Turnberry Golf Club – Short, but Mighty Indeed

Turnberry – Short, but Mighty Indeed

http://www.turnberrygolf.ca/home.htm

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The superb conditioning and layout of Turnberry is showcased here.

I have borrowed Turnberry’s own description, “call it short, but mighty” as it is most apt.  This short course is located in Brampton, Ontario and is the sister course to Eagles Nest (my review of Eagles Nest is here) which is located further east in Maple (Vaughan).  Playing on what was the last nice late fall weekend this past November, I was able to enjoy a sunshine filled and relaxed round on what was one of the more challenging shorter courses I have ever experienced.  Challenging and fun.  There is nothing that is cookie cutter about this course and it is a course I hope to get back to and experience again.

If you have played Eagles Nest then you will understand the strong similarities in look, condition and challenge.  But perhaps most notable is the fact that Turnberry is a par 56.  Yes, there are 16 par 3’s and these are sandwiched around two par 4’s – the first hole and the 18th.  The par 4’s are not exactly short (443 yards and 392) so make sure you pack all 14 clubs.

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The 12th hole.  One of the easier on the back, it reflects the demands on players off the tee.

My first impression was that this course is extremely well maintained.  For late season the tee decks were in fantastic shape, albeit well used after an extended stretch of mild fall weather.  However, they were flat, tightly mown and framed each hole exceptionally well.  The greens were terrific, just as good as Eagles Nest and the best of any short course I have experienced.  Players and staff certainly care for the course as while the tee boxes reflected the normal wear of par 3 play, the greens had very few ball marks.  An elevated tee on both holes one and two help the player ease into the round with some confidence standing over the ball.

The first of the 16 consecutive par 3’s may be one of the toughest however.  A giant shared green (the second shares a green with hole 8) with several undulations means that simply hitting the green is not enough to secure par.  And with trouble short and right this hole will demand your attention.  But one could say that is one of the real strengths of Turnberry, this is no pushover of a short course.

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The 16th is my favourite of all the par 3’s on the course.  It looks like absolutely anything short will fall back into the pond.

The 4th hole is reminiscent of the ‘postage stamp’ green at Royal Troon.  The 7th is only 102 yards but the 11th is more than twice that long and is a somewhat blind tee shot, as the green is tucked behind a knoll.  The 13th sees a unique green feature, a Biarritz green.  The 16th is a gorgeous hole with a long sliver of a green situated just beyond a large pond.  The course offers an excellent hole by hole description on its website

Mounding, fescue, excellent bunkering and demanding greens will force players to bring strong ball striking and an excellent short game to score well here.

I loved the diversity of golf holes and the layout is exceptional.  Having played both Eagles Nest and Turnberry there is no denying they’re outstanding courses.  Eagles Nest is a worthy of its position on many top course ranking lists.  But I think Turnberry is worthy of its own due as an exceptional course in the GTA.  While it fills an important place as a shorter course it doesn’t do this as the price of quality, challenge and exceptional experience.

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Aura – 8.5 out of 10 – The relationship between Eagles Nest and Turnberry allows for some strong marketing efforts between the two.  Turnberry has made a strong name for itself and this course lived up to the hype.  The website is terrific and showcases the course very well.

Value (cost / experience) –7.5 out of 10.  Peak summer rates of $47 are not cheap but there are so many opportunities to explore value options.  In the shoulder seasons, if you’re a cold weather player they market all day play for $20 if the weather is under 6c (an excellent marketing move, in my opinion).  I play in that weather regularly.  Safe to say there are options to play this course at a strong value rate.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 8.5 out of 10.  I actually give Turnberry the nod here over its sister course.  The diversity of golf holes, exceptional condition and a terrific layout which has players feel they are part of a more expansive layout then it really is creates a sense of quality that you notice as soon as you arrive and appreciate walking up to the clubhouse from 18.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – It was my last round of 2016 and it felt great to end the season experiencing a course of this quality and uniqueness.  I loved it and look forward to coming back. – 9 out of 10

Highlight (what is great about the course) – The clubhouse is clean, spacious and inviting.  The view down over the course is inviting.  I loved the feeling I got on the first and second tee looking over the entire golf hole and feeling like the course belonged to me.

