Golfing in BC
Travellers to British Columbia, the Westernmost and most seasonable province of Canada, have always been struck by its natural beauty. The picturesque shorelines, the majestic mountain ranges and verdant valleys, the ancient forests, the diverse and abundant wildlife… the wonders of Northern landscapes are on full display in all their beauty. Now, visitors to this famous vacationers’ paradise can relish all this and more while enjoying their preferred pastime: golf is big in B.C., and the facilities rival those of any around the world.
With strong links to British culture and a favourable climate, it is no surprise that golf courses have sprung up around the province, and the diverse terrain offers players a range of settings in which to test their skills. Golf has been played in the province for a long time, with some clubs established for more than 100 years ago, such as the Victoria Golf Club, said to be the oldest one in Canada. Over the past few decades there has been tremendous growth in the industry, with more courses added throughout British Columbia. Helping this along has been the fact that the mild weather on Vancouver Island and around Vancouver (and the Lower Mainland) allows for year-round play, and elsewhere in throughout the region the season elsewhere is usually from March through until the end of October and sometimes into November.
The varied types of geography and topography – from alpine forests, rain forests, scenic lake country, and lush orchards to true deserts, rolling grasslands, and rocky badlands – make for a plethora of options and design innovations available to course architects. This has been a magnet for world-class course builders, and B.C.’s golf reputation is growing fast: experts like Jack Nicklaus, Fred Couples, and Les Furber have left their marks on courses across the province.
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Vancouver Island & the Gulf Islands
A lush and well-forested island, with mild temperatures throughout the year, the main island – and the surrounding Gulf Islands – are a cherished habitat for wildlife and humans alike. Many areas of the island remain natural and unspoilt, allowing visitors to explore a wonderful area in a fresh way.
All these factors, and the island’s vast capability for hosting tens of thousands of guests each year, have combined to create a haven for golfers. Courses have sprung up across it, with quality and comfort firmly in mind, and visitors are often enchanted by the friendly, warm reception they encounter at golf facilities of the highest calibre. The ease of travel around the Island also allows golfers an array of choices within reach of their accommodations, with several world-class facilities in relatively close proximity.
Vancouver Island’s blooming flora and hilly topography are a wonderful mix, letting course designers use a great amount of natural elements to shape the courses. Raised tee boxes are frequent, as are descending fairways. Seaside links offer the added challenge of adjusting for wind. The lush nature of the Island climate also ensures the preponderance of bent-grass greens, with fresh rainforest surroundings sheltering the fairways.
Vancouver & the Lower Mainland
Feted as a cultural Mecca and artistic hub, Vancouver is a dynamic city bursting with life and endless recreational opportunities. At 600,000 residents and growing (over 2 million in the greater metropolitan area), it has all of the attractions and services of a major urban centre, including a busy international airport.
Vancouver and many of its surrounding communities enjoy a relatively high standard of living, and this has translated into a spate of golfing sites stepping up to answer demand – there are half a dozen courses within an hour of the city centre, and several practice facilities as well. Moving outside of Vancouver proper, the traveler can choose from over 50 nearby public and semi-private courses, all displaying the amply green cover associated with the West Coast.
The Lower Mainland is a florid region cradled by low mountains, and this has translated into attractive course design incorporating intact natural formations – large stands of intact (and often ancient) evergreens and deciduous trees are a hallmark of golfing near Vancouver, providing difficult doglegs. Challenging crowned greens are also common in the area.
Sea to Sky Country
Originating along the beautiful coastlines of B.C., the Sea-to-Sky corridor climbs steadily through some of the most picturesque terrain on the planet, up into the mountains of the interior. As diverse as it is awe-inspiring, the route from the coast up to Lillooet skirts numerous beautiful provincial parks, and stops in some of the province’s most popular holiday sites, including Whistler and Pemberton.
With varying landscapes along the Sea-to-Sky route, leading designers have jumped at the chance to create unique courses with panoramic vistas, diverse topography, and mixed physical features. Most golf sites include stunning perspectives of the surroundings – out onto the vast ocean, into the sheltered bays, across the endless forests, up to the towering peaks – and players are often treated to shows of spectacular wildlife.
Golfing in the Sea-to-Sky can involve a test of accuracy: raised tee-boxes, funnelling fairways, and punchbowl greens combine to create an excellent match for the long-game expert. Driving from highly-elevated tees places a heavy importance on wind adjustment and ball placement. The location of many courses along the coast provides an added danger of lateral water hazards; as well, waterways running across the hole layout further inland make for natural but daunting challenges.
