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British Columbia's Golf Courses Prove Medal-Worthy
Andrew Penner


Ask any of the athletes of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games what they think of British Columbia's slopes, and the answer is simple: gold medal-worthy. Whistler, Panorama, Sun Peaks...the list goes on. But it's not just BC's slopes that are raking in the accolades. The fairways are fantastic, too: from high-on-the-mountain stunners to valley-below beauties, there might not be a better, more scenic collection of golf courses, well, anywhere.

Indeed, this is a province blessed with good looks, complete with mountain peaks, lakes of the oh-so-blue variety, lush valleys and endless coastlines. Not surprisingly, given the terrain – and the fact that so many people are passionate about golf here – many of the province's championship courses (150 at last count) are proven winners.  In the last five years, or so, a trophy cabinet's worth of new courses have burst onto the scene, vaulting the province to unprecedented heights when it comes to golf. Bear Mountain's new Valley Course, the second Jack Nicklaus design at this Vancouver Island draw, comes to mind (it incorporates rugged rock outcroppings and is mountain golf at its best). Tower Ranch in Kelowna is another newcomer that's been turning heads; a real roller-coaster ride complete with panoramic lake, city and mountain views of the jaw-dropping variety. And Shadow Mountain, near Cranbrook in the Kootenay Rockies? Bound to become a favorite, thanks to 19 scenic holes (one is optional) and huge elevation changes.

While this new contingent is certainly on to winning ways, the wily veterans know how to perform, too. Classic courses such as the Whistler Golf Club, Arnold Palmer's first Canadian design, and Gallagher's Canyon in Kelowna, which has been a favorite in the Okanagan for over 30 years, spring to mind. Peppered throughout the province, you'll find even more time-tested classics.  There's "the dream team," a memorable line-up of courses that were built during the boom in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. Take Eagle Ranch in Invermere, for example. This course has all the elements for an unforgettable day of golf: a timber-framed clubhouse, exceptional dining, impeccable conditioning and a stunning layout. Other "boom" courses include Vancouver Island's Storey Creek, with its secluded, tree-lined holes that gently roll through a lush forest, and Westwood Plateau, which soars high above Coquitlam on Eagle Mountain.

Indeed, there is unprecedented depth here. And people, from here and abroad, are jumping on the bandwagon. "I've had an opportunity to play golf in some amazing places," says avid golfer and BC Paralympic skier, Matt Hallat, who has traveled the World Cup Circuit for the past few years. "But, to me, the phenomenal courses in British Columbia are unequalled. Sure, there are some wonderful destinations out there, but the variety we have here is tops."  Of course, picture-worthy settings and great variety – BC boasts mountain, desert, parkland and links-style courses – are key. To qualify as outstanding, however, the holes themselves need to be well-conceived, strategic and fun. And, perhaps most importantly, the overall route, when you piece all the individual holes together, needs to be greater than the sum of its parts.

Case in point: Greywolf, located in a majestic alpine setting at Panorama, in the Kootenay Rockies. Here's a layout that's a visual work of art, making for a dramatic and riveting day on the links. The holes have character. They're playable. They make sense. And they combine to yield one of the greatest mountain golf experiences in the world. Unquestionably, there are many courses in the province that, upon closer examination, hold up well to a stringent, "professional" critique. And this, in large part, is due to the fact that so many of British Columbia's top courses are designed by acclaimed architects who are on the forefront of golf course architecture worldwide. Along with Greywolf architect Doug Carrick, notable professionals who have left their mark here include: Thomas McBroom, Michael Hurzdan, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Bob Cupp, Greg Norman,Robert Trent Jones II, Stanley Thompson andRod Whitman.

Thomas McBroom, whose recent work includes the highly-acclaimed Tobiano near Kamloops and Tower Ranch in Kelowna, has this to say about the province's golf scene. "Bottom line, British Columbia is just a wonderful place to build golf courses. I can't say enough about the natural beauty there. But, for me, it's all about making the best golf course possible given the site and the variables involved. I'm very pleased with how Tobiano and Tower Ranch turned out. But I don't have the final say. The golfers do!"  Given the fact that Tobiano has received numerous accolades in its first three years, the "final say" certainly looks positive. It doesn't hurt that the course, set atop of a vast, windswept bluff overlooking Kamloops Lake, does well when it comes to photo-ops.

And when you consider that upcoming courses – such as Carrick's The Ridge at Predator Ridge, near Vernon (opening this summer), and Victoria's Highland Pacific Golf (just opened) – are joining the party, it appears that the province's illustrious golf courses are poised to add to the medal count.  "I can't get enough of our courses," says Hallat, who resides near Whistler and works at Nicklaus North in the summer. "From the Thompson Okanagan to the Kootenay Rockies to the seaside courses on the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island, it's a tough call on where I enjoy playing the most. You just can't go wrong."  Ultimately, the decision of where, exactly, you choose to play might have to be determined by the roll of the dice. But, rest assured, whatever the number, if it's in British Columbia, it's going to be a winner.

For more information on golf in BC, visit www.HelloBC.com/golf. For more on British Columbia's destinations and travel information, call (800) HELLO BC® (North America) or visit www.HelloBC.com.
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