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – Perhaps a third par 4 somewhere in the middle of the round would break up the stretch of 16 par 3’s nicely, but really I am just splitting hairs.  I am not a fan of the Biarritz green design feature so if pressed to change anything that would be it.

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The demanding 15th hole, where the miss right is no easy up and down (as I can attest to).

Just So You Know – At the The Toronto Golf and Travel Show these courses offer excellent opening season specials, providing excellent value and access to two great courses.  If you’re attending the show in the future make a point of exploring their offers.

 

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

http://algonquinresort.com/golf/

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Stewart Creek – Mining for Birdies in Canmore

Course Reviews – Stewart Creek – Mining for Birdies in Canmore

http://www.stewartcreekgolf.com/

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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

 

 

Banff Springs – Breathtaking Golf in the Rockies

Banff Springs – Breathtaking Golf in the Rockies

http://www.fairmont.com/banff-springs/golf/

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Calgary Golf and Country Club – Unique in Design, Beauty and Challenge

Calgary Golf and Country Club – Unique in Design, Challenge and Beauty.

http://www.cgandcc.com/home.aspx

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Standing on the first tee looking up.  A great opening hole.

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.

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The beautiful and tight third hole reflects the challenge for golfers.

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.

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Par 3 8th hole.  Great diversity of par 3 length and design.

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.

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The 9th tee.

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.

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After a tough nine holes this was a true oasis.  A great halfway house right alongside the river.

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.

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Local knowledge extends beyond playing the course.  An incredibly scenic shot of me teeing off by my host and Calgary GCC member Josh Strukoff.

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.

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The view off the tee on 18.  Stunning…and a little intimidating.

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.

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The course provides some incredible scenery throughout the round.

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

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My first elevator ride on a golf course.  Clever and very practical.

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

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Golf Is Mental and 36aday – aka – Josh and Mike.  After the round we had a chance to visit that amazing patio and reflect on an amazing afternoon of golf.

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.

Salmon Arm Golf Club – A Shot Makers Paradise

Salmon Arm Golf Club – A Shot Makers Paradise

Course Reviews – Salmon Arm Golf Club – A Shot Makers Paradise

http://salmonarmgolf.ca/sagc

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A beautiful sunny day greeted me for my round at Salmon Arm Golf Club. 

 

Of my three-course B.C. adventure, this course is the one that piqued my interest the most.  And having played it now, it stands out as one of the more challenging, unique and enjoyable courses I have played in some time.  I don’t recall ever playing a course where I performed so poorly yet had so much fun.  Salmon Arm is a top Canadian Golf Magazine Top 100 course in Canada and rightfully so, it combines superb conditioning with stunning natural surroundings and a venerable, tree-lined course design which places an emphasis on accuracy over length.

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The drive off 14 before a sharp dog leg right.  A stunning and somewhat intimidating tee shot!

The course is located in the south-east portion of Salmon Arm, and for travelers it is easy to access off the Trans-Canada Highway.  It is a 27-hole facility with a 9-hole Heritage course east of the highway and the 18-hole Champions course.  It is easy to get to from town or from away with clear directions located on their excellent website.  With a peak greens fee of $85.00 there are many opportunities for excellent value throughout the year.

The first hole is set off the club house with a dramatic drop off before a strong dog leg left.  Conditions were immaculate and the staff advised me of groups playing ahead so as to manage expectations around pace of play which was appreciated, though I will say the few groups I encountered were gracious to let me play though being a single.  Offered a cart, I took it and appreciated it as it is a stout walk.  The terrain is very undulating and this makes for interesting and dramatic holes throughout.  The course is walkable but it would serve as a significant workout.  Having played 18 earlier that morning, I appreciated the chance for a more relaxed experience.

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Green complexes were in outstanding condition including immaculate bunkers.

The course opened in 1928 and Salmon Arm GC has a proud heritage.  History lovers will enjoy the website which provides details on the development of the course from its inception, along with pictures and images.  Les Furber redesigned the course and did a masterful job in allowing the terrain to dictate the layout.  The course does not loop out and in; it is a more a meandering design.  A halfway house (actually after the 8th hole) is extremely well stocked and has very courteous staff working there.

