A Review of the Best New Golf Courses in BC
Image by The Ridge
In Vernon, B.C., Predator Ridge has revamped its award-winning golf facility with a total 36 holes of adrenalin-pumping golf.
Several new courses across B.C. have opened their tees and greens to the public. RealGolf previews a selection of those looking to make their mark.
Almost 50 years ago, German-born architect, historian and sculptor Herb Plasterer acquired 190 acres of idyllic land in Saanich, close to Thetis Lake in Victoria – the Canadian city he adopted as home. It was the first step toward realizing his dream of building a public golf course.
Plasterer’s vision was to unite the area’s community – and the greater community beyond – by creating a golf course whose fairways and greens were infused with family values, plus his passions for Victorian history and sculpture. Herb and wife Rose Maria also made it their mission to retain the property’s natural beauty – rather than subdividing the land, which straddles the municipalities of Saanich and View Royal.
Passing away in 1985 with the project still in its infancy, Herb never lived to play the course’s inaugural round. But in 1996, Rose Maria and the couple’s six children were inspired to continue Herb’s efforts and bring his vision to life.
It took well over a decade but the Plasterers made it – and Highland Pacific was born.
Working with some of the world’s best architects – led by Chris Young – Tour pros and industry experts, the Plasterers have created an incredibly scenic and challenging golf course overlooking the majestic Olympic Mountains, downtown Victoria and the Juan de Fuca Strait.
The first half of the course – the Pacific Nine – opened for business in October 2008, and the second – the Highland Nine – will follow suit this June. The full 18 will add up to a par of 71, measure 6,600 yards, and be a likely contestant for the 2010 “Best New Course” accolades awarded by SCOREGolf and Golf Digest.
A world-class driving range, voted one of the top 100 in North America by Golf Range magazine in both 2008 and 2009 (one of only two in B.C. to earn such recognition), adds great gusto to the Highland Pacific experience, as do its excellent golf shop, licensed café and conference/private function facility.
The family chose the name Highland Pacific to honour Herb’s memory; the HP logo used to represent Highland Pacific Golf is modelled after the chiselled signature used by Herb on his sought-after sculptures.
“We are all very proud of how the course has turned out,” says Herb’s daughter Angela, the eldest of his six children. Describing the values her father wanted embedded in Highland Pacific’s fairways, Angela says: “Our father was an artist in his soul, and perhaps his own comment on his sculpture best sums up his approach to every project: ‘I aim for a spiritual reality beyond the illusion of material form and strive to create an essential expression in which to convey tenderness, strength and nobility. Sculpture is never more radiant than when inspired by love.’ ”
Angela says turning the dream into reality was a challenge; the whole project took nearly 13 years and the construction part eight. “It was particularly challenging because of the difficulty of the terrain,” she says. “One can imagine the logistics of laying irrigation and drainage pipes through what was sheer rock in places, as well as trucking in sand from Duncan to cover the entire fairway areas six inches deep.”
Everyone rallied around, however, and Angela says the family received “unbelievable support” from their neighbours, while the project really united the community.
Angela’s mom, Rose Maria, says her late husband would be very proud of and grateful to his children for making his vision a reality. “His dream to turn the land into an affordable golf course has come true. Working together as a team was not always easy for the family, but we became more united over the many years it took to produce this unique golf course – and we’re all delighted we can now present it to the community.” www.highlandpacificgolf.com
Not much more than a flush drive west of Highland Pacific, Victoria’s Bear Mountain is preparing to host the 2010 Telus World Skins Game this June, fresh from adding the Valley course to its menu last summer.
The resort is now the first in Canada to offer 36 Jack Nicklaus-designed holes, with the 6,807-yard, par-71 Valley layout – set at a lower elevation than the Mountain course – offering eye-popping views of Mount Baker, Victoria, Port Angeles, Washington and the surrounding Juan de Fuca Strait. The new 18 weave through forest, skirt lakes and traverse creeks and rivers, ensuring golfers get up-close and personal with nature.
Both layouts are eco-friendly, with a course maintenance program that includes a special “spoon-feeding” technique for fertilizer. Liquid organic fertilizer is also used, insecticides aren’t, and weeds are eradicated by hand.
