I am not the first to pen that Victoria Golf Club is reminiscent of Pebble Beach. But perhaps it should be the other way around. Victoria Golf Club opened in 1893, making it one of the oldest golf clubs in the country; the oldest in British Columbia. This venerable course set on under 100 acres of property in Oak Bay, one of the southernmost pieces of property on Vancouver Island. This course was home to Canadian Golf Hall of Fame architect A.V. Macan who worked and played here, making significant architectural contributions to the course to which are still attributed today. I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to play this course on a cool (but dry) February morning this winter. The experience was one I will cherish; this historic course is most worthy of its high rankings within Canada.
First, and most notably is the property. Playing only over 6150 yards from the Gold tees, the course is modest and intelligent in its use of land and plays well to the asset of its oceanside location. And at the pinnacle of this fabulous location is ‘The Point’, part of the course set off Beach Drive alongside the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Here, on a clear day you will get majestic views of the Olympic mountains, notably Mount Baker, in Washington state. The Point hosts holes 7 to 10 before crossing back over to the remaining 8 holes. Yet there are spectacular views throughout the course, not just on The Point.
Notable Canadian architect Jeff Mingay has been retained to do some restoration work with a focus on the bunkers. He’s also supporting some green restoration and tree removal. His objective, as stated in a SCOREGolf interview, is just “polishing the gem”. Bringing back the classic, natural look of the course to what Mingay sees as its peak in the early 1950’s under Macan is his goal and from my perspective and that of members I had the pleasure of playing with, he’s doing spectacular work.
The course is no pushover, despite the length. Wind and large green complexes (which run quick in the summer) are the courses greatest defenses. I three-putted five times and felt fortunate at that so I can attest to the challenges these would provide in any true competitive play. The opening par 5 provides a fantastic view to the mountains in the distance but the tee shot will command your attention with trees lining right and bunkers left. But it was the third hole, called the Road Hole, which will truly grab your attention. Beach Drive runs left and the hole allows for a bail out right with the adjoined fourth fairway. A narrowing and uphill approach makes club selection challenging and a multi-tiered green makes par a fabulous score. Holes 7-10 is where Victoria Golf Club shows off its real natural beauty. The oceanside holes go 4-3-3-4 on the card. The par 3’s are not long but may be the most challenging of the four. Land’s End, the 8th, is only 116 yards from the Gold Tees but factor in wind and a slight plateau to the green and club selection is a challenge on a good day. Add the natural and rugged bunkering and misses make scrambling for par a scramble for certain. It was breathtaking and would present a unique challenge every single day.
The closing nine is no slouch, with precision being the key. Back to back par 3’s – the 13th and 14th – demand players to hit the green as there’s no easy miss to assure an up and down par. A good drive on 17, a par 5, will reward players with a birdie chance. And good thing, since the 18th is a sharp uphill, aptly named Plateau, where par is a good score.
The clubhouse, built in 1928, is steeped in history and provides players a chance to enjoy excellent food and a cold beverage and many places to comfortably look over the scorecard and count shots they would love to have back!
The course enjoys an active membership who have a real appreciation and pride for this great course. I was fortunate to play within a weekly group of 20 members who tee it up each Monday morning. The consensus was that Victoria Golf Club is a community of golfers who respect their course, the game and appreciate that they have something truly special – quirky and glorious as one member called it. And as a guest, I can vouch for that.
Aura – 9.5 out of 10 – a national top 20 course and western Canada’s oldest, I mean what is not to be excited about?! It was a true privilege to tee it up at Victoria GC.
Course Condition – 8.5 out of 10 – It was the closest thing to an off season that Victoria experiences; bunker renovations are ongoing and the greens were not as fast as they are in peak season (though for me that was a blessing). But make no mistake, this course is fabulous and well maintained. Staff, like its members, take pride in this course.
Overall Experience – 9 out of 10 – This is a very special course. The history, which Victoria draws exceptionally well from on its website; the unique and sensational piece of property and the intelligent design using a fraction of what most modern courses use in terms of land; and masterful design features all add up to Victoria Golf Club being within a small list of elite courses in Canada.
Highlight – I arrived early and asked at the pro shop which holes I should have my camera ready for and the young man politely smiled and said it would be apparent once our group crossed the road where good places would be for photos. He clearly undersold here. This course is a golf photographers dream. And while the lighting wasn’t necessarily the best, the location and the natural features on the point more than made up for some cloud cover.
My Best Shot – I hit it well off the tee for most of the day but on 18 an overly aggressive drive skirted by a tree and left me a short iron in. The approach was all over the pin but came up 12 feet short. I eyed up the birdie opportunity (I was playing skins so the putt mattered). The putt was terrific, well-paced, but broke hard left at the end and just missed the left edge. A stress free par and fantastic memories from a great round of golf at Victoria.