But the course, well, that is real star.  The greens rolled very fast but true and are some of the best I have experienced in some time.  Bunkering is strategic, not too penal and of a quality and consistency that other courses should strive to achieve.  The tee boxes (and I love the Salmon tee markers!) were well maintained.   But the minute you tee up your ball you need to be mindful of the challenges; the course is tree-lined and tight in most places.  Players will really need to think there way around and focus on getting in the fairways versus a more aggressive bombers approach to the game.   The course also uses water very effectively.  Ponds on 5 and 18 serve as strategic hazards but also frame golf holes exceptionally well.  The 4th hole is a challenging, tight par 5 but my favourite may be the 14th, another par 5.  With tees set back, the drive will demand your attention.  I imagined I was on the 18th at Augusta, needing to thread the needle to get the ball deep in play to manage the dog leg right.  I loved it.

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Some of the most cleverly designed tee markers I have ever seen

Fact is, Furber created amazing diversity and subtle design elements that create unique challenge.  The par 3 17th is a shorter par 3 but the green has a false crown as anything right and long propels balls off a slope to adjacent OB.  It is a course you could play over and over again and never get bored.  It will demand great shot making and reward those who do.

Add to the beauty of the course design the natural setting.  Mount Ida looms in the distance; you will play adjacent to the local airstrip which services smaller planes.  There is no development or housing to speak of around the course.  And with the tall boreal forests, it creates a sense you have the course to yourself.

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Great vistas resulting from the terrain of the region.  This is one of my favourite tee decks, the par 4 13th.

I really appreciate the layout, design and rich sense of history which exists at Salmon Arm.  If a top 100 course in the country can be underrated, Salmon Arm certainly is.

Aura – 7 out of 10 – Even for a top 100 course, Salmon Arm is somewhat understated.  Geography may play a role somewhat.  And while I respect its modesty, allow me to work to move this score up significantly.

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The guidebook speaks the truth.  The par 4 11th hole is indeed the toughest on the course.  Here’s the view on my approach to an elevated green.  Beautiful.

Value (cost / experience) – 8 out of 10 – The experience was unique, outstanding and to do it all over again, I’d gladly pay the peak fee.  But there are value options on their website.  Afternoon play is less, membership options provide exceptional value.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 8.5 out of 10 – This was a tough course for me, as a player who tends to hit it far and occasionally straight.  And while I didn’t play well, I really appreciated this classic layout with strong natural design elements.  The forests and terrain provide 18 truly unique golf holes.  But add to it greens which are some of the best I’ve played and a commitment to quality throughout the course.  And I suspect the more I would play here the more I would love it.

 

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Finding the fairway is a must.  The par 5 4th hole requires accuracy on your first and second shots.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – This course provided solitude and a golfing challenge which I have not experienced in some time.  And while relaxed, this is a golfer’s course.  The course, from tee to green, demanded my attention in strategy, shot making and scrambling.  But it was subtle; it did not beat me up.  More so, it served as a challenge and tested part of my game which I had not considered before.  Would I return?  You better believe I would.  – 8.5 out of 10

Highlight (what is great about the course) – 18 unique, beautiful and challenging golf holes.  But add to it the value, the staff that was friendly, professional and helpful for a traveler new to the course and area.  There is also the natural setting, vistas which overlook the hole but the surrounding area – all of which come together to create a great golfing experience.  The greatness of this course is really a tapestry of several factors which are unique and captivating.  After the round, enjoy the patio and make time to reflect back on strokes lost and memories made.

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The approach on 18 at SAGC.

 

 

Talking Rock – Add Talking Rock to Your Bucket List

Talking Rock – Add Talking Rock to Your Bucket List

Course Reviews – Talking Rock – Add Talking Rock to Your Bucket List

http://quaaoutlodge.com/content/talking-rock-golf-course

It was circumstance and good fortune that made me add Talking Rock to my early May itinerary in a quick two-day, one night trip to the Shuswap region of BC for some golf.  Sagebrush was not yet opened and I researched options in lieu of this.  Talking Rock was not on my Bucket List but I am going to add it, and you should too.

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Looking back from behind the 2nd green

The course is located outside of Chase, BC – between Kamloops and Salmon Arm.  The course is part of a resort and conference facility on Little Shuswap Indian Band territory on the north shore of Little Shuswap Lake.  Directions to the area are easy but follow signs as you get close.  The course is not visible from the access road and you will head to the resort and conference facility to check in.  Staff will direct you across the road to superb practice facilities and the first tee.

