Bigwin Island Golf Club, Lake of Bays, Ontario
Bigwin Island has a rich and intriguing history dating back to the early 19th century when native hunters and early European settlers were attracted to the Island’s beautiful bays, golden sand beaches and rising cliffs. Named for the noted Ojibway warrior, Chief Joseph Big Wind, many interesting legends surrounding the Chief add to the mystic and atmosphere of Bigwin Island.
The “Golden Era” of Bigwin was defined by the development of a Grand Resort in the early 1920’s by Charles Orlando Shaw, a wealthy tycoon from Huntsville. In 1922 the legendary Canadian Golf Course Architect, Stanley Thompson, built a short nine hole golf course, followed by a second nine in 1930. Bigwin’s fame grew throughout the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s as a venue for big bands including, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Guy Lombardo. Visits by Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Ernest Hemingway and Princess Juliana of the Netherlands added to the lore of Bigwin Island.
Following the death of C.O. Shaw in 1942, the Grand Resort began to lose some of its lustre and eventually closed its doors in 1970. The resort remained closed for many years until a new group of investors, spearheaded by Jack Wadsworth, purchased the Island and put a plan in place to build a brand new golf course, along with revitalizing the old dining pavilion as the new clubhouse. The new golf course opened in 2001 and began a new era for Bigwin Island.
The new course was designed to capture & reflect the spirit and elegance of the original grand resort. Wide sweeping fairways drape naturally over the rugged Muskoka terrain, exposing glorious lake vistas at every turn and creating a sense of timeless beauty & tranquility. The large flashy bunkers are reminiscent of Thompson’s great courses at Banff Springs and Jasper Park, in Alberta, creating a fun, playable golf experience on a grand scale.
In planning the new golf course, 86 historic waterfront lots were preserved for future cottage development, which is now underway. The project also presented many unique environmental and scheduling challenges throughout construction because everything had to be ferried by barges to the island.
Bigwin Island Golf Club was voted the Best New Golf Course in Canada by Golf Digest Magazine in 2002.