Bear Mountain – Valley Course – Bear Mountains Best Course?


Feeling comfortable and confident on the first tee.  Beautifully framed golf hole.

Living in Ontario where winter dictates a clear off-season, I was so excited to have an opportunity to travel back to Victoria this winter and play the newer course which is part of the 36-hole resort at Bear Mountain.   The course opened up in 2009 and with “elevated tee boxes, more generous fairway widths, fewer bunkers and larger greens…the Valley course will likely be considered a ‘friendlier’ version of the original”. (see course website)  I played on a mild day in early February, enjoying 9 holes of play and touring the remaining 9.

Jack Nicklaus was wise in creating a course to complement the unique challenge of his original work, the Mountain course.  And the website is apt in its description, it is a friendlier version and for all the reasons cited.  Friendly, yes.  Easy?  Not by any stretch.


The bunkering reflects the rugged and natural look which Nicklaus incorporates throughout the Valley course.

The Mountain course has undergone several upgrades, which I wrote about, and which made it more compelling for me, having experienced it several years back.  The Valley course is very reminiscent of the early years of its sister course; structurally sound but with opportunity to mature more over time.  Taking advantage of excellent practice and warm up facilities – after all, Golf Canada uses the site for its National Team Training Centre – there are no reasons to hit the first tee feeling less than ready.

Contrasted to the manicured and polished nature of the Mountain course is a more natural, rugged Valley course.  A contrasting component I really appreciated was the sense of tranquility, as while housing developments are underway they seem set further back from play than on the Mountain course.  There are no holes which are adjacent to each other and this creates a very peaceful golf experience.


Aim just left of that large rock.  A stunning natural feature on the par 4 5th hole.

With five sets of tee boxes ranging from 4674 to 6807 yards, I chose a relaxed tee box, the Grizzly tees.  My nine consisted of Holes 1-4 and 14-18. I immediately wished I could have had access to play the balance of the back nine, as the fifth hole was a fabulous uphill par 4.  With prominent rock croppings behind the green, it would be a fabulous target from which to base your approach shot.  Par 3’s are exceptionally guarded throughout the course with natural and rugged bunkers.  The par 4 8th hole is gorgeous.  Again, rocks frame the landing area and while not in play, a slight gorge cuts the fairway from the green.

The routing of the course is not a traditional loop.  The 10th hole is a par 3 set away from the resort.  Underrated holes, the 11th and 12th, give way to the stunning 13th.  A long par 4 brings players to their first real view of a small lake which is more prominently in play on the stout par 5 15th.  A challenging driving hole, it opens up a closing stretch of 5-3-4-5 which like the Mountain course opens up some scoring opportunity.


This view of the 8th hole, my favourite, set off to the right, shows the prominence of the land to help frame a generous landing area

My initial impressions of the Valley course are positive and there is very little to critique on this layout.  The course provides an excellent complement to the Mountain course and if I was given a chance to play 54 at Bear Mountain, I’d play two rounds at Valley, I liked it that much.  Mountain is a course players simply need to experience but like myself, I won’t be surprised if many people find themselves longing for another chance to tee it up on the Valley course.


Stunning!  The 8th green is framed so well by this hazard area. 

Aura – 8.0 out of 10 – Mountain’s 14th is the show stopper in terms of aura, but make no mistake, the Valley course holds its own in terms of natural beauty.  I was quite taken by the resort view off the 18th tee.


The 12th hole, a par 4, needs a careful approach.

Value (cost / experience) – 7 out of 10.  I was fortunate to play in the off-season, which makes a difference in terms of greens fees but one does roll the dice in terms of weather.  The Bear Mountain courses won’t win value awards but they are legitimate top 100 courses in Canada and are worthy of the cost to experience.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – The layout is simply brilliant.  And the course was in sensational condition considering the area had experienced significant rain the week prior to my arrival.  Tee boxes were immaculate.  The bunkers were so well designed, with a natural feel.  Fairways are significantly more generous than the Mountain course.  I could play this course over and over again and never tire of it.   – 8.5 out of 10


The 15th is not the easiest driving hole on the course.  That bunker set on the right is a great aiming point.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – Time didn’t allow it or I’d have simply pegged it up and played that nine hole loop again. This was a course I have wanted to play for many years and did not disappoint at all.  – 8.5 out of 10

Highlight (what is great about the course) – Holes 13-15 may get considerable accolade but safe to say there are several great holes on this course.  I did appreciate in my drive around the chance to see some national team members practicing on the 9 which was closed for public play.  Using the shoulder season of this great course to hone their skills simply makes sense and was a pleasure to experience up close.


The closing hole.  This par 5 is a birdie opportunity!

