The modern day Bigwin Island golf course may only have opened for play in 2002 but its location has a history going back 80 years to 1922 when an initial nine hole course was designed by the legendary Canadian golf course architect Stanley Thompson who added a further 9 holes in 1930.
This course was part of the old Bigwin Inn resort on the island which attracted a very select clientele in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The ownership of the resort changed hands a number of times over the years but nobody could halt the gradual decline of the place.
In 1986, it was taken over by developer Alan Peters who, along with financier Jack Wadsworth, enlisted the architect Doug Carrick to revive the old, abandoned course, using a little of the original routing, and in so doing, retaining the look and feel of the old Thompson design.
Doug Carrick kindly provided us with the following comments: “The original Thompson course at Bigwin Island was a very short (less than 5,000 yards) 18-hole course. It started out as a 9-hole course in 1922, expanded to 12 holes in 1926, to 14 holes in 1928 and finally to 18 holes in 1930. The resort and the golf course closed in 1968. The fairways were all overgrown with trees and shrubs but we could still see where the original play corridors were. I used portions of approximately 9 holes, but the routing of the new course really bears no resemblance to the original layout.”
In order to access this hilly, island course which is situated a three-hour drive north of Toronto, a five-minute water-taxi must be taken from the little town of Norway Point across the Lake of Bays in the Muskokas. The golfer will then be treated to a round on a signature Carrick design which allows one to “flirt with danger in order to fight for position, or play safer and face longer, more difficult approach shots” – definitive risk/reward modern design strategy.
Every hole is played through woodland of a maturity and character that is typical of the great classic courses constructed in the early part of the 20th century in Canada. Course routing varies in a number of directions over the undulating island landscape which provides constantly changing challenges to the golfer, especially in the wind. Greens are generous in size with gentle contouring to make subtle yet pleasurable demands of the putter.
Two holes are worthy of being highlighted – the 6th hole, called “Look Out”, begins from a set of elevated tees that drop down more than a hundred feet to the fairway with a wonderful backdrop of the Lake of Bays, and the 18th hole, where the wide fairway hugs the bay as it doglegs right to a double tiered green, providing a wonderful finish to the round.
A comprehensive bunker remodelling project was carried out by Doug Carrick during the winter of 2016, designed to improve the overall playability and level of enjoyment for golfers. Green side bunkers were reduced in size and repositioned closer to the putting surfaces to eliminate long, difficult bunker shots. The floors of all the green side bunkers were raised in elevation to provide clearer visibility of the green surface. All bunkers were improved with new drainage, liners and bunker sand.