Bigwin Island Golf Club gets Doug Carrick makeover 

Lake of Bays, Muskoka: It’s been 16 years since Hall of Fame Designer Doug Carrick created the award-winning Bigwin Island Golf Course in Muskoka. Fitting, then, that the course’s most recent improvements – an extensive overhaul of its bunkers – were overseen by none other than the legendary Canadian Golf Architect.

“This is what it’s really all about,” says Carrick, motioning toward the impressive views over Lake of Bays from Bigwin’s spectacular 6th hole. “It’s unlike any other golf course that I know around the world. When the course was originally built there was a lot of emphasis on creating drama, and the bunkers here at Bigwin were certainly very dramatic. So it made playing the shot out of the bunker very difficult for a lot of people.”

The key to fixing the obstacle, says Carrick, was to “balance out” the challenge for expert and skilled players with the needs of those who are new to the game, or at least a little more relaxed about it.

Working closely with staff as well as taking into account feedback from members – Bigwin has a well earned reputation as one of the country’s leading member focussed courses – Carrick also took the opportunity to improve the overall enjoyability and playability of the course. Citing the signature 4th hole as an example, he says the redesign saw the elimination of a bunker on the left side of the green that previously made it difficult to stop the ball on the green from that location.

“We moved bunkers in closer to the green and raised the elevation,” says Carrick. “There will be a lot less frustration now when you hit an errant shot. The penalty or punishment won’t be as severe.”

A game changer

A strong supporter of Carrick’s welcome return to Bigwin was David Smith, Vice President and Managing Director of Bigwin Island Golf Club.

“It really started with needing to replace the sand, which was 16 years old,” says Smith. “The game has changed and technology has changed. The sand that was in our bunkers, was natural sand. We replaced it with the industry leading Pro/Angle, an engineered sand manufactured specifically for the needs of today’s golf courses. It’s like little ball bearings, it’s loose, it doesn’t lock together, it drains easily and it’s predictable.”

The ensuing bunker renovation, as Smith calls it, was completed over the spring, with the course opened and fully functioning in time for the 2017 summer season.

“Everything we did with the bunker program was about pointing Bigwin in the right direction for the future,” says Smith. “And thanks to Doug, we’ve been able to do that, ensuring that above all else we’re maintaining that all important philosophy that golf is all about family, about friends, exercise, fresh air and fun. It’s really an extension of the whole cottage experience.”

According to Smith, some 25% of the total bunker area was removed during the renovation program, with numerous remaining green side bunkers reduced in size and repositioned to bring them closer to the greens, thus eliminating those long and often difficult bunker shots yet providing challenging options for pin placements when required.

The $1.5 million project also saw bunker floors raised to ensure improved visibility of the greens, along with new drainage, liners and bunker sand. Along with the bunker changes fairway drainage was improved in some key areas and two score damaging areas were eliminated.

In addition to the improvements to the golf course, Bigwin Island has also begun an exciting ‘Club Cabin’ real estate program that will see 40 golf vacation units being added to the 520-acre island. A model cabin is scheduled for completion this fall, with sales initiatives already in the works for what promises to be a welcome addition to the island’s existing luxury cottage inventory.

To learn more about the course recognized as Canada’s Best New Course in 2002, visit the website at

Fairways Magazine

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