Deerhurst Highlands and Taboo

Continuing with the adventures of the 2003 Muskoka trip, as the four of us were off to the Deerhurst Resort to play the well-regarded Highlands course the day after Bigwin.

One of the assistants out there used to work in the backshop at St. Catharines so we had our ‘in’. Well, it’s a public course so we were in regardless but we were able to get a steal of a green fee rate with him behind the counter. I think we paid $50.00 for the round and he was going to give us the second round for the price of the cart ($15 each).

The shot to the left shows us on the gorgeous downhill par four opener very early in the morning. Beautiful scenery from the tee that’s for sure!

The course itself is quite good although there are a few holes that don’t seem to fit in. If you’ve ever been out there, I’m sure you know which holes I’m talking about…

Things start out strongly with the aforementioned first hole and the very long and difficult 465 yard par four second. This hole requires a lengthy poke from the tee to clear a ravine to get to a narrow-looking fairway.

The awesome continues on the signature third hole, a downhill 201 yard par three with granite outcroppings on the left. The threes at Deerhurst are quite strong overall.

However, things get strange when you go over to the other side of the road for the fourth, fifth and sixth holes. Whereas the rest of the course is a rollicking parkland-style test, this stretch of holes is completely out in the open and has a very linksy-feel. It just seems out of character with the rest of the course but maybe it’s just me.

Eight is another great par three, a 231 yarder to a double green (sharing it with #17) and nine is an interesting dogleg left with a great elevated green complex.

The back side has a few holes of note as well. Number ten would likely be signature hole #2, a 464 yard par four from an elevated tee, with granite outcroppings on the right side of the fairway in the landing area.

I’m also a big fan of the risk/reward par five 14th, a 523 yarder that’s reachable in two for those willing to clear a large lake fronting the green. Number 15 is an excellent 411 yard par four with a creek that meanders the entire length of the hole, forcing the player to clear it twice before reaching the putting surface. Lots of options on this hole make it one to remember.

I shot 82 both rounds I played that day. It’s a solid test, with big numbers lurking around almost every corner should you misstep.

We were off to Muskoka Sands the next day to play the brand new course named Taboo. It was a bit of a controversial choice among the guys, as the steep green fee (about $150.00) didn’t seem right for a course that just opened weeks earlier.

Well, let’s just say that the scenery at this course would quiet the loudest critic…

The course has it’s quirks but aesthetically speaking, it’s absolutely breathtaking.

Garl utilized the wonder of the Canadian Shield to tremendous effect, routing the course around the myriad granite outcroppings on the property. The effect is stunning to say the least.

I imagine Garl gets some inspiration from Pine Valley on the par three third hole, a 204 yarder with a waste bunker that runs from tee to green. It’s a cool looking hole but I was dismayed later in the round when we hit the par three eleventh, a hole that must be the third’s twin sister.

They look almost exactly alike – a bit of a turnoff.

Back to the front nine though. The fourth is a strong 553 yard par four with a stretch of granite running across the fairway about 100 yards from the putting surface. It’s slightly elevated from the landing area off the tee and provides a bit of deception for a visually difficult layup shot.

Number six is a fantastic 411 yard par four that forces the player to twice cross a large, winding creek. Again, the way Garl uses the granite to frame the holes is tremendous.

Seven is another beauty, an uphill 218 yard one shotter with granite outcroppings running from tee to green on both sides of the hole! I put my tee shot in the rocks on the left side and made a great bogey four. Just an exhilarating tee shot.

The middle stretch of holes are all pretty strong, most notably nine, ten and twelve. My least favourite hole is number 16, a short par five measuring 484 yards from the tips. It’s a dogleg left with a tall tree sitting in the middle of the fairway in the target area. The tree is only about 250 yards from the tee and anything that runs past it hits the rough. Unless you have a controlled right-to-left shot in your bag, it might be best to leave the driver in the bag, which is a flaw in the design in my opinion. I think this hole would be stronger if they decided to clear some trees that border the left side of the fairway and make it a par four.

The course finishes very strongly. 17 is just a gorgeous hole, a 436 yard downhill dogleg right par four and 18 is even more spectacular. It’s a 563 yard par five with granite EVERYWHERE. The contrast between the green fairway and the rocks is quite striking and very intimidating here and it makes for a thrilling finisher. Again, deception really comes into play here and makes club selection very difficult.

The conditioning out there was really good for a new course and I really enjoyed the difficulty of the course. We were a bit put off by the snobby staff, who wouldn’t cut any deal for us to play a second 18 (“If you wait till 4pm, we can put you out there for $95.00!”) but that didn’t ruin the great experience I had playing Taboo. I shot an 85 and played really well for the most part. Good courses penalize bad shots and reward good ones and I felt that the place was more than fair in that regard, even with the bold design and the prevalence of the granite.

It’s one of the prettiest courses in Ontario and is really an interesting design. If you’re ever in the Toronto area, I’d strongly urge you to make the two hour drive to play this track.

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