the biggest greens you will ever see on a golf course, lulling players into thinking that a birdie putt is a virtual guarantee.
Kingswell’s most challenging stretch of holes continues on the 15th, another short par 4 whose calling card is a narrow landing area that slopes towards the century old oil fields.
Once the 15th is complete, the course offers a chance to take a sigh of relief with another driveable par 4 on the 16th hole before playing the final par 5 of the day on 17.
Previously a par 4, the 17th hole at Kingswell Glen was my favourite par 4 in the province for years, and now offers an amazing risk/reward opportunity as a five par.
A dogleg left off the tee, Kingswell’s 17th hole sees players tee off into a valley guarded by hills on the left and right side of the fairway. Daring players will take their tee shot over the hill on the left to a blind landing area that will propel balls further down the fairway leaving a short approach into a large and generous green.
Those that don’t challenge the left hand side of the hole and choose to play down the right will be faced with a long approach that calls for a left to right ball flight over water and around a cluster of trees. This often forces players into a layup shot, and was largely the main reason for the switch to a par 5.
A long walk out of the valley following the 17th takes players to closing 18th, a medium length par four that bends to the left and takes players back to a clubhouse that is a focal point in Kingswell Glen’s resurgence as a course in Lambton County.
After years of neglect and little innovation, Kingswell Glen’s new owners have committed to giving Petrolia a top class course that offers more than just 18 holes of golf.
This commitment has seen much needed work to the course that has included improved drainage, green and fairway repairs, and clearing out of old, overgrown, and unnecessary trees. But the most impressive work has been in the clubhouse.
What used to house a curling rink, the Kingswell Glen clubhouse has undergone renovations to not only update it, but diversify it as well.
Now, the former curling rink has a massive indoor putting green, two ForeSight GCQuad simulators, a bar, and a massive multi-use sports field that offers a sports crazy town a new option for indoor activity in the winter.
The renovations didn’t just stop in the clubhouse either. A brand new proshop welcomed golfers to the start of the 2021 golf season and more improvements are being made on a daily basis, bringing one of the province’s oldest courses back to glory.
Kingswell Glen is a course that everyone should play at least once. Value, playability, and committed owners are all calling cards of a successful golf course and Kingswell has each of these in droves.
Put this course on your list of places to visit. You won’t be disappointed, and you’ll likely find me there as well.