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – With a layout which does not bring players back to the clubhouse, the lack of washroom facilities throughout the course was surprising.  The lack of a halfway house (which needn’t be exactly halfway) was also surprising to me.


Another look at 12, and no, this is not where my drive landed!


2018 Winter Giveaway – Week 7

We received a foot of snow last week.

As I was flying to British Columbia it looked like the prairies was locked in the ice age.

Winter has been long, it’s been tough, but us golfers will persevere and perhaps some of us will see a light at the end of the tunnel sooner than later.  It is almost Golf and Travel Show season, another important step to our favourite time of the year (besides from The Masters).

I’ve enjoyed the weekly giveaways and appreciate the new followers and the dedicated followers who have entered each week.  But after six weeks of sharing my swag with you, it is time to move on to share product from friends of 36aday.

This week?  A different toque from the 36 Golf Co.  If you haven’t checked these guys out and the fabulous work they do you’re really missing out.  It’s not your dad’s golf attire, that’s for sure.  A more relaxed look, this Canadian company has burst on the scene with splashy and innovative casual attire that is of outstanding quality.  They also developed my golf hats which you may have seen featured in earlier posts (and which are now out of stock…but plans for a re-order are underway)  Later in the year I’ll feature them on a Quick 9, my interview series.  But for now, after all, it is still winter, I am going to give away one of their branded toques.  Warm, snug, and damn good looking.


Warm.  Snappy.  And a great Canadian golf company.  What more do you need?

How to enter?  Respond to this blog post and share with me why you love the game of golf?  Considering most of the country is looking like we’ll never ever play again I know we’re all in that dreamy phase where we can’t wait to tee it up again.  All entries before 8:00 pm EST on Tuesday, February 20 are eligible to win.  Past winners?  Sure thing, get in on this.  You can’t have enough golf toques!!

Good luck and thank you for supporting my blog.

Summer hat.jpg

And here’s the fabulous work my friends at 36 Golf Co. did on my original summer hats.

Bear Mountain – Mountain Course – Well Worth a (Second) Look

Having played this course twice in its earlier days, it became apparent that Jack Nicklaus had been given access to a most beautiful and challenging piece of property from which to build the original or two courses planned for the resort.  I have reviewed this course before (see here) but after a recent follow up visit, and important course routing changes, I am compelled to re-write my review.


The downhill par 3 16th requires focus and confidence.

With Bear Mountain hosting a 2016 and 2017 PGA Champions Tour event, it was apparent that investments were made to the course, notably the bunkers, but clearly throughout the course.  Importantly, adding their former 19th hole to the rotation was a brilliant and important decision which makes the course more enjoyable, and depending on the weather, more challenging.  I was critical of the course before but important changes, investments and upgrades have me re-thinking my critique.  Remaining still are some elevated greens and a tighter, target-golf feel on some holes at this course but as the course has matured, the focal areas for landing the ball seem more visible and prominent and have helped to mitigate this.  Add the fact the completion of the Valley course and the challenges of the Mountain course are well complemented with design differences with its sister course.  The Mountain remains the crown jewel of this 36 hole resort.


The signature hole, and formerly their 19th.  The par 3 14th can provide challenge when windy.

So has my attitude about this course changed?  Yes it has.  The back nine present three of the most visually appealing par 3’s you will find in golf.  The closing stretch – 15-18 – present significant risk-reward options to score well or save a round.  I still love the affinity green look of 13 (originally the 14th), where it seems anything long will fall off the mountain and into the strait well below.

During my recent visit where I toured the back nine, the 14th was playing just under 160 yards from the Golden Tees.  And that was a good thing as you’re essentially at the highest and least protected part of the course and winds can give you significant pause for reflection on club selection.  Stand over your ball and the small green looks ever smaller.  I applaud the course for their decision to incorporate this hole into play; it truly magnifies the excellence of this course.

Since my play there back in 2013 and 2014, the housing developments are also more mature.  Not everyone feels comfortable with houses so close to play, but this is a special course and with the maturity of the course helping showcase specific landing areas on certain holes, players should focus on enjoyment and playing to their own strengths.


Looking back from the downhill par 4 15th.  To the right is the fairway for the uphill 13th.

It is certainly a course where one should bring their A game and a well charged camera, as there are countless opportunity for photos.  It is a challenging layout but a golf experience which I thoroughly enjoyed and only hope I can experience once again.  Look around and take in the marvelous scenery, even look back, for some holes offer an incredible view behind you as well as ahead!  My pictures paled in comparison to the pictures available on their website.

It is always exciting to tee it up where the pros have played.  I look forward to my next visit where the Mountain course will be a priority for me to play!