Famous for its prodigious fruit production and wineries, the Okanagan region is also a favourite summer playground. The industries welcoming gourmands, oenophiles, and outdoor activity enthusiasts have created a vast infrastructure for entertaining and pampering visitors from around the globe.
The Okanagan enjoys some of Canada’s most favourable weather, with hot, dry summers around the numerous lakes combining to make a sportsman’s heaven. Days of water sports, hiking, nature tours, fishing, mountain biking, and more are wonderfully capped off with delectable West Coast cuisine at fine eateries across the region.
These attractions have been complemented by a flourish of golf course construction and expansion. Once again, many courses are situated within a relatively small geographical area, creating an excellent destination for the golf vacationer with a taste for new challenges every day. The rolling hills of the area are perfect for creating natural barriers and hazards, as well as laying a foundation for gently undulating fairways and sloping short-game areas. Parkland courses and bent-grass are the norm, with playability and comfort foremost in design, although the natural ease of the terrain is often offset by barrancas and very tricky greens, even a few island greens in the lake country. Home to some of Canada’s only true deserts, sand bunkers are seamlessly worked into the design, and the nearby lakes make water hazards easy to incorporate. Orchards also make for ideal course surroundings, and some courses even offer "pick-and-play" packages.
Kootenays & BC Rockies
North America’s most impressive land formation provides an outstanding backdrop for truly unique golf experiences, and the region has responded by developing a number of respected courses. Soaring eagles, black-tailed deer, moose, bears, elk, and much more are residents in the stunning mountain habitats of B.C.’s Eastern mountain ranges, and awe-inspiring (but safe) encounters with these impressive denizen can be part of the golf experience.
Thickly-treed and watered by glacier-fed crystal streams, the peaks of the Rockies are a must-see for any visitor and a must-play for any golfer – unique designs and challenges arise from playing in such wild environs. Dramatic changes in elevation, as well as valley-guided fairways, create the illusion of golfing in a truly untouched hinterland. Many courses feature split fairways, where the strategy for approaches must be thoughtful and intricate. The narrow corridors carved through handsome alpine forests make for tough doglegs, and the rocky outcroppings create near-invisible pin placements such that golfers need to rely on intuition and ingenuity to conquer these picturesque courses. The dastardly roughs and hazards of the mountain play call upon the strongest ball placement skills of any golfer, and each course is a new challenge with every round due to its intricacy and complex design.
The mountains of B.C. are replete with outdoor activities throughout the year, and family-friendly fun can be had at the drop of a hat. The region is well-known for its many getaway resorts, complete with natural hot springs and fine-dining, enticing visitors with relaxation as much in mind as golf.
Sunshine Coast, Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Region, Northern BC & Haida Gwaii
British Columbia is an expansive territory, with as many distinct regions as there are different natural settings, and golf can be found in just about every corner of the province. Travelers can embrace this diversity by finding their golf getaway in out-of-the-way towns and villages, with the added bonus of experiencing a unique and historical way of life.
The aptly named Sunshine Coast draws many golfers every year in search of the epitome of seasonable B.C. climate in which to hone their skills. The Cariboo Chilcotin Coast region also has several courses which display the best assets of the landscape, from coastal areas to lake country to rolling hills. Northern B.C. offers golfers a true wilderness experience to go along with their sports vacation, and players can swing in stunning scenery, places within reach of mountain glaciers and the Alaska Highway. Even the enigmatic, spiritual, and remote Haida Gwaii (formerly Queen Charlotte Islands) region plays host to two courses.
Whatever the location, British Columbia has established itself as one of the premiere golf destination in the world. Visitors can count on an unforgettable trip into unrivalled landscapes, encounters with masterfully-designed courses in idyllic settings, and the famous hospitality and warm countenance of Canadians. The best parts of nature, and human nature, are ready to be discovered, in British Columbia.
Articles of interest:
- Tee Off at Golf Courses in British Columbia: Golf Clubs, Resorts and Top-notch Amenities
- BC's Great Okanagan: Wine, golf, and sunsets - the ultimate getaway
- Glorious Golfing in British Columbia: Canada's most beautiful province is home to some of the best golf courses in the world
By Ben Vorst
Photo credits: Golfing with views of the ocean and mountains at Victoria Golf Club in Victoria courtesy Tourism British Columbia; Westwood Plateau Golf & Country Club in Coquitlam courtesy Tourism Vancouver/Westwood Plateau; Furry Creek Golf & Country Club on Howe Sound courtesy Tourism BC/Cathy Lukovich; Two men putting on the green at Sunset Ranch Golf Club courtesy TOTA/Don Weixl; Golfing at Trickle Creek Golf Resort in Kimberley in the Kootenay Rockies region courtesy Tourism BC/Wally Randall
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