golf game

Ontario, Canada: Golfing Cottage Country

New Ontario courses make lakeside debut in quaint playground.

By Ian Cruickshank

Cottage Country.
Sounds quaint, doesn’t it? And it is. Located just two hours north of Toronto, ON, this land is dotted with lakes and forests, rocks and rivers, lilacs and green rolling hills. This is the spot where Torontonians go to escape the city’s summer heat, kick back, relax and play genteel country squire for a weekend. But it’s not only locals who’ve succumbed to the lure of the near north. Cottage Country-folk range from Joe Average to Canuck singing sensation Shania Twain and movie big-leaguers Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn. This leafy haven is also home to a growing number of great golf courses—Rocky Crest, Taboo, Grandview, Bigwin, Deerhurst Highlands and The Ridge at Manitou, recently voted the best new course in Canada by Golf Dig est. In 2006, two new high-profile layouts made their lakeside debuts.

Raven Golf Club at Lora Bay
A co-production between Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman and Toronto-based architect Tom McBroom, Lora Bay hit a home run when it opened in July. Tracing the top of Nipissing Ridge, the course runs along a chunk of headland that towers above Georgian Bay. It’s the passion and attention to details by the two Toms that make Lora Bay such an outstanding design. Instead of razing the land, they left a barn, apple orchard and century-old stone fence as accents. They punctuated the holes with serious, fescue-fringed bunkers and big greens that slide away towards the bay. The designers also unleashed some awe-inspiring views, especially at the ninth hole—a long par-4 that doglegs around a corner to reveal a vista of sky and water.

Muskoka Bay Golf Club
Over the last couple of years, the town of Gravenhurst has undergone a multi-million dollar renovation. Curling around the edge of peaceful Lake Muskoka, the town now boasts new restaurants, a museum and lakeside hotel. The latest addition, though, may be the best. The Muskoka Bay Golf Club, unveiled July 1, Canada Day, is a muscular beast that freefalls from rocky-topped tees, winds through heavily treed valleys and then rises to elevated greens that slope away to sand. There’s even some controversy. The ninth hole plays across a swamp to a sliver of fairway that’s squeezed tighter than an old-fashioned corset by huge chunks of granite.

Ian Cruickshank is a Toronto, ON-based golf writer who has been chasing the little white ball around the globe for the past 20 years. Each summer, he stays home to play Cottage Country golf.

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