Places to Play: Oak Bay Golf Club, Port Severn, Ontario
Course: 18 holes, 6,373 yards, Par 72
Architect: Shawn Watters
Green Fees: Summer: $62 (Mon-Thu), $78 (Fri-Sun) / Spring & Fall: $52 (Mon-Thu), $68 (Fri-Sun)
One of the reasons we play golf is the opportunity to get outside, enjoy nature and breathe some fresh air.
There’s fresh air like you find on golf courses in the city and then there’s fresh air like you find on the shores of Georgian Bay. Far from the hustle and bustle of civilization.
Oak Bay Golf Club is located 30 minutes north of Barrie and just minutes off Hwy 400 on Port Severn Road (Exit 156). It’s an easy hour from the GTA with beautiful scenery to set the stage. Just before arriving, visitors cross a bridge at Port Severn offering magnificent panoramic views of islands and the sparkling blue water of Georgian Bay to the west. For those that know where to look, Oak Bay’s 8th green and 9th tee can be glimpsed from the highway too.
Upon arrival at Oak Bay’s impressive new clubhouse, golfers are encouraged to head for the second floor to take in the view and maybe enjoy a relaxing refreshment and something to eat before heading out to the course. Stop for a moment in the lobby too to watch the videos on the large TV screens detailing all that is going on at Oak Bay, from golf to dining to the new marina – and a relaxed lifestyle on Georgian Bay.
Oak Bay is carved out of mature hardwood forest and hugs the Georgian Bay shoreline, offering glimpses of the water on some holes and bringing it directly into play on others. Architect Shawn Watters has crafted a routing that introduces golfers to wetlands, striking elevation changes and rock. The Canadian Shield is prevalent everywhere you turn, with rocky outcroppings framing fairways on some holes and large boulders acting as sentries and markers on others.
Rarely does a golf course fit so seamlessly into its environment. Oak Bay glides effortlessly through the Georgian Bay landscape, moving from elevated perches down through gullies and swales to the shoreline, then back through the forest of oaks, maples and pines to another spectacular vista. The holes twist and weave and introduce golfers to an array of natural elements that provide challenges but also demand that you take out your camera.
No two holes are even remotely similar, and that variety dictates that you have to think your way around Oak Bay. The course isn’t long by any means, topping out at a manageable 6,600 yards but it’s very strategic and requires some pretty nifty shot-making to turn in a good score.
Among the highlights of a round at Oak Bay will no doubt be the incredible mix of par-three holes that require heroic tee shots. The sixth is usually described as Oak Bay’s signature hole but that designation could easily be applied to several other holes as well. What sets the sixth apart is the all-or-nothing knee-knocker over a Georgian Bay inlet to a green perched above a rock wall on the opposite side. It’s a post card for sure. And if that’s not enough, the green is sloped and tricky to putt.
No.8 is another picturesque hole with a shallow green set amidst a gorgeous backdrop of water and islands. On the inward nine, No.11 traverses a rocky canyon to a long narrow green while No.13 demands a long carry over wetlands. None of the par three holes is a pushover and most golfers will be delighted to make par on any of them.
Oak Bay has some fun holes too, like the driveable par-4 5th or the unique 16th, where the greenside bunkers are sand-filled craters in the surrounding rock and a reminder that despite impeccable grooming and smooth, silky greens, the natural wilderness of Georgian Bay is close at hand. So, expect a few lost balls. But recognize that’s a small price to pay for a scenic tour through this Group of Seven setting.
No visit to Oak Bay would be complete without sampling some of Chef Luigi’s brilliant culinary excellence. The chef prides himself on his eclectic menu options that range from wood-fired pizza to succulent rack of lamb to all variety of fish and seafood dishes. On some days the “chef’s specials” are longer than the menu itself but the response from day-trippers and locals alike is that it’s the best place to eat in the region. Reservations are recommended most nights.
A visit to Oak Bay can easily be turned into a stay-and-play too. Local resorts offer reasonable rates for couples and groups and additional rounds at other Muskoka area courses can be arranged with a simple phone call. The region has plenty to attract non-golfers as well, such as the nearby Port Severn Lock, the Martyr’s Shrine in Midland or the historic wharf in Penetanguishene. And of course, Georgian Bay offers an endless supply of beaches and crystal-clear water and some of the best boating in the world.
That’s it. Oak Bay – easily accessible, affordable, naturally spectacular, challenging and most of all, fun.
Come for the golf. Come for the dining. Or just come for the scenery and fresh air.
For more information about Oak Bay, click HERE.