Golf Pro Doug Wilson asks his friends and colleagues to share details of their favourite Muskoka golf course holes and why they're the best in cottage country
This past summer, I was invited by a friend to play one of the better courses in the Toronto area. We had a wonderful round, the weather was magnificent, the course was in top condition, and our playing companions were interesting and fun. Reflecting back on the experience, however, I was unable to recall any single hole that distinguished itself from the rest. Sadly, none of the holes jumped out as being memorable.
Now granted there are many reasons that the memory of a hole will stick with us. From the historic walk across the Swilken Bridge on the 18th at The Old Course in St Andrews, Scotland, to being awestruck by the magnificence of the Rockies on almost every hole at Fairmont Banff Springs or Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge in Alberta, there are many wonderful places to play golf that stick in the memory.
This in itself presents a challenge. If we can see the Rockies on most of the holes, how does one hole leave an indelible impression? Possibly a unique or inspired design by Stanley Thompson, Doug Carrick, or Thomas McBroom? Or could it be that we just played the hole particularly well… or it was an unforgettable disaster?
Muskoka Ontario is one of the finest golf destinations in the world, offering an incredible variety of golf courses from family run nine holers to some of Canada’s best. With that in mind, I thought it would interesting to reach out to some of my golfing friends who work and play at some of the top cottage country courses and ask their opinion on the most memorable Muskoka golf course holes at their golf destination.
The Top Muskoka Golf Course Holes Worth Remembering
Muskoka Bay Club
“It’s a great question,” says Bruce Rogerson, Director of Golf at the Muskoka Bay Club in Gravenhurst.
Alderdice says he finds that sometimes an opinion is based on the experience someone had. From a vista and pure beauty standpoint however, he chose the opening hole at Muskoka Bay, a par 4, 441 yard gem named ‘Table Rock’.
“Hole 1 is such a dramatic start to our golf experience, and it really sets the tone for what will follow,” he says. “A very elevated tee shot from the back tee through a narrow shoot that was blasted out of the side of a massive cliff. It is the one spot where all golfers that visit want to either go up and have the view for pictures or take the tee shot to say they did.”
Oviinbyrd Golf Club
At Oviinbyrd, an exclusive private club just north of Glen Orchard, former Executive Professional Curtis Pitre picked the par 3, 14th hole which he says plays a reasonable 198-yards from the member tees, but can be stretched to 230-yards from the tips.
Though it is downhill, it has a generous green that is well bunkered. The views from the highest point on the golf course provide a feeling that can only be described as breath-taking and awe inspiring. It sets the stage for the final four holes and can either make or break your round depending on where you hit the tee shot.
As a side note, Muskoka Bay (#16), Oviinbyrd (17th) and Bigwin (#20) were all given high rankings recently in Score Golf’s Top 100 Golf Courses in Canada 2018 and feature regularly on lists of the top Muskoka golf courses.
Bigwin Island Golf Club
The decision at the Doug Carrick designed Bigwin Island Golf Club was a difficult one, with two of the most photographed holes in golf vying for top honour. Perched high above Lake of Bays, the views from both the 6th and 18th tees at Bigwin Island are spectacular.
Dave Smith, Broker of Record at Bigwin Realty Inc and the club’s VP, gave the edge to the 574 yard par 5, 18th. In his opinion, it is the perfect finishing hole.
“It plays downhill, the wind is generally behind you, as well as the sun. It provides a good opportunity to finish your day with a birdie. What’s not to like about that?”
Deerhurst Highlands Golf Course
Deerhurst Highlands' Head Golf Professional Ryan Barry was in agreement with long time member Paul Evans who had no doubt in choosing the 375 yard par 4 first hole at this Huntsville beauty co-designed by Bob Cupp and Thomas McBroom.
You can easily be distracted by the beautiful view of Fairy Lake as you contemplate your first tee shot to this downhill fairway.
According to Evans: “It definitely sets the mood for a great round.”
Danny Jackson, the Director of Golf at Taboo Resort on Muskoka Beach Road in Gravenhurst, picked the 593 yard par 5, 18th hole. His reason? He says it’s for the way it provides shot choices and different strategies as it winds its way home through some of the most majestic outcroppings of rock.
The innovative use of the dramatic Canadian Shield landscape makes this hole a memorable one for sure.
The Rock Golf Course
At The Rock, a Nick Faldo design located adjacent to The Rosseau, a JW Marriott Resort & Spa in Minett, Director of Golf Katie Doyle selected the 422 yard dog-leg right par 4, 12th hole as the one that is long remembered after the round.
The elevation change and challenge of the hole are key. Katie advises that if you have played the hole before, you may choose to hit driver over the 50 ft drop to a fairly small landing area. This risk will leave you with a short pitch up to a right to left sloped green. The safer, and far more common play, would be to hit a long iron or hybrid off the tee, and try to get as close to the edge of the cliff as possible. This will leave you a mid to long iron shot down the drop off to the green.
Clublink’s Rocky Crest, Grandview, Lake Joseph Club
Rocky Crest Head Professional Mark Kerwin provided his picks for two of the three Clublink courses in Muskoka.
At Rocky Crest in Mactier his selection was #18, a 563 yard, par 5. Mark believes it is a perfect finishing hole. It presents a visually intimidating tee shot over a marsh but rewards a long tee shot with an opportunity to go for the green in two. Once you arrive at your tee shot you are greeted with a picturesque view of the log clubhouse, Canadian flag, and beautiful chandeliers in the dining room. There are fewer settings more beautiful than this at dusk!
At Grandview in Huntsville, Head Golf Professional Todd Stephens chose the 420 yard, par 4 first hole and advises: “If you don't typically spend time at the range before your round, we suggest you do at Grandview.”
This dog-leg right makes a statement right out of the gate: ‘Welcome to Grandview’. The fairway is generous in size, but a wetland area protects the fairway and runs along the entire right side of the hole until you reach the green. Get your tee shot in play here and you are in for a good day!
The par 3, 158 yard 8th hole is the memorable hole at the Thomas McBroom designed Lake Joseph Club located near Port Carling. It has it all: a drastic elevation change with a green that is framed with trees, bunkers, and a spectacular rock putting a premium on distance control and accuracy on your tee shot.
So what makes a hole memorable? Six of the nine selections were either the opening or closing hole suggesting designers like to have us start and finish well. Scenery had the edge over the challenge and elevation change seems to play a big part in our choices.
Here's to more memorable Muskoka golf course holes!
Contributor Doug Wilson, PGA of Canada, is former Director of Membership and Marketing at Bigwin Island Golf Club.