Story by Sherel Purcell
Vacay.ca Senior Writer
BARRIE, ONTARIO — At Horseshoe Resort noted “hands-on” designer Rene Muylaert and his protégé, Sean Watters, created two very different courses from a series of horseshoe-shaped hills near Barrie, less than an hour north of Toronto.
Horseshoe Highlands, on the Globe and Mail’s “Top 50 Best Courses in Canada” list, hosted a Canadian Tour championship in 2006. The course reflects the minimalist design esthetics of both men who planned the holes very carefully to move as little soil as possible.
The opening downhill par 4, ranging from 286 to 316 yards, tempts big hitters to go for the green in one shot. The rest of the holes on this scenic front nine, completed by Watters in 2002, play longer thanks to sloping fairways, sprawling sand traps and perception-altering backdrops that challenge the most skillful player.
Excellent views of Barrie, Collingwood, Orillia and Georgian Bay await players at the elevated 5th tee, a par-4 hole that’s the hardest on the course. Most shots to the raised green will catch the elephant-backed fairway rolling balls off course. Like most of these holes, length trumps accuracy; take more club than what your eyes and distance markers suggest.
The par-4 14th demands a shot to the right rough to outwit the hillside fairway that kicks balls sharply left into the trees.
Driving west on Horseshoe Valley Road from the Highlands Course you’ll see some of the best holes on the older Valley Course which, engulfed in maples, makes for a colourful round, especially in autumn. Opened in 1974, it’s a favourite of walkers who appreciate the parkland setting that backs onto Copeland Woods, home to curious moose, cougars, wild turkeys, deer and rabbits.
The tight fairways, lined with mature trees require strategically targeted shots to avoid low-hanging branches on the many short, dogleg par-4 holes. Players get a break on the scenic par-4 15th where all shots feed down to the hole but you’ll rarely see a straight putt on any of these greens.
The round ends with the best hole on the course, a par-5 played from an elevated tee, complete with panoramic views of the valley and a fairway that cuts sharp to the left and out of sight.
If you don’t have time to play both of these excellent tracks, play the front nine of Horseshoe Highlands and the back nine of the Valley course to experience the best of Horseshoe Resort golf.
MORE ABOUT HORSESHOE RESORT’S GOLF COURSES
Address: 1101 Horseshoe Valley Rd., Barrie, ON
Telephone: 705-835-2790 or toll-free at 1-800-461-5627
Greens fees: $25-$63 during summer; $25-$45 in spring and fall.
Stay & Play Packages: Available for $199 per night. Visit the resort’s website for details.
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