Places to Play in the Cool Canadian Rockies
In the summer of 2002, Dr. and Mrs. Dr. Putt escaped the muggy heat of the Southeast US to visit the Canadian Rockies. It was a welcome respite and most pleasant escape. During this three week sojourn, Dr. Putt found the time between hiking and whitewatering and gift shopping to play three rounds of golf at three of the finest Canadian Rockies courses, Banff Springs, Jasper Park, and Golden, BC, Golf Club.
All three share a number of common characteristics. Though called mountain courses, all three are located in valleys. (The picture below of Banff Springs Golf Club was taken from nearby Sulfer Mountain, which he and Mrs. Dr. Putt hiked up rather than take the gondola -- had to save $ for those green fees!)
Despite these differences, each had its own character. Banff Springs was the toughest course, in large part because of the decision to let the grass grow into meadow length in the rough and areas surrounding traps, even those next to the greens. Consequently, one would be penalized more by hitting the area between a greenside bumker and the green more than hitting into the bunker. Dr. Putt's playing partner, a club member, reported that this was a matter of some controversey among the membership. As seen below, the local elk seemed to hold a different opinion.
These valley courses are also subject to fast and severe mountain storms that come crashing through the valleys. A wind tunnel effect makes winds particularly harsh and unpredictable. Dr. Putt experienced winds that certainly gusted over 40 mph at some times in the round -- the ball was quivering on the greens. Rarely, if ever, has Dr. Putt had to hit so many knock down shots. Nevertheless, the round was most enjoyable despite the winds and periods of showers. The glacier fed Bow River came into play on several holes.
Banff was the most expensive course, setting Dr. Putt back about $175 Canadian (including cart and an extra charge to allow Mrs. Dr. Putt to ride while not playing -- pictures courtesy of Mrs. Dr. Putt). But favorable exchange rates reduced the price in US dollars by about a third. The photo below is typical of the views from the tees.
The signature hole at Banff is the 475 yard par 4 number 15 hole that tees off beside the famous hotel at an elevation of about 100 feet, the greatest elevation change on the course. Dr. Putt hit it 310 and was in the green 30 feet past the hole with a 6 iron. Elevation helped in two ways!
Take a look at Banff Springs at its home page, which includes rates and diagrams of each hole. However, the 15th hole on these diagrams is not show at the correct yardage. Another site, which also shows diagrams of each hole corrects this error. See Golf the Rockies -- Banff.
Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course is, if anything, even more beautiful than Banff. It is ranked as the 11th best course in Canada and the top resort course in one national ranking. Dr. Putt was fortunate enough to play with a young assistant pro there who was most helpful in providing local knowledge, including how to gently move the large elk that were grazing in one fairway. (He crossed two woods with headcovers high over his head and slowly moved toward them. The Elk apparently perceived the clubs as large antlers on a very tall elk, and they took the hint and moved away!) Dr. Putt stayed safely behind a golf cart, though he did manage to shoot the picture shown below. Incidentally, Dr. and Mrs. Dr. Putt walked this course. It was very walkable with no great elevation changes and relatively short distances between greens and tees. We were, however, in good hiking shape as we averaged 8-10 miles a day in trail hiking for the trip.
Jasper has several nice touches. The starter announced the players over a PA and went over features on the first tee, making one feel a bit special. One of the most interesting features of the course is that the mounds around many of the greens are built to reflect the mountains behind the greens. The cost for green fee alone was $125, which with exchange rate was reasonable for a top notch resort course.
Perhaps the most difficult hole is number 18, a 463 yard par 4, which despite a good drive, required a strong 3 wood to reach. One did not mind taking time to pose at the end of the approach shot, with the majestic view of mountains and green.
Take a look at Jasper Park at its home page, which includes rates and diagrams of each hole.
Golden Golf Course, located just outside of Golden, BC, was the real bargin. Fees, including cart and extra rider were under $75 Canadian. The views matched those on the other courses. The course played shorter than the 6,800 yards shown on the card, and while there was trouble a plenty for errant shots, there was more room for error than on the other courses. While it has more elevation change than the other tow courses, it was also easily walkable (though on this one Dr. and Mrs. Dr. Putt took a cart, as they took on the course in the evening following a day of whitewatering. One of the great things about playing so far north in the summer is that one has daylight till after 10 pm in the evenings!
The signature hole, according to the two members which whom Dr. Putt played, is number 11, shown below. It runs slightly downhill to the left of one of the many mountian streams that emptied into the Kicking Horse. This was one of several holes that ran beside such streams, most of which were fed by snow melt from nearby mountains. Perhaps the most difficult hole was number 10, a 430 yard par four that ran straight up a hill. It was reachable for Dr. Putt at this elevation, but barely. Happily, Dr. Putt had his strongest round on this last course at 74, leaving him with a cool high at the end of his Canadian Rockies adventure.
You can get more info on the Golden Golf Course by doing a search on google.com for "Golden BC Golf" and then clicking -- Dr. Putt found that the direct link would not work.
Dr. Putt hopes you will be able to visit these three wonderful courses when you are in the area -- lugging your clubs along is definitely worth the effort!