Deerhurst Resort is situated less than a three-hour drive north of Toronto in a natural, lakeside setting on the shores of Peninsula Lake. The par-72 Highlands course (measuring 7,011 yards) is one of two 18-hole layouts at Deerhurst within an area of more than 800 acres of rugged countryside.
In the late 1980s, golf architect Robert Cupp collaborated with Thomas McBroom to design a new kind of Canadian golf course at Deerhurst. They knew that Nature had already done a fantastic job in the Muskoka region so they wisely allowed the course to follow Nature’s lead and routed the holes through dense woods and granite rock terrain (known as the Canadian Shield) to create a golfing masterpiece.
After the Deerhurst Highlands course opened in 1990, McBroom was quoted as saying, "Deerhurst has the quintessential Canadian backdrop. I dare say this is the first hi-tech, modern course that has a Canadian look." The pioneering Deerhurst Highlands design has since generated something of a golfing boom in Muskoka, with many top spec courses appearing throughout the region.
The classically well-balanced design of Deerhurst Highlands offers one of the finest golf challenges to be found. Granite outcrops and dramatic elevation changes are exemplified at the 10th where the elevated tee area is perched above a 30-foot rock wall bordering a fairway that looks a long way away from the tee. Dense, mature woodland is featured at most holes on the course except for holes four to six which are quite open and links-like.
C.E. Robinson initially built the second course at the Deerhurst Resort, the Lakeside, in 1966. With nine par threes and only one par five, this par-64 course measures only 4,712 yards and it’s a less formidable challenge that the Highlands course. The outward nine skirts the lake then heads into a rolling valley. The inward nine starts at a cliff and continues through another valley, ending with a demanding hole which ends over water.
Deerhurst Resort describes itself as having “private club quality on a pay-as-you-play basis”. Who can argue with that as a philosophy?
Deerhurst Resort’s Highlands Course opened almost 30 years ago and this 1990 Bob Cupp and Thomas McBroom collaboration played an integral role in the development of the Muskoka region as a legitimate Canadian golf destination.
The Highlands sits on an impressive piece of land, with long views of the surrounding lake and granite outcroppings galore.
The course starts with a bang. The gorgeous downhill par four 1st hole is one of the more picturesque openers in Canadian golf while the very long and difficult 465 yard par four 2nd requires a lengthy tee shot over a ravine to reach a relatively narrow fairway.
The awesome continues on the 3rd hole, a stunning downhill 201 yard par three with granite outcroppings on the left. The threes at Deerhurst are quite strong overall.
However, things get a bit strange when you go over to the other side of the road for the next three holes. This stretch of holes is completely out in the open and has a very linksy feel, which offers stark contrast to the rest of the course, which generally would be considered a rollicking, parkland style design. Perhaps it’s just me, but this three-hole stretch just seemed out of character with the rest of the course.
The 8th hole is another great par three, a 231 yarder to a double green it shares with the 17th while the 9th is an interesting dogleg left, with a bit of a confounding tee shot but a cool elevated green complex that redeems things.
The back side has a few holes of note as well. The 10th is a wonderful golf hole, a gorgeous but very demanding 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.
Meanwhile, the 15th 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.
Bigwin Island, Muskoka Bay Club, Taboo, Oviinbyrd and a number of other fine Muskoka-area courses likely owe their existence to the success of the Deerhurst Resort. The Highlands Course showed developers that golf in Ontario cottage country, despite the very short season, could be a viable venture.
The Highlands still holds its own to this day and this perennial Canadian top 100 course should be a consideration for anyone contemplating a Muskoka-area golf vacation.
My full Deerhurst Highlands course profile and pictorial can be found here at Now on the Tee: http://nowonthetee.blogspot.com/2006/04/deerhurst-...