Conversation with Tiffany Chaisson

A Quick Nine with Fairways Fund CEO, and golf blogger Tiffany Chaisson

@36aday is pleased to introduce interviews with leaders in the game of golf in Canada. Nine questions are presented to probe important issues of the game, personal experiences, stories and insight. Just like 9 holes of golf, I hope you find this enjoyable and that it leaves you wanting more.

Fairways

  1. You haven’t been playing golf for too long but you’re becoming well known as an avid player who travels the world and plays the game.   So what’s the story…how’d you get into the game and who should get the credit for getting you interested in the game?

I played 9 holes in August 2013 when I was visiting PEI Canada and renovating my house there. I shot 118 for 9 holes (yes I counted). My friend Jenny, asked if I wanted to learn to golf the following year when I moved to Canada. I love sports and needed a new sport as couldn’t play my usual (netball, touch football, surfing, or indoor rock climbing) so golf it was. I also hate being bad at anything so I was determined to improve. I started in July 2014 and by the time I left Canada I had shot 54 at the course I shot 118 on the previous summer. I was addicted and loved watching my improvement. This July I am celebrating my 3 year golf anniversary and as per the last two years to celebrate, I will play in the Club Championship.

  1.  I’ve lost track, how many courses and how many countries have you played?

I have now played 120 courses in 11 countries in less than 3 years.

  1.  I’m sure there are countless memories but is there one moment for you playing the game that stands out?

I have been very lucky that I have golfed with hundreds of people around the world and have so many fantastic memories however there is one that pops into my head. I was playing a solo round on the Costa Brava at Golf Platja de Pals in Spain and chipped it in for the first time. No one was around and yet it was sublime.

4.  You’re CEO of Fairways Fund.  An impressive title for certain but what is this organization and what is its mandate?

Fairways Fund is a nonprofit sponsoring underprivileged junior golfers all over the world. Our mission statement is Golf Without Bounds and we pay for membership, lesson packages and range access for underprivileged juniors to help develop golf at the grassroots while supporting golf businesses and professionals. We currently have 20 juniors in four countries, Canada, India, Nepal and Bolivia and in future we will also help our interested juniors transition into employment within the billion dollar golf industry be it as a professional, greenskeeper or hospitality. We want golf to be inclusive and any child to be able to play regardless of their financial limitations.

  1.  Where do you see the organization in 5 years?

I will be working for Fairways full time and I would like to have one of our Bolivian juniors secure a scholarship in the USA, see Pratima Sherpa in Nepal play on the LPGA and have expanded into many more countries supporting juniors who love the game but cannot afford to play it.

  1.  Is there a story from this work you can share?  Are you having any success?

How do you define success? Is it helping a junior transition into a pro golfer or is it watching young Tomy in Bolivia win a second hand shirt and pair of shoes in a golf tournament?

This week I have had three things happen which make me very happy and give me the knowledge I am doing what I am meant to be. Edwin in Bolivia sent me a message saying golf is growing in Bolivia because of me and my visit (I was there for 9 weeks helping with a junior clinic and getting our juniors into golf tournaments), I connected with Pratima in Nepal who has just been granted a visa so she can go to golf school in the USA for two months and I golfed with one of our Canadian juniors who was so very excited to meet me. His mother advised that he was delighted to have been invited to the winter lessons I had arranged and had been watching all my YouTube videos and had really come into his own through golf. He is currently 13 and he told me he would love to become a teaching professional and would like to travel and help teach golf to juniors in other countries through Fairways.

  1.  How can people get involved to help and support Fairways?

We have online sponsorship options available however this month we will be launching Awesome Foursomes, an online auction of donated four ball green fees from golf courses all over the world starting at 50% of the value. If you are a member at a golf course you can ask if they would like to support underprivileged junior golfers globally by donating four green fees that we can auction off while advertising and promoting their course via social media or you can bid on a course you have always wanted to play and get a discounted price knowing the money will help children play this wonderful sport.

  1.   What drives your passion for the game?  You play.  You travel.  You have a socially driven business.  What keeps you energized to do this?

