IS­LAND HOP

Van­cou­ver Is­land is one of the most pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions for vis­i­tors to Canada, which is not sur­pris­ing given its beauty. The isle’s main city and cap­i­tal of the prov­ince of Bri­tish Co­lum­bia, Vic­to­ria, is just a short scenic flight from Van­cou­ver and is

Golf Australia - - CONTENTS - WORDS MATT CLEARY

Van­cou­ver Is­land is one of the most pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions for vis­i­tors to Canada. And its main city, Vic­to­ria, is the gate­way to a golf­ing hol­i­day you won’t for­get, writes Matt Cleary.

The low­est tem­per­a­ture ever recorded in Canada is -63°C at Snag in The Yukon, Fe­bru­ary 3, 1947. The Cana­dian town of Eu­reka in the Qik­iq­taaluk Re­gion of north­ern Nu­navut boasts an av­er­age tem­per­a­ture of -19°C. The top third of Canada is within the Arc­tic Cir­cle, home to po­lar bear and ar­tic fox, and the sea crea­ture with the horn of a uni­corn, the nar­whal. Canada is a big snow coun­try. Ice coun­try.

And thus you might sur­mise that Canada is not overly con­ducive to golf, at least not for sev­eral snowed-un­der months of the year. And if you talk of The Yukon or the Drumheller Bad­lands where they shot Leo DiCaprio in the ex­tremely cold-look­ing film The Revenant, then you would be cor­rect.

But in the south-west cor­ner of the mighty na­tion-state of Canada lies Bri­tish Co­lum­bia, which by dint of its oceanic cli­mate and high­land ge­og­ra­phy en­joys sev­eral mi­cro-cli­mates. BC can be de­scribed as “Mediter­ranean” for six months May-Oc­to­ber, while out­side that think win­ter in south­ern Tas­ma­nia, or Can­berra by night. Cold? Sure. But golf? You bet.

BC is where Cana­di­ans go to golf when their own course is un­der snow. Many re­tire here. Its most pop­u­lous city Van­cou­ver is cool like Port­land or San Fran­cisco. It’s where mi­cro-brew gas­tro-pubs sell bi­son burg­ers, and you can walk down­town and watch Canucks play­ing ice hockey (or “hockey” as they call it) and en­joy the live ac­tion from a sports bar as a beau­ti­ful woman brings you a beer. Van­cou­ver has it go­ing on.

A 12-minute flight from Van­cou­ver (I timed it) is Van­cou­ver Is­land where you can find sev­eral fine and fun golf cour­ses, no­tably Cor­dova Bay Golf

Club, a reg­u­lar stop for tour groups given it’s half­way from the air­port to the funky lit­tle cap­i­tal, Vic­to­ria.

Cor­dova Bay boasts poa and bent greens, and Colo­nial bent fair­ways. There are goats and deer and a rooster called “Gordie”. Sea ea­gles squawk above. Wild geese fly in for­ma­tion. There are

BC IS WHERE CANA­DI­ANS GO TO GOLF WHEN THEIR OWN COURSE IS UN­DER SNOW. MANY RE­TIRE HERE. ITS MOST POP­U­LOUS CITY VAN­COU­VER IS COOL LIKE PORT­LAND OR SAN FRAN­CISCO.

cray­fish in the ponds and streams.

“Do you eat ‘em?” I ask club pro­fes­sional Jim God­dard of the cray­fish. “Darn right,” replies God­dard. God­dard says Cor­dova Bay re­cently un­der­went a “tree pro­gram” which was, eec­tively, to get rid of them. Those that re­main are sparsely placed and more than pretty dec­o­ra­tion than some­thing to get in the way of your ball. Detri­tus is cleaned out of rough. You won’t lose a ball here un­less you hook it OB into cedar for­est. They don’t want you to lose a ball. They want you to be happy.

It’s rainy and misty this day, with lift-clean-and­place in place. Tow­els are worn on belts. Lo­cals apol­o­gise: “It’s not nor­mally this wet.” But it’s fine. It’s just damp. And our div­ots are like great thick beaver pelts, fly­ing in the fog.

And so we wan­der about in the rainy wet mist and fash­ion fun golf shots, and watch the ball shoot into the low fog like hail stones into cot­ton-fog. Su­per fun.

Next day we drive by a statue of run­ning man Terry Fox (a hero, Google him), on­wards past what was once the world’s big­gest totem pole, and through coastal streets where fine old houses have views of Wash­ing­ton (USA) across the Juan De Fuca Strait. We slice past Clover Point where in the gold rush there was a saloon and lots of fight­ing, past Foul Bay (which is re­ally quite nice) and hug the coast by Trial Bay. And we cruise into Vic­to­ria

Golf Club. And for no rea­son I can re­ally put a fin­ger on, I love it in­stantly.

What is there about it? Some­thing old world. Some­thing ... rus­tic. It’s been around since 1893. It heads out from the club­house to the coast and un­der the nests of mas­sive bald ea­gles. Greens are bor­dered by spiky golden heather. There’s kelp on the rocks and the snow-caps of the Olympic Moun­tain Ranges across the Strait. And they don’t make ‘em like this any­more. VGC has small greens with tee-boxes nearby. The fourth tee hits al­most over the third green. They eec­tively share a fair­way, up and back. The fifth hole, “The Bay”, whacks out across the bay and feeds up­wards to a su­per-fast green. The sixth has a blind tee-shot and a blind ap­proach bar the top of the flag. It is a very cool, old golf hole.

