by Sue Kernaghan
Picture a round of golf in British Columbia: teeing off beneath snow peaks, lofting a shot along a forest-framed fairway or dropping your putt on a cliff-top green. Now imagine a golf vacation in British Columbia, where everything you need, from dining and digs to post-round spa treatments, is within a nine iron of the first tee. Canada's famously scenic western province is home to more than a dozen destination golf resorts, ranging from sea-view villages on Vancouver Island to alpine retreats in the Kootenay Rockies. Each boasts world-class golf, fairway-side villas, top-flight dining and a wealth of off-course activities, from hiking and biking to wine touring and salmon fishing, all rolled into one memorable package.
For starters, consider the 36 holes of Nicklaus Design golf, plus a spa, sports centre (complete with yoga and tennis), restaurant and lavish hotel available at The Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort & Spa, tucked on a mountain slope overlooking the city of Victoria. Choose from the cliff-hanger greens and dramatic elevation changes at the Mountain Course, or ease into your vacation on the gentler Valley Course. Both offer incredible views, and plenty of challenge whatever your handicap. Post-round, hit the spa or tuck into a plate of house-made pasta at the Bella Montagna restaurant. The famous Butchart Gardens and the nightlife of BC's capital city are just minutes away.
Another option: head up Island to Comox Valley where the Crown Isle Golf Resort offers a chance to enjoy championship golf, salmon fishing and even skiing on the same trip. The Graham Cooke-designed course (open year-round thanks to the Island's mild climate) meanders around 11 lakes against a backdrop of the Beaufort Mountains. Settle in at a villa overlooking the first fairway, grab breakfast, lunch or dinner in the Timber Room Grill or on its large patio overlooking the 18th green, or enjoy a more upscale atmosphere for dinner in the Timber Room Restaurant — an atrium-like space with views of the Comox Glacier. In summer, add a fishing trip (salmon abounds in the nearby Strait of Georgia); from December to April, you can hit the slopes at nearby Mount Washington Alpine Resort.
Over on the mainland, nothing says multi-sports like Whistler. This alpine playground just two hours north of Vancouver is home to four championship courses, plus everything from hiking and biking to fly-fishing, river rafting and ziplining. Your base camp: The Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club, a stunning must-play with 122 metres (400 feet) of elevation change and snow-capped peaks at every turn. Overnight at the sumptuous Fairmont Chateau Whistler — a grand hotel set in the Upper Village — dine on prime beef and organic produce at The Grill Room restaurant, sip a martini at the iconic Mallard Lounge or book an Ayurvedic treatment at the resort's Vida spa. Another round? Absolutely. Fairmont guests enjoy unlimited golf during their stay. Just steps away is everything a summer at Whistler has to offer. Bike the valley trail, browse the boutiques, paddle a canoe or tee off at one of Whistler's other courses: Nicklaus North, Whistler Golf Club or the Big Sky Golf & Country Club in neighbouring Pemberton. If you're really up for a challenge, try the Whistler trifecta: glacier skiing, mountain biking and 18 holes of championship golf — all in one day.
For more high-altitude golf, check out The Golf Course at Sun Peaks Resort, just north of Kamloops in BC's Thompson Okanagan region. This three-mountain resort boasts, at 1,200 metres (4,000 feet), BC's highest golf course — a Graham Cooke design known for its elevation changes and sweeping views — as well as a wealth of shops, eateries, spas, pubs and hotels in a cute Tyrolean-style village. Try some traditional Canadian fare (think bannock, poutine and tourtière) at the Voyageur Bistro, then relax by the pool at the Sun Peaks Grand Hotel.
For a non-links day, ride the lifts to bike or hike in the alpine, or experience a slice of Canadian history paddling a voyageur canoe on McGillvray Lake. History and culture also abound at Quaaout Lodge and Talking Rock Golf Course, a retreat near Kamloops hosted by the Little Shuswap First Nation. After a challenging 18 holes through the forest and along the lakeshore, try the cedar board salmon or elk ragout at Jack Sam's restaurant, or book a hot stone massage with sage and cedar essential oils at the resort's Le7Ke Spa. Watch, too, for the cultural activities, storytelling sessions and canoe trips to the Adams River, all offered at the resort.