I am not sure to be perfectly honest. I hear my voice raise in excitement when I talk about golf and I wonder who I am. I just love it. I am unreservedly happy with a fairway under my feet and while relatively new to the sport; if I can share my passion and help children continue golfing I will be satisfied.

I have always had a lot of energy -my family seem to think I have undiagnosed ADHD – and I have always been able to get a lot done while juggling numerous projects.  My background is project management.

We would not have been able to be so far advanced with the nonprofit in such a short time if it wasn’t for our COO Jeremy White, who I wrangled in to be my co-founder in April last year. We work very well together and at times he channels my passion but I enjoy meeting new people, traveling, helping people and now I happen to love golf. I just made myself a job where I get to do all of it.

  1.  What course tops your Canadian bucket list and what is your dream foursome you’d love to tee it up with?

What province? There are so many good golf courses in Canada. Around here it would have to be Cabot Cliffs/Links as I continually hear how good they are, however I am sure I will find a hidden gem others consider a goat track that I will fall in love with and play golf for the soul.

My dream foursome?  Hmm well Jimmy Fallon would be fun to golf with, Seve would be interesting golf chat (and I could practice my Spanish) and Hogan would be wonderful to watch. You didn’t say they had to be alive right?

MJ – no, not at all.  Thank you for your time and I wish you all the best with Fairways and expanding your course count.  Have a great summer.

You can learn more about Fairways by visiting their website here or their site on Facebook.  And you can follow Tiffany Chaisson and Fairways Fund on Twitter

Gallagher’s Canyon – A Brilliant Championship Layout

Gallagher’s Canyon – A Brilliant Championship Layout

Course Reviews – Gallagher’s Canyon – A Brilliant Championship Layout

http://www.golfbc.com/courses/gallaghers_canyon

It is fitting that this review is being written as Kelowna and Gallagher’s Canyon are set to host the GolfBC Championship on the Mackenzie Tour (PGA TOUR Canada).  I had the pleasure of playing Gallagher’s Canyon in early May on a quiet afternoon, seemingly having the course to myself which allowed me ample time to appreciate this Les Furber and Doug Robinson designed gem.  The course was designed in 1980 and I actually played it over 25 years ago.  Staff were kind to point out there has been some routing changes but the prominence of the Canyon remains a focal point.

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Teeing off on the first hole.  Set for my own ‘championship’ experience.

This mountain course, which one article cited as “rugged yet refined” is walkable but does come with some significant elevation change in places.  The front nine begins with a bold start.  The Tour tees measure at over 6800 yards and I was able to tee off just behind the pro shop, set very high above the fairway below and providing a majestic view of the hole.  Stout, at over 430 yards, this hole will demand players’ attention.  However for me the course reflects the intelligence of its design on the next two holes.  A shorter par 4 provides an element of risk and reward for players.  And while not necessarily drivable, the options of how much of this hole to bite off from the tee provide players decisions to consider early.  The third hole is also an attention grabber.  Missing short and left is simply not an option as the elevation changes of Gallagher’s shows itself once again.

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Such a masterfully designed par 3, the third hole at Gallagher’s.

I love the routing of this course.  In fact, the only place where the course seems at all tight is off the first tee but it simply isn’t the case.  The layout is masterful and Furber and Robinson use the natural terrain to create appropriate vistas off the tee and subtle uphill holes for players to take on.  As one would expect with a Tour-caliber course, the greens were spectacular.  They rolled true and consistent.  As one may expect, uphill putts needed an aggressive hit whereas downhill putts required a delicate touch.  I loved the stretch of holes from 4 to 7; brilliant use of terrain to create a 4-4-5-4 combination which I place up against any public course in the country.  The ninth closes off the front with the canyon hole.  The drop off left is staggering but fortunately it does not really come into play as the fairway frames the hole nicely.

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The downhill 5th hole.  My only birdie of the day.

The course offers four unique tee blocks with a hybrid combination providing five play options.  Something which I did not experience back in the early 1990’s was a housing development running adjacent to many of the holes on the back nine.  I felt the back nine was not as challenging as the front but still brought the attention to design detail.  The subtle doglegs on 10 and the steady uphill challenge of 11 provided further appreciation to Furber and Robinson’s work.  I would have liked to have seen more from the closing two holes, but making providing birdie opportunities on a closing hole of a championship course will always create excitement, even from this 10 handicapper.

