Canadian Rockies Golf Destination World Class
by Scott A. Sumner
Canada has some of the best golf destinations in the world. One area left for me to experience firsthand was the Banff/ Canmore destination located in the Rockies about a 1-hour drive west of Calgary. My mission was to play 5 courses that are members of the Canadian Rockies Golf group.
Snow covered mountain peaks are everywhere. This is the view from Silvertip Hole No 18.
My journey began with an early morning wake up call at 4 am and Air Canada flights to Winnipeg with a short touch down and then on to Calgary. Given the 2-hour time change I arrived in the Calgary airport at 7:20 am. That’s a pretty good connection in my mind and after a quick trip to Budget Rent a Car I was on my way to Canmore. As you leave Calgary on their excellent highways you will soon begin to see higher elevations. By the time you arrive in the pretty town of Canmore you are amoungst soaring snow-covered peaks of 9000 feet plus. This is a beautiful part of our world and just the scenery makes the destination a great one.
My first stop would be the Stoneridge Resort. This is a beautiful new hotel facility that features condominium style rooms. My 2 bedroom 2 bath unit complete with full kitchen, flat screen TV’s and fireplace in a 20 foot high ceiling great room made me feel right at home. There is a fantastic Safeway store in Canmore that would be my next stop to stock up on some food!
Even after this travel I was right on schedule for my first golf game that afternoon at Stewart Creek, a few minutes away. Stewart Creek located in Canmore opened in 2000 and was designed by Gary Browning who has done a fair amount of work in the west and is based out of Calgary. Canmore has about 13,000 residents and with part time people over 15,000. Weekends there can be over 30,000 in Canmore.
“ We are at 4000 feet elevation here and are set right into the 3 Sisters Mountains. There are some great views up and down the Bow Valley. We have ranked well over the years with Golf Digest’s 4.5 star course rating,” said Chris Schatzmann, Head Golf professional at Stewart Creek and originally from Aurora, Ontario. “ Stewart Creek is a very playable mountain course. You get rewards for good shots and can hit driver quite a lot. We are 7200 yards from the tips with 5 different tees. Our weather can be awesome especially in July and August. We get a fair number of Americans here each year. It is a Mecca for outdoor enthusiasts from fly fishing, to rafting, kayaking, mountain biking, hiking and wildlife viewing.”
“ My favourite aspect of the course is the design which is very simple in that it was formed to land that was here before the golf course. There is also elevation change and undulation. You get a little bit of everything from short par 4’s to long par 5’s and interesting par 3s,” said Schatzmann. “If you want to play a number of courses in the area you can go to www.candianrockiesgolf.com. You are always dealing with a person when you contact us to book tee times by phone,” said Schatzmann.
There are 238 members at Stewart Creek and about half of their play is with members. The public can play any day. The membership cost is $50,000 non-equity. Green fees from June 1st are $175 to $195 and specials as low as $129 depending on time. It includes cart and range. Their season is mid May to October with the goal to get over the 20,000 rounds. My first round in this area was fun with weather changing from sun to light rain to snow flurries in rapid succession. The Elk were out enjoying themselves here as well. Stewart Creek is a very pretty course!
The next day it was off to the Canmore Golf and Curling Club also located a few minutes from my hotel. Darren Cooke is the Director of Golf here and from Medicine Hat originally. “ Golfing in Canmore started in 1926 in this location with 9 holes in 1961 and 18 holes in the early 80’s. Les Furber helped with our master plan and lives just down the street. We have mountain views everywhere and the Bow River on the 5th hole. You get to look up from the valley and people can walk the course quite easily,” said Cooke. “ The snow will stay on the peaks surrounding us until July. We are at about 4000 feet and the peaks will go to 8-9000 feet.” The Canmore Golf And Curling Club currently has a wait list for members with over 600 adults, 150 juniors and 45 others life members. The local green fee rate is $73 and $80 if not a resident and the cart is optional. They do 30,000 to 36,000 rounds per year opening the last Friday in April to Thanksgiving with temporary tees in after that.
