Cross-border Golfing

Wilderness Club in Montana | BCBusiness
The Nick Faldo-designed course at Wilderness Club in Montana.

American border towns, from Point Roberts to Montana, vie for Canadian golf dollars

From the tucked-away Wilderness Club in Montana to the Point Roberts Golf & Country Club in Washington State, there are myriad courses in the U.S. that are within a Tiger tee-shot from the Canadian border. At these border courses, Canadian golfers are a key piece of the pie. And, not surprisingly, these clubs are doing plenty to attract Canucks, despite a rising American dollar.

At the Point Roberts Golf & Country Club, an American course that admits its audience is “99 per cent Canadian,” the Canadian dollar’s recent dive is a critical issue. “With the currencies being very similar for the past few years, we’ve been taking Canadian cash at par,” says general manager Tad Nose. “And that still hasn’t changed. However, we are really on the fence with that right now. Ten per cent is not an insignificant amount.”

For most other resorts and courses, however, the keys to attracting and retaining cross-border customers remain exceptional value, better weather, and—bottom line—outstanding golf experiences.

“There’s definitely pressure on all of us near the border to provide a golf experience that meets or exceeds expectations for Canadian golfers,” says Brett Eaton, director of golf at the Semiahmoo Resort in Blaine, Washington. “The current state of the dollar will push us even harder to do that and we are monitoring that situation carefully.” Seventy-five percent of Semiahmoo’s clientele are Canadian, says Eaton.

At Montana’s Wilderness Club, which features a striking Nick Faldo-designed course, boutique hotel and residential component, attracting Canadians—who represent 75 per cent of their business—is integral. “Bookings are strong for 2014 with many weekends nearly sold out. Calgary is our main draw and, thankfully, the dollar does not seem to be hindering us at this point. We also have a warm micro-climate here so that helps us get out of the gate early,” says Barry Ehlert with the Windmill Golf Group, the Canadian company that owns and operates the facility. The Wilderness Club is ranked the best golf course in Montana by Golfweek and is located in Eureka, just minutes from the Canadian border.

For courses even farther from the border—such as the Salish Cliffs Golf Club in the Seattle/Tacoma area—there’s an even greater effort to pull Canadians their way. “We come up to the Vancouver Golf Show every year,” says director of golf David Kass. “Canadians have been great supporters and we covet their business.” The resort, which recently offered Canadians unlimited golf for two plus a one-night stay for $179, also includes gaming, spa services and a hotel. “There is a ton of great golf in Canada, too, so, bottom line is, we’ve got to make it worth their while to come down here,” says Kass.