Course Review: The Links at Monck’s Landing
Designer: Scott Kuschnereit
It is nice to get invited to play new golf courses, but frankly over the past few years there have been so many that it is hard to keep up. Last summer Scott Kuschnereit wrote me a note about visiting his club. The problem was that it was nearly two hours from my home in Toronto, and I’m always suspect of someone who has built a course themselves without the help of a golf architect. Most of these home grown affairs are disasters, though some notable ones (like Tidewater in Myrtle Beach, or even Pine Valley in New Jersey) turn out to be quite exceptional.
That said I didn’t head to The Links at Monck’s Landing expecting all that much. Kuschnereit had been persistent and I appreciated the effort. But I hadn’t heard much at all about the course, and its location — in cottage country between Peterborough and Muskoka — didn’t increase the anticipation. It was also billed as a “links,” typically the most overused marketing term in golf for courses that have no relation to anything on the shoreline of the UK.
Turns out that largely I was wrong. Monck’s Landing may be short (just over 6,000 yards), it may be incomplete (there’s no proper clubhouse yet) and it may have been developed by a man who claims to be a jack of all trades, but it is also a pretty sporty little course with eight solid holes.
It isn’t like Kuschnereit was working with much of a budget. He snapped up 100 acres of land in the attempt to build his own version of Rocky Crest, just on a smaller scale. Turns out instead that the land he acquired was set up more for a heathland course or his version of an inland links. It was wide open, largely without many trees and on soil that drained quickly. Kuschnereit set out to find a routing that worked and allowed him to utilize an amazing barn with stacked stone walls as his clubhouse at a future date. All in the project was a couple of million.
That means like many links, Monck’s Landing starts out gently, with a downhill par-4 of only 325-yards. The fairway is angled to the tee, but the hole is not much more than a mid-iron and a wedge. The green, like many on the course is relatively subtle and a stone wall sits parallel to the putting surface. The second hole, which Kuschnereit is not hugely fond of, may also be the best on the course. A contrast to the first, it features a fairway that swings up a rise to a plateau green and is 430-yards playing into the prevailing wind. If the opener is delicate and relatively simple, the second is muscular and a challenge. It was also brown the day I played it — and though conditioning isn’t what one gets at a high-end public course, it suited the rustic nature of Monck’s Landing.
The middle holes were solid, if unspectacular. The third was a tidy par-3 with a large bunker protecting the green, while the fourth, a 355-yard par-4 was straight forward. The fifth, at a mere 120-yards was a surprise with its rectangular green. “It is my homage to Seth Raynor,” Kuschnereit says. Not the response I was expecting at all, especially considering Kuschnereit was working with photos, having never actually played a Raynor course.
The only failing of the course — especially to its theme — is the 6th, a 347-yard par four that plays hard downhill to a green protected by an artificially-constructed pond. It might fit in on a Muskoka course, but it was out of place on Kuschnereit’s faux links.
Thankfully the finishing stretch — the monstrous 586-yard par-5 8th, which with its wispy grasses would look right at home on Muirfield in Scotland, and the closing 378-yard final hole — are the best examples of an attempt to create links golf.
Rustic and rugged around the edges, Monck’s Landing is more akin to Tarandowah near London, Ont. than it is to most cottage golf. That was Kuschnereit’s goal — and one he’s accomplished well. At less than $40 per 18, add this one to the list of better golf values in Ontario.