Updating my Canadian Bucket List

Updating my Canadian Bucket List


Jaw-dropping views of the Rocky Mountains await golfers at Banff Springs.

Many golfers have one; a list of courses they want to play.  My list, all Canadian publicly accessible courses, is the reason I started this blog.  And three seasons in now it is worth a critical look.  After all, lists like these deserve to be viewed and reviewed regularly.  I have to give credit to my late cousin who passed too young but had a penchant for calling me following rounds at courses all over the United States.  Whistling Straits was a memorable call, but the most excited he ever was when he called me was following 36 holes at Bandon Dunes.  The resort was relatively new and he sounded like a kid who sneaked out of bed and saw Santa Claus.  That call, and his passing a couple years later, really spurned me on to make my own list and adopt a ‘make it happen’ approach to play as many great courses as I can in Canada.  Thanks for the inspiration Paul, you’ll never be forgotten…and more than just a shared passion for golf but I hope my pursuits are well aligned to your travels across the USA playing great courses every chance you could.


Tobiano, even on a cloudy day, is nothing short of spectacular.

My list covers all ten provinces and is set at 73 courses as of today.  Looking back in three seasons of play I am proud I have been able to make it to 9 out of the 10 provinces.  Only Manitoba is left and my GJAC friend and colleague Jeremy Kehler would not be happy to know that.  This year has been an odd year for me in terms of golf and a late summer move had everything to do with that.  Of course, I continued my odd trend of playing better at the early and tail end of the season.  Specific to my bucket list I have knocked off another five courses in three provinces.  Breathtaking Tobiano and underrated Salmon Arm in BC; iconic Banff Springs and stunning Stewart Creek in Alberta and an enjoyable and beautiful Algonquin in New Brunswick.  In fact, my home province of Ontario was not covered this year.  Overall actually I have only played 8 of 24 courses I’ve listed here at ‘home’.


The opening tee shot at Stewart Creek sets the tone for breathtaking beauty and great golf.

The Maritimes have been covered off best, with only 4 courses left in Nova Scotia on my original list.  Quebec has five courses left to play.  Ontario has 16.  Jeremy would tell me my list of two Manitoba courses is woefully underrepresented and the same could be same for Saskatchewan where I’ve played both courses on my original list.  Alberta has four left and BC has 11 remaining.


Seaside golf at its relaxed finest at Algonquin Golf Club in New Brunswick.

I will spend time over the fall and winter months previewing each province and sharing more detail over my bucket list memories, aspirations and tips for travel if you’re fortunate enough to visit any of these courses.

I am enjoying the aspiration of completing my Bucket List and I am open to suggestions to help move this list closer to 100 courses.  The only caveat is that they cannot be a private course.  9 hole (or 6 or 12) are ok, but they need to be public courses.  Send me your recommendations, I’ll check it out and add them to my list.  Canada has over 2000 courses so hitting 100 of the best public courses in time sounds more than realistic.


Salmon Arm Golf Club is a throwback; accuracy wins over distance.  Your game will be tested, but take the time to enjoy the natural beauty of the course and the area.

Thanks for reading and thank you for your help in expanding this list for me.  I hope it helps to inspire you to consider your own list!


Algonquin Golf Club – Play New Brunswick’s Best

Algonquin Golf Club – Play New Brunswick’s Best

Course Reviews – Algonquin Golf Club – Play New Brunswick’s Best



Arriving at sunrise and anticipating a great golfing experience

The drive in from Fredericton was scenic and easy; very consistent with my experiences in maritime Canada.  Traveling a little over 90 minutes to the resort town of St. Andrews By-the-Sea I was fortunate to have time to enjoy this town before and after my round at Algonquin.  The drive along the Bay of Fundy shore was quicker than I anticipated but I was excited to arrive so I welcomed the efficiency.  A quiet seafood dinner at a local pub set along the water stirred my excitement for the early morning round.



The seaside views in town can complement your golfing experience.


