Calgary Golf and Country Club – Unique in Design, Challenge and Beauty.
The website shares a fascinating and detailed account of the history of this beautiful course. A top 25 course in the country, as ranked by Canadian Golf Magazine, it is a course on a piece of property that will dazzle, amaze and challenge golfers. A private course, I was privileged to be extended an invitation from a fellow golf writer based in Calgary. The Golf is Mental blog was identified as one of the top 50 golf blogs to follow by the Scottsdale Golf Blog. Calgary GCC, located mere minutes south of downtown, offers solitude and privacy from the city which creates a sense of tranquility. And this is good because the challenges of this unique design will demand your attention.
The course was designed in by Willie Park, Jr., a Scottish designer who in 1922 completed the development of the course consistent with today’s design. The course was originally established in 1897. Adjacent to the Elbow River, a tributary of the Bow River which runs through Calgary, the course utilizes elevation change exceptionally well throughout the course. An exclamation point to this is seen at the very first hole, a sharp uphill par 5. Don’t let the yardage from the tips fool you, this hole will require attention with approach shots playing significantly uphill. And the slope and subtlety of the green doesn’t give players making a successful approach space to exhale. Greens run true, consistent and quick. Factor in slope on the greens and hitting the right part of the green is as important as hitting the green itself. This is not to imply gimmicky or unfair, this is not the case. But putting on greens will require a little more attention than your local muni; they were some of the quickest I had experienced in some time.
The opening hole is part of a stout opening three holes. The par 3 second hole is downhill and not overly long, but seemingly any miss will make for a challenging up and down. Then the par 4 3rd hole, the number one handicap hole on the course is almost 440 yards and demands accuracy off the tee. Many of the holes are framed exceptionally well off the tee by trees on either side. Add to the overall tranquility of the course and players will feel they have the course to themselves on the busiest of days. A par 35 opening nine only measures over 3200 yards off the tee. Good ball striking is rewarded but subtle elevation change and gusting winds on the day I played made club selection challenging.
The course shows great diversity in design with the terrain well utilized to create strong vistas off the tee on many holes. I was pleased there was so few blind shots throughout the course. Park was intelligent in drawing on the natural terrain. The back nine was my favourite of the two nines, but the dramatic effect of the course really took effect on hole 9, a significant downhill par 4 which is only 353 yards. And while the tee shot is fun and relatively easy, the approach shot is well guarded with a pond front left and very little space behind the hole. Accuracy is at a premium here. Tee decks help, as they are extremely well maintained.
A halfway house which may be one of the best in golf at a quiet bend in the river awaits players to refresh, regroup and prepare for the challenge and enjoyment of the back nine. A unique feature I have never seen is an elevator tram which will take players up from the 10th green to the 11th tee. My legs appreciated the rest and the view from the top, especially from the back of the 11th tee deck is spectacular over the Glenmore Dam and Reservoir and the river valley below.
The back nine is unique in that is closes with par 5-5-4-3-4-3 and 4. The par 5’s are stout with fairway bunkering that demands length and accuracy. Greens are well protected, making par a good score. To me, the closing four holes cap off the beauty and challenge of this course. Par 3’s at Calgary are some of the most beautiful and difficult I have faced on a course anywhere in the country. The 18th, like the 9th, is a significant downhill par 4. But much longer and players can determine how aggressive a line they want to take. For visitors it is a time to take a picture and reflect on a wonderful golfing experience. If you’re in competition, it is time to breathe and focus on a landing spot.
I spent my time at Calgary GCC captivated by Park’s masterful design, challenged by the layout (and also not having my A game with me) but appreciative of the invitation and the opportunity to experience one of the country’s truly iconic, unique and beautiful courses. Pristine in conditioning, and with staff who are friendly and helpful, the experience at Calgary GCC is one which will remain a highlight golfing experience in 2016.
Aura – 9 out of 10 – Chances to play private courses, and a top course in Canada at that, provides a level of anticipation and excitement I don’t experience with regularity.
Value (cost / experience) – As a private course it is not possible to provide a rank here. As is the case with many great private courses, value is a wonderful combination of access, belonging and enjoyment. I suspect my friend who I was able to tee it up with would place value extremely high on all accounts listed, and rightfully so.
Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – As to be expected, the conditioning was flawless. But this represents a commitment from the superintendent all the way down to each member who respect and care for the course. – 9 out of 10
Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – Return? In a heartbeat. It’s a course which is worthy of its stature and ranking across Canada. One thing I really appreciated was how as a guest I was made to feel so welcome. The assistant pro, staff, and my friend and his family treated me like I had been a member for many years. You can chalk it up to western hospitality but I think there is a pedigree of quality at CGCC which starts with the people. – 9.5 out of 10
Highlight (what is great about the course) – There any many holes which are truly unique. Park was intelligent in his design of this course. The course built up in both beauty and challenge and culminated with a fantastic back nine with a closing stretch of holes which players can play over and over again and never tire of.