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Just left off the 9th tee is this sign…and this view.

Add to this courteous and professional staff, a fully stocked pro shop and a sensational clubhouse and my return experience at Gallagher’s Canyon proved to me I should not wait another 25 years to come back and experience this great course.  Also, combine the golf experience with a growing food culture, exceptional recreational opportunities off the course and one of Canada’s best wine regions and Gallagher’s reflects all that is excellent in Kelowna.

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On the tee on the par 4 11th.  A stout uphill hole.  Great to see the sun shining.

Aura – 8.5 out of 10 – Playing a course where professionals play is always a special experience.   This is one of the more unique and enjoyable courses I had played in some time.  Excellent conditions combined with the scenery – in and around the course – made more a memorable golf round.

Value (cost / experience) – 7.5 out of 10.  Peak fees are $125 but include access to practice facilities and a cart.  However, there is greater value to be had with a later tee time or play in the shoulder season.  Membership for a single player requires annual dues of only $2400 after a one time initiation payment.  For one of the province’s best courses and a championship layout this is worth a visit.

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Fabulous green complexes at Gallagher’s Canyon.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 9 out of 10 – This is one of a handful of courses I could play every day.  The layout is exceptional and the designers utilize the terrain exceptionally well.  Tee boxes were fabulous and the fairways well framed off the tee.  As a public course, the rough was not too penal and the greens were in outstanding condition.  In rare form, I did not visit the bunkers at Gallagher’s so I cannot offer any comments on their condition.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – This is an excellent golf course and worthy of its high rankings for public play in Canada.  Following a 4.5 hour drive from Vancouver through snowy mountain passes, the chance to walk Gallagher’s and appreciate this mature layout started my quick visit to Kelowna perfectly well.  I certainly hope to return again soon – 8.5 out of 10

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Standing on the 17th tee and facing a sharp dog leg.

Highlight (what is great about the course) – Reminiscent of other courses in Canada which bring uniqueness, challenge and enjoyment, Gallagher’s Canyon is truly unique.  From the opening tee shot, to the awe of looking down from the 9th and a chance to enjoy time in this relaxed clubhouse following the round, the entire experience was a highlight.

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – The abruptness of 17 and its strong dogleg design could benefit from some additional work.  But I feel I am splitting hairs here as the course is well designed and it is one round I have replayed in my head this year again and again.

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My round complete, looking back on the 18th fairway.

My Best Shot – Having spent the first four holes scrambling, the downhill 5th hole allowed me a chance to attack the pin on my approach.  My 8-iron almost hit the pin leaving a short four footer for birdie.  My only one on the day, mind you.  Let’s see the pros match that this week!

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Upon Further Review – Addressing the Rules of Golf

Sitting on my couch eating ketchup chips and crushing pints of Triple Bogey beers should not give me, or anyone else outside the ropes, the authority to influence a golf tournament.  It doesn’t pass the common sense filter.  And while it’s been nice we’ve had a nice stretch of a few weeks without a serious rules incident in golf, allow me to wade into the murky waters of rules in golf.  Because like everyone else, I have an opinion on this and it needs some unpacking.

Rules matter.  I like the self-regulating nature of golf and I like the principle of play the ball where it lies and I like that many golfers will tell their partner they got a 6 instead of a 5.  In competitive play this becomes even more important.  But I also play for fun with family and friends and we don’t get all caught up in stroke and distance penalties, putting out 18” putts and we may even allow ourselves a chance to remove a ball from a bunker which resembles a parking lot more than a sand trap.  Relaxed rules, at times, are appropriate and keep the game fast and fun.

And that matters.  I can’t imagine what would happen if during the two or three times a year my wife plays that I went all ‘USGA’ on her and told her 6 holes later that her 8 was really an 12 because she didn’t place her ball appropriately back on the green after marking it.  You can kiss her participation goodbye from that point on.  And this is not to be hypocritical, she wants to play well and play properly but within the context of an afternoon out with friends.  I am a huge proponent of Relaxed Rules which I first saw on Golf Channel some time back.  The game is meant to be fun and played appropriately.  To her and our group, what is proposed here is most appropriate.