I had the pleasure of teeing it up with Assistant Professional, Ryan O’Connell.  Being first group off on a cool and sunny day, my expectations were high.  After all, the drive into the course and the views from the clubhouse set the tone – the views were spectacular.  The course offers five tee decks, and as a resort course this helps to accommodate players of all skill levels.  Ryan and I chose a relaxed round off tees just under 6100 yards (Silver).  Ryan was a great host, sharing great insights on the course and layout, its history and details on current renovations which are focused on the back nine.  We walked the course in just under 4 hours, playing at a leisurely pace and allowing me time for questions and pictures.  Being mid-September it was no longer peak travel season and after my round I took time for lunch at the clubhouse.  They offered a limited menu given the time of year but their soup and sandwich were outstanding.  Add to it the views over Passamaquoddy Bay and it was a great way to celebrate a great round of golf.


The beauty of the first hole set the tone for a relaxed round at Algonquin.

The back nine gets considerable accolades, and rightfully so, as all holes after the 10th offer a water view.  The renovation efforts led by Rod Whitman (of Cabot and Sagebrush fame) were well underway and Head Professional Jason Porter shared that they expect a launch of the renovated course for July 2017.  That said, despite the full renovation efforts, the impact on play was minimal.  The 11th is where the most significant change will take place and based on the construction and green placement, the signature hole on 12 will have a stout competitor.  I predict 11 will become many peoples favourite.  Also, work is planned on 13, a par 5, which will see work move the tee box alongside the water.  Ryan said it well; that Rod is seeking to create an Amen Corner feel.  Using the assets of the Bay and its stunning views, this will be one of the strongest three hole stretches in Atlantic Canada.  The par 3 12th is a downhill par 3 and wind is a great protector for this hole.  But I really like the intelligent design of the par 4 15th, which doglegs left and demands two great shots to reach in regulation.  Beyond the 15th is a unique landmark and reflects the rich and long history of Algonquin; Canada’s oldest Clubhouse.


Conditions were ideal, as evident from this view from behind the 5th.

Those who appreciate golf history will love Algonquin.  The course was first built in the 1890’s and in the 1920’s Donald Ross designed an expanded course layout.  Canadian, Tom McBroom was brought in during the 1990’s to renovate the course.  Evidence of the history of Algonquin is present throughout the course, including evidence of an early tee box complete with an old stone retaining wall.  The course provides historical information on their site but like other courses in Canada, I feel they could bolster this greatly with more images, stories and detail of the changes over the years.


Evidence of the rich history at Algonquin Golf Club with this old stone retaining wall to support an original tee deck. no longer in play but still prominent.

The front nine routes inland and is, in my opinion, a very strong nine.  I felt holes 5, 6 and 7 all provided great scoring opportunity and intelligent design features with the tee shot on 5, a risk-reward par 4 6th and a beautiful and challenging approach on 7.  Ryan shared that the course has been hard at work over several years to remove trees to open up the holes off the tee and provide a more generous landing area for players.  On 5, a par 5, he shared evidence of an expanded fairway and new rough on the right side off the tee.  The par 3 8th is an underrated golf hole, while lacking the water view of 12, brings the natural beauty of the area prominently into play.  The course played firm and fast and reflects an emerging commitment of some courses to not commit to over watering and allow for a more natural playing experience.  But make no mistake; conditions for late season were consistently great.


Renovations led by Rod Whitman make the 11th look like it may rival the signature 12th

The course is walkable and allows players time to fully appreciate the beauty of the course and area.  The tee boxes were well kept and course conditions, as stated, were consistent and very good.  The greens were consistent and the effect of the Bay on balls was noticeable (balls on the green break toward the water).  The bunkers were in great condition, allowing for consistent shot making.  The course prides itself on excellent service and ensuring the playing experience is enjoyable.  With five tee decks it is course which you could play over and over again and not get bored with.


Ryan O’Connell on the 12th tee.

Aura – 9 out of 10 – The 12th hole is an iconic par 3 with views of Maine off to your right and the water all around.  It reflects well the enjoyment which players will have at Algonquin.  The strength of design in the front allows for a transition to wind swept sea views throughout the back nine.  The course markets itself well and does not oversell itself.

