GRAVENHURST, Ontario, Canada -- Muskoka Lakes is teeming with lakes and golf courses. Cottages dot its pristine lakes and back roads.
This summer getaway two hours north of Toronto has not blossomed into a mainstream international golf mecca, partly because famous architects such as Jack Nicklaus and Tom Fazio have designed none of its courses, and the area has hosted no premiere pro events in recent memory. It should be noted, however, Muskoka still has more public-access Top 100 courses than any other Canadian golf destination.
Here are the five best golf courses in Muskoka:
Taboo Golf Club, Gravenhurst
Taboo Golf Club winds through the forest, sensitive environmental areas and the imposing granite outcroppings that characterize Muskoka. Architect Ron Garl made it playable by sculpting wide rolling fairways. Wetlands litter the 7,370-yard course, creating forced carries from numerous tees and some scary approach shots on tough par 4s. The white tees (at 6,135 yards and a slope of 136) will be everything most players can handle.
Muskoka Bay Club, Gravenhurst
Canadian architect Doug Carrick was thrown a curveball while planning this 7,367-yard course. He was asked to route his design through the more rugged, rockier piece of land near the back of the property, leaving the more gentle terrain for the planned real estate. Carrick knocked that curveball out of the park with a scenic layout that weaves through the rock without losing much playability (only the tricky par-4 ninth hole gets the occasional grumble). Muskoka Bay Club, which opened in 2007, ranks as one of the top 10 courses in Canada by ScoreGolf. The Clifftop Clubhouse overlooks the first tee and 18th green.
Highlands Course at Deerhurst Resort, Huntsville
Deerhurst Resort -- a four-season playground dating to 1896 -- served as the host of the G8 Economic Summit for world leaders in 2010. It's too bad President Obama didn't have time to tee it up on the scenic Highlands Course, designed by Robert Cupp and Canadian Thomas McBroom in 1990. The golf course rides spectacular ridges across unspoiled country. Steamers in the clubhouse transforms into fine dining at night.
Bigwin Island Golf Club, Baysville
A five-minute boat ride across the Lake of Bays gets the blood flowing for what lies ahead on the isolated 700-acre island. Carrick transformed an abandoned Stanley Thompson course in 2001 into a stunningly scenic private course that opens to the public in spring and fall. All 7,166 yards share the island's undisturbed forest. Carrick's bunkers are as big and bold as his fairways are wide. "It's an all-day experience," said Kevin Russell, Bigwin Island Golf Club's head professional/director of golf. "It's not a round of golf. It is an experience."
Rocky Crest Golf Club, Mactier
McBroom did it again, taming the rugged terrain to find a beautiful 6.936-yard routing through the wilderness on the edge of Lake Joseph. ClubLink operates Rocky Crest as a private club with top service and impeccable conditioning. The log clubhouse reflects the cottage lifestyle of Muskoka.