Where’s the best place to play golf on the West Coast? We’ll give you hundreds of choices.
Golferswest.com continues its annual assessment of the Top Five courses to play within 12 West Coast states and British Columbia. Today, the 25-part series focuses on: British Columbia/Vancouver Island.
NO. 1 COURSE(S): BEAR MOUNTAIN – MOUNTAIN COURSE/VALLEY COURSE
DIRECTIONS FROM DOWNTOWN VICTORIA: Head north on the Trans-Canada Hwy, BC-1 and get off at exit 14. Keep left and follow signs to Langford/N.Highlands. Turn left on W. Coast Rd./Millstream Rd, BC-14E. Turn left onto Bear Mountain Pkwy and follow road up the hill. Drive time is about 1 ½ hours.
OPENED: 2003 (Mountain);2009 (Valley). (Architects: Jack and Steve Nicklaus)
GREEN FEES: Rates vary, check the web site: [email protected]
LAYOUT: (Mountain) Par 72, 7,203 yards (five tee positions); (Valley) Par 71, 6,807 yards. (five tee positions)
LOWDOWN: It’s hard to say which course is better. They are both unbelievable. The Mountain Course is in the foothills of Mount Finlayson and is more scenic, especially in the higher elevations. The Valley Course, which closes for the winter season, has more isolation as it meanders through the forest, along lakes, creeks and rivers. Both courses are connected to the luxury Westin Resort Hotel.
The Mountain Course was site of the Telus World Skins Game. It also has the unique ’19th Hole.’ This par-3 is near the 15th hole, a short extra hole on the walk between holes. Nicklaus thought it would be a nice betting hole for groups coming through.
SIGNATURE HOLE: (Mountain) No. 16, par-3, 189 yards. It’s a high elevation tee looking down to a green with woods and water on the left and a hill on the right. It’s a dramatic view and even more dramatic shot as it’s all carry (hopefully) to the green. (Valley) No. 14, par-3, 152 yards. From an elevated tee, you hit into narrow green cutout forest. If you are short, you’re bouncing right and into a low collection area. Too far and you might be in a trap. Beautiful scene.
NO. 2 COURSE: OLYMPIC VIEW
DIRECTIONS FROM DOWNTOWN VICTORIA: Follow Douglas St. north, which becomes Hwy 1. Take exit 14 toward Sooke. Go south on Veterans Memorial Pkwy to the T intersection. Turn right on Latoria Rd. and look for the entrance on your left.
OPENED: 1990 (Architect: Bill Robinson)
GREEN FEES: Rates vary, check the web site: golfbc.com/courses/olympic_view
LAYOUT: Par 72, 6,600 yards (four tee positions)
LOWDOWN: You can really get into the wilderness here, amid the forest with 12 bodies of water and more than the occasional deer trotting though.
Olympic View has been rated the 20th Best Golf Experience in Canada by Fairways and Greens Magazine. The back nine is particularly rustic and scenic.
SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 17, par-4, 417 yards. The second shot and/or your approach shot gets difficult because the fairway narrows about 120 yards from the green, with water on the left. But what makes this hole unique is the 40-foot waterfall off a granite facing behind the hole. You see it for the entire length of the hole.
NO. 3 COURSE: ARBUTUS RIDGE
LOCATION: Cobble Hill
DIRECTIONS FROM DOWNTOWN VICTORIA: Take the Trans-Canada Highway north toward Mill Bay. Once you go through Mill Bay look for Hutchinson Rd. Turn east and look for course signs.
OPENED: 1987 (Architect: Bill Robinson)
GREEN FEES: Rates vary, check the web site: golfbc.com/courses/arbutusridge
LAYOUT: Par 71, 6,193 yards (four tee positions)
LOWDOWN: The course, located in the island’s wine region, is scenic 20-minute drive from Victoria. It’s playable nearly all year round and features three of the most dramatic finishing holes on the island, highlighted by the 214-yard island green 17th.
The course has hosted some big events such as the British Columbia Provincial Women’s Amateur and the Mid Amateur Championship. It ranks as one of the 10 best courses by UP! Magazine.
SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 17, par-3, 214 yards. This one will test your nerves. You have to hit over a pond with water also on the left and the right. It takes accuracy as well as strength to have a chance at par here.
NO. 4 COURSE: CORDOVA BAY
DIRECTIONS FROM DOWNTOWN VICTORIA: Go north on Hwy 17 and turn right on Sayward Rd. Follow signs to the course.
OPENED: 1991 (Architect: Bill Robinson)
GREEN FEES: Rates vary, check the web site: cordovabaygolf.com
LAYOUT: Par 71, 6,727 yards (four tee positions)
LOWDOWN: Very nice walk through the island’s forests, although there are plenty of homes along the fairways.
It’s a challenging, well-designed course with great vistas, including Mt. Baker in the Lower 48 looming in the distance. There also is a nine-hole Ridge course adjacent to the Bay course.
SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 14, par-5, 535 yards. It’s going to take two of your best solid shots to reach a good position for an approach to the green on the dogleg-left layout. Then it all depends on your short irons to get you over a water hazard and four bunkers in front of the green. You have to be powerful as much as you do careful.
NO. 5 COURSE: HIGHLAND PACIFIC
DIRECTIONS FROM DOWNTOWN VICTORIA: Head north on the Trans-Canada Hwy, BC-1 and get off at exit 10, View Royal/Colwood. Keep right and follow the signs to Burnside Rd. W. Turn left at Watkiss Way. Take second right onto Creed Rd. Course is on the right.
OPENED: 2008 (first nine) 2010 (second nine) (Architect: Chris Young)
GREEN FEES: Rates vary, check the web site: highlandpacificgolf.com
LAYOUT: Par 71, 6,616 yards (four tee positions)
LOWDOWN: This is a cozy family-run operation with some unique holes. Despite the forests all around, it’s a mostly wide open course with water hazards, waste areas and fescue fields.
It offers great views of the city of Victoria, Olympic Mountains, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Bear Mountain and Thetis Lake Park. The two-tier golf range is really cool with a 44 stalls and a distant lake for a landing area.
SIGNATURE HOLE: No. 2, par-4, 425 yards. It’s a small opening to slip through on your tee shot, between two rocky outcroppings. You can’t sail too far right or it’s trouble. Your approach needs to be left of a large mound on the right but watch for the hidden traps.
– Bob Sherwin