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The magic of mountain golf – GooPdf News

The magic of mountain golf – GooPdf News

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I guess this is local knowledge.

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We were nearing the entrance to Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Club, fairways and greens now visible out the driver-side window, when an elk emerged from the trees and ambled across the road. The foursome on No. 17 would soon have a gallery.

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In the passenger seat, a relative from Ontario seemed startled that I immediately put the vehicle in park. Elk, I explained, tend to travel in dozens. We were, indeed, waiting for a few minutes as the entire herd wandered by.

Although a born-and-raised Albertan doesn’t get too excited about an elk sighting, this was just a reminder of the magic of mountain golf. You gawk at the skyscraping scenery. You keep your eyes peeled for four-legged passerby. The world-famous holes — Devil’s Cauldron, fourth on the scorecard on the Stanley Thompson Course at Banff Springs, is absolutely iconic — almost feel like a bonus.

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It’s no secret, certainly not local knowledge, that some of the best golf experiences in our country are right in our backyard in the Canadian Rockies.

We were reminded again as SCOREGolf Magazine revealed its biannual ranking of the Top 59 Public Courses in Canada. The latest list features six of Alberta’s mountain marvels, including Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge (No. 3), Fairmont Banff Springs (No. 4), Stewart Creek (No. 12), both the Mount Kidd and Mount Lorette layouts at Kananaskis Country (Nos. 17 and 25, respectively) and Silvertip (No. 43).

With the exception of Jasper Park Lodge, all of those are within a 90-minute drive of Calgary. That’s about as lucky as a lifetime of cart-path bounces back onto the short stuff.

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Banff Springs golf
An aerial view of Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Club. (Photo by Jacob Sjoman/Courtesy of Fairmont Banff Springs)

You can understand why club-toting tourists struggle to finalize the lineup for their bucket-list trips to this area. With local knowledge, the task may be even tougher. The rankings prove there are so many great options for that special round, for that staycation splurge.

You may be daydreaming about the first shot at Stewart Creek, where you take aim — with your camera and then your drive — at an abandoned mine entrance. Or about the elevated launch on No. 2 at Silvertip, which is backdropped in the distance by the Three Sisters. Or about the tee-off on No. 15 at Banff Springs, the original starting hole.

When you practice your swing in the office on a cold winter day, you may be pretending to play one of the signature shorties in the Canadian Rockies. There’s Devil’s Cauldron, a one-of-a-kind across an emerald-coloured pond. There’s the fourth on the Mount Kidd Course, an island-green assignment with a gob-smacking long-range view. There are a pair of one-shotters on the finishing stretch on Mount Lorette that require a careful crank over the Kananaskis River.

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Not to complicate matters, but a list of mountain must-plays isn’t complete without Greywolf, located in Panorama, B.C. It was ranked eighth on SCOREGolf’s latest rundown of the best public-access tracks in Canada. (I am proud to be part of the ratings panel.)

On my most recent visit to Greywolf, we were standing on the fourth green, just about to start our flat-sticking, when we noticed that a black bear was meandering across the tee-boxes where we would be headed next.

It’s not often a photo of Cliffhanger, another iconic Par-3, is your second-best snapshot of the day. But that’s the magic of mountain golf.

Greywolf Golf
Cliffhanger, the signature sixth hole at Greywolf in Panorama, B.C. (Courtesy of Greywolf)

NATIONAL CHAMP 

At 14, Red Deer’s Eileen Park already has a national title on her resume.

Park triumphed last week at the 2023 Canadian Junior Girls Championship in Hampton, N.B., adding her name to a trophy that Brooke Henderson hoisted at the same age.

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Park won the 19-and-under showdown with a four-day total of 3-under 281. The talented teen saved her best for last, circling five birdies during her final round and ultimately finishing seven shots clear of the pack.

“This tournament has showed me how much hard work I’ve put in, and the results are very nice,” said Park, a member at Red Deer Golf & Country Club and already a two-time winner of the Alberta U19 Girls Championship. “This win is definitely going to motivate me for the future because it’s my biggest win so far. Going forward, I will have more confidence for bigger tournaments.”

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CHIP SHOTS

Sam Kirkness cashed in on home-course advantage to claim bragging rights at the PGA of Alberta’s Club Professional Championship. Kirkness is the head pro at Inglewood, which was site of the provincial shootout, and proved to be the host with the most — birdies, that is. Kirkness completed two rounds in 9-under 133, five strokes clear of the competition. Kevin Black (Redwood Meadows) and Scott Stiles (Earl Grey) split second … Celina Lam (Canal at Delacour) prevailed during a dramatic final round at the Alberta Senior Women’s Championship at Coyote Creek. Lam signed for a three-day total of 12-over 225, highlighted by a clutch birdie on her second-to-last hole. “It’s amazing,” she told Alberta Golf after the trophy presentation. “I have never thought that this would happen” … Cheryl Newman (Canyon Meadows) carded a two-round score of 12-over 156 to top the leaderboard at the Calgary Ladies Golf Association’s Senior Closed Amateur, while Joan Wilson (Country Hills) earned the super-senior crown at 18-over 162. Susan Mennis (Earl Grey) and Marcia Nattrass (Bearspaw) scored low-net honours.

wgilbertson@postmedia.com

twitter.com/WesGilbertson

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