Review: Reflections On A Good Day Gone Bad — Seguin Valley GC


What makes a bad golf course so bad that it can almost be considered good?

I grew up and learned to play on what I consider a bad golf course. Table top flat, with artificial mounds to add separation to the holes, and full of unappealing, characterless greens, and at least a couple of spots where it turns into a shooting gallery, the course is not something that I would bother with today.

Despite all of this, the course did have some strange lure for me and continues to do so to this day. Maybe it was the strange opening par fives yielded to a difficult one shot hole and a tough par four. Maybe it was the fact that the course was easily walked, though numerous people would take carts anyway. Maybe it was the awful 17th, with its six-iron dogleg.

I guess people must have a similar affinity to Seguin Valley.

It has been over a year since I wrote my reflections on the course, which apparently was partly designed by David Moote, and partly designed by the construction company. I say apparently, as I can find no record of who actually designed this clunker.

Readers have had a lot to say about the review I wrote.

My take was clear:

Regardless of its shortcomings, some hold up Seguin as a “hidden jewel” of Muskoka (though I don’t think of hidden jewels as charging $100 green fees), placing it in the same league as Rocky Crest and Bigwin Island. I just can’t figure out how anyone can place this course in that company.

Lots of people, apparently, love Seguin Valley. They aren’t as thrilled with me. Hacker Mike posted earlier this week that:

Thompsons (sic) opinion is misguided, Im sure he would cut-up Pebble Beach, blind shots on 6 and 8, a 500ft ride to the hot-dog stand, geese!

Geese indeed, though that isn’t the first bird that comes to mind when I think about Pebble. Or Seguin Valley. The Hack Job continues:

I have played every course in the Muskoka area and they are all up, down and sideways. This one is breathtaking, like you are in the middle of Algonquin park. Almost every hole you dont see any other holes, cars or people. Maybe parts of the golf course are lacking but for the merits of spending a day in nature, it doesnt get better.

I always find it funny how people think hole separation on a course makes it great. In Seguin Valley’s case it just means the designer wasted a ton of cash routing the course over twice the land it needed. Or maybe the designer temporarily lost his eye sight!

Nathan has a similar take:

I find it slightly ironic that Thompson who is paid to critisize cant find too much good about a golf course that well versed golfers obviously enjoy. I can only suggest he wasnt perked and coddeled(for a good review) like he is used to on the more well heeled golf experiences.

Isn’t it interesting that the state of course criticism in this country has been reduced to the point that now many golfers only think you are critical of a course because you weren’t given a free shirt? Gosh, my wife has ordered me to never bring home another logoed shirt. Ever.

That said I long ago stopped being swayed by a free hat or a dog at the turn. Couldn’t care less. I try to be open and honest about what I say and why I say it. Those that have been critical of the review have never demonstrated to me why I should be at all interested in ever returning to Seguin. Let’s consider the arguments:

Hole separation? You get that at Muskoka Bay, which is miles better than Seguin?

There’s a big par three over water — oh, you get that at Muskoka Bay as well.

You don’t see any cars — what Muskoka course do you see cars at? These places aren’t typically built alongside the 400.

Nathan concludes:

Despite the shaky short history of this course some lucky new owner willing to spend a few more bucks(clubhouse) will have a marketable product that most would enjoy. Sounds like someone put some crap in Thompsons cornflakes the morning of.

Truth be told, I’m not a big cornflakes eater.

In fact it is too bad that Seguin isn’t a complete disaster. At least then, like my old home course, it might be appealing. There’s nothing endearing about Seguin. The holes are average, though it is situated on a great piece of land. The routing is atrocious. Little consideration was given to the sequence of holes. Shots are repeated ad nauseum. Bunker placement was questionable and the actual bunkers themselves looked like after thoughts.

Nothing quirky or odd about Seguin. Just a badly designed course. Yes, there’s one good hole — the much-discussed par three over a pond — but the fact the designer seems to have gone to such trouble to place it there, making much of the surrounding design seem forced, makes me wonder if it was worth the trouble.

