Named for the noted Ojibway warrior and hunter, Chief Joseph Big Wind, and the site of a historic luxury inn that lured such luminaries as Duke Ellington, Clark Gable, Ernest Hemingway, H.G. Wells and the Rockefellers, Bigwin Island’s first course was carved by none other than Stanley Thompson in 1922.
While the resort fell into disrepair for decades, it was brought back to life in the late 1980s with a restored clubhouse and dining room, along with a spellbinding golf course. With the rugged beauty of Muskoka’s Lake of Bays as a backdrop, Doug Carrick made the most of undulating island terrain rich in mature hardwoods in crafting an isolated golfer’s Shangri-La. The holes are routed in a variety of directions, creating constantly changing shot values, wind directions and challenges, while greens are relatively generous in size and subtly contoured.
Bigwin’s 75 bunkers lend added character with their locally sourced golden silica sand. But the highlights are the breathtaking views from the ‘Look Out’ sixth hole and the ‘Lakeside Finish’ at No. 18. Add in abundant local wildlife and valet boat service to and from the island, and you have the perfect recipe for Ontario’s finest experiential golf.
“A mind-blowing experience for anyone who hasn’t been there,” says panelist Ted Wilson. “The views are almost beyond description, while the course itself is surprisingly strategic. A late tee time is ideal for those who, like me, enjoy seeing deer on the course. We had the last afternoon spot and had at least 250 totally tame bucks, does and fawns accompany us throughout the back nine for one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had on a golf course anywhere. I can’t wait to do it again.”
“If you’ve never played a round of golf, after playing this one you’ll be hooked for life. From the boat ride over to the island, a day of golf doesn’t get much better. A true gem.” —Dave Pulfer
“I would either need a cottage on Lake of Bays or a float plane and I’d play Bigwin Island every day. I will never get tired of boating across the lake and seeing that clubhouse emerge in front of my eyes. Such a special place and what a fantastic golf course.” —Santino Pompeo
“Fantastic views, an amazing experience, challenging holes and very memorable,” —Joanne Noble