I really appreciated the relaxed layout which meanders throughout the area with stunning views of the mountains.  The course layout is a real strength, creating a sense of solitude throughout the course with few exceptions.  Despite a relaxed layout, it is the course design will demand your attention.  Off the tee, the course varies from demanding to quite generous.  Greens are guarded very well with bunkering, elevation change or, in some cases, ponds.  The tall pines frame holes exceptionally well and create beauty and clarity from tee to green.  The front nine opens strong; fact is, I love the opening six holes.  The par 3 6th is a beautiful par 3 which is guarded well with a bunker on the front and a subtle downhill slope on the front edge of the green.  The par 5 3rd hole is a sensational golf hole tee to green.  Heavily guarded with bunkers around the green, the risk-reward factor for big hitters is real.

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The par 3 6th hole was one of my favourites.

The course really shows its ‘wow factor’ from holes 14 to 18.  The 14th is an uphill par 4 with a slight left-to-right movement.  When you get to the tiered green your work is not done, but take time to look left of the green to get your first view of Little Shuswap Lake.  It shows the subtle climb players have made on the back nine.  The view culminates with a signature hole, the par 3 15th.  This downhill par 3 plays 1-2 clubs less than the yardage depending on wind.  And greenside bunkers are eager to capture errant shots.  I loved the dogleg par 5 16th which continues downward from the high point of the course on the 15th tee (get your cameras out for that look over the lake).  A risk-reward par 4 17th awaits before a straightaway par 4 closing hole which runs adjacent (and very close) to Little Shuswap Lake.  The subtle beauty of the opening 6 holes is replaced by a more awe-inspiring closing set of holes.

Amidst this natural beauty is a course of exceptional quality and conditioning.  Greens ran consistent throughout the course.  The slope changes will require attention on the greens but slope is fair and playable.  The bunkers are very good.

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12th hole off the tee

I finished my round and immediately regretted I could not tee it up again for another 18.  However, I did manage to stretch my stay with a seafood clubhouse at the resort for lunch.  The food, like the golf and the scenery, was spectacular.  Lastly, while piling on praise for this underrated gem, I have to acknowledge the professional and courteous staff who helped make my experience at Talking Rock memorable.

Aura – 6 out of 10 – I had not heard of this course, but locals certainly have.  I am going to do my best to ensure others outside of the area are not in the same boat as me.

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The first view of Little Shuswap Lake is off the left of the 14th green.

Value (cost / experience) – 8 out of 10.  A peak greens fee of $75 is exceptional.  Stay and play offers exist and while there is no mention of a replay rate, the course does offer graduated greens fees based on tee times throughout the afternoon.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 8 out of 10 – I loved this course.  The layout creates a sense of solitude I enjoy.  The conditions were very good and consistent throughout the course.  The members and staff take pride in the course and maintain it exceptionally well.  It is also a layout which players of all skill levels will appreciate.

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The stunning 15th is a clear choice for the signature hole at Talking Rock

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – This was a highly underrated play for me and I am surprised and disappointed this was not on my bucket list from the very beginning.  I felt fortunate to play here and, as I mentioned, really wish I could have played 36. – 8 out of 10

Highlight (what is great about the course) – This course starts strong and ends stronger.  It is a marriage of beauty, challenge and design which all golfers can appreciate.  The closing stretch of holes provides spectacular beauty and great challenge and opportunity for players.  It is the kind of course you could play 60 times in one season and never get bored.

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Looking back over the short par 4 17th.

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – It’s appropriate I cite a magic wand.  If you get a chance and get paired with a member named George be sure to take the time to explore his incredible magic tricks.  We played the last few holes together and while waiting briefly on the tee for a foursome in front of us he would take the time to show me some amazing card tricks.  The magic of Talking Rock extends beyond the layout and the great staff!

Just So You Know – The resort offers accommodation options and stay and play packages which are clearly presented on their website.   I regret not taking advantage of this and won’t make this rookie mistake next time!  Also, their golf shop is very well stocked.  Love their logo and it only made sense to get some Talking Rock gear.