By Mike Johnny
Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course is one of the top courses in Canada. Arguably one of Stanley Thompson’s finest works, this course sits adjacent to the historic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and the Bow River. The layout is majestic, the views expansive with the river and the mountains providing a stunning backdrop. It may well feature the greatest opening nine I have experienced and possesses numerous signature holes. Leading Canadian Golf publications place this course well within their top 10 and the Top 100 Golf Courses of the World currently ranks it #5 in Canada.
On a cold spring morning, I was fortunate to play as a single where I could take my time, take lots of pictures and enjoy a unique golf experience. The starter advised me holes which I should have my camera ready – 4 and 14. He may have said all 18 of them.
After the opening hole, the course turns to face the mountains and holes 2, 3 and 4 build in magnitude.
The 3rd hole is an exceptional par 5, and if not for Thompson’s genius design of the 7th hole at Highlands Links, I would state this to be my favourite par 5 of any I’ve played.
However, the 4th hole is a breathtaking beauty, unlike any I’ve played. A downhill par 3, properly named Devil’s Cauldron; this hole is guarded by water in the front and classic Thompson bunkering protecting short and left of the green. I was fortunate to have a bus tour group stop behind the hole to view my shot, but the real stroke of fortune was after taking my own pictures and readying to take my shot, a golf cart pulled up. In asking if they would take my picture following my swing, the gentleman stated he’d be happy to and that he was a photographer. I marveled at my fortune. And to close off; my shot – witnessed my tourists behind me and behind the green landed softly beyond the green and avoiding the traps. It’s an experience I’ll never forget.
The course returns to the relatively new clubhouse after nine than moves toward the hotel where it loops around and back, allowing for a stretch of tree lined holes and challenging par 3’s before returning back in a more expansive stretch alongside the mountains. The work required back in the 1920’s to build this course is hard to imagine. The course offers something for many; including historians, nature lovers and of course, golfers.
My clear, cool morning allowed me to play a relaxed round and appreciate the genius of Stanley Thompson who, once again, used the land so well. There are no holes which are too close in proximity to others. The back nine provides unique challenge in terms of length and demands greater accuracy then on the front nine.
The conditioning of the course is sensational, complementing the exceptional layout and beautiful setting. A true bucket list course, this will not be your most inexpensive round. But it is entirely possible that it may be one of the most memorable.
This is a top 10 public course and top 5 public course in Canada. For many, it is their favourite course in the country and is worthy of planning a trip around. On a nice weather day (and likely on days that are not the best) your camera will get a strong workout.
Peak fees are set for 2018 as $249 + tax. There are better rates available with afternoon and shoulder season rates but this will set back many players. I acknowledge value is in the eyes of the beholder. And for the quality and natural beauty of this course, the chance to play it once (in the shoulder season for me) makes this a solid value pick. Make no mistake; it’s a unique golfing experience and a true bucket list course.
Staff were hard at work on the fairways, greens and even the bunkers while I was there in late May. The layout is brilliant, one of Thompson’s strengths, I feel. However, the conditioning of the course complements the quality setting. The tee boxes were in exceptional condition. Greens rolled true and consistent, not too fast for a public resort course which helps ensure good pace of play. Greenside protection was diverse and penal at times but never unfair. Fairways were superb.
I would love to return and play this course again. But understand that you’re in Banff and there is much else to do – hot springs, the town, the hotel – but the golf course stands on as an experience worthy of the investment and complements the scenery of this small mountainside town.
Practice facilities are very strong. There is also a 9 hole ‘Tunnel Mountain’ course available to complement the 18-hole Stanley Thompson course.
For more information on the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course in Alberta click here.
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