Muskoka is Signature Hole Heaven

Taboo Hole No. 7 (Image: Taboo Muskoka)

Rocky road: the signature par-three seventh hole at Taboo. (Image: Taboo)

With apologies to the rest of Canada, a strong argument can be made that the Ontario tourist district of Muskoka features the country’s most concentrated selection of truly memorable golf holes.

I’ve enjoyed the good fortune of playing a lot of golf this summer in Muskoka, the ruggedly beautiful and popular tourist district about two hours north of Toronto.

Muskoka is home to several of Canada’s top resort courses, including Muskoka Bay, Taboo, Bigwin Island Golf Club, Lake Joseph Golf Club, Deerhurst Highlands, and the Mark O’Meara Course at Grandview.

Wetlands, pristine lakes, forests of hardwoods mixed with pine and balsam, and vibrant outcroppings of pink and grey Canadian Shield granite define this wonderfully dramatic slice of Canada.

Muskoka’s scenery together with the talents of Tom McBroom, Doug Carrick, Ron Garl and other outstanding architects have made this the home of an extraordinary number of unforgettable holes. Indeed, I’m not sure there’s another golf destination in Canada—at least one where the courses are located so closely together—that is so rich in signature holes.

Leading the pack is the long par-three 7th at Taboo, near Gravenhurst, which architect Ron Garl chiseled through two immense walls of pink granite. Miss just slightly left or right and your ball skyrockets into orbit.

Oak Bay Golf Club (Image: Oak Bay Golf Club)

Muskoka’s newest signature hole: the par-three sixth at Oak Bay Golf Club in Port Severn. (Image: Oak Bay Golf Club)

Not to be outdone, the par-four ninth hole at nearby Muskoka Bay, a demanding Doug Carrick design, features twin granite towers standing guard over the green like billion-year-old sentinels.

Another breathtaking beauty is the Tom McBroom-designed par-three eighth at Lake Joseph Club, near the town of Port Carling. Here, golfers hit from a wildly elevated tee to a valley green dwarfed by a giant wall of striated pink and grey granite.

On and on it goes. Almost every one of Muskoka’s marquee courses is the proud home of a signature hole that once played is forever engraved in the golfer’s memory.

Muskoka’s newest signature hole is found at Oak Bay Golf Club, a Shawn Waters design opened in 2011 in the town of Port Severn. The 167-yard par-three 6th plays into the prevailing wind over a marsh to an elevated two-tiered green perched, like an emerald crown, atop a gigantic outcropping of granite. Completing this wild-and-wooly Group of Seven setting is a Georgian Bay inlet glimpsed through the trees to the left of the tee box, while another bay laps the rocky shoreline to the rear.

Yes, I’ve really enjoyed my rounds in Muskoka. But the best, most memorable golf of the year is still to come. Muskoka is renowned for the splendour of its autumn foliage, making summer’s end just a little easier to accept.