Course Reviews – Rocky Crest – McBroom’s Muskoka Gem
I admit a bias toward Tom McBroom designs – they are intelligent, not overcomplicated and really enjoyable. His Muskoka design opened in 2000 and, as one course staff said, it may have been in its best condition ever; hard to argue, as conditions for my early fall 2020 visit were flawless. I want to thank ClubLink, who manage the course, for hosting me for the round. I combined an overnight stay with my wife for an anniversary getaway and the whole experience was fabulous. The resort and course are located on the northern shores of Lake Joseph on the western side of Muskoka. Stay and play options are plentiful and something to take note of, as this is a resort course, meaning that players will need to combine a resort stay to access the course. As mentioned, this was a convenient option for me and one which made for a relaxing and enjoyable experience. Even amidst the pandemic, staff took great care to ensure a safe experience. The resort facilities were clean, the dining was excellent and the golf, well I am happy to share more.
The course is adjacent to the resort, a very quick drive, so it makes planning easy. A morning tee time meant time for breakfast at one of the resorts restaurants before checking out and driving to the course. Given it was mid-week I was fortunate to play as a single, with my partner alongside helping take pictures and providing encouragement throughout the round. The first impression was made by the large log cabin clubhouse. It is large and easy to access. Check in was easy and I had brief access to the range to warm up before the round was set to begin. With maintenance planned early on the front, I teed off on the back nine first then looped back to play the front.
Conditioning was simply immaculate. Mark Kerwin, Director of Golf, was welcoming and gave me some insight. I played one tee forward than normal so as to enjoy the experience and this is wise advice for anyone playing Rocky Crest. A tip of the cap to Jeff Allen, Golf Course Superintendent, for the incredible condition of this course given recent rain in the area. I have no real critique with the conditioning, it was consistent and excellent. Tee boxes, fairways, greens and even the bunkers were some of the best I had experienced over the season. This course is rightfully positioned well within the top 50 in the country. While there are other Muskoka golf courses which get much love, this is possibly an underrated Muskoka play. And with stay and play rates ranging from $109 – $269 (based on time of year and accommodation occupancy) it is more than just a round of golf, it is a relaxed Muskoka experience.
The course has set up a number of tee box options for players, ranging from just over 5100 yards to just under 6900 yards. A real treat for Muskoka golf is how walkable the course was. I soon realized that a cart was not real necessary, something you can’t say for many Muskoka courses. As a resort course, McBroom has made the sightlines and landing areas off the tee generous for the most part. With mature pines and Canadian Shield outcroppings, there is a need for accuracy however. The par 3 8th hole was one of my favourites. Well protected with bunkers short and a steep drop off on the left side, players will need to focus and hit an excellent tee shot. The signature hole is the par 5 6th, a dramatic tee shot for players who hit from back tees with a forced carry over a small ravine and granite outcropping onto a deceptively generous landing area. Going for the green in two is a calculated risk with rocks right, but with the risks come the rewards. The par 4 12th hole is another hole I really enjoyed. Nothing surprising here with an approach that needs to be mindful of water on the left. Misses will funnel down to a catchment area which will test the short game but does open up scoring opportunities with good ball striking. The round, as fun rounds tend to be, ended too quickly for me. It reinforced the respect I have for Tom McBroom but also for the hard working staff at Rocky Crest who excelled in customer service, helping to ensure my golf experience and the stay for my wife and I was a memorable one.
Aura – 9 out of 10 – Muskoka golf is widely recognized for its natural beauty and McBroom was given an excellent canvas from which to create this course. It was an experience I was excited for and look forward to coming back to experience again.
Value (cost / experience) – 8 out of 10. This is a very high quality course and worth the visit. Critics may argue the lack of golf-only access, which I respect, but making the most of the scenery and natural beauty is something that should not be rushed. The golf was better than the resort experience, but I admit a bias here. And that is not a critique of the resort in any way, just a statement of preference. The condo-style accommodations and their main restaurant with an exceptional view over Lake Joseph was very special for my wife and I, given it was our anniversary.
Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 10 out of 10 – In a word, exceptional. The attention to detail from the superintendent and staff is seen throughout. The course is well designed, exceptionally maintained and McBroom has added another gem to his course of Canadian designs. I stopped looking for ball marks after a few holes, seeing none. Greens ran true and consistent, with enough slope to make one pay attention without the sense of anything unfair. Tee boxes were immaculate. The rough was ideal for me with an understanding that a resort course need not play too penal.
Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – 9 out of 10 – From the minute we arrived at the resort to the moment we returned our golf cart after the round, the experience was top quality. I could imagine the energy and enjoyment of a full resort in the summer months, but with the pandemic ongoing and entering the shoulder season for golf (and it was midweek), the resort and course had a more tranquil feel to it and that was just what I needed. The round was relaxed, the layout intelligent and easy to navigate. The course was fair and challenging in spots. I highly recommend golfers visit Rocky Crest.
Highlight (what is great about the course) – There isn’t extreme elevation change on the course, but what changes there are were smartly incorporated to ensure tee shots, mostly, provide clarity on where to land and where to miss. A walking course in Muskoka is my highlight and with a focus on playability yet design through the pedigree of Tom McBroom, this exceptional resort course seems underrated.