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Staycation summer a perfect excuse to play Alberta’s best courses

作者:admin 2020-06-29

Bucket-listers and course-collectors have this place pinned on the map.

It’s a bummer if your annual golf getaway has been postponed, but there is more than a slice of good news for Calgary-based birdie-seekers in this staycation summer — one of Canada’s most celebrated courses, one of the most famous Par-3s on the planet, is right in our backyard in Banff.

“There’s a guy who has been up (from Calgary) four times — four times already — and he hadn’t played us in over 20 years,” said Steven Young, the director of golf at Fairmont Banff Springs. “He was like, ‘Wow, I’d forgotten how good it was’ and ‘Look at what you’ve done to the place!’ He’s loving it. And he’s not the only one. We’re hearing those stories.”

Indeed, if you’re going to be stuck anywhere, this isn’t so bad.

That will become clear over the next three weeks, as SCOREGolf Magazine rolls out its latest ranking of Canada’s Top 100 Golf Courses. I’m proud to be a panellist.

You can bet both of the sibling stunners at Kananaskis Country will be on the list. Ditto for the two tracks at Wolf Creek, near Ponoka.

Stewart Creek, carved into the scenery in Canmore, should again score a lofty perch, while a hat-trick of local private hangouts — Calgary Golf & Country Club, Glencoe’s Forest Course and the Hawk at Priddis Greens — are also rankings regulars.

Stanley Thompson’s iconic layout at Banff Springs will, without a doubt, be rated as one of Canada’s very best.

Always is.

I’ve long been surprised by how many Calgary-area golfers haven’t played this masterpiece in Banff National Park, perhaps because of the price — the Alberta resident rate can knock off up to 35%, but this is still a splurge — or because it’s tough to carve out enough time in the usual hustle-and-bustle of summer.

Whether it’s a first crack or a rematch, maybe your next much-anticipated golf getaway is just 120 km west on the Trans-Canada Highway. Trust me, Devil’s Cauldron — the famed fourth hole at Fairmont Banff Springs — is alone worth the trip.

“You just can’t find a setting like this many other places, and I think that’s what people remember when they’re here. It’s like, ‘Oh wow,’ ” Young said. “People are so excited to come play No. 4 — it was ranked one of the top 18 holes in the world at one point — and with all the hype about playing it, they’re still amazed by it. I don’t get people who come out and go, ‘Meh.’ ”

That goes for the locals too.

It’s great to be able to glimpse the Rockies from your deck or kitchen window. It’s different, though, when you’re staring straight up the sheer face of a mountain or watching your tee-shot hang against this jagged backdrop.

If you’re hoping to save time or money, Fairmont Banff Springs is also home to the Tunnel Mountain Nine, a 3,287-yard, Par-36 setup that lacks the accolades but not the eye-candy.

As Young points out, “it’s the same scenery and the same setting” and is maintained to the same standard as the Stanley Thompson 18. And if a bear or elk wants to wander through the course, not an uncommon occurrence, it doesn’t stick just to the original.

If you’re really keen, play all 27 holes in the same day and your spin of the Tunnel Mountain Nine is half-price.

“It doesn’t disappoint,” Young promised.

The iconic fourth hole, nicknamed Devil’s Cauldron, on the Stanley Thompson 18 at Fairmont Banff Springs. Chris Amat/Courtesy of Fairmont Banff Springs

HAVE YOU HEARD?

It’s not often that a Calgary Golf Association event makes front-page news, but Reef Caulder certainly deserves the recognition after Friday’s heroic and selfless act.

Caulder was competing in the City Match Play at River’s Edge in Okotoks when his foursome heard cries for help and spotted a seven-year-old boy struggling in the Sheep River.

While another golfer called 911, the 36-year-old scrambled down a steep hillside and pulled the youngster from the fast-moving water.

You hear talk of ‘heroic’ shots on the golf course. This is the true definition.

Caulder, a certified heavy mechanic, a regular at Inglewood G&CC and a CGA executive, insists he reacted the same way that anybody else would have.

Maybe so, but if he wasn’t there, this story could have had a tragic ending.

“It’s nice to feel to appreciation,” Caulder said. “But I’m just happy that, in the end, I was able to save the boy.”

(Glencoe’s Jesse Galvon won the City Match Play title, defeating Jamie Welder of Country Hills by a 2&1 score in Sunday’s championship showdown. Galvon and Welder were facing off in the final for the third time in four years and had split the previous meetings.)

An aerial shot of Fairmont Banff Springs, a 27-hole hangout in the Canadian Rockies — home to both the Stanley Thompson 18 and the Tunnel Mountain Nine. Jacob Sjoman/Courtesy of Fairmont Banff Springs

HAVE YOU PLAYED …

The new-and-improved closer at Confederation Golf Course?

The city-owned nine-holer reopened last week and now finishes on a higher note, a 420-yard test that gently doglegs left to a repositioned green.

As part of the redesign of No. 9, the fairway was raised by an average of almost 1.5 metres, which should cure long-standing drainage issues.

‘Confed’ is both sneaky good and sneaky tough, and the new ninth should be a hit among a loyal customer base and also provide a stern test as you try to cap a solid round.

You’ll want to favour the left side of the fairway with your tee-ball, but don’t stray too far or you may have tree trouble. On the right, long-bombers could be flirting with a pond and you’ll need to hoist your approach over a bunker that guards that half of a massive dance-floor.

As a bonus, the original ninth green has now been converted to a short-game practice area, another improvement to this popular muni.

In addition to Confederation, Lakeview also opened Friday, meaning the full lineup of city courses is now up and running for the season.

Alberta Men’s Mid-Amateur Championship winner Alex Large.

LARGE AND IN CHARGE

As he tried to close out the victory at the 2020 Alberta Men’s Mid-Amateur Championship at Coyote Creek, Alex Large was admittedly on edge.

And not because of his trophy quest.

At home in Canmore, Large’s wife was expecting their second child to arrive at any time.

“She’s so close to being due,” Large told Alberta Golf after triumphing in the first provincial championship of the season. “My phone was in my bag and anytime I would hear it vibrate, I’d be a little nervous to see what’s going on. But it was just fantastic to be out here.”

He headed home the winner.

Born and raised in New Zealand and now living in the Canadian Rockies and representing Canmore Golf & Curling Club, Large claimed the mid-amateur title thanks to a sizzling final round.

He capped the three-day shootout at Coyote Creek with a spin of 6-under 65, highlighted by seven straight birdies — yeah, seven in a row — from Nos. 8-14. Although he was one shy of tying the course record with Thursday’s superb score, he did cruise to a four-shot victory at 10-under 203.

Zander Ritson (Inglewood) finished as the runner-up, while Sundre’s own Ryan Swelin was third.

wgilbertson@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/WesGilbertson

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