GOLF­ING HEAVEN

IT DOESN’T MAT­TER IF YOUR GAME IS OFF AT BANFF SPRINGS: THE AWE-IN­SPIR­ING SCENERY WILL DRIVE YOUR FRUSTRATIO­N AWAY

Life & Style Weekend - - MAGAZINE | ESCAPE - WORDS AND PHO­TOS: SHIRLEY SIN­CLAIR

There’s no fire and brim­stone but the fourth hole at the Banff Springs Golf Course is called Devil’s Caul­dron for a rea­son.

It re­mains one of the most cel­e­brated holes in the game, and one that Golf Magazine named among the world’s top 18. It may be only a short par three but the devil is in the de­tail.

Golf course de­signer Stan­ley Thompson (whose ge­nius is wor­shipped and his legacy pre­served through The Stan­ley Thompson So­ci­ety) is quoted as say­ing of the hole: “I was com­mis­sioned to build the last word on golf.”

And there’s no doubt many end up curs­ing that “last word”.

Step up to the el­e­vated tee po­si­tion – as thou­sands of golfers from all over the world have done over the past 90 years, and sur­vey what lies in wait: 165 yards ( just un­der 151m) from the men’s mark­ers to the flag, bunkers left and right, part of a glacial lake just short of the green and the im­pos­ing Mount Run­dle cliff face to the right.

Any­thing can go wrong and even a good shot may not tri­umph, come judg­ment day.

A miss-hit off the tee at the Devil’s Caul­dron and you’ll find yourself in a big pot of trou­ble and mis­ery – land­ing “in the soup” or cook­ing your goose in a well-chis­elled bunker.

And the green is like a bowl so fall short and you’ll get your just desserts.

If the wind is blow­ing, all hell could break loose.

It’s dev­il­ish fun try­ing to tame the wildly imag­i­na­tive beast of a hole.

For a first-timer to the course in Canada’s majestic Al­berta Prov­ince, there was noth­ing more spir­i­tu­ally up­lift­ing for my golfer hus­band than to hit a sweet tee shot with an eight iron, reach­ing the green on the full, and land­ing within a me­tre of the Devil’s Caul­dron pin.

Quite a thrill and al­most in it­self worth com­ing half­way around the globe to en­joy a morn­ing round of 18 holes on this el­e­gant course.

Most peo­ple travel to Banff to ex­pe­ri­ence the Canadian Rockies in all their glory, sum­mer and win­ter, or to ex­pe­ri­ence its un­ri­valled ski­ing.

Vis­it­ing bucket-list des­ti­na­tions such as Lake Louise, Mo­raine Lake and Peyto Lake along the Ice­fields Park­way road trip also is high on their pri­or­i­ties.

Not us. This friendly game of golf was the first thing we booked in Banff on our first trip to Canada – de­spite the cost be­ing al­most a third of a year’s golf club mem­ber­ship fees back home.

But the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course is con­sid­ered among the most scenic in the world – the Canadian Rockies in mi­cro­cosm.

The beauty of the 27-hole cham­pi­onship lay­out (the 18-hole Stan­ley Thompson course and nine-hole Tun­nel Moun­tain course) is in its chal­leng­ing dis­trac­tions.

Look left, right, in front and be­hind on any hole and the jaw-drop­ping panora­mas are ev­ery­where. No mat­ter how bad a game you have, the scenery is your con­so­la­tion prize as you drive around in the golf buggy be­side the rapidly flow­ing Bow River or look up to the heav­ens as the me­dieval-like “Cas­tle of the Rockies” – the Fairmont Banff Springs Ho­tel – comes into view on the back nine.

While Aus­tralian golfers may be used to wild an­i­mals of the duck, snake and kan­ga­roo va­ri­ety, here cari­bou, moose and bull elk – even griz­zly bears – can be spot­ted in the trees or closer to the fair­ways, not to men­tion the cute prairie dogs: a type of ground squir­rel which seem very fam­ily-ori­ented and love to stick their head up like meerkats in grass around the greens.

So Devil’s Caul­dron be damned. If there is a golf heaven, this is surely it.

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