East of Kamloops is Vernon, the gateway to BC's Okanagan wine country and home to Predator Ridge. Here, two championship offerings — the Predator Course and the newer Ridge Course overlooking Lake Okanagan — meander through pine forests and wheatgrass meadows, offering strategy-testing plays at every turn. Settle into a lodge room or fairway-side cottage and enjoy locally sourced fare at the Range Lounge & Grill or an Italian-inspired lunch at Pallino's. You can even work out in the fitness centre, explore the 12 kilometres (seven miles) of hiking trails winding through the resort, tour local wineries or head to the neighbouring Sparkling Hill Resort for a day at the lavish KurSpa (available for Predator Ridge guests). Noted as Canada's largest spa, Sparkling Hill is home to North America's first cold sauna (an invigorating cryotherapy treatment) as well as a vast range of European-inspired wellness treatments.
Further east, in BC's Kootenay Rockies region, spas come with the scenery, in the form of natural hot springs bubbling from the mountain slopes. This landscape of alpine meadows, waterfalls, glaciers and jagged peaks also makes for unforgettable golf. A string of golf resorts lie along the eastern slopes of the Rockies, between the towns of Golden and Cranbrook. Each offers stunning mountain golf (picture snow peaks, steep elevation changes and wandering deer), as well as comfortable alpine lodgings, spas and access to the natural hot springs that bubble up along the valley. Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, for example, boasts multiple mineral hot springs pools, a spa and three golf courses, including a family-friendly, nine-hole par 3. At Radium Resort near Kootenay National Park, golfers can choose from the peak-framed Resort Course or the Springs Course, set high above the banks of the Columbia River. The hotel overlooking the Resort Course beckons post-round, as does the on-site spa, the restaurant, patio and lounge and, of course, Radium's historic soothing hot springs.
Greywolf Golf Course, set 4,000 feet (1,200 metres) up in the Purcell Range at Panorama Mountain Village, makes the most of the area's snowy peaks, mountain brooks and lush forests, with steep elevation changes and long drives across whitewater creeks. The 6th hole, dubbed Cliffhanger, is set on a plateau green with dramatic, sheer drops on three sides. Après golf, enjoy a meal on the mountain's best patio, Cliffhanger Restaurant, and a dip in the resort's pools; the muscle-soothing mineral waters are just the thing to prep for another day on the links. Just down the road in Invermere, two more resorts round out the Columbia Valley resort options. Steep ravines and bluffs overlooking Lake Windermere add drama to the course at Eagle Ranch Golf Resort, while the wide fairways and hand-carved bunkers draw golfers to Copper Point Golf Course's 36-hole duo. Further south, two memorable Les Furber designs are each just minutes from the Canadian Rockies International Airport.
At Kimberley's Trickle Creek Golf Resort, you can tee off beneath snow peaks, play across rushing streams and spend the night at the resort's timber lodge. At St. Eugene Golf Resort & Casino, just outside of the city of Cranbrook, a historic mission building lies at the heart of a beautifully laid out course played along the St. Mary's River Valley. For a different swing, Kokanee Springs Golf Resort, a Norman Woods-design on the eastern shore of Kootenay Lake, promises a grand view; here, the Kokanee Glacier overlooks the fairways. Accommodation at this gem ranges from lodge rooms to mountain-view villas and two-bedroom cottages tucked in the woods.
Sea to Sky and Everything In-between
Wherever you play, and stay, from the sea-view fairways of Vancouver Island to the peak-framed greens of the Kootenay Rockies, stunning scenery, cosy lodging and some of the world's best golf are all part of the package. Learn more about golf in BC at GolfinBritishColumbia.com or www.HelloBC.com/golf. For more on British Columbia's destinations and travel information, visit www.HelloBC.com.