by Tim Cotroneo
Alberta, Canada – Rush is one of Canada’s most famous rock bands. A rush is also the sensation you can’t help but feel when playing golf in the Alberta Canadian Rockies.
Where else in the world do golf courses embrace skyscraping mountain vistas on every hole? Where else is there a 50/50 chance of spying an elk or a bear at any moment? Where else can you top off a picturesque round with the thrill of adding 10 yards to each shot by playing in altitude with an attitude?
Arrive for your Canadian Rockies golf experience by flying into Calgary’s airport, and then breathe the freshest air known to man. Prepare to revel in an all-natural mountain theater and a golf setting that is second to none. From Calgary to Jasper, you’ll find five rarified 18-hole options for taking in the best of Rocky Mountain golf.
Silvertip Resort Golf Course in Canmore will have you at hello. Before you even tee off, the Silvertip driving range is one you’ll never forget. Golfers hit their practice shots into the face of Mount Lady MacDonald, topping out at over 8,000-feet.
You’ll enjoy listening for accents among the Silvertip staff. More than a dozen members of the Silvertip team hail from Australia. Many of the Aussies are drawn to Canmore’s world-class mountain climbing, hiking, and skiing opportunities.
It’s hard to resist not falling in love with Silvertip’s 18th hole. You’ll need to duck to keep from brushing your golf cap on the clouds just above the elevated tee box. Once you reach the green, keep on walking to the outdoor deck at Stoney’s Bar & Grill. All Alberta Canadian Rockies golf courses pride themselves in offering outdoor dining and imbibing options with views that are to die for. Stoney’s features an awesome view of the 18th green. The emerald green lake next to the putting green is blindingly brilliant on a sunny day.
Stewart Creek Golf & Country Club again near Canmore is one of Alberta’s most luxurious golf properties and a winner of numerous Best in Golf awards.
If you’re a mountain lover, you’ll witness no fewer than four mountain ranges. Your head will swivel at the Cascade, Pigeon, and Three Sisters mountains, as well as Ha Ling Peak.
History buffs will buzz over the fact that Stewart Creek is built on what was formerly an abandoned coal mining site. Gary Browning, the course architect kept two historical remnants of these mine shafts visible on the front and back nine.
Before or after your round, it’s hard not to appreciate the visuals and ambiance of the Stewart Creek clubhouse. This two-tiered facility’s glass wall exterior features high-def views of the 18th hole and the Rundle Mountain Range. Inside the clubhouse you’ll rub elbows with members and vacationers who’ve played golf around the world. The Stewart Creek vibe is one of an international flavor with fellow players exuding a real appreciation for the game of golf.
Canadian Rockies golf makes a point of immediately drawing you in. On the first hole at Canmore Golf & Curling Club, you’re advised to hit your drive toward the crevasse separating the Rundle and Cascade mountains. Is there another course in the universe where your target points at not one, but two mountain ranges?
There is something to be said for researching the nuances of your vacation destination. You’ll discover Canmore is located smack dab in the middle of the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames hockey rivalry. It may be wise to ask your playing partner which side of this intense rivalry he or she leans before spewing your own take on who should rule in the coming season.
Upon commenting that Canmore Golf and Curling Club is even more beautiful in person than in the photographs you viewed prior to your trip, be prepared to receive a smile and this common refrain, “The photos don’t lie.”
This golf course, along with its friendly inhabitants, is often referred to as the “Canadian Cheers.” Considering the spectacular views and conditions, Canmore Golf and Curling Club’s modest greens fees may be the Canadian Rockies best golf value.
Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge treats golfers like rock stars. On the first tee, the starter announces each player’s name and hometown.
You’ll note that on each tee box, every golf hole has a name that honors a chapter in Jasper history, geography, or a famous individual. The most storied moniker is on the 9th hole, a long par three. The name Cleopatra is based on the way course designer Stanley Thompson configured the mounds surrounding the putting green to match his minds-eye image of the Egyptian Queen.
Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge Golf Club recently celebrated its 90th anniversary. Over the years, movie stars and British royalty have trekked to Jasper to see if the spectacular surroundings were indeed as beautiful as the hype. Crooner Bing Crosby stayed long enough, in 1947, to win the Jasper Park Golf Club’s Totem Pole Tournament.
Golfers choose Jasper Park Lodge Golf Club to not only be surrounded by its mountain range, but also to inhabit an environment where animal life thrives. It’s not uncommon to awaken to find elk grazing right outside your cabin.
Four million visitors choose Banff as a vacation destination every year. The nine-story Fairmont Banff Springs Resort is one of the city’s main drawing cards.
The 6,900-yard, 18-hole “Thompson Course” at Banff Springs is surrounded by Sulphur Mountain and Mount Rundle. The mountain ranges are visible everywhere you look on this Stanley Thompson design.
The number of signature holes at Banff Springs are too numerous to count. One hole that is particularly impressive is the par 5, 527-yard 14th hole. This hole is the ultimate photo opportunity. As you approach the 14th green, the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel juts out from the woods and serves as a striking backdrop.
Whether you play one or play all of the Canadian Rockies top five golf courses, each venue promises a golf rush. This is extreme golf with a premium placed on magnificent mountain views in a setting that is so quiet you’ll feel obliged to look skyward before speaking. If God plays golf, the Alberta Rockies is where he’d book his first tee time.
Tim Cotroneo is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer specializing in travel, business, and golf.
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