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Lake Joseph Club

Tee Off at Muskoka’s Best Golf Courses

Muskoka’s best golf courses offer stunning scenery, challenging terrain, and the opportunity to make cottage-country memories that will last a lifetime.

BY IAN CRUICKSHANK

The Rocky Crest Golf Club is one of Muskoka's many excellent golf courses

The Rocky Crest Golf Club is one of Muskoka’s many excellent golf courses

I remember the moment exactly. It was 2:27 p.m. on a bleak February afternoon. I was being pinched by deadlines, outside the snow was piling up faster than the provincial debt and I was already late for a meeting on the other side of the city. I was about to curl up in the fetal position and slide permanently under my desk, when I spied a photo pinned on my bulletin board next to the computer.

It was a shot taken last summer at the first tee at the Lake Joseph Club. Three pals and I are looking down the valley, smiling, almost giggling, like we’d just gobbled down too much cake and ice cream. It was no special occasion—just summer up north by the lake, about to tee off on one of our favourite courses. At that moment I realized that I could get through the snow, the darkness and the deadlines as long as I knew Muskoka golf was on the horizon.

RELATED: Check out more of Muskoka’s best golf courses in our comprehensive guide.

When ClubLink unveiled the Lake Joseph Club in 1997, it changed the landscape of cottage golf forever. Designed by Toronto’s Thomas McBroom, “Lake Joe” was the first course to combine a country club level of service with the stunning local topography. McBroom routed his rolling layout above the broad banks of Lake Joseph, notching the greens into the hillsides and accenting the tree-lined fairways with flashes of granite.

McBroom is also behind the aptly named Rocky Crest Golf Club in Mactier, a course that incorporates the best of Muskoka, highlighting the landscape’s rocky underpinnings. At the sixth hole, a long par five, he peeled back a layer of scrub and dirt to reveal an intimidating granite canyon.

The Muskoka Bay Club

The Muskoka Bay Club

The Grandview Golf Club in Huntsville is a bold enterprise that winds past creeks, beaver ponds, and bungalow-sized rocks and into the heart of the forest. What ultimately makes Grandview unique is its dual nature—you can play it brawny or brainy.

The Rock has a definite edge, just like its designer, six-time major winner Nick Faldo. The first half-dozen holes push through the woods and around the slabs of granite. Later in the round, the course opens up with some spectacular rocky vistas.

Muskoka Bay Club boasts one of the prettiest layouts in the country. The Doug Carrick-designed course free falls from rocky topped tees through heavily treed valleys, then rises to elevated greens that slope away to sand.

Ian Cruickshank is a golf and travel writer who has written about the game for the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, Golf Digest and Maclean’s magazine.

9 Must-Play Golf Courses

Tee off at the signature holes—and courses—of Canada’s hottest golf destination.
By Brian Kendall

Muskoka Bay Golf Club

GOOD TO GO Stunningly beautiful, but not crazily long
or difficult, Muskoka Bay Golf Club’s 441-yard first hole—launched from a rocky perch high above the fairway—is an ideal opener.

CANADIAN CLASSIC Affording panoramic vistas of the surrounding Lake of Bays, the par-four sixth at Bigwin Island Golf Club is renowned as one of Canada’s most scenic holes.

ROCKY RIDE The par-three seventh at Taboo Golf Course is chiseled through a long and craggy chute of striated pink and grey granite. Miss left or right and your ball bounces into orbit.

INTO THE ABYSS From the dizzying heights of the eighth tee at Lake Joseph Club, golfers must hit a precision iron shot to a valley green dwarfed by a giant wall of pink granite.

NINE TO GO A thrilling conclusion to a roller-coaster-ride front nine, The Rock Golf Club’s dogleg par-five ninth challenges golfers to bite off  they dare.

Deerhurst Highlands

DOGLEG RIGHT Muskoka’s golf boom began with the 1990 opening of Deerhurst Highlands Golf Course, where the par-four 10th launches from a towering granite-slab tee box before twisting right toward a multi-tiered green.

BOGEY HOLE Perhaps Muskoka’s most feared hole is the 16th at South Muskoka Curling and Golf Club, a par four demanding a pinpoint approach over a ball-hungry gully to an undulating green.

HERCULEAN EFFORT High-handicappers beware: the carry over bedrock and water from the back tees at North Granite Ridge Golf Club’s par-five 17th hole is a knee-buckling 220 yards.

GRAND FINALE With a green at the par-five 18th that appears suspended like an emerald infinity pool above Manitouwabing Lake, The Ridge at Manitou Golf Club offers a magical ending to every round.

Weekend Roundup, June 19 to 21

Greet the beginning of summer in Muskoka with open-air activities and indoor indulgences.

Friday, June 19
Discover the glacier-sculpted islands and remote ruggedness of Georgian Bay on a two-hour Island Queen Cruise.

Upon a sturdy Icelandic horse, gallop through the Almaguin Highlands and along the pristine shores of Newell Lake at Clear Lake Farm.

Saturday, June 20
Stimulate your senses with cottage air, country fare and cold cream ale on a tour of Lakes of Muskoka Cottage Brewery.

Delight in the decadence of the Summerside Surf and Turf Kitchen Party, where you’ll find fresh lobster, succulent steak, an oyster bar, salads and a side of East Coast entertainment at Parry Sound’s Charles W. Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts.

Sunday, June 21
Take in the tranquil terrain of pink-granite rock walls and verdant valleys while you tee off into the sunset at the Lake Joseph Club.

Soak up some sun and celebrate Father’s Day at Gravenhurst’s Gull Lake Park while enjoying toe-tapping Music on the Barge.