Course Review: Baxter Creek Golf Club (Fraserville, Ont.)

Course Review: Baxter Creek Golf Club, Fraserville, Ont.
Designer: David Moote

Baxter Creek: The course's opener demonstrates the mix of bunkering styles.

Baxter Creek: The course's opener demonstrates the mix of bunkering styles.

Call me old fashioned, but I think any golf course that charges more than fifty bucks for a round should have 18 solid holes. Lets be clear “ Im not talking about 18 versions of Augusta National for less than three Queen Lizs. Im just talking about 18 holes without any profound mistakes. Eighteen holes that, even if quirky in spots, have character, make one think and entice one to want to come back, to make the course a regular haunt on weekends with your foursome.
With that in mind, Baxter Creek comes close “ but ultimately is derailed but some odd decisionson the back that make a course that shows promise on the front nine limp home during the final holes.
The land that is Baxter Creek was once a farm “ pretty clear on the opening holes, which are wide and slightly rolling. The opener, a short, downhill par-4 to a subtle green, gets things started with both the good and the odd. The tee shot is fun, with the fairway big and wide, and the green is inviting enough. But strange waste areas crop up to the left of the green, including a strange mound of rocks that seems totally out of character with the rolling nature of the property. The typical bunkering is rather plain, with little movement in the lines, whereas the waste areas seem out of place and out of scale with the rest of the property. How I wish most designers would settle on a singular bunker style that fits the property instead of hedging their bets or at least find differing styles that fit with the landscape.

Baxter Creek #5 -- the strongest hole on the course.

Baxter Creek #5 -- the strongest hole on the course.

Despite that shortfall, the front nine is relatively solid, if somewhat pedestrian golf. The fairways are relatively wide and quite fair, and the land is interesting and rolling. In fact, there are a couple of quite strong holes, namely the fifth, a long par-4 with an angled tee shot over a ridge that runs the length of the right side of the hole. Though some containment mounding was used to distinguish the par-5 9th hole from the parallel par-4 11th, the scale of the holes, with their wide-open feel, fits the site. The 10th hole, a short, drivable par-4 with a fairway that falls to the left and includes an interesting center-line hazard, spices things up a bit with a slightly more aggressive green.

The tight par-4 15th.

The tight par-4 15th.

Thats where things slightly go off the rails. Designer David Moote takes the 12th hole, a par-3, over a large wetland, and then the course transforms. Gone is the scale that made the front nine intriguing, replaced by tight, target-golf holes amongst trees and wetlands. The fairways are tight (sometimes, like the 15th, ridiculously so), taking out all the options and making the courses playabily singular. It becomes dull and plodding and when it emerges (on the 16th, a par-3 over a wetland “ where have I seen that before?) the design become convoluted by the use of holding ponds (on the decidedly strange uphill par-5 17th) and more waste areas (the par-4 closer). For two-thirds of my round, Moote and Baxter Creek held my attention “ but that last third is unfortunate.
Interesting to see Baxter Creek reference Moote as the designer behind The Rock, the much-maligned course in Muskoka that was handed to the design team of Nick Faldo and Brit Stenson and won Golf Digests Best New Course award before being closed for a season and redesigned in places. That said, Moote is far less heavy-handed at Baxter Creek than some of his other projects, and though the routing is flawed, it is more lay-of-the-land, with less silly mounding than his other original designs (and some of his renovation for that matter.)

Baxter Creek isnt comparable to the mess that is The Rock (nor was Moote responsible for all of that course’s problems since he only did the routing to the best of my understanding) — it wasn’t built on that grand a scale, it doesn’t aspire to be anything but a good, mid-priced course and its failures are therefore less significant. But if both courses were compared to films, Baxter Creek would see the producer come in after the movie was completed and recut the ending.

Highlight: The downhill fifth, a pretty hole with strategy (how much do I cut off) and an interesting green site.
Low Point: The 15th, a narrow, one-dimensional par-4 that is completely out of character with the earlier holes
Head scratcher: The use of waste and more traditional bunkering.

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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.

9 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Funny RT but that so called “Mess” at The Rock is the busiest course in Muskoka this year and is having a banner year……When will just get over it???

  • Greg: The Rock was a mess – when it opened it had to be closed and reconceived. I do think it is better now – but I was comparing a $50 green fee course with one that aimed to have a green fee three times that much.

    That said, I’m pleased to hear you’re having a good year. Please don’t confuse the commentary on the course for a commentary on the personnel currently involved. I liked your predecessor too – still speak with him from time to time – even if I don’t care for the course.

  • Geoff:

    It is “you’re” as in “you are a fucking hack.” Get it straight if you’re going to be insulting. Insults with poor grammar lose their effectiveness.

    As for my “hack” abilities in literature, wait until you see the novel I’m working on…

  • I find it hard to believe The Rock is the busiest course in Muskoka this year, it must be ALL first time players who are staying near by and don’t want to go far for their golf. I played The Rock this year and I will NEVER be back, nor will any of my playing partners. I am a very active low single digit handicap golfer who plays 2 – 3 rounds a week and works, travels and socializes with other golfers: I have not heard one person say they were going back to The Rock for a second visit.

    The fact that Faldo/Moote did the first run at the course and failed can be forgiven, but what in my opinion is not forgivable is to not hire one of the Canadian architects who have proven they know how to do playable Muskoka golf for the renovation. I make my living from the golf industry and hate to see any golf course operation struggle, but this course is simply not fun to play and the reno work only made it marginally better.

  • Oboy! Does that mean another contest?


    =>RT wrote: ‘As for my “hack” abilities in literature, wait until you see the novel I’m working on…’

  • Single Digit:

    I was wondering who the Canadian renovation architect is that you are dissing.

    Moote did the routing, that is all he did, was not active with the construction details.

    Did Mr. Faldo return on a gratis or any other basis to try to fix the most unplayable golf course imaginable.

  • Hey Grumpy,

    I wasn’t dissing anyone, I was actually praising some of our great Canadian architects:

    “what in my opinion is not forgivable is to not hire one of the Canadian architects who have proven they know how to do playable Muskoka golf for the renovation.”

    I was saying someone who has proven they can make great golf in Muskoka should have been hired to do the fix-up job at The Rock – rather than bringing back Faldo, who screwed it up in the first place.

    Perhaps Faldo did it for free, but I don’t think he does anything for free.

  • I played Baxter Creek with my travelling group and we will definitely be back!! The course conditions were second to none! I do agree that those waste bunkers didn’t seem to fit the property. The greens rolled true and quick, the fairways were lush and I didn’t mind the design….including the 15th hole. The 17th is a little goofy but the 19th Beer hole makes up for it!
    All in all I found good value for the buck!!

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