Value (cost / experience) – 8 out of 10.  With a peak season fee over $90 this is a bucket list experience but value enhances in the fall where fees range from $45-65.  Add to this the fall colours and fewer tourists, and the value in the fall is sensational.  For me, to have what amounted to a guided tour of the course including an update on the renovations and a history lesson on Algonquin and I can’t believe my good fortune.


More evidence of the historical assets at Algonquin Golf Club

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 8.5 out of 10.  – The layout of the course is a true strength.  I appreciated the intelligent design of the front nine and it complemented the jaw-dropping beauty of the back nine.  The course transitioned on the back to more expansive feel but not once did I feel that holes were on top of one another.  The greens were in very good condition, bunkers were flawless and the tee boxes and fairways consistent and strong.  Again, I applaud Algonquin for a firm and fast approach to the course.


The par 3 8th hole.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – If it is possible for a top 100 course in Canada to be underrated, this may be it.  The course leverages its assets exceptionally well – both people and property.  I felt a genuine welcome and experienced a course which brought a pleasant and relaxed layout with intelligent design.  I’d be proud to be a member here.

Highlight (what is great about the course) – Just stand on the tee of 12 and you’ll understand what is great about this course.  But then, talk to any member or staff person and you will know another thing that is great about Algonquin.  The people are amazing; very friendly and passionate about their course.


Two eagle chances on 13!


Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – this is emerging as a theme for me in my experiences playing golf across the country but many courses do not leverage the history and the stories of their course and community as well as they could.  I would love to see Algonquin build a more robust section on their website about the history of this course complete with pictures and stories.


Made time to visit the resort, only minutes away, after my round.

My Best Shot – My approach on the par 5 13th was only from 165 yards.  But with a slight breeze in my face and the ball below my feet I put a smooth swing with a 6 hybrid and the ball looked like it may hit the pin.  It ended up about 4 feet from the pin.  And sadly no, I missed the eagle putt.  But I will never apologize for tap in birdies.  This helped me to an even par 36 on the back and a sub 80 round.  A great score on a great course!041

Business Travel and Golf



It’s under two hours to get from Fredericton, NB to the beautiful shores on the Bay of Fundy in St. Andrews By the Sea, NB.

Business Travel and Golf

It is now customary for me to tag along a day or two when traveling for business to get in some golf and tick another great course off my Canadian golf bucket list.  My approach is consistent.  I’ve done this already this year in British Columbia and Alberta.  Here is my itinerary from a recent trip to New Brunswick to share my planning process:

Finishing work at 4:00 pm gave me 28 hours before flying home.  This window of time allowed me to get to the airport, rent my car, drive to my destination, check into my hotel, eat dinner, sleep, wake up, grab breakfast and get to the course.  After the round, I would grab lunch, quickly tour town and drive 90 minutes back to the airport.  28 hours created some purposefulness but the trip never felt rushed.  Besides, it’s hard not to relax when you’re in maritime Canada.


The famous 12th hole (as seen up from the left of the green) at the Algonquin Resort Golf Club.  If this won’t help you relax after two days of business then nothing will.

Here are my tips and golf travel essentials to help you make the most of your next trip.

  1. Golf course access – the focus of your pre/post trip is golf so make sure you can access the course(s) you’d like to play before committing further. Easiest thing to do is to contact the course and ask if there is tee time availability on the date/window of time you’re planning to play.  Stating you’re from away and coming in as a single helps them understand your situation and can avoid surprises for you (perhaps the day you plan to arrive is the day after aeration of the greens, or worse, they are hosting some charity event and while there are tee times the first one is too late for you).  In some cases it may open up access you may not otherwise get access to.  Calling Algonquin resort in advance allowed me to access the earliest tee time available on my day of play which helped considerably.


