KEMBLE, ON - The road that winds along lovely Georgian Bay and past the rolling countryside known as Georgian Bluffs, reminds me of the seaside Massachusetts highways I normally travel on vacation -— before the Canadian dollar became a Third World currency, that is.
Oh, how I miss my annual trek to Boston and Martha’s Vineyard and the lovely coastal cities of Maine. Our devalued dollar is making travel to the U.S. too costly these days and that’s making us all a bit loonie.
But wait. As the highway passes the entrance to Cobble Beach Golf Resort, I spot a Nantucket-style home and a small lighthouse on the property.
It appears I’ve arrived at Ontario’s version of Cape Cod.
Cobble Beach is the hottest new resort west of the Rockies and in appearance could easily be confused with a charming New England vacation property – the only difference is, at Cobble Beach they take our loonie at par!
Cobble Beach has everything — a quaint lodge that looks like it jumped off of the pages of a Maritime novel, 10 well-appointed suites that look out on the surrounding Georgian Bay brilliance, an excellent spa, a secluded beach, a fine dining restaurant and a world-class golf course that no New England state can come close to matching.
After a delightful welcome from staff at the property’s charming Inn, I’m escorted to the Sutton Suite, a brilliantly designed accommodation whose oversized bedroom and turret-style living room offers breathtaking views of Georgian Bay and the ninth and 18th holes – both masterpieces in their own rights.
Left: Where the 9th and 18th holes meet at the clubhouse may be one of the prettiest spots in golf. Right: The Nantucket-style Inn gives Cobble Beach a New England feel.
The rooms are bright and cheery and tastefully decorated in pastel shades and comfy colonial furnishings that encourage you to curl up with a good book and a glass of fine wine.
The living room drifts off into the oversized bathroom that’s one of the largest this well-travelled veteran has ever seen and is well stocked with the latest in luxury toiletries.
In all, there are 10 guest suites in the Inn and a public area on the second floor is a brilliant gathering spot that makes these rooms perfect for large corporate groups, wedding parties or golf buddy getaways. The Inn also features a grouping of luxurious cottages — each with two bedrooms, wet bars and living rooms — that stand adjacent to the main lodge and golf clubhouse.
The spa, located in the lower portion of the Inn, may be small but offers a full line of treatments administered by well trained therapists.
The evening is spent at Cobble Beach’s main dining room, Sweetwater, where I’m treated to a gourmet meal in a very relaxed atmosphere; this restaurant is a farm-to-table favourite which puts a heavy emphasis on regional recipes. Sweetwater’s chefs take the term organic to new heights and transform their fresh ingredients into some classic dishes.
The Bridgewater Room and the Dunvegan Room are other casual spots where golfers like to hang out after a round.
The biggest treat for a golf enthusiast like me is to play the Cobble Beach course, which is rightfully being touted as one of the best courses in Canada. Once you play it, though, you, like me, might place it among your favourite courses anywhere.
It’s said the greatest compliment a player can pay a golf course is to remember holes long after a round. Well, after mine, I remember every blade of grass at Cobble Beach.
Left: Sweetwater is a fine dining spot with that casual feel where the food and service are exceptional. Right: The Cobble Beach spa may be small but it makes you feel great!
The brilliant Doug Carrick – pound for pound the best golf course designer on the planet in my humble opinion – has outdone himself with his Cobble Beach creation.
Carrick takes full advantage of the rolling terrain to create a links-style course that makes the Scots envious. Many of the holes drop down to the water and if there is a better collection of par 5s — holes 7, 9, 12 and 18 — in the golfing world, I’d like to see them.
Carrick challenges every part of your game on this gem with several blind tee shots and greens that are slick and fall off fast – accuracy is a must on this course.
He also likes to tease players on a few holes – he playfully tempts the Dustin Johnson in all of us to go for the green off the tee on No. 15 – a short 324-yard downhill par 4 that’s guarded by a sneaky brook that runs in front of the large green. The smart players lay up off the tee to the left, punch the ball on and give themselves a chance for a birdie. Most go for the green off the tee, though, and most are left scrambling to save par.
The 8th and 9th holes that meander along the Georgian Bay shoreline are the perfect ending to a front nine that will live in my memory for a very long time. The 10th is a splendid start to the back nine, but the uphill approach shot required to a crowned green will certainly test your game and nerves.
The 534-yard par-5 12th is now among my favourite holes in the country – it takes you on a wonderful journey along a narrow fairway guarded on the right by thick vegetation and a lake on the left that stretches from tee to green. The severe dog leg Carrick throws in near the green means a player better have his or her thinking cap on if they hope to score well here.
Like a Hollywood thriller, Cobble Beach Golf Course keeps you on the edge of your seat from start to finish and the finishing holes here are truly spectacular. The 145-yard par-3 17th, with Gerogian Bay acting as its backdrop, is one of the most visually stunning holes anywhere and the deep green side bunkers are real magnets for wayward shots – usually into a brisk wind.
The 18th is long – 541 yards – which is good because you don’t want your day to end too soon at Cobble Beach. It too follows the Goergian Bay shoreline to the clubhouse but a good approach shot will eave you with a good chance at birdie.
The conditions at Cobble Beach are second to none and the courteous clubhouse staff make you feel like a member rather than a guest.
My day ends with a long drive back to the main highway past the new housing community springing up around the golf course complex – it features luxury homes that include a free golf club membership. Wow, what an incentive to buy.
Now I have no reason to go back to New England – because the Canadian dollar is very strong at Cobble Beach.
Cobble Beach is featuring a number of late season play and stay packages that start around $135 per person and includes accommodation in the main lodge and a golf cart. There’s also a $99 greens fee and cart special currently being offered at Cobble Beach so hurry. For more on the golf course, lodge and home sales at Cobble Beach, go to www.cobblebeach.com
. The Cobble Beach complex is located just two hours from Toronto and 10 minutes from Owen Sound.