North Granite Ridge – A Fabulous Cottage Golf Experience
A cottage experience is synonymous with fun and relaxation and North Granite Ridge based south of Huntsville in Port Sydney, Ontario, in the heart of cottage country, embodies this. This par 70 layout tips out at just over 6100 yards but don’t be deceived, it is a test. Four sets of tees (three, with a hybrid option coming in at 5400 yards) allows for playability for golfers of all skill levels and this ups the fun factor.
Cut from Muskoka forests and with numerous granite rock outcroppings this course is very well maintained with a simplified rates structure – $87 before 2:00 pm, or $57 after – this brings value well into play for golf in the region (specifically the afternoon rate). The course is conveniently located just east of Highway 11 which makes access easy coming from north or south. A massive log cabin clubhouse awaits to greet golfers complete with a large putting green in front. The course also offers players a full size driving range and warm up area, which not all Muskoka courses can claim.
I was fortunate to be invited to be part of a local cottage association golf day and on a warm, humid summer morning the staff were friendly, helpful and made things very easy for tee off. First impressions are that this course is demanding off the tee. Off set by the fact it is only 6163 from the back tees; many holes require accuracy over length off the tee. Playing in the height of summer, I could only imagine how beautiful this course would be in the fall season. While the same is true of many Canadian courses, especially those in Muskoka, the isolated feel of this course would even pronounce this beauty.
The first two holes, a straightforward par 4 plays as the number one handicap hole on the course. A gentle upslope, tighter landing area and well-guarded green warrant the rating. The par 3 second shows off the ruggedness of this beautiful course with a sheer granite rock wall running left of the hole. The challenge of the greens which present subtlety of slope will keep a players attention all round. While the greens roll well, and very true (they were in fabulous condition) they are not the easiest greens you’ll ever face.
Course conditioning is tremendous and the course is set up well on each tee box to give players a sense of ideal landing spots. Given the dry summer, grounds crew ensured tee boxes and greens were lush and green. Yet the fairways remained generous to play from. Riding, the course is a more relaxed experience and while I am proponent of walking, there are many elevated tees which will demand excellent conditioning from players who love to walk. It’s entirely doable, but you’re in cottage country and the chance to enjoy a more relaxed round at an underrated course was something I appreciated.
Building off the strong starting holes, the third hole from an elevated tee sees a solitary pine standing in the fairway well in play. This shorter par 4 is a classic risk/reward and was fun to experience. The course offers an excellent hole by hole overview complete with fantastic pictures and will whet the appetite! Reflecting back, there are no holes I really didn’t like. The par 4 13th is one of the tightest holes on the course and finding the fairway is a premium. But at over 400 yards, you can’t hold back too much on club selection. The closing hole is majestic in that is shows off the clubhouse and the covered patio. After a summer round, their selection of drinks and food is welcomed and allows for a beautiful spot to reflect on a memorable round.
Aura – 7 out of 10 – There are many golf courses in Muskoka which garner interest and high rankings in national lists and justifiably so. But North Granite Ridge, to me, is quietly confident and humble in itself. Maybe too much so but this course is one which warrants more attention. Having played it once now, I look forward to a return visit.
Value (cost / experience) – 8 out of 10 – Look at this more on a sliding scale, as a peak greens fee of $87 isn’t necessarily the greatest value but the drop off after 2:00 opens up strong value consideration with an all in fee of $57 (cart and greens fee). The real value is in membership. $1200 for full 7-day access for a course of this quality is sensational.
Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 8.5 out of 10 – The layout is enjoyable, and the use of the terrain to maximize elevation off the tee adds to the charm and playability. Tee boxes and greens were superb and the approach to managing the fairways in drier conditions is to be applauded. Bunkers were fair to play from and overall the condition of this course is a real asset. The first three holes tell the story and the other 15 holes accentuate the beauty!
Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – 8.0 out of 10 – The course provides a good challenge at its length and the layout and conditioning make it a course I want to experience again. Add friendly and professional staff with superb amenities and you’ll understand why this course is rated so highly. It truly warrants its place on my bucket list in Canada.
What You Need to Know – Bring your camera, and depending on the time of year some bug spray. But to be honest the bugs were not as bad as expected.