  1. Know the fixed variables – Being clear on when work ends and when the flight home are the two most critical factors. I seek to ensure I have a window of time that is realistic.  Car rental agencies are generally much more flexible than airlines (Unless you’re willing to pay) but any significant changes to the itinerary could help you by calling them in advance.  As for variables beyond your control, do give consideration to the weather forecast on the day you want to play and pack accordingly.  And always have a toque in the golf bag.


  1. Accommodation – My philosophy on accommodation revolves around convenience and price, (with a caveat of some standard of cleanliness and user satisfaction). I like researching prices on an aggregator site and tend to use the same one to accumulate frequent user rewards (after using the site 10 times I get a free stay).  I like reputable chains but am willing to try a quaint place that receives great reviews.


  1. Golf Clubs – There are two camps here – to rent or to travel with your clubs. I personally prefer to travel with my clubs and as a result there are three golden rules: lock your golf travel bag; use a Club Glove stiff arm (or reasonable facsimile) and don’t skimp on your golf travel bag.  If you’re comfortable renting then consider these three rules: bring your own golf shoes, glove and a small bag of balls, tees, etc.; research in advance about the rental club options as some courses have two levels of rentals; and lastly, be accepting.  You chose not to bring your new driver so don’t get frustrated when you get a model of club you don’t prefer.


  1. Transportation – for me, it’s usually a vehicle rental. I love driving and find it relaxing.  Here, again, loyalty can pay off with rewards offered at most outlets.  Airport rentals are generally processed faster and their vehicles are newer.  One important item is to map your route and budget for some extra time in the event of unexpected traffic issues.  My buddies swear by an app called Waze to get you somewhere as quick as possible.  Last, sure you’re in a rush to leave and get to the course but take the time to get the seat and mirrors properly adjusted…and if possible to sync up your smartphone so you can enjoy some travel tunes.
  2. Keepsakes – I’ve practically walked from the rental car to the first tee (with a quick check in) but I always try to make some time afterward to check the pro shop. I love pin flags and also collect golf balls and markers with the course emblem on them.  Of course, the sale rack can unlock some great value too.   Here is a good alternative to airport shopping for those at home (especially if they like golf)



Took a break from my pint of Picaroons and my Lobster Roll to capture this fiery sky.


  1. Food – this is one area I stretch the budget. My affinity for seafood and a          willingness to ask and try local favourites means I avoid fast food and seek out local flavours.  Trip Advisor and Yelp allows me to filter user satisfaction with food types.  Sometimes it’s a pub, other times finer dining.  Food is often part of the experience for me.  I’ve traveled with people who would eat on the cheap and spend more for accommodation (meaning they’re comfortable eating McDonalds but want the assurance of a high end place to stay).  Make your own determination and know what’s important.  It is always ideal when you can get both.  When I have time, I actually like to eat at the course before or after a round.  Many courses create a dining experience that rivals their golf experience.


  1. Pictures – As a rule I get to a course with close to 100% battery power on my phone to allow me to take pictures. I advise playing partners I’ll be taking some pictures for my blog so as to manage their expectation.  I keep the phone in my left pocket for easy access as I seek to minimize the impact on pace of play.


  1. Manage expectation – The number one goal of golf while traveling on business should be fun; you’re playing a course you may not otherwise access to. Shooting a high score, especially if you’re using rental clubs, should be irrelevant and not keep you from having fun.  Besides, maybe the rental putter is the magic club you’ve been seeking for years (take a picture and note the make and model…that’s why e-Bay was created!).  Smile and enjoy the fact you’re on the course.


  1. Be a good visitor – I always seek business cards from the courses I play. In many cases, upon learning I am a blogger with journalist accreditation they welcome the chance to host a guest reviewer.  I like to extend thanks to courses for allowing me access to their course.  My philosophy is simple: the currency of my blog is the relationships I am able to cultivate.  I sincerely appreciate the chance to experience their home course and want to let them know that.



A most appropriate place to eat in St. Andrews.  The Lobster Roll did not disappoint.

