British Columbia: A Golf Architect's Dream
Sue Kernaghan (BC Tourism)
If awe-inspiring golf courses require prime raw material, then it's little wonder why the world's top designers are drawn to British Columbia.
The topography here -- from mountain ranges to ocean, with meadows, rainforest, canyons, deserts and even vineyards in between -- offers a dream palette for a course architect. Indeed, the views, elevation changes and sheer drama of B.C.'s landscapes make Canada's westernmost province a playground, not just for golfers, but for the people behind them, too.
Top names in the game have made their mark on BC's golf scene. Here's a look at some favourites:
Les Furber, a Canmore, Alberta-based course architect, is arguably the biggest name in B.C. golf. Over the past 33 years, he and his design team have created 29 new courses across the province and renovated countless others.
A big draw, says Furber, is the sheer variety of environments here: "We've worked on mountain golf courses, high desert in the Okanagan, delta courses on the west coast and much more."
And, though he won't pick a favourite, Furber reveals a fondness for links. "I am partial to the kind of courses Mother Nature built in the old country. Predator Ridge in Vernon, for example, is a links-style course; it's more out in the open and looks a lot like Scotland."
Another Furber trademark is playability: "We don't do random bunkering just because it looks good. We limit bunkering so the course is playable for everyone," he says.
Key too, he adds, is environmental stewardship. "We are entrusted with the land and we need to be sensitive to it, ideally with designs that fit the landscape rather than the other way around."
"The best example of moving the minimum dirt is the Salmon Arm Golf Club. It's a treed site and the contours of the course just fit on the land perfectly. It's one of BC's top golf courses because of playability and eye appeal, but it was created on the rolling contours that were already there," recalls Furber.
It could take years to play every Les Furber layout in B.C., but some top choices include a string of mountain courses in the Kootenay Rockies, along a stretch that is affectionately dubbed the "Furber Trail." Here, Furber fans can tee off beneath Rocky Mountain views at Cranbrook's St. Eugene Golf Course, play across a mountain stream at Kimberley's Trickle Creek Golf Resort or follow a meandering river at nearby Bootleg Gap Golf Course.
A brace of Furber courses in the Thompson Okanagan region, including Fairview Mountain Golf Club, Hyde Mountain on Mara Lake Golf Course, the Okanagan Golf Club's Quail Course and the aforementioned Predator Ridge (Predator Course) and Salmon Arm courses, make the most of the valley's canyons, vineyards and sweeping lake views.
On the coast, golfers can enjoy the classic Furber mix of playability and challenge year-round at Northlands Golf Course, Mayfair Lakes Golf & Country Club and Riverway Golf Course near Vancouver, and at a host of Vancouver Island courses, including the lush, park-like Morningstar Golf Club, the seaside, Audubon-certified Fairwinds Golf Club and the wildlife-rich Storey Creek Golf Club.
Arnold Palmer, a seven-time major tournament champion during the 1950s and 60s, was the first modern-day golfer to be both a tournament player and course architect; since 1972 his firm, The Arnold Palmer Design Company, has created about 300 courses worldwide.
Whistler Golf Club, one of four championship courses at the four-season resort just north of Vancouver, was Palmer's first Canadian project. The setting must have been irresistible: forests of fir and cedar, mountain brooks and lakes, all framed by snow peaks in every direction. Palmer's team added manicured greens and white sand bunkers; the occasional wandering bear or overhead eagle just comes with the territory.
Palmer fans can also play a round, or two, at the 36-hole Northview Golf & Country Club in Surrey, just southeast of Vancouver. The 18-hole, 7,100 yard Canal Course has the wide fairways and undulating greens of a traditional links course, while the neighbouring Ridge Course offers PGA Tour level challenge with its water features and elevation changes.
Jack Nicklaus, nicknamed the Golden Bear, is one of the most accomplished golfers of his generation. As a designer, he's been inspired time and again by B.C.'s varied landscapes.
