by Sue Kernaghan
Putts or powder, links or spas, fairways or fly fishing? Perhaps all of the above?
A British Columbia golf vacation means top course designers, awe-inspiring scenery and challenging layouts. Even better: all that gorgeous topography makes for great post-round action. The typical 18th hole here lies within a nine iron of some of the country’s best adventure sports (think salmon fishing, mountain biking, even glacier skiing). Add to this plenty of high-end fun: wine tasting, hot springs hopping, spa touring and more all play well with golf in B.C.
Whistler: Swings, Skis, Spas and Single Track
Whistler: Is it a ski resort with great golf, or a golf resort with fabulous skiing?
Four championship courses draw the swing set to this all-season resort each summer. To start, there’s Nicklaus North, a lakeside stunner and the first in Canada to bear the Nicklaus name. Just steps from the village, the walkable, playable Whistler Golf Club, the country’s first Arnold Palmer-designed course, meanders around nine lakes and through forests of cedar and hemlock. And let’s not forget the 122-metre (400 feet) of elevation change at the eco-friendly Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club, etched into the slopes of Blackcomb Mountain.
At 7,001 yards, the Big Sky Golf and Country Club, 25 minutes north of Whistler, is the longest of the quartet. For a seemingly endless shot, Big Sky can fly you via helicopter to the top of 2,499-metre (8,200-foot) Mount Currie where you can knock drives to your heart’s content. Don’t worry. The balls are biodegradable.
Summer days at Whistler are long enough to get in two rounds of golf, mix it up with some hiking, fishing, zip lining, whitewater rafting or kayaking, or sample some of the resort’s famous dining, shopping, spas or nightlife. Snow peaks, pristine forests and glacial lakes are all part of the scenery, whether you’re riding the PEAK-2-PEAK Gondola or lining up a putt.
You could even try the Whistler trifecta. It starts with glacier skiing on Blackcomb Mountain, followed by some two-wheel action at Whistler’s Bike Park and finishing with a round of golf. Day two: perhaps a sports massage.
Whistler Air can fly you to Whistler from Vancouver in minutes, or you could drive and play golf en route at the challenging Furry Creek Golf & Country Club. Closer to Vancouver, top picks in the Lower Mainland include Westwood Plateau, Northview and Swan-e-set golf clubs.
Hook, Line and Sink that Putt: The Vancouver Island Golf Trail
Hike, surf, fish, ski, golf – Vancouver Island is one big outdoor adventure playground. Set your GPS for the Vancouver Island Golf Trail, a string of a dozen championship courses along the Island’s east coast.
Anchoring the southern tip of the trail, you’ll find the wide fairways and sweeping views of Highland Pacific Golf, and the tranquil, waterfall-dotted Olympic View Golf Club, both open year round on the outskirts of Victoria.
Just up the road is Bear Mountain Resort, home to a Nicklaus-designed 36-hole duo and host of the 2010 TELUS World Skins Game. The scenic, playable Valley Course offers plenty of challenge, but thrill-seekers may opt for the Mountain Course (think island greens, steep elevation shifts, and rock outcroppings). An extra 19th challenge hole is, literally, a cliff hanger.
For a touch more of adrenaline, add a zip line ride with Bear Mountain’s Zip It and Grip It package, or reel in some salmon – Golf Vancouver Island’s Fins and Skins packages can have you on the water in the morning and out on the links the same afternoon.
Many Vancouver Island golf courses are open year round, so you can, for example, mix a round at Crown Isle Resort in Comox with a day on the slopes at Mount Washington Alpine Resort.
Ginseng, Gullies and Greens in BC’s Newest Golf Destination
Bluffs, hoodoos, gullies, sagebrush and sunshine – the landscape around Kamloops, in the Thompson Okanagan region, is prime golf country.
Tobiano Golf, a Thomas McBroom-designed course set on a bluff above Kamloops Lake, is among a dozen new courses opened in B.C. in recent years. It’s also one of the most talked about. Tobiano’s lakeside layout wows with views from every green and challenge for every skill level.
Nearby are Canoe Creek, with its British-style grassy bunkers, open fields and sandy links, and Talking Rock Golf Course, where you can enjoy wide fairways and lake views, along with traditional First Nations art, cuisine and cultural activities.
Kamloops is also prime outdoor adventure country. Local outfitter Desert North Adventures can add fly-fishing or even dirt biking to your golf package. Just north of town, Sun Peaks Resort tempts with mountain biking, canoeing, horseback riding, hiking, kayaking and, yes, even golf. The resort’s course is B.C.’s highest at 1,200-metre (3,937 feet) above sea level.
Putts meet Pinot in the Okanagan Valley
Which wine best follows a round of golf? Find out in B.C.’s Okanagan Valley, where over 30 golf courses share the lakeshore with more than 130 wineries.
Start at Vernon’s Predator Ridge Resort, where the new Ridge Course, the area’s latest must-play, impresses with stunning lake views and steep elevation changes. Try some wine such as a Pinot Gris at the nearby Gray Monk Estate Winery.
Next stop: Kelowna, for a chance to play the signature island green at Black Mountain or pick fruit between shots at the Harvest Golf Club – the fairways at this bucolic course meander through orchards and vineyards. Post round, try the organic Sparkling Wine at Summerhill Pyramid Winery, or sip Chardonnay under the bell tower at Mission Hill Family Estate.
Finish the tour with desert scenery at Fairview Mountain Golf Club or the Osoyoos Golf & Country Club, then head for the South Okanagan’s Golden Mile, where more than a dozen wineries await along a winding stretch of country road.
More Okanagan must-plays include The Club at Tower Ranch, the Kelowna Golf & Country Club, Gallagher’s Canyon Golf & Country Club and the two courses, The Bear and The Quail, at the Okanagan Golf Club, all clustered around Kelowna.
Swings and Springs in the Kootenay Rockies
B.C.’s Kootenay Rockies region boasts alpine golf at its best, where shots line up beneath snow peaks, deer wander across the greens, and water hazards include glacial brooks. These hills are also alive with natural hot springs, tempting tired muscles after a day on the links.
Start by being among the first to play the new Wildstone Golf Course, open this summer in Cranbrook, near the Canadian Rockies International Airport. Canada’s first Black Knight Course by Gary Player Design, this 7,100-yard layout promises wide fairways, alpine views and 18 adrenaline-inducing holes.
Thirty minutes north (follow the signs for the Hot Springs Circle Route) is the Bavarian-themed town of Kimberley, where the creek-laced Les Furber-designed Trickle Creek Golf Resort graces the slopes of North Star Mountain. Post-round, head for Lussier Hot Springs or remote Buhl Creek for a rustic soak.
Next stop: Invermere, the epicenter of B.C.’s swinging and soaking options. Tee off at Eagle Ranch Golf Resort, a 6,646-yard scenic wonder set on a bluff overlooking Lake Windermere, or detour to the peak-framed Greywolf Golf Course at Panorama Mountain Village.
Either way, you’ll be within a wood shot of a rejuvenating soak. Pick from the historic, multi-pool Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, complete with a spa and three more golf courses. Or settle in at Radium Hot Springs, where the luxurious mineral-rich springs-fed pool sits beneath sheer canyon walls. Finish your final drive through one of Radium Resort’s two mountain courses.