SPECIAL FEATURE
Arbutus Ridge Golf Club
Credit: Photo courtesy of the Hennebrys

It's perfection all around at the 18th hole at Arbutus Ridge Golf Club

Escape to the Island

When it comes to golfing getaways, the Vancouver Island Golf Trail features 13 golf courses along 250 kilometres of Pacific paradise and an abundance of apres golf activities for your selection.  Spend a few days on the trail and you’ll discover what playing on island time is all about. 

Ranked as one of the top North American islands by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine, Vancouver Island’s golf trail takes you on a journey from Victoria to Campbell River and all points in between. Since the courses differ in style, golfers can target links courses, for example, or more traditional parklands courses.  Surrounded by giant cedar and fir trees, lush coastal forests, seaside towns, and wineries, a golf adventure on Vancouver Island offers much more than just swinging clubs.  Drop a line and bring home a chinook, catch sight of a mighty orca or Humpback, head out for a hike, bike, or ocean kayak, relax at a spa and, of course, wine tasting.  “Whether you only have a weekend or a week, you will enjoy a memorable golf getaway at any of our four golf regions or combine them to play the entire Trail,” says Trisha Larsen, director of marketing, Golf Vancouver Island.

Mile 0 of the Vancouver Island Golf Trail starts at its southernmost tip in the beautiful city of Victoria.  Victoria alone is home to four golf courses along the trail — Olympic View, Highland Pacific and Bear Mountain’s Mountain and Valley courses.  “Victoria not only offers great golf but old-world charm with vibrant restaurants and an incredible inner harbour experience in one of the most walkable cities in Canada,” says Larsen.

Bear Mountain Resort is one of Canada’s premier golf destinations — thanks to its 36-hole Jack and Steve Nicklaus-designed course complex; the signature Mountain Course with magnificent views over Victoria and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and for those who want a less challenging experience, the equally impressive Valley Course is ready for your enjoyment. 

Travelling north from B.C.’s capital, the Vancouver Island Golf Trail continues to the Cowichan Valley where Arbutus Ridge and the Cowichan Golf & Country Club await amid nine island wineries. It is here where you can swing, sip and savour island time.  “While in the Cowichan Valley, take a day to discover the oceanside village of Cowichan Bay; it is picturesque and quaint, with fresh crab awaiting on the dock from local fisherman” adds Larsen.

“An hour further north and midpoint on the Vancouver Island Golf Trail are Nanaimo and Parksville, offering three courses — Nanaimo Golf Club, Fairwinds and Pheasant Glen. Parksville is considered a golf and spa destination as it is the home of the award-winning Grotto Spa at Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort.”


 Then, it’s off to Courtenay where the trail presents another jewel — the iconic, award-winning platinum-rated Crown Isle Resort.  Crown Isle boasts an impressive 11,000 square foot clubhouse and “as a bonus, golfers can stay in a beautiful villa right on the golf course,” adds Larsen.

 Continuing north along the picturesque oceanside Highway 19A , the next stop on the Vancouver Island Golf Trail is Storey Creek – a true course in nature and arguably one of Les Furber’s best designs.  Quadra Island Golf is another best-kept secret worthy of reveal.  You will want to leave extra time to take in Fanny Bay Oysters enroute to both those golf courses.

 Campbell River is going to be a particularly popular golf destination this summer with the opening of the newest course along the trail — the Campbell River Golf & Country Club. Completely rebuilt and a perfect addition to its roster, says Larsen.  “The 18-hole resort course offers wide and long fairways, perfect for players of any calibre,” she adds.  “Adding this course to the tip of the trail puts a whole new focus on Campbell River as a golf destination.  And, when combined with it’s Salmon Fishing Capital of the World designation, makes for the ultimate Fins and Skins destination.”

 For golfers, the Vancouver Island Golf Trail is not only about the game, it is about playing on island time and creating memorable adventures along the way.

 

Satellite Bar & Grille at Arbutus Ridge Golf Club
Credit: Courtesy GolfBCGroup

Après golf at the Satellite Bar & Grille at Arbutus Ridge Golf Club.

 The next generation

Although changing demographics and less recreational time have resulted in lower participation in some leisure and sports activities such as golf, the GolfBC Group, which owns and operates several golf courses in the province, is finding new ways to attract the younger generation of golfers.  

“Junior development is important for the industry. Throughout our courses, we are investing a lot of time and money to develop the next generation of golfers,” says Rita Rennie, director of marketing GolfBC Group. “Each course offers different programs with something for everyone and for every budget.”  

The Kids Play Free initiative at GolfBC encourages young golfers to discover the game.

“All season long, juniors can play free with a paid adult at any of our golf courses,” she notes.

A few of its courses, such as Richmond’s Mayfair Lakes, also take part in a nationally developed program dubbed SNAG, which stands for Starting New at Golf. Rennie explains that SNAG covers all the basic elements of golf, but in a tailored form. A cross between miniature golf and regulation golf, SNAG allows for full shots, pitching, chipping and putting. 

