Being a golf enthusiast requires reaching an understanding with everyone around you who doesn’t play the great game. This understanding states, “most areas of my personal life will suffer as I once again attempt to shave five strokes off of my handicap.” For Calgarians, some of the frantic pressure to improve should be alleviated by knowing that the city and surrounding area offers dozens of exceptional courses, ready to tax every aspect of your game. Consider the following four amazing courses that challenge one’s ability to go from high to low (not just emotionally) with radical transitions in elevation — no “birdies” required.
The Links of Glen Eagles (Cochrane, Alta.)
Just a 10-minute drive west of Calgary brings you to the opening hole at Glen Eagles, a 384-yard par-four which dares golfers to launch their first shot over a creek onto a wide, elevated fairway, or go for the gusto and blast it past a lake, landing on (but more likely, near) the small, bowl-shaped green.
The rest of the course plays much like the opening hole; dramatic elevation drops, a hundred bunkers, and lots of water will force you to become your own trusted caddy — choosing the right clubs more often, and hopefully, upping your GIR in the process.
Renowned golf course architect Ron Garl proclaimed Heritage Pointe to be his proudest achievement in 1992, when the 27-hole course surrounding Pine Creek (a natural valley formed by the Bow River corridor) opened for business.
And he wasn’t just talking trash; Heritage Pointe has been racking up accolades for years and is consistently ranked in the top five of all courses to play in Alberta.
Similar to Glen Eagles, Heritage Pointe confounds with more elevated tees than most championship courses in Canada; but it also features a drastic change in topography between its “Desert” nine (which plays like a Scottish linksland) and the rolling hillsides of the “Heritage” nine — played later in the same round.
Jasper Park Lodge (Jasper, Alta.)
The Canadian Rockies will leave you short of breath from the thin air as much as the beautiful vistas surrounding Jasper Park Lodge. Nearly a century old and crafted by Canadian golf design legend Stanley Thompson, the course is considered a “must play” by several leading golf publications and was ranked #1 golf resort by SCOREGolf Magazine.
This mountain classic requires cautionary drives and straight chips if you want to avoid losing a dozen balls in its rugged terrain. And be warned: in the mountains, pros will advise the high elevation gives your ball around 10 percent more distance — as if the flight path math wasn’t tricky enough.
Banff Springs (Banff, Alta.)
It wouldn’t be right to include one Fairmont Resort/Thompson masterwork without its breathtaking twin sister in Banff Springs. Make this a final weekend trip to close out the season and prepare to test all you’ve learned thus far at hole four, better known as the “Devil’s Cauldron” — a swooping, 200-yard par-three that feels like you’re standing in the mouth of a volcano. There’s also hole 15, a dastardly par-four with a tee shot perched nearly 100 feet above the river that separates you and the fairway.
You’ve likely heard, but this is where the pros will again lock horns for the Telus World Skins Game later this month, and was the only Alberta course to be featured in Golf Digest’s 100 Best Courses Outside the United States. Most impressive of all, perhaps, the course was immortalized in 2010 as a playable download for EA Sports’ Tiger Woods PGA Tour video game.
Image courtesy of mecruns24.