Lastly, and perhaps most important, is to budget for the side trip.  I set funds aside throughout the year to allow me to tack on the day or two and enjoy a guilt-free and pleasurable experience without impacting the bottom line.  With a flight covered from work, the additional expenses create value, help me experience great golf across Canada and help make a significant dent in my bucket list.


The chance to have played golf in 8 provinces now has taught me a few things about business travel and golf.  I know I am not alone.  I’d welcome hearing your tips for maximizing golf experiences on business.







Competitive Golf – Call Me Addicted

Competitive Golf – Call Me Addicted

A two-day provincial public player tournament in late August was only my second foray into formal competitive play.  Member-guest experiences (mine anyway), while competitive, are a little more casual in their structure and feel.  My first competitive golf experience was in 2011, similar event as this.  Golf Ontario is my provincial association and is formally affiliated with Golf Canada.  The event has all the formality of any event you’d expect; there is formal communications, a draw based on flights determined by the skill of the entrants, registration, a scorer’s tent, even a hand written score board and a starter who calls each player by name and city to the first tee.  I loved it.


Competitive golf events are also sponsor supported.  Baka Wireless is the title sponsor for Golf Ontario’s Public Player tournament.

Playing of a 10.6 index at the time of registration I was in the C Flight, which meant I was in the lowest third of the almost 99 entries and were able to play from a course about 6300 yards and in a format that is Gross scoring (which is my score minus my index which is factored according to the slope rating of the course).  For me, this meant I got 12 strokes deducted a round.  I hadn’t exactly been lighting it up this summer; in fact, my game has regressed from June until now where I simply had not been able to score well.  I was getting loose off the tee and a mid-August lesson with CPGA professional Brian McCann from Brampton GCC set me on track and unleashed a new confidence I had not felt in some time.

A late summer move from Mississauga to Burlington had derailed my plans for regular summer play and practice so I entered the event with modest expectation (meaning none).  My only three goals were to have fun, focus on each and every shot, and accept the fact that over 36 holes there will be some loose shots.  After all, there’s a reason I am in C flight.  The event was hosted at DiamondBack Golf Club in Richmond Hill, Ontario.  The course in managed by ClubLink which is the same course conglomerate which controls Glen Abbey (home of the RBC Canadian Open).  Conditions were ideal and with a late morning tee time on the first day I felt prepared and had a quiet calm, dare I say confidence.


A selfie in the late morning heat at DiamondBack Golf Club.

With a game plan off the tee, I started strong and carded a respectable 87 on round one which netted me at +3 and T-9 in my flight of 30.  With inverted tee times on Day 2, our flight was off first and my play afforded me a humane tee time.  Again, I played to a deliberate plan focusing on putting the ball in play off the tee.  I putted much better and scored an 82.  Overall, I finished T-5 with a two day net total of +1.

Golf Ontario ran a first class event.  The staff and volunteers were amazing and very helpful and supportive to all the players.  I’m already flagging the time in my calendar for next year.  Yes, after a fun two days of competitive play I am completely hooked.

In closing, I have never played golf with such a deliberate cadence.  From pre shot thinking, to attempted execution and complete acceptance I have no regrets about my approach.  Much advice I received from people I know focused on fun and purposeful routine.  Mission accomplished.  I’d love to hear about your competitive golf experiences and how you managed your play.  From my first event in 2011, I was able to mature on the course and play better, smarter and more fun golf.  After all, this does not affect my tour earnings of world golf rankings, but I did try my best, smile a lot and savour each second.


The handwritten master scoreboard is a great touch.  Makes the event seem very official.  Great work, Golf Ontario.

I wish I could do this more regularly.  I know there are options through the GolfChannel AM Tour and the GTA AM Golf Tour.  But my combination of being loyal and value conscious, I think I’ll wait to 2017 for the Golf Ontario Public Players.  I can’t wait!

Stewart Creek – Mining for Birdies in Canmore

Course Reviews – Stewart Creek – Mining for Birdies in Canmore



A strong opening hole.  Love the elevation change to the fairway below.