“It’s really fun with simplified equipment and colourful targets, with a focus on helping a beginner progress through the learning curve faster and more effectively,” adds Rennie. “It’s a great way to engage youth in the game.” 

Lessons are key to learning the fundamentals of the game. To that end, GolfBC courses present private, semi-private, and group lessons. 

“Not everyone learns the same way and not everyone can afford private lessons, so we offer different options,” says Rennie. “Once beginners have a few lessons, they can start with nine holes and play either at sunset or later in the afternoon so they feel a little less rushed. Our courses also offer multiple sets of tees, so players can choose one appropriate for their skill level.” 

During the summer months, many facilities feature day camps for kids. These camps cover all the basics of the golf swing, as well as the short-game. Kids go home with a solid understanding of the essentials, golf course etiquette, and golf course management.

Besides youth, GolfBC is finding ways to attract more females to the sport. Although women take part in athletic activities like yoga and spin classes, many haven’t taken up golf. For those less interested in keeping score and more interested in a social atmosphere, golf offers many fun events for ladies and beginners.

At Nicklaus North, for instance, a ladies five-lesson package comes complete with dinners, wine, complimentary access to its practice facility and more, while Olympic View offers their “Ladies Choice” nights and ladies-only lessons. 

 

Nicklaus North
Credit:

Mike Crane Photography/Courtesy GolfBC Group

Nicklaus North in Whistler offers incentives to encourage women to get into the sport.

Kamloops home to diversity

If Kamloops hasn’t been on your golf radar, it should be. This laid-back river city is one of the hottest markets in Canadian golf — and for good reason. It is home to 11 golf courses, including its crown jewel, Tobiano Golf Course, the No. 1 Public Golf Course in B.C. as rated by Canadian Golf Magazine, Score Golf, and Golf Digest.

“We are relatively undiscovered and yet we offer immense diversity in our golf courses,” says Monica Dickenson, Tourism Kamloops director of industry relations. 

“Golfing in Kamloops is different. You can swing with no crowds; the dress code is relaxed and the vibe is friendly.” 

Many of its award-winning golf courses have been designed by internationally celebrated golf architects, including Robert Trent Jones Sr., Graham Cooke, and Thomas McBroom. 

If that isn’t enough to entice you, the desert-like climate allows golfers to swing their clubs eight months of the year. 

“Best of all, no two courses are the same. So, whether you want lake or mountain views, sage-covered rolling hills or hoodoo vistas (rock formations), Kamloops offers it all.” 

From Kamloops Golf & Country Club, Rivershore,The Dunes, Eaglepoint, Big Horn and Sun Peaks, to renowned Talking Rock, each golf experience is distinct. 

Although the city is a golf lover’s paradise, it’s also a great place to unwind. After a round of golf, stop by for a glass of B.C. wine along the Kamloops Wine Trail, or grab a pint at one of three craft breweries.  

“Kamloops is an ideal golf destination for multiple rounds and great après experiences,” adds Dickinson. 

“From Vancouver, it is only a four-hour scenic drive and the perfect place to check off bucket-list courses.”

 

Kamloops Golf Club
Credit:

Photo Tyler Meade, Tourism Kamloops

Kamloops has 11 golf courses and each one is unique.

Exceptional value at Burnaby courses

Nestled among sprawling, well-groomed manicured lawns, majestic old-growth trees and gardens bursting with blooms is where you will discover Burnaby Mountain Golf Course. 

“Burnaby Mountain was recently nominated by the BCPGA as the Lower Mainland’s facility of the year; in fact, our facilities have always been rated top value by Golf Digest and other industry publications as we offer exceptional value at affordable rates,” says David O’Connor, Manager of Burnaby’s Golf division.

In addition, Burnaby boasts yet another 18-hole golf to challenge both beginners and seasoned golfers alike: Riverway Golf Course.  Ideally located off of Marine Drive in South Burnaby, Riverway is a classic links-style championship course designed by the renowned course architect Les Furber. 

“Its diverse yardage and the championship appeal enables us to be ranked with top courses in the Vancouver area,” says O’Connor.

Each golf course features innovative, two-tier 60 stall covered driving ranges and adjoining practice facilities.   

“Opening the doors to golf also means teaching the sport, and we have many programs for every age group,” he adds. “Fifty percent of our popular programs educate beginners, where the teaching staff focuses on taking the intimidation factor out of the sport. “

Burnaby Golf offers several junior programs, such as REACH-OUT, which introduces golf in local elementary and high schools.

Burnaby is also home to two popular and challenging 18-hole pitch-and-putt courses at Kensington and Central Park. 

“The short courses can play an even bigger role in developing the game: hitting shots at 100 yards or less can be much less intimidating,” says O’Connor. “At our Par 3 courses, the emphasis is on having fun and enjoying the game.”