On the path towards its goal of becoming the greenest resort in Ontario, Hockley Valley Resort near Orangeville is forced to make a concession. Instead of going with electric golf carts, the course is sticking with gas-powered transport.
The reason? Built alongside what in Ontario is called a ski hill (as a B.C. guy, I couldn’t resist that shot) the course is so thrillingly hilly that electric carts can’t hold a charge for 18 holes. That says a whole lot about what makes the course special. There are beautifully treed and challenging holes that start and end on a valley floor. Players wind up, up and up to a summit on the doorstep of Adamo Estate Winery. Then you head back down to the resort itself.
Esteemed Canadian golf course architect Thomas McBroom had a whole lot to play with here. And play he did. The course features a par 3 10th with a green that sits more than 30 yards below the tee box. The signature par 3 17th is an even bigger drop, and features the Hockley River in play on the left side. Neither hole is long – 172 and 185 yards from the back tees respectively. But the greens are small and the valley winds can play havoc with shots that can seem suspended in air for an eternity.
Four tee box options from white to black make the course playable for a variety of skills, ranging from 5,300 to over 5,800 yards. I like that the course woos you with a wide open fairway on hole No. 1. It offers generous landing areas on most holes while punishing wayward drives with difficult lies. Then there is the ever-present threat of a slice or hook disappearing into forest.
The total absence of sand traps makes this course a fun anomaly. The smallish greens, though, protected by swales and grassy knolls, demand precision. Hole 18 makes for a memorable finish, with a creek and pond (and resident Canada geese) making things tricky on the approach.
With stunning views throughout, I can’t wait to return in the fall when those vistas will be flooded by a riot of yellow, orange and red. That’s one thing B.C. can’t compete with.
I visited the resort in June with COVID-19 still very much in charge in Ontario. To their credit, the resort is taking care to keep visitors safe while showcasing what makes this place such an enticing getaway for those living in the GTA. What the property lacks in room luxuries – rooms are comfortable but could use an update – it makes up for in experience.
With restaurant seating closed during the pandemic, a takeout menu from Cabin, one of the resort’s two restaurants, was a revelation. Adopting a farm-to-table approach, executive chef Iniyan Vijay often relies on produce from a small on-site farm for his menu.
And it turned out that during the pandemic, the guy delivering the food to our hotel suite was Vijay himself. His steak frites (featuring a juicy, perfectly medium rare tenderloin cut) are a standout. So are his Kobe beef burger, double-smoke bacon and veggie risotto, and the butterblend root veggies salad. It’s all top-notch, in preparation and presentation, even as takeout items.
Another pleasant surprise was discovering that the resort’s outdoor wood-fired pizza oven, which sits on the resort’s vegetable farm, was open. It was a great touch for a post-golf snack, complete with veggies from the garden.
When you think Ontario wines, you probably envision Niagara or Prince Edward County. The surprise is to find a tantalizing mix of whites, rosés, and reds at a winery north of Toronto. Owned by the same company that runs the resort and golf course, Adamo Estate produces small-batch wines from grapes grown on its own 18 acres, and several outstanding wines relying on grapes from the Niagara Peninsula.
Pinot is a finicky grape that my wife loves but I often find disappointing, especially for the price. But at $29.95, the 2016 Adamo Estate Parke Vineyard Grower’s Series pinot noir offers great value. It’s a blend of fruit and earth that, in my mind, punches above its price point. Produced from grapes at Niagara’s 20 Mile Bench, it stood up to the tenderloin we had at the resort. It also worked wonders with the risotto. As a bonus, it’s one of the Adamo wines available at LCBO stores.
One of the suites at Hockley Valley Resort
As of early June, wine tasting wasn’t available at Adamo. You could buy bottles though – including chilled rosés and whites – from the tasting room. We also took a chance on the 2019 Adamo Gamay Noir Pet-Nat, an effervescent pale-rose coloured summer sipper. Produced like a traditional method sparkling, the wine’s fermentation (Pet-nat is short for Petiant Naturelle, or ancestral method) finishes in the bottle. You won’t find this one at your local LCBO, but at $18.05 you will want to load up on it at the winery.
Hockley Valley Resort room rates range from $150 for a regular room to $280 for the executive suite. Watch for stay-and-play and spa packages as COVID-19 restrictions are reduced. During the pandemic, you can taste Vijay’s great food with gourmet dinners for two available via curbside pickup on Sundays.