The drive from Banff is a surprisingly short one – only about 15 minutes – so quick that I was extremely early for my afternoon tee time.  Following a hospitable reception, easy check in process and a light lunch I decided to pack the cart and tee off early as a single in hope of avoiding some inclement weather which was forecast.  First impressions at Stewart Creek are impressive.  The course is easy to locate off the Trans Canada and the clubhouse and pro shop are beautiful and very well stocked.  While I did not make the time to enjoy the patio, it shows off the facilities and the natural setting most beautifully.  Stewart Creek is recognized within Canadian Golf Magazine as a Top 100 Course in the country (ranked 57th in 2015) and rightfully so.  However, amidst the riches of great golf in the Canadian Rockies it is, dare I say, somewhat understated.  What I experienced is mountain golf which was playable for people of all skill levels, possessing the natural beauty which one would expect from golf in the Rockies and some strong design features which make for a memorable, challenging and very enjoyable golfing experience.


The front nine presents so much beauty

Playing as a single and with a healthy gap between groups the starter took some extra time to impart some local knowledge, let me know when to have my camera ready and also to remind me I am in bear country.  He also shared a little of the history of the area and its mining history which I would see evidence of later on the course.  The first hole will grab player’s attention as this medium length par 4 plays to a dramatic drop to a wide landing area.  I made a smart decision to play a relaxed tee box of just under 6200 yards.  The front nine is more expansive that the back and I quickly appreciated having a cart as the climb between some holes is more than I’d care to experience on foot, following a morning 18 and set in bear country.


Stewart Creek demonstrates a commitment to engage players of all skill levels with Family Tee options, making the game playable for all ages

I was very impressed that Stewart Creek invokes a Family Tee system which essentially allows player’s opportunity to access the course from yardages ranging from 100 – 250 for each hole.  You will not see this on the scorecard but it does add a unique way to engage players – young and old.  I’ve experienced this before and applaud courses for their efforts with alternative tee boxes to make the game more inclusive.


An impressive close to the opening nine.

The course is designed by Canadian, Gary Browning.  He did add some impressive design features to create some memorable golf holes.  I was quite struck with the par 5 6th hole, which has the green set lower left from the fairway and broken off from the fairway with grasses and a couple trees.  The 9th hole, a majestic par 3 drops players down from the steady ascent throughout the front.  In researching the course, this is a change from the original design which had the 9th hole as a par 4, and one seemingly well received by players.  The green is guarded by a solitary shallow bunker and water on either side.  The course has very few bunkers, actually and uses subtle changes in terrain to protect the greens.  This again, in my opinion, makes the course more playable and enjoyable.


Stewart Creek shows how playable mountain golf can be.

The back nine is less extreme in terms of elevation changes and continues to provide players stunning vistas to the surrounding mountains and the course itself, which has been recognized as a certified Audubon sanctuary back in 2004.  The course provides a feel of solitude and is not at all crowded in its design.  I was impressed with the consistently excellent condition of the course.  Greens were fair and rolled true.  The most difficult green is located on my favourite hole, the par 4, 14th.  On this short, drivable par 4, the long, multi-tiered green brings significant slope. Avoiding three putts if you’re on the wrong tier is challenging.  Set to the left of the 14th fairway is an abandoned coal mine entrance with a plaque to recognize its history.


My favourite hole, the short par 4, 14th.

If I had two recommendations, it would be for Stewart Creek to dedicate a page on its website to telling more of the history of mining in this region and the story of transformation from mining to golf (which I understand required some significant work by the course to reinforce parts which had mining tunnels set below).  The second recommendation mirrors the first, in that Stewart Creek can speak more to its environmental stewardship and leadership.  Audubon certification is significant and represents a commitment to the environment which many players appreciate.  Both provide a unique story to engage golfers and I certainly wanted to learn more – both before and after playing there.



The history of this region comes alive with this abandoned mine entrance.

The course ends on an enjoyable par 4-3-5 stretch and my round ended far too quickly for my liking.  Stewart Creek is nestled in a part of Canada which boasts an embarrassment of riches when it comes to publicly accessible golf.  I enjoyed my experience at Stewart Creek.  For a mountain course, it brings a high playability factor to it and with multiple tee decks offers access and enjoyment for all golfers.  I look forward to my next visit!

