Heron Landing Golf Course Interesting Layout
By Barry Caland
In mid-August I was travelling to Fort Frances on business so I naturally had to play some golf during my spare time. I had never played any golf there so I took the opportunity to play both Kitchen Creek and the new Heron Landing Golf Course on the Couchiching First Nation (known to the locals as Cooch).
Fortunately I had local golfer Ryan Holt as a tour guide for my trip around Heron Landing. The signage for finding the course isn't the best but you take Frog Creek Road across from the Couchiching Convenience Complex. Upon arrival we met CPGA Professional Brian Johnstone, who also allowed me to take his new Taylor Made R7 driver for a test run. After warming up on the range, we headed out to the course and I played the black tees, measuring just over 7000 yards.
The first hole is a good test at 446 yards with a pond right of the green. The greens are very quick with a lot of slope, putting a lot of emphasis on precision iron play. Should you hit it onto the wrong section of the green, the odds of a two putt are very slim. A beautiful par 3 second hole is over a pond, the same pond to the right of the first. There is a lot of water - coming into play on 15 holes. The 408 yard third was fairly straightforward before the holes started toughening. The 518 yard fourth is a dogleg right with a tight driving area. An attempt to hit the green in two would require a fantastic shot over water so bailing out right is a better option. Another tight driving hole faces you on the 353 yard fifth, making three wood a good choice off the tee. Another terrific par 3 follows, playing 175 yards.
The last three holes offer a tremendous challenge. The 429 yard seventh is a dogleg right where your tee shot must stay left and go no further that the 200 yard marker, leaving a long iron approach. The 385 yard eighth hole requires a deftly played long iron or fairway wood to a small landing area, followed by a short iron to a well protected green. The ninth is a 519 par 5 that seems straightforward, unless you know of the water that crosses the fairway at about 275. Two three woods and a wedge to this hole would be the prudent play.
After nine holes, I learned my lesson and asked Brian for some tips on the back nine on where to hit it. His advice helped! The tenth requires a 3 wood off the tee, leaving a long iron into the balance of the 442 yard hole. It is one of the toughest holes I have played. The 185 yard par 3 eleventh is a stunning hole, with a scenery you just can't buy, alongside Rainy Lake. I had to just stand there and take everything in. Following is the 540 yard twelveth hole (hint: hit it over the rock on the left!) with 3 large rock formations in the fairway. The 13th through 15th holes were tough yet playable par fours between 408 and 437 yards. The strength of this course is in my opinion the quality of the par 3 holes. The 214 yard sixteenth is another amazing hole, with a tee shot over water to a difficult to find green. Seventeen is a challenging par 4 of 437 yards with a creek in front of the green, to keep you honest, and a lot of frogs to keep you aware.
The finishing hole is a summary of the rest of the course. At 582 yards, it offers a difficult driving area, with the option to take a shot at the green, with the majority of the last 200 yards over water. Otherwise you can lay up to the left and have ONLY 140 yards left over water.
It was a very enjoyable course to play, though it wouldn't hurt to pack a few extra golf balls. Like most new courses, it does need a couple of years to mature but nonetheless is a real treat to play. I look forward to my next trip to the Fort!