“I expect Bear Mountain to become one of the most sought-after golf destinations on the continent,” predicts Len Barrie, president and CEO of Bear Mountain Resort (BMR). “Creating a world-class golfing experience has always been at the centre of my vision for Bear Mountain – and it’s been a decade in the making.”
With the state-of-the-art Nicklaus Golf Academy also due to open in 2010 and an array of first-class facilities on hand, Barrie says BMR now offers an all-around golf package rivalling anything at home or abroad. “I’ve golfed at stunning locations around the world and can honestly say that, with the opening of the Valley course (last June), Bear Mountain now rivals the best golf experiences across the globe for golfers of every age and ability.”
Some 500-plus kilometres northeast of Victoria in Vernon, B.C., Predator Ridge, the 2008 host of the Telus World Skins Game, has also revamped its award-winning golf facility and will open a new Doug Carrick-designed, 18-hole layout this summer. The resort will then total 36 holes of adrenalin-pumping golf.
Previously three uniquely challenging nine-hole strips, Carrick has converted one of those – The Peregrine – into a new 18-hole course that will be known as The Ridge. Construction on the 7,123-yard, par-72 design began in May 2008 and was completed in September 2009. Eight holes of The Ridge offer views of Lake Okanagan, while immaculately groomed fairways, rugged pine-covered ridges and wheatgrass meadows are once again prominent ingredients.
PR was the first (and so far only) two-time winner of the BC PGA Golf Facility of the Year award – and its chances of making that a three-peat will soon be significantly boosted.
“Wesbild was interested in building a new golf course, integrating the existing nine with nine new holes,” explains award-winning architect Carrick. “I designed three or four different layouts and they chose a design that took the course to a lower part of land that overlooks Lake Okanagan and weaves through interesting and rugged terrain.”
The nine holes that previously made up the Peregrine are still in their original locations, though each has been completely rebuilt – new tees, greens, fairways and bunkers. Golfers will now play a portion of these to both open and close their rounds at The Ridge, with the new nine forming the middle “half” of the course. www.predatorridge.com
And Not Forgetting...
The following assembly of new courses has also recently opened its fairways and greens to golf-hungry putters in B.C.
Black Mountain, the Wayne Carleton-designed layout, has been seamlessly sculpted into the Okanagan landscape just outside Kelowna, featuring breathtaking holes – including its signature island green – and over 165 feet of elevation change. The championship-standard course is at the core of the mountain’s master-planned community. www.blackmountain.ca
Due west of Kelowna, in the Nicola Valley near Merritt, Sagebrush has created quite a stir and was named SCOREGolf’s Best New Course of 2009. The Dick Zokol and Rod Whitman design, located within the historic Quilchena Cattle Ranch, has a links-type feel, with wide fairways, rugged bunkers and
massive greens. It offers amazing views of the mountains and nearby Nicola Lake. www.sagebrushclub.com
North of Kelowna, in the Shuswap region, two courses have recently opened to rave reviews. Talking Rock is the result of an enterprise initiative by the Little Shuswap Indian Band – and is now its pride and joy. The resort works in tandem with Quaaout Lodge and is infused with native history, culture and tradition. The golf course meanders through a mature, sandy forest and climaxes with its signature 18th hole, along the shoreline of Little Shuswap Lake. www.talkingrock.ca
Residents of nearby Salmon Arm, the largest community in the Shuswap area, have also been enjoying a new first-class golf facility. Canoe Creek is the first signature design of Canadian golf legend Dave Barr and brings a taste of the British Isles to British Columbia, with over 7,000 yards of open fairways, grass-faced bunkers, expansive greens and stunning water features. www.canoecreekgolf.com
Last but not least, though very much east, Shadow Mountain is embarking on its first full season in 2010. Perched above Cranbrook in the heart of the Kootenays, the Cook Carleton International design, which winds through a 580-acre neighbourhood of properties, is so named because the shadow of a bear appears below the ridge of the adjacent Fisher Peak every clear evening between May and October. www.shadowmountain.ca.