My feet are firmly planted on the tee box and I look down at a little white sphere sitting delicately on its wooden perch near my toes. Lightly gripping the driver, my arms and the club are one. I lift it, sweep down and hear the ping of metal on Titleist. The fast whir of the ball assaults my ears for a split second and I look up, take a deep breath of air laced with the scent of freshly cut grass and sigh… with relief. I’m on the fairway.
There’s nothing like a good shot. It’s what makes the game of golf so addictive. All through around those few seconds will burn brightly in my memory, teasing me onward as I dig my way out of a bunker, or watch my ball splash merrily into the middle of a water hazard.
But, what really draws me back time and again is the commune with nature. There’s something uplifting yet humbling about having a snow capped mountain, or a pounding ocean, or stand of 100-year-old oak trees bear witness to my puny swings. No matter where I play, Canada’s majestic sentinels put the game into perspective.
Here are six of the country’s finest golf destinations, all which showcase nature at her awe-inspiring best.
CHATEAU WHISTLER GOLF CLUB, Whistler, B.C.
From above it looks like a winding green serpent curled around the base of Blackcomb Mountain. Get up closer and you’ll notice granite rock outcroppings, rushing streams and the occasional black bear foraging in the forests of Douglas firs.
Built in 1993, the 6,635-yard, Audubon-certified course is a par 72 and has a slope of 142 with a 400-foot climb in elevation from the clubhouse. Don’t worry about having to fight your way up the mountain, though. After the third hole it is almost all downhill.
TIPS: Despite the rugged terrain, it has generous fairways and is playable for all ability levels. Just make sure you pick the appropriate tee.
TOUGHEST HOLE: No. 3, a par 4 that’s 399 yards from the back tee and doglegs left. What makes it distracting to play is the noise. There are thundering glacial rapids nearby that funnel into a stream on the left edge of the hole.
BEAUTY SPOT: No. 4. The view from the tee includes the village, the majestic Chateau Whistler and the white-capped Tantalus mountain range.
ACCOMODATION: Fairmont Chateau Whistler Resort.
FAIRMONT BANFF SPRINGS GOLF COURSE, Banff National Park, Alberta
Almost a mile high in the Canadian Rockies, this 90-year-old, 7,083-yard par 72 Stanley Thompson-designed championship course received the 2019 Golf Digest Editors’ Choice Award, Best Golf Resort Canada. Full of risks and hazards, it puts a premium on hitting precise shots.
TIPS: At this elevation, the air is thinner and the ball flies further than at sea level. Use 10 per cent less power on short strokes and on long distances, chose a club one or two less in length than you would normally. To improve the accuracy of your shot, use the mountains to help line up. When you tee off, pick a spot on the peak, get comfortable lining up to that spot and use it as your visual target.
TOUGHEST HOLE: No. 14, a 465-yard par 4, has lots of distractions including the castle-like Banff Springs Hotel looming ahead, 25 sand traps and a constant headwind.
BEAUTY SPOT: No. 4 will take your breath away. It’s a par 3, 192-yard hole with the towering face of Mt. Rundle above and an icy blue glacial lake below.
ACCOMODATION: Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.
TABOO COURSE, TABOO MUSKOKA RESORT & GOLF, Gravenhurst, Ontario
This facility is set in the heart of Muskoka, Ontario’s prime cottage country, and is open to Taboo Muskoka Resort & Golf guests and the public. Built on 300 acres, the 7,174-yard, par 71 championship design by Ron Garl is filled with craggy granite outcroppings, numerous water hazards, fringes of fescue and dense divides of oak and pine. Don’t be surprised if you see a deer or two during your game.
TIPS TO PLAY: Don’t stray off the fairway. You’ll go straight into the trees and fescue or bounce off the granite.TOUGHEST HOLE: No. 9. This is a long shot uphill off the tee, into prevailing winds. Watch out for the cavernous pot bunker on the left of the green.
BEAUTY SPOT: No. 7 is a steep par 3, 218-yard hole framed with massive walls of mossy granite. It’s a showcase for Mother Nature.
ACCOMMODATION: Taboo Muskoka Resort & Golf.
LE DIABLE, Tremblant, Quebec
Named after the nearby river Le Diable (The Devil), this 7,056-yard course is carved from a forest of red pine and features nasty gravel waste bunkers that run from tee to green on seven holes. Thankfully, the par 72 course design by Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry is quite straight. There are no blind spots and the fairways are generous.
TIPS: Just hit the ball straight and pretend the waste bunkers don’t exist.
TOUGHEST HOLE: No. 7 is a 480-yard par four (from the black tee) with a dogleg to the left. The challenge lies in the fairway bunker on the right and the two sand traps in front of the green.
BEAUTY SPOT: No. 15, a 535-yard par 5 with a view of glittering royal blue Lake Ouimet surrounded by the Laurentian mountains.
ALGONQUIN GOLF COURSE, THE ALGONQUIN RESORT, St. Andrews-By-The-Sea, N.B.
Newly re-imagined and redesigned, the Algonquin Golf Course is a 7,135 yard (black tees), par 72 seaside jewel located on Passamaquoddy Bay, an hour’s drive from St. John, N.B. This 125-year-old course was recently renovated by the experts at Rod Whitman Golf Course Design. The front nine are in protective woods while the oceanfront, drop-dead beauty spots are on the back nine.
TIPS: The bent grass greens always creep toward the water. When you’re putting remember the break will be towards the water.
TOUGHEST HOLE: No. 7 has a mucky creek in front of the green. Don’t even think about blading it through, because you will get buried.
BEAUTY SPOT: It’s a tie between No. 12, a par 3 with a stunning downhill view of the bay and No. 13 where the whole waterfront of the town is laid out before you.
ACCOMODATION: The Algonquin Resort.
THE LINKS AT CROWBUSH COVE, Morell, P.E.I.
Seaside golf in the Scottish links tradition, Crowbush is a 6,903 yard, par 72 course with the most spectacular views on Prince Edward Island’s North Shore. While it has 107 bunkers and six water hazards, the biggest challenge at Crowbush is the breeze, which wreaks havoc with the ball.
TIPS: It’s a thinker’s golf course. Don’t let it intimidate you. The biggest mistake people make is to play shots that are beyond their ability. Instead of using a five iron and hitting it really hard to get over a water hazard, it’s better to use a five wood and hit it softly.
TOUGHEST HOLE: No. 5 five, a par five that is 603 yards from the black tee and demands a direct shot over a lake to get to the green.
BEAUTY SPOT: No. 16 has a golden, fescue fringed fairway leading to the beach and reddish-brown cliffs hovering in the distance. North Shore views from the clubhouse’s wrap-around deck are a close second.
ACCOMODATIONS: Overlooking the fifth fairway is Rodd Crowbush Golf and Beach Resort.
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