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Scenic Tangle Creek Golf and Country Club was one of Rene Muylaert's final creations.
Scenic Tangle Creek Golf and Country Club was one of Rene Muylaert's final creations. (Courtesy of Tangle Creek Golf and C.C.)

Tangle Creek Golf and Country Club in Thornton: The name belies a pleasant golf experience

Peter RobinsonBy Peter Robinson,

THORNTON, Ontario, Canada -- Laid out along the creek of the same name, Tangle Creek Golf and Country Club, located just outside Barrie, has firmly settled into its comfort zone after opening almost a decade ago.

Cut out of a surprisingly hilly and scenic piece of rural property 45 minutes north of Toronto, Tangle Creek was one of Rene Muylaert's final creations before he died in 2005.

It has two general feels; the first few holes are largely open fairways, with strategic bunkering and the natural mounding that characterizes the layout throughout. Starting at the sixth hole, the course takes on a more traditional feel and tightens up, with heavily forested fairways and lots of water.

The first hole is one of the nicest, a 515-yard par 5 with an elevated tee that plays downhill all the way. Two solid shots should get you to the green as long as you don't go left, where your ball will run away from you, giving you a horrible up-and-down where you will be lucky to make par.

The sixth, where the natural elevation is on display at its best, is the ultimate risk-reward hole. The par-4 dogleg left, from an elevated tee, gives you the option to cut the corner in order for a short wedge or even a bump-and-run into the green. If you miss, of course, you may be three off the tee, but the hole is one of those that reminds you that golf hands out good fortune just as much as it hands out heartache.

The 13th hole is an example of how architects can protect layouts against technology and still not beat the average hacker to death. It measures 627 yards from the tips, which excludes virtually everyone from going for the green in two. But a well-placed tee shot and an easy fairway wood can leave you a nice, smooth 9-iron or wedge into an elevated green. Those looking to get even closer with their second shot shouldn't be too brave because of the gnarly mess on the front right that will eat up your ball.

Conditions around Tangle Creek tend to be great throughout. The greens, in particular, are in excellent shape. That conditioning combined with the natural elevation changes are probably the course's two best attributes.

If there is one quibble with the design, it comes on No. 18, a par 5 that has a narrow neck at around 230 yards that unjustly penalizes good tee shots. That said, the 18th is still a good finishing hole if you can place your first shot correctly.

"I've played here once or twice a year since it opened and I can't figure out whether it's the property that makes the course, or vice versa," said Bill Peyton, a 9-handicapper who drives up from just outside Toronto to take advantage of Tangle Creek's attractive greens-fee specials.

"Generally, I just like the feel of the course because of how it works with the landscape."

Indeed. Muylaert did a fantastic job at using the natural contours of the course. While those contours on the greens have led to a few multi-tiered surfaces -- not for everyone, it should be said -- it forces you to be sensible on your approach shots. If you get caught up on the high ground putting down to a lower tier, a three-putt is almost a certainty.

Tangle Creek Golf and County Club: The verdict

Overall, Tangle Creek Golf and County Club is a solid -- perhaps even a high-end -- golf experience and reasonably priced, making it accessible for virtually all types of golfers. Its four sets of tee boxes provide a range of 5,635 to 7,195 yards.

Located at the gateway of some of Ontario's best weekend getaway destinations, it's accessible for the masses of the Greater Toronto Area. Local players have embraced the club, and it's rapidly emerging as one of central Ontario's best options for people passing through the area.

Peter Robinson has been afflicted by both his country's main vices: hockey and golf. Unlike most Canadians, he's fortunate to make a living writing about both. Other publications and Web sites he's written about golf for include SCOREGolf and CBC.ca and it's not uncommon to see or hear him on CBC, CTV Newsnet, SCOREGolf.com or Sportsnet Radio talking about the game.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

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