That doesn’t mean some won’t enjoy it. Apparently the dozens of golfers that flock to its fairways have enjoyed it.

But the vast majority of the public has already spoken — the course has been up for sale for a long time now with no takers. And that, my friends, is the ultimate criticism.

Back to Hacker Mike for the coup de grâce:

And I thank Thompson for cutting it up cause I always get a tee time! Keep those golfers away!

That sounds familiar? Wonder why? Oh, because of Stephen’s remarks on the review, almost a year earlier:

Thompson wants the course to himself.

Indeed, I’m very keen on getting back to Seguin. Hold me back. I want to run, not…. well you get the picture.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

7 CommentsLeave a comment

  • RT, you know we disagree on this course, but could we make one thing clear. The signature hole, the par three 7th over water, is not even close to the best hole on the course. The combination of the 3rd, 4th and 5th holes is one of my favourite stretches of golf in Ontario. #10 is a beast of a hole followed by a couple of clunkers (especially #12 which simply doesn’t seem to belong). #14 is a wonder to behold and while #15 is quirky I always seem to enjoy it more each time I play it. The course doesn’t finish as strong as you would hope but all in all I find your anti-Seguin stances a bit over the top.

    The fact that it hasn’t been sold I’m sure speaks more to the people that have to be dealt with to get it done than the course itself. There are definitely some problems there but in my opinion they mostly reside in the ownership rather than the course.

  • Seguin Valley did rank #38 in the 2007 edition of “Ontario Golf” magazine’s Top 50 Golf Courses in Ontario… so some significant panelists clearly disagree with Mr Thompson.

    The course certainly lacks all the perks of a high end Muskoka club, so I can see where some folks who like to be pampered with a country club atmosphere would be disappointed… and I’m guessing the staff don’t know how to properly treat a visiting reviewer (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

    But to dismiss this course as a clunker seems rather off the mark… the track has some great holes and some interesting shots. And although Mr Thompson wants to belittle the fact that each hole is absolutely isolated from the others overlooks the unique appeal of the track and it’s ability to give you one of the more pristine Muskoka experiences that any course up there can produce.

    Three of the par 3’s are fantastic… everyone talks about the 7th, but 14 is spectacular and quite a test… and #4 might be the most interesting on the course given the two diffent angles you can approach it from.

    Number 1 and 10 are fun par fives to start out on. But the show stopper is #15 (par 4)… I’m sure some might call it gimmicky, but the hole does give you an option to go for the green and the scenery is incredible, nothing quite like it that I’ve played.

    Seguin Valley might not be everyone’s cup of tea… but to call it a clunker is a little off the charts… it does the track a disservice, I doubt anyone who has played there would rank it so lowly… unless of course a golf review means more about posh amenities and country club service… and less about golf.

  • Mr. Thompson…. I could not dis-agree with you more. recently 8 of us travelled forn the Guelph area to experience this course. All experienced golfers, having played Rocky Crest..The Joe Club.. Muskoka Bay Westmount (Kitchener) The Cuttten (Guelph) Glen Abbey..Bigwin get the idea.
    All of us enjoyed our day on this course, and as a matter of fact..look forward to attacking it again, as it is always difficult to play a challenging course for the first time. Granted not having the clubhouse complete does add a issue of the day being “complete”..but here is hoping the owners will remedy that problem. The geopgraphy is quite spectacular..and I repeat 8 experienced golfers ended there day with a smile and alot of laughs.
    I would definetly recommend this track to anyone asking!!!

  • see article below

    Parry Sound golf course coming under new ownership.

    by Ross, Ian
    Northern Ontario Business • April, 2008 • SPECIAL REPORT: GOLF GUIDE
    A celebrated Parry Sound golf course will open this summer for its fifth season under new ownership.


    Seguin Valley Golf and Country Club co-founder Ron Dennis confirms a new undisclosed buyer is coming on the scene for the 2008 season and tentatively expects an announcement of the new owners during the first week of June.