Now, getting back to the USGA…and the official rules of golf; I still believe we can allow for a greater filter of common sense to govern rules.  Pace of play and participation are issues facing the game.  For sticklers of rules a couple suggestions:

Stakes – more red stakes on courses.  Let’s simply take a stroke, drop a ball and be on with it.  The humiliation of going back to the tee to hit again does nothing positive for the game (and I know we should all be more mindful of hitting a provisional but you get my point).

Penalties – all one stroke, easy to understand and avoids confusion.

Phone-in rules infractions – Eliminated.  Simple as that, we’re liberated from this in my world.  Once a scorecard is signed, it’s good.  Phew, solved that one easy enough.

Common Sense – if in doubt…after all, very few of us have mastered the rules book, let’s use consensus among our playing partners and common sense prevail.

In closing, I love the game of golf.  But I am finding myself watching some tournaments with an impending sense of doom that my HDTV lacks the clarity of someone’s 80” 4D to see the most subtle of infraction which had zero impact on the integrity and outcome of the hole but cause a player to lose a tournament.  Golf is a game.  Golf is fun.  Let’s keep it that way.  And when appropriate, let’s honour the full set of rules but more so the integrity of the game which the rules are built upon.

Conversation with Snell Golf Canada

@36aday is pleased to introduce interviews with leaders in the game of golf in Canada. Nine questions are presented to probe important issues of the game, personal experiences, stories and insight. Just like 9 holes of golf, I hope you find this enjoyable and that it leaves you wanting more.

I am pleased to share my conversation with Snell Golf Canada President, Ron Stenzl.  Snell Golf Canada is celebrating it’s first year of operations in Canada and I wanted to catch up to learn how the first year went and if there’s anything new for people to learn about and look forward to.

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  1. You’ve just celebrated your one year anniversary of sales in Canada.  How would you categorize the past year?

In a word, educational.  There are many differences between operating in Canada and the US.  First, economies of scale play into decisions.  Shipping is much more expensive in Canada, so we’ve had to figure that out. We’ve experimented with free shipping and it looks like that really is one of the best ways we can create value for golfers across Canada so we likely will keep that in place.  Of course most of Canada has a much shorter season than in the USA, so we’ve had to deal with that.  We are finally launching a French language version of our website; that has been difficult to get right but it’s really important.  Quebec has many very avid golfers.  And we are refreshing the look of our site as well.  So basically the first years has been about getting systems in place and working out the kinks. And we’ve learned a lot about golf balls too!

2. You had a strong presence at the Toronto Golf and Travel Show this past winter,       including a visit and a couple talks from Dean Snell himself.  What has the feedback in Canada been to Dean’s messages on golf ball technology?

The Toronto Golf Show was a great weekend for us to launch the season and I know that those who attended really enjoyed meeting Dean and especially if they listened to his presentations on the main stage. Dean is so knowledgeable and cuts right through the marketing hype and makes it real.  To him it’s not that complicated, if you want to be serious about your golf, you should play a top line ball. The reason many people don’t is simply cost.  That’s why our model is attractive – we’ve stripped out all the marketing costs, player contracts, middlemen and agents and passed that savings onto the consumer. And the Canadian golf public gets it based on the social media following we’re getting and the many positive comments.  It does get back to the shipping though, people want to try the product and some hesitated when shipping charges were added, so offering free shipping gets people trying the ball, talking it up with playing partners and then re-ordering, usually multiple dozens at a time.

3.  While operating as a Canadian subsidiary to a global company based in the United States what are some of the challenges and opportunities this provides for you?

