Golfing in Kananaskis Country
Beyond the water-surrounded green, hanging into the pristine valley, rows of jagged mountains puncture the blue sky. The tee deck, cut out of the pines on a rocky bench, is an elevated serene little spot; a beautiful vantage point to survey the classic Rocky Mountain scene. After photographing the hole – one of the most shuttered in Canadian golf – I tee up a ball and let it fly. My little white Titleist, painted against the majestic backdrop, stalls in the cool breeze and plunges into the pond fronting the green. But the mark on the surface, just like my frustration, dissipates quickly. After all, I’m golfing in K-Country. And life, despite my shot-making skills, is good.
Ask anyone who had the privilege of playing it; the par-3 4th on the Mount Kidd Course at the Kananaskis Country Golf Course is a thing of beauty. Or, was a thing of beauty. Unfortunately, the devastating flood of 2013 left the hole, as well as 33 others at this renowned 36-hole facility, in ruin. However, after plenty of ups and downs, posturing and playing, in the political arenas, Alberta’s Provincial government (they own the course) has finally determined that a complete restoration of the popular mountain golf facility will make it to the finish line. So, as early as 2017, Titleists will once again take flight above the lush-green fairways at the Kananaskis Country Golf Course.
For enthusiasts this, obviously, is welcome news. The postcardworthy holes – and there are many – at Kananaskis Country are a testament to the beauty and brawn of the mountain golf genre. The restoration of the courses, led by Canmore-based golf course architect Gary Browning, will unveil a more contemporary style of golf course architecture promising to be a better fit for all skill levels, especially the higher handicap players who often struggled at Kananaskis due to the quantity and severity of the hazards.
“It’s an honour and privilege to be given this opportunity at a legendary place like Kananaskis,” says Browning, whose crew is well underway in the restoration. “The routing will remain the same and the essence of the designs will remain intact. However, the playability and the aesthetics, especially the bunkering, will change. It’s a new era in golf and the courses will reflect that.”
As good as the golf at Kananaskis was – and is sure to be once again – there are other exceptional golf facilities in the region. Conveniently located just a couple of kilometers off the Trans Canada Highway, Brewster’s Kananaskis Ranch is home to a charming 18 hole layout meandering through a beautiful mixed forest near the base of Mount Yamnuska, a rock climbing Mecca in the Canadian Rockies.
From the quaint log cabin pro shop to the incredible wildlife – golden eagles, deer, moose, bear, wolves, and many other species have been sighted here – a round at Brewster’s Kananaskis Ranch is going to afford many photo ops. So don’t forget your camera!
“Photogenic” is just one way to describe the stunning courses located in nearby town of Canmore. This historic mountain community boasts three exceptional courses able to hold their own against anything…anywhere. With huge elevation changes, bold bunkering, beautiful shaping, and 18 compelling holes that parade up and down the slopes, Silvertip is, perhaps, the ultimate example of mountain golf. Tumbling down the majestic mountain with an idyllic, baby blue pond protecting the green, the finishing hole, a wild par-4 where anything can happen, is a fitting conclusion to every round.
But the finishing run at the Stewart Creek Golf Course, located on the opposite side of the Bow Valley, is every bit as good. It was designed by Gary Browning. Stewart Creek is a smooth-flowing, minimalist (not a ton of dirt was moved to create the course) design taking full advantage of the site’s natural features. Rock outcroppings, spirited creeks, major elevation changes, crystalclear ponds, and old mine ruins are all incorporated. And, no question, the final stretch, which concludes with a go-for-broke par-5 plunging down the hill towards the clubhouse, is a great opportunity to end with a birdie.
Recent changes to the layout of the course, include the re-design of the controversial 9th. It is now a terrific downhill par-3 with the tee set high on the hill where the landing area used to be, have only bolstered the facility’s status. “It’s a natural par-3,” says General Manager, Greg Andrews. “The changes have been extremely well received and the hole is now the perfect conclusion to the opening nine.”
Located right in the heart of Canmore, the Canmore Golf & Country Club features a mature, parkland course that cruises through massive pines and meanders along the serene banks of the Bow River. A community-minded course with a history of excelling at game-growing initiatives, the Canmore Golf & Country Club is a welcoming and inviting place for members and guests alike. Its peaceful and pastoral setting – augmented by a challenging mix of playable, super-fun golf holes – have made this course a long-standing favourite among golfers in the Bow Valley.
Without a doubt, golf in the mountainous regions of Kananaskis Country and Canmore is a rich and rewarding endeavor. This Mountain golf – with its rarefied pine-scented air, spectacular vistas, and roller-coaster characteristics – holds a special place for golf enthusiasts and the connoisseurs of the game. So special, in fact, that the shots that don’t quite pan out, or even end with a watery conclusion, are quickly forgotten. As the ancient words say, “The mountains shall bring peace to the people.” My theory? The ancient scribe was writing those words to golfers.
By: Andrew Penner