    Dennis says the course may be open after the deal is finalized, but could be open on some earlier weekends before, depending upon the wishes of ownership.

    Dennis, who is stepping aside as manager to retire to Florida and Muskoka, says the sale of the vast 2,000-acre property is in the hands of the estate of the late Robert McRae, his former business partner, and is being sold by the executor.

    He says the 18-hole, 6,900-yard course has been well-maintained by their superintendent and golfers will still be able to enjoy Seguin Valley as a top quality course.

    “All the operational end is perfect, it’s in great shape.”

    The new owners will be doing more to develop the property, but he wasn’t sure if the course would remain public.

    Dennis, who couldn’t divulge the identity of the new owners, says he hasn’t been involved in the sale or search for new ownership. “That’s being handled by a firm out of Toronto.”

    Seguin Valley was Dennis’ first attempt at course design. He retired years before as Air Canada’s chief pilot and director of flight operations.

    He went into the golf business with his partner and fellow pilot Robert McRae who acquired the 2,000 acres of rugged Canadian Shield bushlot in the Parry Sound area over a 15-year period.

    After opening in June 2003, Seguin Valley won rave reviews and was selected by golf website, Tee It Up Ontario, as the best new course in the province. The course only occupies about 300 acres of the entire land package located just east of the newly four-laned Highway 69-400 highway. There were tentative plans to develop residential estates around the course.

    Dennis says there were many expenses at the start-up and challenges to build revenue streams and compete with other high-end resort courses in the Muskoka-Lake Joseph area.

    But he was not at liberty to disclose any financial information on Seguin Valley at the insistence of the executor.

    Dennis called his experience helping with the course’s design and initial start-up as “excellent, one I wouldn’t have missed.

    “It’s been exciting and enjoyable with lots of fine people to work with in Parry Sound.”

    At its seasonal peak, the course employed more than 35 people. Last season, he estimated traffic somewhere between 12,000 and 15,000 rounds.

    An earlier deal to sell the course to the Anishinabek Nation fell through in February.

    The Aboriginal group was unable to finalize a $12.7 million deal to develop the course and a residential complex, says Maurice Switzer, spokesman for the Anishinabek Nation/Union of Ontario Indians.

    Their financing partner (St. Clair Energy Inc.) said it was an “excellent proposal” but Switzer says it’s a challenge for First Nations to break into business fields. “By all accounts it was a good first effort.

    “At the last moment our financiers sought further securities in the form of loan guarantees and development funding,” says Switzer. “We found all sorts of programs available for small businesses and multi-billion businesses, but we couldn’t find one that would help us close our deal.”

    The Native group formed the Seguin Valley Land Assembly, a project-specific development corporation, which attempted to purchase and develop the property.

    The bid for the golf course and property acquisition was part of the larger Anishinabek Nation Economic Strategy, a 10-year plan to develop local and regional economies and create wealth for the 42-member First Nations, a quasi-government political leadership group.

    Switzer anticipates a major Anishinabek announcement in late April for unveiling of a very comprehensive economic development strategy that has been in the works for months.

    “It just so happened that this opportunity came up in the middle of the development of the strategy. There are lots of issues that make it complicated for First Nations to get involved in financing, all sorts of challenges, but our strategy will address a lot of those.


    Northern Ontario Business

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    COPYRIGHT 2008 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc. Reproduced with permission of the copyright holder. Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.
    Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

  • This course has an intriguing history and I echo the comments above by Hockey Player Gary Roberts – Seguin has a fond place in the hearts of me and my golfer buddies …no bad reviews in the bunch ! -who cares if it has a shack-y clubhouse – so did the great Ballybunion, until recently. ….the fact that it sits as one of my faves may be because last summer, with my best bud Mike looking on, I drove the green on the par 4 fourteenth hole – my drive hit the green ‘on the fly’ [yes, it was wind-assisted], it dug in, due to wet conditions then spun out of its pitch mark ..leaving me with a 20 foot eagle putt !!

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