Every country has its own rules and regulations, so there are no unique challenges related to Snell USA. We do acquire our balls based on US Dollar pricing, so we do have to manage exchange rate. The benefit is our ability to utilize some of their marketing material and share ideas. Snell is now in 13 countries and we are able to get some ideas from around the globe from other independent distributors like ourselves. And as Dean Snell has grown his company, he gains more strength at the factory level to leverage his relationship and orders to get priority treatment and best pricing. So for example, even though exchange rates to buy US$ rose significantly since last year, with Dean’s help we were able to hold our pricing the same as last year and hope to be able to get through next year 2018 also without a price increase. We want to be consistent in our mandate to grow the game of golf and do what we can to make it affordable.

It’s often the case that Canada lags behind the US in certain trends. One trend that still exists in Canada, but has been abandoned in the USA is pro shops signing exclusive contracts with suppliers, usually Titleist but also TaylorMade.  Pro shops in the USA finally came to the conclusion that these agreements mostly just benefit the supplier and not them and certainly not their members who they cater to. It limits availability of certain products that golfers want.  And it drives them to places like GolfTown, which is one of the biggest complaints pro shops have about their members, yet it’s their actions that contribute to this.

  1. You are an active support for junior golf in Canada.  Please share more about this and why is this so important for Snell Golf Canada?

Mike, we need to applaud you for asking this question!  Supporting Junior Golf was an easy decision by the Snell Golf Canada team.  It really starts with Dean Snell wanting to grow the game.  All of us were fortunate to be exposed to golf and the majority of golfers actually do enjoy it, so why not expose the golf lifestyle to the younger generation?

Most adult golfers see the terrific kids that are now playing golf.  Playing competitive and recreational golf is an activity that exposes kids to so many challenges, opportunities and aspects of life. Paying forward the last 12 months has significantly elevated our awareness of the committed junior tour volunteers, golf clubs, golf professionals and the industry who actually get it.  Our company has a role and we want to ramp this up even more, so we hope your coverage gets more junior golf tours realizing that companies like us would like to help.

5.  Many golfers are active on social media.  How about Snell Golf Canada?

Snell Golf Canada embraces social media with open arms. From the very beginning we have made considerable efforts to ensure we publish great content on a regular basis as well as respond to any inquiries in a timely manner.  People seem to love our profiles as our follower base is growing more and more every day. We are on Twitter @SnellGolfCanada, Facebook @Snell Golf Canada and Instagram @SnellGolfCan we do promotions, contests, weekly spots on products features, and lots more on the way.

6. In my conversation with Dean this winter, he mentioned opportunity for courses to buy direct for their members/customers.  Is this something you offer?

We launched a pro shop re-seller program and have had quite a few folks join us.  We offer them a discount that provides them enough (profit) margin to make it worthwhile.  For us it helps build the brand and provides some convenience to members of participating courses.

7.  I’m not expecting you to share company secrets but I’m curious about new product development.  Are you engaged with Dean around this?  Can Canadians expect quick access to any new product?

Dean is always thinking ahead and does have a ball in the design and test stage.  It will be a high end ball, probably 4 piece that will align more closely with the Pro V1x.  What Dean won’t do is create a whole range of balls. He sees this as confusing to the golfer (“What ball should I play?”) and says creating that confusion is part of most ball makers strategy.  He keeps it simple, a high end ball that is playable across a broad spectrum (My Tour Ball), and a low spin, low price ball (Get Sum).  Both balls are made with only the best materials.  The new ball, when launched will likely be positioned at the very top of the Tour Performance scale so will be best suited to the low single digit handicappers.

8.  MTB or Get Sum?

My original introduction to Snell was in Florida playing the MTB. But I started playing the Get Sum a bit last summer, I wasn’t happy with my swing and thought a low spin ball would help. It didn’t really.

This winter I went back to the MTB full-time and with practice my swing improved but my short game improved leaps and bounds!  I’m pitching the ball better than I have in years, I have confidence in my chips because run out is consistent which is what you don’t get with any 2 piece ball, and my putting is better too!  I even had a hole in one in April.  My index dropped from 9.3 to 6.1 by the time I came back north!  Getting used to northern grass, long rough and it’s been wet so I must confess my index has risen some, but will go back down soon as it dries out.

So I now adhere to Dean’s basic philosophy, play the best quality ball you can! It will make you a better player.