With exception amenities, Westin Bear Mountain is a great place to stay.  It can make playing 36 a little easier too!

Aura – 8.5 out of 10 – This is a special course with views of Victoria and Washington State which are stunning.  The golf course is of a quality that complements the scenery.

Value (cost / experience) – 7 out of 10.  Not the value track that others can boast in Victoria, but there is a quality to Bear Mountain which makes playing here worth the expense; it is a wonderful golf experience.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – Improvements are clear and evident since my first visit and this is one area where the course shines!   – 8.5 out of 10

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – Having played there twice, I loved it and would welcome a chance to come back and play it again.  It is a very stout test of golf on a beautiful piece of land.  With a second course alongside it is now a destination for golfers seeking great golf – 8.5 out of 10

Highlight (what is great about the course) – The view off the 14th tee is breathtaking.  But before you even tee it up, step outside of the clubhouse and check out the scenery and breathe.  You would never know you were mere minutes from downtown Victoria.

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – The obvious choice is for me to get an office in Victoria so I can play more regularly at Bear Mountain.

Just So You Know – The addition of the new Valley Course provides a great complement to this course and makes the Stay and Play options for this Westin Hotel resort course even more attractive.

Playing Partner Notes – When you play with a member who is a retired golf professional you get some unique insight.  My first experience playing with Brian D. was special.  It was a damp, foggy December morning and we got off early.  After the round he stated he was pleased with his score considering he was seeking to hit close to the cart path to avoid walking far to get to his ball.  He demanded I keep my bag on the cart as we played another round in the afternoon as the fog burned off.  He was insistent I see this course in all its natural beauty, and wow, what a thrill that was!

2018 Winter Giveaway – Week 6

Friends, we’re getting through Winter one week at a time. Congrats to Week 5 winner, Jim, of The Grateful Golfer (a fabulous blog!). This week is for Instagram followers of mine (@mj_36aday). Two chances to enter. Look for my most recent post and reply and share how many golf holes have you played in one day. Be sure to follow me! If it’s 36 or more you’re in! Still want the enter or haven’t played 36+? Share a golf picture as a response. Winner will get another 36aday toque and some Snell Canada golf balls. Last three weeks will see a subtle shake up in the contest. Good luck! I’m sharing the reason this contest is starting late…I was out west on business (and pleasure)! Loved my experience at Victoria Golf Club!

2018 Winter Giveaway – Week 5

The dog days of winter are here.  This contest is halfway done but winter is not, however, every day is one day closer to the start of golf season.

Congratulations to new FB follower, Colin Muise on winning the Week 4 contest.  I’ll reach out and connect and get you your hat and golf balls off as soon as possible.

For Week 5, this is all about my Twitter followers.  Same prizes available (and I do have plans to shake that up in later weeks).  Here’s what you need to do.

1. Follow @36aday on Twitter.

2. When you see the Winter Giveaway – Week 5 post, you need to retweet it.

3. Reply to the post and use the hashtag #36adaynew AND share with me a public golf course (in Canada or around the world) which I should add to my Bucket List.

All entries before February 6 at 8:00 pm EST are eligible to win.  I’ll announce the winner on February 8, as I will be away on business and won’t be able to tend to this in a timely manner.

Thanks as always for your support and good luck to all who enter.

2018 Winter Giveaway – Week 4

Certain parts of Canada get a brief reprieve from winter with a January thaw.  Where I live, in Burlington, Ontario, we’ve been experiencing that.  Gone are the bitter cold temperatures we experienced over the holidays and in its place have been milder and even some rainy weather.  But let’s not kid ourselves here, it isn’t exactly golf weather and while a break from traditional winter weather has been nice we’re not done yet. And neither are we!

Congratulations to Week 3 winner Mike Melville (@Maddmikke) who wrote in on Twitter.  You’re getting a 36aday toque and a sleeve of Snell Golf Balls.

For Week 4 you will have to enter through my Facebook page.  To qualify, you need to follow my page on Facebook (36aday Blog) and you’ll need to reply to the Week 4 post on FB and share with me what’s your favourite golf course?  The Facebook page is relatively new and your odds are excellent.  It’s like the January thaw of giveaways!

We’re getting through this winter together friends.  We’ve traded in the Hawaii swing on tour for Tiger’s 2018 season kick off at Torrey Pines.  And every day is one day closer to golf season here in Canada!


Winners for Week 4 will get a sleeve of Snell’s My Tour Ball’ to go with their new toque

Prairie Golf Magazine – Shining a light on great golf in the prairies.