Nicklaus North, one of the few courses in the world to bear the Nicklaus name, opened in 1996 on the shores of Whistler's Green Lake. Making full use of the resort's snow-capped backdrop, this playable layout meanders along a valley floor with mountain views from every green.
From Whistler, Nicklaus headed for the Okanagan, where he orchestrated his design team to create Okanagan Golf Club's Bear Course. The result? A true must-play setting, blessed with dramatic, sculpted fairways.
From there, it was onto to Vancouver Island where, with his son Steve, he co-designed the Mountain Course at Victoria's Bear Mountain Resort. Here, the Nicklaus team used a rock outcropping with sweeping city, ocean and mountain views to create an extra 19th challenge hole; the rest of the layout keeps pace with island greens, steep elevation shifts and long city and ocean views. And that's not all: Nicklaus Design would add another 18 -- the Valley Course -- in 2009, making Bear Mountain Resort the only 36-hole offering of Nicklaus Design in Canada.
Canadian golf course architect Thomas McBroom has been creating memorable layouts worldwide for decades. Known for his innovative use of challenging terrain, McBroom has worked in some of B.C.'s most dramatic locales.
Tobiano Golf Course in Kamloops, for example, was forged in 2007 from a historic lakeside ranch. With views of Kamloops Lake from every hole, the layout flows through desert landscapes along the front nine and ravine-cut rangeland along the back; some greens, dubbed infinity greens, appear to float against the lake below.
McBroom also applied his signature style to Tower Ranch Golf & Country Club, a mountainside course overlooking Kelowna in B.C.'s Thompson Okanagan region. Tower Ranch proves a memorable test of skill; it's playable but challenging, with dramatic views of the city of Kelowna and Okanagan Lake. In the Lower Mainland, McBroom designs include Vancouver's park-like Fraserview and Langara courses, as well as Morgan Creek in Surrey, southeast of Vancouver. All three offer year-round play in lush green settings.
Wherever you swing a club in B.C. -- whether you're lining up a putt on an island green or hitting a nine-iron across a mountainside -- you'll know that a few of the world's top designers have done some of their best work right here.
Learn more about golf in B.C. at www.HelloBC.com/golf. For more on British Columbia's destinations and travel information, visit www.HelloBC.com.
Predator Ridge: www.predatorridge.com
Salmon Arm Golf Club: www.salmonarmgolf.com
St. Eugene Golf Course: www.steugene.ca
Trickle Creek Golf Resort: www.tricklecreek.com
Bootleg Gap Golf Course: www.bootleggapgolf.com
Fairview Mountain Golf Club: www.fairviewmountain.com
Hyde Mountain on Mara Lake Golf Course: www.hydemountain.com
The Quail Course at Okanagan Golf Club: www.golfbc.com/courses/quail
Northlands Golf Course: www.golfnorthlands.com
Mayfair Lakes Golf & Country Club: www.golfbc.com/courses/mayfair_lakes
Riverway Golf Course: www.golfburnaby.net
Morningstar Golf Club: www.morningstargolf.com
Fairwinds Golf Club: www.fairwinds.ca/golfing/index.htm
Storey Creek Golf Club: www.storeycreek.bc.ca
Whistler Golf Club: www.whistler.com/golf/whistler_golf_club/
Northview Golf & Country Club: www.northviewgolf.com
Nicklaus North Golf Course: www.golfbc.com/courses/nicklaus_north
The Bear Course at Okanagan Golf Club: www.golfbc.com/courses/bear
Bear Mountain Resort: www.bearmountain.ca
Tobiano Golf Course: www.tobiano.ca
Tower Ranch Golf & Country Club: www.golftowerranch.com
Fraserview Golf Course: www.vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/fraserview-golf-course.aspx
Langara Golf Course: www.vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/langara-golf-course.aspx
Morgan Creek: www.morgancreekgolf.com