Take a walk at Muskoka's oldest course: Windermere Golf & Country Club in Ontario
WINDERMERE, Ontario -- Muskoka is stocked with difficult courses cut through the rocky terrain, but for those seeking a simple walk in the park, Windermere Golf & Country Club is the choice.
The club dates to 1919 with its first nine holes open for play in the fall of 1920.
A trio of noted golf people at the time -- Canadian legend Stanley Thompson, Hamilton Golf & Country Club Head Professional Nicol Thompson and Toronto Golf Club's George Cumming -- assisted on the classic routing near the shores of Lake Rosseau. By 1926, all 18 holes were completed, a routing that is still mostly intact today.
Members love the 6,215-yard Windermere for its three abilities: affordability, walkability and playability.
"It's one of the few, and best, walkable golf courses in Muskoka," said Brian McElwain, a member who lives on Lake Rosseau. "It's the best investment in Muskoka the moment you join."
Windermere plays like a leisurely stroll on 124 acres. The only time you encounter the formidable Muskoka rock that makes other area courses so difficult is at the fourth tee, an elevated perch that sits atop a giant granite shelf, and near the 11th green, which frames the prettiest par 3 on the course.
A series of 14 ponds were added over the years to clear up drainage issues. Hundreds of trees have been planted, too, since the early days.
The one constant, however, has been its tiny greens. It's hard to believe many of them have been enlarged in the past. They look so small when you're standing in the fairway trying to hit one.
During my visit this fall, Windermere was redoing two greens, No. 9 and No. 17, with new bentgrass and replacing the slower, inconsistent poa. It's an upgrade that would eventually take place throughout the course.
"It has small greens, but you can hit it anywhere and still find your ball," said Mark DeActis, the co-general manager and director of golf. "Our members love the layout, the fact they can walk it. It's beautiful. It's got a lot of tradition behind it."
The largest pond on the course separates the 12th and 14th fairways, coming into play off the tee and on the approach of both holes.
The 16th is the longest (461 yards) and best of the three par 5s, sweeping to the right off an elevated tee along the treeline.
The finishing hole provides the best fireworks for match play. At 252 yards downhill, it plays more like a tough par 3 than a drivable par 4. Scoring anywhere from 2 to 6 allows for that pivotal swing in any tournament or match.
Windermere Golf & Country Club: The verdict
Golfers seeking Muskoka's best golf courses probably won't stop at Windermere. The course is better suited for a family, seniors, juniors, beginners or couples looking for a nice day out playing golf.
It lacks the "wow" factor of other local courses, but that is reflected in its more affordable price, as well. Overall, it's a fine holiday course in good condition.
Windermere Golf & Country Club: Stay-and-play
The Windemere House Hotel and the Baldwins Resort both reside next door. Guests at either property can be playing golf one minute and a short walk later be boating or swimming on the water. The Windermere House -- dating to 1870 but restored in the 1990s -- offers 54 suites and rooms, along with a four-bedroom cabin.
October 16, 2012