Best New Canadian Courses
1. Lake Joseph C., Port Carling, Ont., Tom McBroom.
2. The Dunes at Kamloops, Kamloops, B.C., Graham Cooke.
Golf has been in Muskoka for decades. Stanley Thompson designed several courses in Ontario’s north, but over time many disappeared, places the original Bigwin Island. By the mid-1990s, Muskoka was again a hot-spot for those from Toronto looking to escape the city. That left it to ClubLink to try capitalize on those retreating to cottages by creating the first of several golf courses in the region.
Lake Joseph Club, or Lake Joe as it is commonly referred, came before everything that followed. Before the rebuilt Bigwin, and prior to Rocky Crest and Muskoka Bay, and the private enclave of Oviinbyrd. It was the first of the courses built in the Muskoka renaissance, though admittedly it comes several years after Deerhurst Highlands.
It was the second of two high-profile home runs for Thomas McBroom, coming on the heels of his GD Best New win for Crowbush Cove. In Lake Joe McBroom had another spectacular site, this one full of rocky outcroppings and land with large rolls. The project had several issues in construction, including a storm that washed much of the grass seed away, but most were decidedly impressed when it finally opened.
Time Will Tell:Lake Joe remains a solid golf course, though the occasional blind shot seems to be off-putting to many reviewers. In my mind it is a solid course with several memorable holes, some strong greens and nice use of rock. Unlike other Muskoka projects, it appears McBroom didn’t blast a ghastly amount of rock to build it, which results in some holes with a degree of blindness. I say oh well — people fly to Scotland all the time to play courses with blind shots. Somehow in that context a course is “quirky.” That might not be the best way to describe Lake Joe, but it is unfair to be too critical of it for a couple of shots over 18 holes.
Where It Ranks: 86 in Canada, according to Score, and that’s after falling off the list entirely. At one point this course was in Score’s Top 10 in the country, which shows how low critical opinion is currently.
Should It Have Won?: Yes. Lake Joe is a unique course in a majestic setting. The architecture is stronger than on Graham Cooke’s runner-up.
What Was Overlooked? Another relatively slow year for Canadian golf before the late-1990s golf boom, I can’t find anything worthy that might have challenged Lake Joe.
Next: The Repeat Winner