36aday is pleased to introduce interviews with leaders in the game of golf. 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 very excited to connect with Jeremy Kehler who has just launched a new venture, Prairie Golf Magazine.  And why not, I mean he has four young kids and is already writing for Golf News Net.  I always believe if you want something done ask someone who’s busy.  Jeremy sure fits the bill!  You can connect with Jeremy at (@prairiegolfmag) and


  1. Jeremy thanks for making the time to speak with me. Prairie Golf Magazine.    What compelled you to start your own blog with a Prairie golf focus?

JK – Well, it came down to several things really, but the main thing is that every time a national golf course rankings list get published, it seems Manitoba and Saskatchewan courses are a total after thought. I felt that being able to provide a platform to help promote the courses in the region would help bring attention to the tremendous courses that exist here.


  1. We go back a while and I know you’re a serious golf gear geek, and I say that in the most respectful and admirable tone possible. Will this new publication allow you to engage with readers about this aspect of the game which you’re so passionate about?

JK – Ha ha, totally. Golf geek, all that stuff, yeah, I really love to tinker with equipment. With this platform I will definitely be touching on golf equipment, whether that is equipment profiles, previews, reviews or general information.


  1. Golf in the prairies. You’ve been a staunch advocate that golf in your home province doesn’t get enough love.  Share with me some courses in Manitoba which I should have on my bucket list and that readers should pencil as ‘must play’ if they’re traveling to Manitoba.

JK – Oh, that’s easy. Granite Hills in Lac Du Bonnet.  Nothing like it. It’s fantastic. There are several out west too. Hidden gems. In the south, The Desert/Quarry nines at Quarry Oaks is great, especially from the tips. Centrally, Minnewasta GC in Morden has some crazy elevation changes and roller coaster greens. Poplar Ridge is also a great course and it’s located by Clear Lake GC just outside Riding Mountain National Park.


  1. Back to PGM. Looking forward, what does success look like for you with this?

JK – Success? That’s a good question. I guess I would say that bringing attention to all the great courses would be it. But there is other stuff too, like having the reader be able to hit up the site and see several articles that might interest them and those articles would be on completely different things, like cars for example.


  1. Your interests in golf writing extend beyond PGM. Tell me more about other golf writing and media interests you have?

JK – Obviously I love to write about golf but I also love aircraft and cars. I’ll spend hours at the airport spotting planes landing and taking off. I’m an aviation geek through and through.  I’m also passionate about cars and trucks.  Think I can blame Hot Wheels on that.

MJ – That’s awesome!


  1. As a golf gear geek, I’d love your take on the ongoing debate about the distance today’s golf ball flies. Seems everyone has an opinion, even Jack Nicklaus has waded in on the debate.  What’s your opinion on how far the ball flies today?  Is it a problem?

JK – Does the ball go further? Yes, marginally, but I think the real issue lies in several other areas. Golfers are now spending as much time in the gym as they do practicing.  Kids that previously would’ve considered golf an “old man’s game” are now taking up the sport, and they’re not small either. The natural ability they have due to their physical characteristics allows them to swing faster and do so easier, if that makes sense. I say let the manufacturers innovate.


  1. Golf manufacturers are coming out with new clubs with increased frequency. The term ‘innovation’ and ‘game changer’ seems to be losing its meaning.  Is there anything coming out or just recently released that has you excited?

JK – When I start talking about this stuff, I usually drool so please pardon me. There are several really cool products in the pipeline for 2018. Callaway is releasing their new Rogue Series. The fairway woods are going to be a big hit for them. It may actually deserve the term “game changer”.  TaylorMade has the M3 and M4. The M3 is even more adjustable then what it replaces. Wilson’s C300 line also has my attention, especially the driver.


  1. No doubt you’re a busy man but how’s the state of your game these days? How often are you able to tee it up?

JK – I don’t get out as much as I would like. With my son’s health issues it is a bit more difficult, but usually get out two times a week. Always try to get the kids out to the course at least once a week to practice on the range and play a few holes. My home course in Winnipeg, Breezy Bend is great for being able to do that. I’m still able to break 80 so I guess that’s a win.


  1. Stock question for all guests of A Quick Nine – what course(s) top your bucket list and who would be in your dream foursome?

JK – Would be neat to play with Nicklaus and Woods for sure. Really don’t know who would complete the group. Maybe you could if you weren’t busy at the time, ha ha. Course wise? Would obviously love to play Augusta, but I really would like to play Lofoten Links in Norway or an Iceland course in the summer when the sun never sets

MJ – You just tell me when our tee time is and I’ll be there!  I can’t thank you enough for making the time to join me.  I encourage all my readers to check out Jeremy’s work at Prairie Golf Magazine.