“ I like that the course is playable at all different levels of ability. It doesn’t have long carries or water. It is walk able, not long, but has its challenges. The membership is great. We have members that have second homes here for the summers and are from say Toronto or Texas. There is lots of wildlife that wander through here. Elk live here in the winter and there are geese, deer and coyotes. The Bow River is also great fishing,” said Cooke. “ We work as a group to market our golf and have so much to offer for a 4 or 5 day period with great designers. It is world golf destination with all these courses close by. You can ski and golf the same day for part of the year.”
My next stop would be a 30-minute drive east to Kananaskis to play the Kananaskis Golf Course. The drive there is very pretty, off the main highway at the end, and leads to 2 beautiful 18-hole golf courses.
“ We have Mount Kidd to the south and Mount Lorette to the north. In the late 70’s Alberta’s Premier Loughheed had a vision for Albertans to enjoy for the years to come though the Alberta Heritage Trust Fund, a saving from the oil revenues,” said Darren Robinson, GM of Kananskis Golf Course. “ The courses were started in late 70’s and opened in1983 with Robert Trent Jones SR as the designer. He came and toured by helicopter and thought it was the best natural setting he had ever been given to work with. The courses were originally slated to be built on the other side of the highway but when he saw this site he chose it. The river runs through here and I think it is hard to get away from how spectacular the scenery is here. It is just stunning! From almost every tee box you are framed with the mountains.”
There is tremendous demand for the Kananskis facilities from early May to October. They do 55,000 to 66,000 rounds over the two courses. “ These courses are a great value with the setting, the design and a potent $98 for our regular green fee rate with $78 for Albertan’s and carts $17 per rider. Our main market is Calgary, which is less than an hour away. Edmonton and the rest of the province account for 85% of our traffic with the rest from all over the world including Europe, Korea, China and Japan. We are at 5000 feet and the mountain, Mt Kidd, is just under 10,000 feet. Our tee times may be harder to get on the weekend but you can book online or with our reservations office. We recommend it sooner than later. Our weather in July and August is the most consistent.” said Robinson.
My day at Kananaskis was one of my best ever on the golf course. For me setting is huge in golf and I think it is hard to beat the natural beautiful setting of Kananaskis.
Right from my hotel room you could almost see my next course, Silvertip, beautifully framed in the window. This course is also just a few minutes away and would be my next game. Silvertip opened in 1998 to a soft opening and fully in 1999. It is a private development spread over 600 acres and the golf course consumes just over 100 acres along with wildlife corridors, real estate and developments. The course is a Les Furber design and he calls it his signature golf course. The private owner is Guy Turcotte, an oil person by trade, who also owns the nearby Eagle Ranch golf course as well.
“ We sit at the clubhouse at just under 5000 feet and the peaks surrounding the course are 8000 feet. There are views across the valley on almost all 18 holes. It is a golf experience. You have incredible conditioning, the dining experience and great service, “ said Rhett Bokitoch, Golf Sales Manager for Silvertip and a PGA of Canada member. The views are incredible. It is 360 degrees on every hole. We have the Three Sisters scenes from many holes. The condition of the course is incredible for the terrain and weather.”
“ We are service oriented and have a busy summer season opening mid May and closing late September or early October, “ said Travis Mann, Head Golf Professional at Silvertip Resort who is originally from Nelson BC and had aspirations at one time for NHL hockey. “ We are also big on weddings and have over 115 weddings booked for this year. The food and beverage drives a lot of business.”
“ My first game here was one of those goose bump moments. It offers challenge for everybody of different abilities. Our tee boxes are from 5000 to 7100 yards. You should play the tees for your ability. Once you find the fairway it is quite easy, but you have to get the ball in play.” said Mann.
You might have some special guests intererested in your game!
They target 16,000 rounds and have no members at Silvertip so are fully public. To get a tee time is never a challenge. The green fees are $155- 7 days a week all day. They also have a 9 and dine rate for $80 which includes power cart, driving range, GPS and tees and bottled water for every guest. www.silvertipresort.com or www.canandianrockiesgolf.com
My game at Silvertip was fun playing with Travis and Rhett. They both play the game very well and made the spectacular setting even more enjoyable.
It was time for me to pack up my suitcase and drive the some 20 km’s west to my next stop the iconic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel for my last night in the area. This stately luxury hotel is world-renowned and was a real treat to call home. The views of the course I had from my room were fantastic.