And then you ar­rive at “The Point” – holes 7, 8, 9, 10. And you re­alise why they call Vic­to­ria “Canada’s Peb­ble Beach”.

Seven runs down-hill, curves dog-leg left around the beach, ev­ery­thing slop­ing to the coast and the hole thereon. There’s a sharp drop-o into the sea left though you can play o said beach, if you’re lucky. The green is huge and un­du­lat­ing. It’s a crack­ing golf hole.

The tee-box on eight is sur­rounded on three sides by the sea. It’s a short, 105m par-3, up­hill, pro­tected by the course’s three big­gest bunkers. The tee-box on 9 feels like you’re stand­ing on the deck of an old ship head­ing out to sea as seals and killer whales tool about in the bay. And the 10th takes you back o the coast, a par-4 up the hill with death-heather left and many an­gles in. And the view is one you’ll turn around and pho­to­graph.

At the half­way house we en­joy a Coors and a hot

dog with ev­ery­thing on it as two mighty bald ea­gles take o out of the trees, and fly over our heads, wingspan of mil­i­tary drones, the world’s big­gest ea­gle.

An­i­mals abound at Fair­winds Golf Club where signs warn of wild deer and or­cas swim un­der plea­sure craft in Nanoose Bay. The course weaves through mighty Dou­glas fir and shaggy red cedar. There’s a quiet, au­tum­nal, “Si­lence of the Lambs” feel to the place, you could see Clarice Star­ling jog­ging through it in her FBI sweats. Cana­dian Armed Forces prac­tice ma­noeu­vres here­abouts.

The club is part of a “res­i­den­tial com­mu­nity” pop­u­lated by fam­i­lies and older cou­ples who don’t fancy the long trip to Florida en­dured by many of their fel­low “Snow Birds”. And they live in fine old homes that poke out of the cedars and abut the course. And they golf at Fair­winds, and do what­ever they want.

Later we find a pew on the fine deck over­look­ing the 18th hole and en­joy a salmon burger and a beer, as golfers sti shots into the re­cep­tive green.

And so up to Bear Moun­tain where you’ll find the paw-prints of the Golden Bear, Jack Nick­laus, who’s cre­ated 36 holes typ­i­cal of Nick­laus: wide fair­ways, spec­tac­u­lar vis­tas, and diŽcult ap­proaches to un­du­lat­ing, pro­tected greens.

Any bears in these woods? There are not. You could find the odd cougar, bald ea­gles, and all the deer you could eat. And mil­lions of Dou­glas fir trees, the dom­i­nant organism.

The whole joint is called the Westin Bear Moun­tain Golf Re­sort Spa and has a “ski re­sort” sort of feel. It’s alpine and crisp, and peo­ple en­joy hik­ing about with­out hit­ting a golf ball, if you can be­lieve it. The restau­rant is all-time and there’s fine wine tast­ing in an un­der­ground cel­lar. In 2016 Spa­niard and very in­ter­est­ing man Miguel An­gel Jiminez vis­ited Bear Moun­tain to play in the PGA Tour Cham­pi­ons event, the Pa­cific Links Bear Moun­tain Cham­pi­onship. Nat­u­rally he found the cel­lar where he pro­ceeded to point to those wines he de­sired. “I’ll have that one, and that one, and that one, and that one, and that one…”, and so on.

The golf? There are two cour­ses – Moun­tain and Val­ley, which as you’d ex­pect sit across the for­mer and wind through the lat­ter. They both sport spec­tac­u­lar views and sig­na­ture holes (though Nick­laus reck­ons there are 36 sig­na­ture

of them). The trees are re­ally, re­ally tall and if you go in them, there is no get­ting out above them. There are changes in el­e­va­tions, holes play up and down, and across es­carp­ments. There’s wa­ter, fes­cue, mighty bunkers and large, un­du­lat­ing greens. Old mate Golden Bear hasn’t missed Bear Moun­tain. At the other end of the spec­trum in terms is

Nanaimo GC, a pub­lic “muni” style course much loved by lo­cals. It threads through sparse weep­ing wil­low that’s had a hair­cut, and for golf as the lo­cals know it, ac­cept no sub­sti­tute. Back over to Van­cou­ver and we play the fine

Univer­sity Golf Course, the num­ber one pub­lic ac­cess course in Van­cou­ver for the last 10 years. Just 15 min­utes from the CBD, it sports long, nar­row fair­ways lined by mighty old fir trees, with enough va­ri­ety here to en­ter­tain golf hounds. On the 17th tee you can drop into the BC Golf Museum and Hall of Fame.

And if you’re in BC out­side of the cold and snowed-asun­der months (roughly Novem­ber through March), it would be re­miss not to play the other-worldly-look­ing To­biano in Kam­loops and the Nick­laus North with views of snow-capped Whistler peaks.

Cold? Sure, some­times. But as any old Scot would tell you, there’s no bad weather, there’s only bad cloth­ing choices. The beanie is your friend. And so is Bri­tish Co­lum­bia.

AT THE HALF­WAY HOUSE WE EN­JOY A COORS AND A HOT DOG WITH EV­ERY­THING ON IT AS TWO MIGHTY BALD EA­GLES TAKE OFF …

WESTIN BEAR MOUN­TAIN

VIC­TO­RIA golf club

cor­dova bay golf club

The view of Vic­to­ria and its pic­turesque wa­ter­front.

VIC­TO­RIA GOLF CLUB

cor­dova bay golf club

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