Aura – 7.5 out of 10 – Perhaps it is being part of a regional cluster of nationally recognized great courses, perhaps it is simply a humble and modest approach to communication.  Whatever it is, it deserves a higher score.

Value (cost / experience) – 7.5 out of 10 – I really enjoyed my golfing experience and would happily come back and pay the peak fee.  But make no mistake; golfing in the Rockies is not for the frugal golfer.  The website offers fees which range based on the time of year and time of day you play and within these there are greater value options on their website.  But for a top 100 course in the country, set in the Rocky Mountains, and with a strong layout, the value here is more than fair.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 9 out of 10 – The course is exceptionally maintained.  Tee boxes, fairways, and greens are all consistent and outstanding. There are very few bunkers but they are consistent in how they play.  The quality of the course allows the player to enjoy themselves and focus on their game…and the stunning vistas.  It was my first experience with a Browning design and I was impressed.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – Hitting it straight off the tee is not a hallmark of my game.  Making a decision to play off a shorter tee deck allowed me to focus more on my first experience playing golf in Canmore.  But the course is very playable; not too tight or penal.  I really enjoyed the course.  Add to it the people, who were very friendly and helpful, and it capped off a memorable round of golf. – 8.5 out of 10

Highlight (what is great about the course) – With consistently quality golf throughout, I like the boldness of the design.  The first hole is impressive in its drop off and reflects the vastness and impressive mountain range to the north.  As discussed, the 6th hole is so unique and the 9th, like the first, is great to experience.  But boldness like the family tees, the solitary tree on the 13th fairway, and the great challenge of my favourite hole, the 14th, helps to captivate golfers and bring them back.  And make no mistake, I plan to be back.


My experience at Stewart Creek ended too quickly.  It’s a mountain golf experience I look forward to experiencing again.



A new look for 36aday

While I don’t pretend to have formal education and training in communications, I have learned enough to value the importance of a clear and consistent brand.  Visual images can do much to present a brand to people.  36aday is over two years old now and I realized some time back that I wanted to step up the way in which I present myself and this emerging brand.  My engagement in a regular Tuesday evening #GolfChat on Twitter connected me with a digital communications professional who has extensive experience with the golfing community.  Herb McNally (@McTwentyTwo) was a logical choice for me to work with.  He brings technical skill, strong communications and an understanding of golf branding.  The process was relatively quick, easy and iterative.  I shared my philosophy, background around my work, and the central imaging I was hoping to incorporate.  The final product you see as my Twitter avatar is the result of the third iteration of images.


I can go on and on about the process, value and pleasure it was to work with Herb.  He is a real pro.

But I am most proud of having a brand images that reflect the central aspects of my interests in writing – golf and golf travel in Canada.  Over the next few months I intend to incorporate some of these images directly onto my blog site and into new materials like letterhead and business cards.  I may take this a little further and make myself a couple hats but I’d really welcome hearing from you about what you think of this new visual branding.  Keeping the look within either red or green will allow me to focus in season (green) or off season (red).  All together, I have almost 20 files to choose from and for different purposes.


Thank you all for your support of my work.  I have some more exciting plans to bolster my blog site over the coming year or two and would like to expand my writing efforts to share insight on golf travel within Canada.  For now, this is a big step and one I am extremely proud to share with you.

Banff Springs – Breathtaking Golf in the Rockies

Banff Springs – Breathtaking Golf in the Rockies



Another beautiful morning at Banff Springs

One does not have to look very far to locate Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course on top course ranking lists in Canada.  Arguably one of Stanley Thompson’s finest works, this course set adjacent to the iconic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and the majestic Bow River.  The golf course is majestic, the views expansive and powerful with the river and the mountains providing a stunning backdrop.  It may well feature the greatest opening nine I have experienced and possesses signature hole after signature hole.  Both Canadian Golf Magazine and SCOREGolf place this course well within their top 10 in Canada.


