Just as McBroom and Cupp took advantage of Muskoka’s natural gifts to create Deerhurst Highlands, noted “hands-on” designer, Rene Muylaert and his protégé, Sean Watters, created two very different courses from a series of horseshoe – shaped hills near Barrie, an hour south of Deerhurst.
Horseshoe Highlands, on the Globe and Mail’s “Top 50 Best Courses in Canada” list, hosted a Canadian Tour championship in 2006. The course reflects the minimalist design esthetics of both men who planned the holes very carefully to move as little soil as possible.
The opening downhill par four, ranging from 286 to 316 yards, tempts big hitters to go for the green. The rest of the holes on this scenic front nine, completed by Watters in 2002, play longer thanks to sloping fairways, sprawling sand traps and perception – altering backdrops that challenge the most skillful player.
Excellent views of Barrie, Collingwood, Orillia and Georgian Bay await players at the par-4 elevated 5th tee, the hardest hole on the course. Most shots to the raised green will catch the elephant-backed fairway rolling balls off course.
Like most of these holes, length trumps accuracy; take more club than what your eyes and distance markers suggest. The par-4 14 th, the best hole on the maturing back nine, demands a shot to the right rough to outwit the hillside fairway that kicks balls sharply left into the trees.
Driving west on Horseshoe Valley Road from the Highlands Course you’ll see some of the best holes on the older Valley Course which, engulfed in maples, makes for a colourful autumn round. Opened in 1974, it’s a favorite with walkers who appreciate the parkland setting that backs onto Copeland Woods, home to curious moose, cougars, wild turkeys, deer and rabbits.
The tight fairways, lined with mature trees require strategically-targeted shots to avoid low-hanging branches on the many short, dogleg par fours. Players get a break on the scenic par-4 15th where all shots feed down to the hole. You’ll rarely see a straight putt on any of these greens.
The round ends with the best hole on the course, a par-5 played from an elevated tee, complete with panoramic views of the valley and a fairway that cuts sharp to the left and out of If you don’t have time to play both of these excellent tracks, play the front nine of Horseshoe Highlands and the back nine of the Valley course to experience the best of Horseshoe Resort golf.
When visiting the Simcoe region of cottage country, don’t miss the opportunity to play these beautiful and challenging tracks by notable Canadian golf course designers.