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