  1. Outside of your home course in Cataraqui in Kingston, where would you love to tee up your Snell golf balls in Canada?  What courses top your Canadian bucket list?

I’ve been fortunate to play many great courses.  Deerhurst is a favourite; Lora Bay and Georgian Bay Club in Collingwood are spectacular, as are many of the top Toronto courses. I played Credit Valley last summer and loved it! Brantford Golf & CC is an old favourite. Glencoe in Calgary is special.  If you want to play a hidden gem, play Innerkip Highlands, near Woodstock. I want to play Vancouver Golf Club where the LPGA played a few years ago. I was there watching Brooke Henderson in her first Canadian Open when she was still amateur.  I’ve played in PEI and want to go back and play more of those courses.

36aday – An impressive list.  Thanks for your time Ron and best wishes to you and the team at Snell Golf Canada for the 2017 season.

Forest Golf Club and Inn – My greatest value play

Forest Golf Club and Inn

http://www.golfforest.ca/

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Back in 2010 – a much warmer weekend then 2017 – my Dad tees off on hole 1.

It’s a subtle re-brand, changing the name from Forest Golf and Country Hotel to Forest Golf Club and Inn.  New course ownership, under the GolfNorth consortium is bringing about some changes but what remains the same is 27 holes and some of Ontario’s best value in golf.  You won’t find Forest on top course listings; in fact their 18-hole course doesn’t have a hole over 400 yards.  As a par 66, this windswept course offers value, fun and enough challenge to bring golfers back.

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Looking off the 7th tee to the 6th green and the 4th fairway.

I play this course annually on the last weekend of April with a group of 24.  This year marked our 17th year visiting this rural farming community about 45 km east of Sarnia, Ontario and just south of Lake Huron.  Over the years we’ve experienced hot, summer-like conditions, late winter wet snow and pretty much everything in between.  In addition, Forest has a 9-hole course but it is set more in a valley and is prone to early season dampness or flooding.  This year all 27 holes were open and the course was lush and played long.

The course has a hotel on site along with a restaurant so it is possible for visitors to park their car and not start it back up until it’s time to leave.  The restaurant is not as lively as it once was, with other places in town (only 5 minutes away) providing some stiff competition.  However, despite this, Forest Golf Club and Inn remains one of the best value golf destinations I have experienced.  The shoulder season special of 2 days/2 nights unlimited golf is $140.00. Most of our players come a day before and their 3 day/3 night special is $190.00  They promote the “Unlimited Golf Package” year round so even in the peak season there is value to be had.  Now this does not include cart fees which for our group – given our collective age and skill level are mandatory but for a group of golfers of diverse skill who are all seeking two rounds a day, this is perfect for us.

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Bundled up and battling cold winds, the approach on the island green at 11 is even tougher.

The course starts in the valley for the first two holes with a straightaway par 4 and a par 3.  Moving up, the wind and water come into play.  Despite the 3rd hole being a short 124 yards (and often playing shorter) a crowned green and strong spring winds make it a tough hole.  The course is well protected by water on 8 holes.  Even at only 4600 yards, this provides the course some teeth.  Renovations over the past few years feature Lambton County’s only island green on the par 4 11th.  The approach, always into a strong breeze any time I have played it, makes the short iron approach much more challenging than that yardage would indicate.  The longest holes – 12 and 14 (368 yards and 380) are made tougher by the fact one of them is always directly into the wind.  One year, our group factored four extra clubs because of the wind and still came up short on the approach.

The conditions are consistently good but more attention to the greens would take this course to another level.  But make no mistake, this course is without pretense and provides relaxed, enjoyable golf for players of all skills levels.  Their second set of tees make the 18 hole course just under 3900 yards.  The nine hole course is a par 33, with 6 par 4’s and 3 par 3’s.  At 2057 yards, it uses elevation changes to create fun and challenge.

 

The hotel is clean and built to accommodate groups exceptionally well with one wing extending just adjacent to the 18th green making it convenient to leave the clubs in the cart over lunch before a second round.

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On the tee at Hole 10.  A longer straightaway par 4.