Steven Young is the Director at Golf at the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course, originally from Ottawa and then New Brunswick. Steven was a strong junior golfer and worked at the New Brunswick Golf Association before moving on to the Algonquin Hotel and then the Banff opportunity came up.
“ Golf was started here on sand greens on an informal basis before the 1900’s but in 1911 organized golf began here with a 9 hole course designed by Scott W Thompson. Stanley Thompson built the 18-hole course. In 1888 the historic Banff Springs Hotel was built to help import the tourists. It looks like a Sleeping Buffalo,” said Young who is in his 7th year at Banff Springs. “ Stanley Thompson courses are what you see is what you get. The greens have subtle challenges with some bunkers that are fair. There are no forced carries. This is a course that has tremendous scenery, is very well manicured and kept up given the conditions we have at the base of a mountain covered in snow for over 7 months of the year. A really good golfer can play from the tips and yet a novice golfer can play from the forward tees and enjoy the course. That is a true mark of a great facility. When you hit a bad shot all you have to do is look up at your surroundings and you will remember what is really important in life.”
The Banff Springs Golf Course use an online booking system or 1 800 number. Their agents can help you book golf, a hotel room or the spa. “ People who come here usually like food, drink, hiking and we have all of that. We get people from all over the world. Many have played our course on the golf simulator before even arriving.” smiles Young.
In peak time the green fee is $225 at Banff Springs, while in the afternoon it can be $185 or later $155. A good deal is the 9 and dine where you can play the tunnel 9 courses with dinner for $79 or play the Stanley 18 hole course front 9 with dinner for $89. The clubhouse is built like a teepee in recognition of the first nations who used to migrate through the valley and put up their tents.
My game with Steven Young at the Banff Springs Golf course was a great experience. You are right at the foot of soaring mountains on many holes and it is just a spectacular setting. When you add in the great service and accommodation at the Banff Springs hotel it makes for a very special stay.
It was great fun for me to play Canadian Rockies golf. A special thanks to all my hosts.
We really do have a beautiful country to live in, Canada. The Banff area is place everyone should visit at least once in his or her life! Visit www.canandianrockiesgolf.com for more information.
Best Views in the Canadian Rockies
15th Hole, The Fairmont Banff Springs: This 479-yard par 4 is the original first hole of this historic course, nestled against its famed Waldhaus Restaurant and pub. The view from the elevated tee includes a distant view of the valley, edged by mountain cliffs and the Bow River.
18th Hole, Stewart Creek Golf Club: The par-5, 520-yard finishing hole at Stewart Creek not only provides one last crack at making birdie it also saves the golf course's best view for last. The view may cause you to lose focus on the golf shot as it provides a panoramic view of the 18th green, #9 green and Hole #1 with Cascade mountain providing the back drop. Take a virtual tour of the hole via Stewart Creek’s website.
10th Hole, Canmore Golf & Curling Club: The first and tenth holes are great opening holes running side by side, featuring a large bunker between the approach of both holes. A 520-yard par-5 hole, the 10th is situated in the valley between two towering mountain ranges.
9th Hole, The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge: Known as Cleopatra, this voluptuous par 3 measures 231 yards from the back tees. Any of the tees have an incredible view from a high elevated tee, with a mesmerizing backdrop of Pyramid Mountain. Check out new flyovers of the course from The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge’s Website.
4th Hole, Mount Kidd Course: This 197-yard par-3 hole is Kananaskis Country’s most photographed hole. The backdrop to your tee shot is the impressive Mount Kidd to your left and directly in front is Mount Lorette, the namesake for the other 18 holes at Kananaskis. To the right of the tee is the crystal clear, fast flowing Kananaskis River and further right is the snow covered Mount Evan Thomas.
18th Hole, Silvertip Resort: The par-4 finishing hole sums up your Silvertip experience, with tees sitting at the highest point on the golf course. A dogleg-left orientation drops dramatically to the Timbers Clubhouse below, allowing both golfers and diners on the outdoor patio with a view of great golf shots, the breathless Bow Valley and towering peaks of the Rocky Mountains. An online webcam gives travelers a wide-angle view of the hole each day.
Canadian Rockies Golf courses are easily accessible via Calgary International Airport, with service by most major air carriers.