Golfapaloosa or Four Guys Play Five Courses In Three Days In Two Provinces
by Jim Claggett
It started on a very bright, warm Friday in July at the Coyote Creek course a bit west and south of Sundre, Alberta.
From the time we got our first glimpse of the course we could feel this was going to be special and we were not disappointed.
Some very generous fairways are enough to fool the golfer into thinking you can spray it all over the place but if you are out of position on the fairway your shot into a large green will be that much tougher.
Add to the fact the greens have some nice subtleties, you can walk away with a higher number than you first thought.
Another aspect of this gem that impressed me was how quickly four of us walked this course, just about four hours on the nose.
"It's not going to beat you up off the tee and that's the reason the pace of play is fine,” pointed out head professional Dean McBride.
The RV resort and the golf course mesh quite well and neither seems to intrude on the other.
There is a marketing plan to get the word out like most courses but once again the best way to promote is word of mouth and people are coming back time after time because of the experience.
"It's consistent year after year where it's in good shape and it is friendly," said McBride.
There is a plan for a third nine but what is currently in place will satisfy your appetite for golf.
By the way, speaking of appetite, the small kitchen turns out large quantities of great tasting food and don’t forget to feed the trout in the pond just off of the deck as they provide a great show at the end of the day.
"You should leave the golf course thinking that was enjoyable and I will be back,” says McBride.
Next up that day was a trip down to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Alberta’s provincially owned public layout we know as Kananaskis, home to the Mt. Lorette and Mt. Kidd courses designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr.
Urban legend has it that Lorrette has more water and Kidd more sand and Robinson says that is fairly accurate as Kidd does have more bunkers and Lorrette winds around the ponds and has a river running through it.
The government did not look for ways to cut corners and looked for ways to do it right, said General Manager Darren Robinson.
“Whether that was the building and design of the courses or who they acquired to design them, to the location that they put them in, to the facilities that they built.”
The scenery at this taxpayer-funded layout is always spectacular and not much has changed in that respect over the year.
Jones' philosophy was that a hole should be an easy bogey and a difficult par, with both Kidd and Lorette delivering.“One of the priorities we have is trying to preserve the design and the initial layout of the courses,” said Robinson.
Mission accomplished - and you should give either course or both a try at least once in your golf career.
First up on the schedule Saturday was the well-manicured Eagle Ranch Golf Resort and having played it about a dozen years ago I recall feeling a bit guilty about even taking a divot from the greener than green grass.
In some ways Eagle Ranch will give you a taste of golf in segments with your first six holes allowing for a range of tee shots that are not in the middle of the fairway.
You will then notice things getting a little tighter off the tee with some ravines to swallow up a poor shot but there is help for those forced carries.
"We do our best to have the golfers utilize the GPS and take the shortest route possible," said head professional Steve Haggard.
Apart from the superb par three 16th most of those carries are between 80 and 90 yards, added Haggard.
To wrap up your experience you have three holes which can really define Eagle Ranch with 16 through 18.
"Tapping in on the 18th green overlooking Lake Windermere and Columbia Valley Wetlands will leave an impression on everyone," Haggard said.
One aspect of the course I really enjoyed was the GPS in the carts proved useful because unlike so many other courses you could actually go on the fairway with your cart to use the technology.
"The course did start off as 'cart path only' to assist in growing conditions and help stop compaction. Now that the course has matured we started allowing carts on fairways in 2006," said Haggard.
Well played sir!
Later that day we made the trip down the road to Fairmont Mountainside, the older brother of the two courses (the other being Riverside) and were treated to an old style course with big mature trees along with a definite slant to things.
More specifically, pretty much every drive, layup or putt broke towards the valley and if it didn’t you must have hit it way off line.
“You are on the side of a mountain and you never really get a flat lie so it’s tough,” explained head pro Jeremy Johnson.
Mountainside was one of the first courses in the Columbia Valley and there are nine major courses marketing the golf trail together.
We all found the course to be very friendly and bad shots didn’t nail you to the wall with the smallish greens a challenge which is sort of the equalizer to a course which is not overly long.
“Short game and putting is definitely an important part of the game out here,” said Johnson.
All levels of golfer can be comfortable here as there are not many bunkers and even the forced carries over water can be handled by most players. If you are not warmed up by the time you hit the 4th hole, known as the FairMonster, you will be after tackling this lengthy par five.
As an added bonus you get a great view of the Columbia Valley as you climb the fairway to the green.
Good value for your dollar is one of the many things Mountainside delivers to the golfer.
After a night of rest the home stretch was upon us and we headed back to Alberta with a pit stop at one of my favourite courses.
The Golden Golf Club got off to a tough start at the beginning of the year but you would never know it as the grounds crew have done a superb job of bringing this track back to shape. What they have put in place at Golden seems to fit like a glove.
"What I like about this place is there are no tricks," said head professional Graeme Kreiner. “Even on a dogleg, you can kind of see where the dogleg goes. With every tee shot you pretty much see it land."
One of the highlights is hole #11. As you arrive at the hole just leave your clubs there and walk up the stairs to the tee box but resist the temptation to look to your left. When you get to the top, slowly take in the view and you will be impressed.
There is also a very distinct number seven at the peak of one of the many mountains which surround the course and you certainly do get a feeling of isolation.
If you do spray it into the trees you stand a good chance of finding it for a chip out unless you smashed it so deep even if it was wrapped in bacon Lassie couldn't track it down.
"The only people you really see are the group in front and the group behind and maybe the beverage cart,” said Kreiner.
Another feature of this course are the large greens of which the majority measure more than 40 yards deep so take a few swings on the driving range but spend more time on the putting green is my advice.
At the end of the day you can refuel with some wonderful food and a nice cold beverage served up by some very friendly staff members.
So five courses, 90 holes of golf, countless strokes, several lost balls and some missed sleep but all in all, a trip which I wholeheartedly recommend.
About the writer: Jim Claggett has been the Alberta editor for Inside Golf Magazine for the last 10 years. Jim has been involved with the media in Red Deer for more than 20 years working in both radio and television. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org