CANADIAN GOLF MAGAZINE RATING:
The Muskoka Region is Ontario’s cottage playground. There are plenty of golf courses in the area ranging from short nine hole courses great for the beginner to some of the most difficult championship courses built in Canada. For those who’ve had the opportunity to play in the area they know the Canadian Shield plays a crucial role in all these golf courses. Rock outcroppings, thick forest and large elevation changes are defining features.
Taboo Resort was the only Muskoka golf course Canadian Golf Magazine (CGM) had not played prior to this season so we ventured up to Gravenhurst to play some golf on the Ron Garl designed layout.
Before getting into the nitty gritty, we feel compelled to mention that we think Taboo is an absolutely horrific name to pick for the resort. We don’t know who the marketing geniuses behind this decision are or might have been, but if ever you wanted people *not* to talk about your golf course, Taboo would be the name we would pick. We don’t know why there was a move away from the old Muskoka Sands name, but unless something is legally keeping them from switching back, we’d do it ASAP. It had history, it rolls off the tongue better, and it is, in our opinions, the name that should be attached to this resort. And if that’s not possible, pick anything other than Taboo.
- Type: Resort
- Season: May – October
- Architect: Ron Garl
- Location: Gravenhurst, Ontario
- Year opened: 2002
- Holes: 18 | Par 71 | Length: 7340 yards | Slope: 145 | Rating: 75.1
- Website: Here
We didn’t know what to expect of Taboo. Judging by the course slope and rating, we knew we would be in for a serious challenge. To our surprise, however, we found the course to be very playable.
The handicaps in our group ranged from single digit to mid-20’s. The lowest two handicaps decided to play the blue tees, which stretch to a formidable 6728 yards, while the highest two played off the whites at 6135 yards. This was a critical decision as we can see the blue tees being significantly more difficult than the whites for many golfers who could play the blue yardage at other courses. Because of the greens here, and because of some of the carries, golfers are well-advised to either make up their own hybrid tee or move forward a tee.
The layout at Taboo is everything you would imagine of a golf course cut through the Canadian Shield. Wild topography, large elevation changes, seclusion from other holes and impressive rock outcroppings.
Ron Garl took risks here. There’s no better example of this than at the wild and severe 18th green. But it works because Garl offers plenty of width. And that’s true throughout the course. Taboo might be cut from dense Muskoka wilderness, but its playing corridors are actually wide and offer plenty of space for strategy and preferred angles of attack into different pin locations to come into play.
That doesn’t mean every risk works, though. The 6th hole, for example, is very pleasing to the eye, but for those taking on the brave (right) side of the hole from the tee, you are actually left with a more difficult approach. The other knock is Taboo’s par-3’s. The 3rd and 11th have a wasteland feel that is simply out of place in a Muskoka setting. That said, the 7th, with its dramatic setting among some of the most intimidating rock outcroppings on the property, and the 15th are both good even if a tad overly punishing.
Where Taboo excels it does so with width, strategic routing and interesting greens. A bit of tree clearing and getting rid of a couple bunkers would make Taboo even better.
As much as Taboo is bold it’s the subtitles of the course that make it strong. Things like the fairway contours on the opening hole and the rock outcropping crossing the fairway on the par-5 4th, which though visually impressive, also adds significant interest. At the signature par-3 7th, the right side of the green is blocked from view by a huge rock outcropping, but the play is to the deceptively wide area on the right to a green that funnels balls left. Step on the tee at the par-5 8th and golfers see plenty of room to drive the ball, but bunkers are placed in a way that forces you to plan your route to the green. This sort of nuance is present throughout the course and what really makes Taboo solid.
19TH HOLE THOUGHTS
All of us at CGM were impressed with Taboo. There’s something to like about every course in Muskoka, but Taboo is one that we’d be excited to play over and over again.
Sure there are courses in the region that offer more stunning views, more elevated tees, more exclusivity or simply have better names. But Taboo wraps all that’s good about Muskoka golf together with some bold architectural decisions that make it a much more fun course to play. It presents golfers in the area with a unique style of golf course and separates itself from the pack by doing so.
Taboo doesn’t receive the attention it deserves but everyone should give it a whirl.
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