Looking back from behind the second green

On a cold spring morning, I was fortunate to tee off as a single where I could take my time, take lots of pictures and enjoy a true, unique golf experience.  The starter advised me holes which I should have my camera ready – 4 and 14.  He may well have said all 18 of them.  After the opening hole, the course faces the mountains and holes 2, 3 and 4 build in magnitude.  The 3rd hole is an underrated par 5, and if not for Thompson’s genius design of the 7th hole at Highlands Links, I would state this to be my favourite par 5 of any I’ve played.   However, the 4th hole is a breathtaking beauty, unlike any I’ve played.  A downhill par 3, aptly named Devil’s Cauldron, this hole is guarded by water in the front and classic Thompson bunkering protecting short and left of the green.  While admiring this bowl shaped design and readying to take my shot, a golf cart pulled up.  They were a touring the course, not golfers.  In asking if they would take my picture following my swing, the gentleman stated he’d be delighted and that he was a photographer.  I marveled at my fortune.  And to close off; my shot – witnessed by tourists both behind me as well as behind the green, the shot landed softly beyond the green and avoiding the traps.  I’ll never forget that.


A picture I will always cherish – holding the finish on the famous 4th hole.

The course returns to the relatively new clubhouse after nine than moves toward the hotel where it loops around and back, allowing for a stretch of tree lined holes and stout par 3’s before returning back in a more expansive stretch alongside the mountains.  The effort it must have taken back in the 1920’s to build this course is staggering to imagine.  The course offers something for so many; historians, nature lovers and of course, golfers.


Hard not to get distracted by the scenery

The tranquility of my clear, cold morning allowed me to play a relaxed round and appreciate the genius of Thompson who, once again, used the land exceedingly well.  There are no holes which are too close in proximity to others.  The back nine provides challenge in terms of length and demands a level of accuracy which is less prominent on the front nine.


The 9th hole runs alongside the Bow River.

The conditioning of the course is fantastic, complementing the exceptional layout and natural setting.  A true bucket list course, this will not be your most inexpensive round.  But it is entirely possible that it may be your most memorable.


The 14th hole shows the best view of the Banff Springs Hotel

Aura – 9.5 out of 10 – This is a national top 10 course and top 5 public course.  For many, it is their favourite course in the country and is entirely worthy of planning a trip around.  If blessed with a sunny day, your camera will get a strong workout.


Value (cost / experience) – 8 out of 10 – Peak fees are $239 + tax.  There are afternoon and shoulder season rates but this will set back many players.  However, I acknowledge value is in the eyes of the beholder.  And for the quality and natural beauty of this course, the chance to play it once (in the shoulder season for me) makes this a solid value pick, not exceptional.  Understand, it’s a golfing experience and a true bucket list course.


Even the practice facilities are stunning.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 9 out of 10 –  Course staff were hard at work on the fairways, greens and even the bunkers while I was there in late May. The layout is brilliant, one of Thompson’s strengths, but the conditioning of the course complements the quality setting.  The tee boxes were in exceptional condition.  Greens rolled true and consistent, not too fast for a public resort course which helps ensure good pace of play.  The greenside protection was diverse and penal at times but never unfair.  Fairways were superb.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – 9.5 out of 10 – I would return in a heartbeat.  Understand that you’re in Banff and there is much else to do – hot springs, the town, the hotel – but the golf course stands on as an experience worthy of the investment and complements the scenery of this gorgeous town.


Highlight (what is great about the course) – For the purposes of managing space, I’ll let the pictures speak to this.  Safe to say practically everything is great about it.

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – aside from moving to Alberta to take advantage of a residents discount, there really isn’t anything specific I would change.  This is a truly special course and well worthy of its prominent places in national course rankings.  As a public play, it is on my top 3 list.


One of my favourite images is this view of the par 5 3rd hole.

Just So You Know – Practice facilities are very strong.  There is also a 9 hole ‘Tunnel Mountain’ course available to complement the 18 hole Stanley Thompson course.