My favourite stretch on the course is holes 4-6 which wrap around a large pond and reflect the risk-reward aspect of Forest.  Driveable greens for sure, with holes 4 and 5 playing 264 and 267, but water and OB await any errant shots.  The 9th hole is also a fun one with players seeking to cut the corner on the dog leg par 4 over water and make their second shot as short as possible.

Forest Golf Club and Inn does not try to oversell itself; it is a shorter, fun and very approachable golf course.  With a focus on value yet possessing enough challenge for all players it remains the home of the Pitch, Putt and Gimme group based in Hamilton, Ontario and next year will be year 18.  Maybe next year I can finally get a birdie on the challenging downhill par 3 17th, only 109 yards but I have bogied that hole more than I’ve parred it and have yet to birdie it in 17 years!  Always good memories, good golf and exceptional value.

For this value conscious golfer looking for a relaxed, fun golf experience this is the place for you.

 

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With 40 km/h winds, approach shots need to carefully thought out.

Aura – 5 out of 10 – Perhaps too far removed from major golfing markets, but under the GolfNorth banner this may change over time.  It has a small but faithful following and focuses wisely on its golf value.

Value (cost / experience) – 10 out of 10.  The focus, given the location, is the stay and play deals and Forest is smart in its marketing efforts.   Even in the peak season, our group could enjoy 3 days accommodation and unlimited golf for $265 pp.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 6 out of 10 – I quite like the layout and appreciate the investments made over years (improvements to bridges and fairways).  The greens remain inconsistent and have been that way for many years now.  And while some feel a par 5 would help add to the course, I like that focus on shorter playability.  Our group includes several retirees who don’t play much golf yet everyone feels they can play this course and contribute in a scramble.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – 7 out of 10 – This course is a fun way to kick off my golf season and after the Masters is done, I focus my attention to Forest and the start of my golf season.  I like the fact that the course mixes shorter, more forgiving holes with some challenge (water, design and wind).

Highlight (what is great about the course) – The 18th hole and its proximity to the hotel can provide a gallery at times.  For our group, add a couple drinks and the pressure of the approach or birdie putt on 18th becomes more pronounced.  Like the 16th at TPC Scottsdale, the 18th at Forest has taken on an enjoyable life of its own on late afternoon rounds.

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Spring 2016 – one of my favourite golf pictures. 14th tee at Forest, Dad and I.

36 Holes. 36 Hours. Golf Tripping to Kelowna, B.C.

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The views at Tower Ranch overlooking Kelowna are sensational.

Kelowna, British Columbia is one of the most picturesque cities in Canada, positioned beautifully in the Okanagan Valley and along Okanagan Lake.  Arriving at Vancouver International Airport on an overcast morning, I had set an itinerary for myself over 36 hours which would allow me two rounds of golf at two of Kelowna’s 18 local courses, and arguably two of their best and both positioned on my bucket list – Gallagher’s Canyon and Tower Ranch.  My GPS identified the drive from YVR to Gallagher’s Canyon at just over 4.5 hours.  As is the case anytime I’ve driven in BC, the journey is just as memorable as the destination.  The drive to Kelowna, along the Trans Canada, and Highways 5 and 97, took me over two mountain passes – Needle Peak and Pennask Mountain.  At Pennask, the elevation change took the rain showers I had experienced from Vancouver and changed it over to a significant snowfall.  Considering I was only about 50km from the course it was eye opening to experience this!  Gallagher’s Canyon is about 35 years old and is set along Scenic Canyon.

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The 9th hole sets players alongside the expansive canyon drop to the left.  But the impressiveness truly starts on the opening tee with one of the best opening tee shots in golf in Canada.  This is an excellent layout with brilliant use of the elevation change throughout the course.  A full review of Gallagher’s Canyon is forthcoming at 36aday but this is an excellent championship course which hosts the PGA of BC Championship.

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Gallagher’s Canyon provides one of the best opening tee shots I’ve experienced in Canada.  Set high above the fairway, tee it high and let it fly!

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The peak at Pennask Mountain is about 1700m above sea level and brought some early May weather I did not expect.

