Pictured above: Muskoka Highlands No.18
Muskoka Highlands Golf Links
Location: Bracebridge, Ontario
Tees: GOLD – 6,024 / BLUE – 5,435 / RED – 4,860 / PURPLE – 3,745
Green Fees: $65 walking. The course uses dynamic pricing so rates can vary depending on the time you want to play and how far in advance you book your tee time.
Muskoka Highlands lists seven Rules on the back of the scorecard. The first Rule is: Have fun. The seventh Rule is: Have fun. In between are some friendly reminders about ready golf, fixing ball marks, ordering food and cleaning up after your pet. What?! That’s right, dogs are allowed at Muskoka Highlands. It’s part of what makes this lovely course in cottage country a unique outing.
Established in 1993, the course tops out at just over 6,000 yards. That may seem short but as owner Don MacKay says, “We’re not hosting the Canadian Open anytime soon. We’re all about having fun.”
There’s that word again: fun. Muskoka Highlands traverses some rollicking terrain, constantly rising and falling, presenting a new and different look at every turn, each hole different. Don’t let the yardage fool you. There’s plenty here to challenge golfers of all stripes. The front nine is over 3,200 yards and contains several par fours over 400 yards and two of the par 3s are over 200 yards. The back nine is shorter but no pushover either.
The large, sloping greens are slick and in fantastic shape. Plenty of challenge here, which to me, makes putting fun too.
As the name implies, Muskoka Highlands Golf Links is designed to play firm and fast, as a links course should. On the day the Bunker Squad played, the course was recovering from more than a week of rain. The fescue that borders most holes was long and thick and while the fairways had drained well, they weren’t running as fast as intended.
Some of the bunkers have steep sides, similar to the sodwall bunkers in Scotland. Best to steer clear of these if possible.
Elevation is the key at Muskoka Highlands. Many of the tee decks are perched up high, offering postcard views of the surrounding landscape. That’s especially true on some of the par 3s.
Hole No.6 is long and even though it plays downhill from the highest point on the property, it’s a tough par and deserving of being the #1 handicap hole.
Hole No.8 is the shortest hole on the course – a mere 141 yards from the tips but plays substantially less as the hole drops some 60-70 feet to a green that falls away on all sides. It looks like you could throw your ball down onto the green, but club selection is critical as a miss means chipping uphill to a putting surface that is quite contoured.
Hole No.16 – a real solid dogleg par 5 that requires three good shots. For first timers, the hole turns left although that’s not obvious from the elevated tee that gives you beautiful vistas.
Hole No.18 – another solid par four and a great finishing hole with a signature tree on the horizon.
Muskoka Highlands is home to a new foster puppy every year. They’re trained as guide dogs and usually go on to new homes where they guide their owners in some fashion. Each hole on the scorecard is named for one of the dogs that has been trained at the course. Members and public players are also invited to play with their dogs.
The Bunker Squad
It was the first time playing Muskoka Highlands for all of us. We played the GOLD tees at 6,024 yards.
Mark A (Handicap 11): I thoroughly enjoyed the course and would happily return. It’s a good walking course too. Now that I have experienced a few of those sodwall bunkers though, I’ll steer clear of them on future visits.
John B (18): Great fun. Lots of room for me and I usually need it. After playing Muskoka Highlands I may get a dog, especially if I can train it to look for errant drives.
Matt S (20): The greens were fantastic. The course is good value too. I’m adding it our list.
Peter M (8): One of the factors I use when assessing a golf course is how memorable it is. Each hole at Muskoka Highlands is unique and quite easy to recall long after the round. That’s a huge plus. As Mark says it’s easily walkable – another plus. Ironically, I had just written a blog about how we all need to do a reality check about how far we really hit the ball and what distance we should be playing. You can read it HERE. To have the opportunity to test out a course at 6,000 yards and find it challenging and fun was a nice bonus. I’ll definitely play it again and happily recommend it to others.
For more information on Muskoka Highlands, click HERE.