Golfing the Cowboy Trail
By: Andrew Penner
What does the perfect landscape – the ultimate terrain – for a golf course look like? For many, the barren, wind-swept dunescapes of the Scottish coast would get the nod. Others would say a peaceful forest peppered with pines is the ideal scenario. And, certainly, anyone who has played golf along the gorgeous mountain-framed foothills on Alberta’s Cowboy Trail would also have a serious candidate!
Unquestionably, the striking terrain along the Cowboy Trail is near perfection for golf. “The land here just lends itself exceptionally well to dramatic golf holes with a significant ‘wow’ factor,” says Ron Laugher, Director of Golf at the Priddis Greens Golf & Country Club. “When the LPGA Tour was here a few years ago the players cited our course as their favourite that year. High praise indeed!”
While not every course along the Cowboy Trail has hosted a major professional event like Priddis Greens (the club, which is home to two stellar 18-hole courses, is always considered one of the finest private clubs in Canada) many other courses could certainly be considered as a host to the world’s best. D’arcy Ranch and Redwood Meadows, for example (like Priddis Greens, both are located within 30 minutes of Calgary) are super-scenic layouts that speak volumes about the quality of the golf that’s found along the trail.
Routed through grass-coated valleys and boasting majestic mountain views, D’arcy Ranch, located near the town of Okotoks, is, perhaps, the poster-child for the unique and rewarding brand of golf that is found along the Cowboy Trail. The land here, massaged by powerful Chinook winds and scoured by ancient glaciers, tumbles and rolls and provides a perfect fit for one-of-a-kind golf holes. Every hole has character. Every hole is memorable.
Redwood Meadows, which has hosted an event on the Nationwide Tour, is also a wonderful layout chock-full of terrific holes. The peaceful setting, along the rocky Elbow River, is second to none. Every hole is isolated, serene, and snug in a natural amphitheater framed with pristine pines.
Although there are few trees at The Links of GlenEagles in Cochrane, the experience is first-rate. Here soaring, panoramic Rocky Mountain views provide an awesome backdrop for many of the holes. Although the 7,000-yard Les Furber design is difficult, requiring a number of forced carries and a deft touch around the topsy-turvy greens, the course is, most definitely, one of the finest on the trail.
While driving golf balls on any of these courses is bound to put a smile on your face, driving the trail itself is equally as rewarding. With every bend in the road comes something new to grab your attention: a beautiful old ranch building, a hilltop covered with horses, a misty field covered in hay bales. One-saloon towns, homemade beef jerky, trail rides, artisan galleries, these are the little “extras” that will ensure your trip is one you’ll want to repeat.
But perhaps the most compelling aspect when it comes to golf along the Cowboy Trail is the charming, tucked-away courses that dot the trail. Country courses in Sundre, Rocky Mountain House, Turner Valley, Water Valley, and Cardston are hidden gems that are just waiting for people like you to pop in and discover their merits. The merits, of course, include great golf holes, friendly people, a down-home atmosphere, and, unquestionably, some of the finest natural terrain for golf, well, anywhere!