Sponsored Review: Deerhurst Resort (Highlands)
Reading Time: 8 minutes One of Muskoka’s most acclaimed courses, Deerhurst’s Highlands course is a must play in an area known for great golf
This post is in conjunction with Deerhurst Resort & is an advertisement for the resort.
- Huntsville, Ontario
- Public – Daily Fee/Resort
- Bob Cupp & Thomas McBroom (1990)
- 50th public golf course in Canada (SCOREGolf)
Up in Muskoka cottage country you can find golf as easy as you can find a lake to swim in, but it all has to start somewhere. Insert: Deerhurst Resort. Built in 1990, Deerhurst opened the door for the Muskoka region about two hours north of Toronto to be a booming resort region like it is now. Ask most people in the city, and they’ve either heard of or been to Deerhurst, with rarely anything below 5 star reviews.
Following Cupp & McBroom’s stunning Beacon Hall design in 1988, they collaborated on the Highlands in 1990 before McBroom went solo in 1991 with Port Carling Golf & Country Club (McBroom was an associate of Bob Cupp). Let’s get into the course!
The opening hole is a short par 4, measuring 374 yards from the back tee. Nothing more than a hybrid off the tee (iron is likely the play), the key is to not get invested into the Muskoka beauty–you still have to hit golf shots!
To one of the more subdued greens, it’s a wedge. A nice birdie hole out of the gates.
I should mention that the day I played was the very last of the year on October 20, and it was the Greenskeepers Revenge, so some of these pin locations you’ll see throughout the review you will NEVER see–unless you play the same day next year!
The 2nd is one of the better holes on the course. A 465 yard par 4 playing slightly uphill, the player is forced to carry the ball to the fairway. I was told they’d be clearing back the hill to expose some of the rock and give it more of a dramatic pop–something I’ll have to get back to see!
The approach plays to a bunker-less green, which is a nice touch on a long 4–sometimes courses get too crazy, this is the perfect amount. The mid to long iron is played to a two-tiered green.
The third is a longer par 3 to a pseudo-volcano green cut into the side of the hill. Right side is something that looks like, and plays like, a coffin bunker.
At 319 yards, the 4th is a great birdie opportunity, and is likely drivable for a lot of people who play the correct tees. If you’re laying up, there’s a few bunkers that distort the view and make it tough visually.
A green that’s more wide than it is deep, this will test your wedge game (or driver game, depending on if you go for it!)
The 5th is the longest hole on the golf course at around 600 yards. Moving slightly left around a collection of bunkers, get up and hit one as hard as you can and watch the ball soar.
When you turn the corner, you’re greeted with one of the best vistas on the golf course, with the gorgeous fall colors coming through.
I suspect even for those who can get it there they’ll likely layup. The green is fairly narrow pressed against the hazard–not something that screams 3 wood (to me, at least).
The 6th is a mid-length par 4 at 420 or so yards, swinging slightly up the hill to the left.
Getting the ball in play, you’re greeted with a nice view up the green in a natural amphitheatre.
The 7th is a strange one. At only 490 yards, it feels like a 4.5, but plays over some interesting topography.
At about 280 the fairway drops off pretty hard down, so on a nice summer day the big hitters can have mid iron or even short iron in. Realistically, in 2019, it’s a par 4, but in 1990, it would’ve been a normal par 5.
The green is cut up into the hill yet again, with a bunker in the layup zone and short right, as you can see above.
The 8th is another long, downhill par 3 at 230 yards. The green is quite big, with bunkering left to catch balls from bounding into O.B.
The 9th is a mid-length par 4 moving left around a shared hazard with 18.
The approach is an enjoyable wedge up. This is a pretty good hole overall, but to a well-guarded green that’s pushed up, it’s an exciting golf shot.
The 10th is a tough long par 4 bending up the hill to the right. At 464 yards, it’s certainly a lot of golf hole.
The approach shot plays up the hill, but isn’t anything crazy–it just demands you to hit a good one.
The green here is pretty fun, with a fingerprint-style contouring on the right side. It’s hard to see in my photo, but the pin is right above the fingerprint!
The 11th is a beautifully swooping dogleg right par 4 at 450 yards.
The approach and green-site is one of my favorite of the entire course. The stretch from 9-11 is quite strong, in my opinion.
At 212 yards, the 12th is another long par 3 that plays downhill. The par 3’s here struggle in variety. Creative tee placement from the grounds crew could be helpful, but even still, the holes themselves are designed to be long 3’s, and on the scorecard they’ll still say they’re long. For my money, though, this is the best par 3 on the course.
13 is a short par 4 at 355 yards, but plays entirely up the hill. After a three hole stretch to start the back that’s tough, this hole gives you a nice break and a birdie opportunity.
Be aware, though, even though it’s considerably uphill, it still feels like it plays more uphill than you think, and the green is quite intense.
The 14th is a great risk-reward par 5 at 523 yards. Another downhill tee shot, this tee ball encourages you to hit a big one to set up the second shot coming in.
From there, you’re faced with laying up and wedging it on, or hitting a long iron at the small green fronted by water.
The 15th is likely the hardest hole for most, thanks to the creek meandering through the hole. The player is forced to layup short on the left and only cross the creek once to the green or hit it far out to the right with driver and have a slightly shorter club in, but cross the creek twice.
From the left fairway, you can see the well-guarded green.
The 16th is a dogleg right shorter par 4. At 375 yards, the length isn’t too difficult, but McBroom crafted a pretty difficult tee shot visually.
The approach plays over the creek running from 15, and cuts towards the left side of the green. There’s some good movement in this green too, especially around the back corner, so it demands the full attention from the golfer.
The 17th is the final of four par 3’s at 195 yards. There’s a total of 36 yards difference between the four par 3’s, with the longest one being 231 yards and the other two somewhere between there.
Playing over the marsh to another undulated green, full attention is required on the penultimate hole! Also worth noting, the flag in the very background is the par 3, 8th pin, as they both come back to the same spot (a double green, even!) for 9 & 18 to run parallel on either side of a hazard.
The 18th, a 553 yard par 5 swinging to the right with a hazard on the right side pretty much the entire way, but especially on the tee shot.
The layup here is fairly mundane, without too much description needed, but it’s key to set up yourself for success with a comfortable wedge distance.
The final approach at Deerhurst Resort’s Highlands course plays over the hazard to a green tucked away that’s well guarded. As you may have noticed, there’s a pattern here, and that’s wild greens, and 18 certainly is the same.
There’s no doubt that McBroom’s hands are all over Deerhurst, and it’s quite evident. For a very early part of his career, Deerhurst shows some of his design traits that would become a staple of his entire career up until this point, and is quite a fun process to see one of the most revered architects in modern Canadian times’ start and how he’s built a lot of his work with some of the things he tried out at Deerhurst in mind (specifically, the wild greens).
With Cupp’s guiding hand, the Highlands is a fun round in one of Canada’s most spectacular spots, and worth the 2 hour or so drive from Toronto. I’d love to get back and play the other golf course, which I believe is a par 63 executive style golf course, and the resort is supposed to be fantastic, but it’s a place I could easily spend a weekend. Everything was first class, and I’m counting the days until I can go back!