August in Florida is hot, humid just about unbearable. Why anyone would want to play golf that time of year when there are northern alternatives is hard to understand. So I decided to take my game to British Columbia and spent 10 incredible days playing a collection of outstanding and picturesque courses.
The best time to play golf in British Columbia or Alberta is mid-August to mid-September. The weather is typically incredible and the courses are in superb condition. Their relatively short golf season usually opens in late March or early April and courses begin closing in early October.
For the most part, golf courses in that area are as good as most courses found in the USA. What makes the Canadian courses excel are the stunning 360 degree panoramic views of the Canadian Rockies and a pallet of colors as the leaves make preparations for winter. It was the Columbia Valley Golf Trail, serving up a collection of 8 golf courses that got my attention.
I started at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort and first played their Riverside course. Riverside is an inspired course to walk and features the swift-flowing Columbia River. The Columbia, at this point, is not an unassuming trickle of water; rather, it’s a span of about 25 yards across, runs right through the course, and presents some unusual but interesting shot opportunities. The course is a good test of skill for the men from any of the tees and is particularly attentive to women. Adding to a wonderful outdoor experience, a family of bald eagles and their activities alongside the riverbank was a special attraction one does not normally encounter in Florida.
Driving 30 minutes down the road, I checked in at the Radium Resort to challenge their Springs course, one of the top public golf courses in all of Canada. The setting, nestled alongside the Canadian Rockies and set along the banks of the mighty Columbia River, is spectacular. Breathtaking scenery creates a stunning backdrop resulting from the wide open spaces of the Columbia Valley, the snow-capped Purcell Mountains to the west and the imposing Rockies to the east. You’ll have to decide whether to grab your driver or your camera…it’s just that impressive.
Driving down through a peaceful and serene valley toward Invermere-on-the-Lake, I came upon Eagle Ranch and Copper Point, two distinctly different type courses. Copper Point follows the rise and fall of the Kootenay Rockies. The fairways were lush, and they presented some of the best greens I encountered. Well contoured but fair, the surrounds were what made the greens so good. The Par 4s require accurate shot making rather than sure power while the Par 5s were even better. When you play this course, note the approach to #9. It’s a classic. Copper Point, a must play while touring the Columbia Valley, would make for a great championship tournament or gathering of “wannabe golfers”.
Eagle Ranch is a difficult course for women at 5000 yards. There are a number of blind and hard to carry holes and in many instances there is no alternative way around the hazards. But for the men, it’s a real test of golf. An interesting course, fun to play, and with spectacular views, I think it’s one of Canada’s Top 100. I could play it every day and never grown tired of doing so.
Greywolf was my next stop and easily my favorite. It’s about 20 miles west of Invermere towards Panorama Mountain Village. At the time, Greywolf was part of the Columbia Valley Golf Trail but I think it fell upon hard times, was sold, and is now a stand-alone course. Designed by Doug Carrick who, in my opinion, is one of the best designers in North America, Greywolf offers a variety of very unique holes nestled between two mountains but the #6 par 3 is the one that will be indelibly etched into your mind. Dubbed the Cliffhanger, it’s easily one of the best par 3s in the world. If you ever get within 100miles of Panorama, be sure you see and play Greywolf.
My last destination took me to Golden, BC, a charming little community with a big heart. I would not have normally included Golden on my golfing tour but a friend dared me to compare the Golden Golf Club with what I had already experienced and I was delighted that I did. Lots of doglegs, plenty of water, extremely well-conditioned and maintained, Golden is a “diamond in the rough”. But don’t take just my word for it. The Provincial PGA professionals voted it British Columbia’s #1 Hidden Gem in 2014, gave it the Gold Medalist in the Kootenay Rockies Region, and then named it the #23 Top Track in the province.
One interesting detail about the club is that each hole is almost entirely lined by natural forest. And the course has no boundary markers or out of bounds so if you can find your ball, it is in play.
And before I forget, be sure to take your camera. You’ll most likely see plenty of wildlife such as eagles, osprey, coyotes, and deer. The day I played the course, a black bear wandered out onto the 5th fairway. Fortunately, I was already on the green so it was nothing more than a great photo opportunity.
Next stop in Canada this year will be the Calgary and Jasper areas in Alberta Province as well as the Okanagan and Cranbrook areas of British Columbia.