Activities outside the golf course are plentiful with wine tours, craft breweries, arts, spas and farm-to-table tours to mention only a few, and of course there is the lake and the abundance of water activities.  Resting up after a memorable round and sampling local beer and farm-fresh food, I was able to arrive early at Tower Ranch Golf Club.  A Tom McBroom design, this course is one of the most visually stunning I have experienced with intelligence in its design.

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Course designer Tom McBroom uses the terrain so effectively as seen here on the par 5, 15th.

My advice; play one tee forward as the course demands excellent ball striking.  Yet McBroom adds a playability factor for players of all skill level with his design that can funnel shots back into position through effective use of the natural, and very hilly terrain.  It’s a course I’d love to play again and again.  Holes 11-13 may be one of my favourite three-hole stretches I’ve experienced.  Fortunate to catch a sunny day, it only added to the awe of the vistas looking over the entire city from its location high up the hillside.  Finishing my round, it was hard to believe that my quick trip to Kelowna had come to an end.  With business in Vancouver I had to return back and the drive, set in brilliant, mild sunshine was relaxed and easy.

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Get used to views like this on your drive.

Everything about this trip was easy and efficient.  Airport car rentals are extremely efficient to get renters off quickly.  Having booked tee times in advance, the toughest decision I had over the two days was where to go for dinner and what to eat.  Tacking on time over any trip to Vancouver, this two-day, one night getaway is exciting, memorable and will have you wanting to come back to Kelowna for more.

Two days.  921 km.  36 holes.  2 bucket list courses.  One incredible city and a great golfing experience.

Bucket List Update – Spring 2017

Bucket List Update – Spring 2017

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Will 2017 bring me to exciting destinations like St. Andrews By The Sea in New Brunswick again?  Playing Algonquin was certainly a 2016 highlight.

My decision to expand my personal Canadian public course ‘bucket list’ from about 72 courses to close to 100 was met with mixed reaction.  To be more specific, one person commented that can a list of close to 100 public courses in Canada be considered a ‘bucket list’ or does it simply become just a list?  A fair and valid critique and one best argued over a pint on the 19th hole of many of Canada’s best public (or private) courses.  I am unapologetic about my bucket list and as I mentioned before, there’s a certain degree of self-indulgence in this list of mine.  But arguing for it, the 2015 Golf Facilities in Canada Report cited 2126 public golf courses in the country.  Looking at my current list of 98 courses, this is merely 4.6 percent of that total.  Picking almost 100 from over 2100 ensures strong geographic representation with a quality focus.

With the exception of the territories, my list covers off all 10 provinces.  My additions are not represented in all 10 provinces – at this time.  In 2015 I had played ten courses in PEI to complete my bucket list there.  And while none were added over the winter, I am getting some people mention to me that I should consider adding Belfast Highland Greens, a stunning 9-hole course which plays to a par 37.

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Early morning mist and shadows shrouded the second tee at Green Gables in October 2015.

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British Columbia can seem like an obvious choice for bucket list courses but getting off the beaten path can open up gems like Talking Rock in Chase, BC.

To-date I have played 31 courses on my list.  There’s a shockingly low number played in my home province of Ontario and I have yet to tee it up at all in Manitoba (which @meximenno is quick is remind me of regularly).

My goals for 2017 are to play Tower Ranch and Gallgaher’s Canyon in Kelowna while in BC on business.  Other courses will likely be in Ontario this year, understanding there’s several great options in Muskoka I hope to access this fall.  Others could be more a one-off with day trip potential to get in 18 or 36 an option for me.  I don’t see other extended travel this summer for me but we shall see.   This is a list I can work on over the years and having the anticipation of quality public golf across the country provides all the justification I need to have added to my list.

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The par 4 16th at Cabot Links remains my favourite golf hole in Canada.  But will I discover a course that possesses a new favourite for me in 2017?

What courses are on your must play list?  Is a list of 100 public courses in Canada too large to be considered a bucket list?  And most important, am I missing any courses?  Check my list and my bucket list map to see where I still have to venture to and play.  With golf season almost here for all of Canada I hope there’s a golfing bucket list adventure planned for you in 2017.