Alberta’s best holesWritten by Andrew Penner
Look into planning your August long weekend golf trip around Alberta’s best holes.
From a golfer’s perspective, there is no Canadian province that can match the variety, and the beauty, of Alberta. Other than authentic seaside links, our province is home to every genre of the game. Mountain golf. Parkland golf. Prairie golf. Badlands golf. Foothills golf. Riverside golf. Municipal golf. We’ve got it all covered. And, not surprisingly, given the variety of the settings, the canvases, on which the game here is played, the province is teeming with awesome, postcard-worthy holes that showcase this dramatic, all-encompassing beauty.
The problem, if you can call it that, is singling out the best of the best. Ranking these great holes – the best our province has to offer – is both a monumental and subjective task. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And the criteria for what makes a golf hole great can be, for lack of a better word, confusing.
For some, the natural beauty of a hole is paramount. The actual design is secondary. For others, the strategic and architectural merit – the hazards, the natural and man-made contours, the options – count the highest. And many others would feel that difficulty, the hole’s ability to provide a world-class challenge, is the critical factor in terms of its inclusion in the “greatness” category.
Regardless of where, exactly, you stand on the “criteria,” some holes just seem to have it all. They are beautiful. They are challenging. They are architecturally superior. And, yes, they do, most definitely, scream “Alberta!”
The Best Par-3s
Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course, Hole 4, 165 yards – The famous “Devil’s Cauldron” has long been considered one of the greatest golf holes in the world. The perched tee, the glass-green lake, the punchbowl green, the clutch of ragged bunkers, the soaring face of Mt. Rundle: it all adds up to par-3 perfection.
Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course, Hole 15, 130 yards – Dubbed “Bad Baby,” this one-off lakeside par-3 at Jasper is short and sweet…and very, very scary. The setting along the lake and the evil slopes that guard the green make it one of the most brilliantly-conceived short holes in all of golf.
Kananaskis Country Golf Course, Mt. Kidd Course, Hole 4, 170 yards – Although nobody has hit a shot on this hole for the past four years (one more year to wait!), this gem of a par-3 will soon return to its former glory. With a gorgeous green ringed by a pond and the stunning peaks of K-Country looming behind the target, this hole is rightfully considered an Alberta icon.
Priddis Greens Golf & Country Club, The Raven, Hole 15, 133 yards – When done well, short par-3s bring an enticing and endearing element to a round of golf. Everyone can birdie them. Or double bogey them! Case in point: the over-the-pond 15th on the The Raven at Priddis Greens.
Paradise Canyon Golf Resort, Hole 12, 131 yards – The dry-as-a-bone badlands of the Old Man River Valley – as well as never-ending river, prairie, and mountain views – are on full display on this little knee-knocker. When the wind is howling, as it often does here, a knock-down 4-iron might be the shot of choice.
The Best Par-4s
Calgary Golf & Country Club, Hole 18, 417 yards – In a perfect world, the closing hole encapsulates the essence of a course, offers a fitting and challenging conclusion to the experience. And no hole in Alberta does this better than the robust, riverside finale at the Calgary Golf & Country Club.
Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Club, Hole 14, 411 yards – With the historic castle-like hotel in the background, the smooth-flowing Bow River meandering on the right, this meaty par-4 is a timeless testament to the Thompson-era of great golf course architecture. True, it should still be the finishing hole, but, regardless, it’s lofty status as one of Alberta’s great par-4s remains firmly intact. (Just like the next hole, the 15th, which used to be the unforgettable start to the round!)
Red Deer Golf & Country Club, Hole 18, 445 yards – A closing birdie should be well-earned. And if you make a three on this beautiful, tough-as-nails par-4 – it plunges down the hill and requires length, accuracy and putting prowess – you’ve definitely earned your pat-on-the-back.
Innisfail Golf Club, Hole 6, Hazelwood, 362 yards – It’s well known in Alberta’s golf community: Innisfail is peppered with pristine parkland holes. And a perfect example is the tucked-away 6th on the Hazelwood nine. This idyllic, short par-4 curls around the lake and is about as peaceful and perfect a setting for a golf hole in the province.
Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, Hole 14, 355 yards – With the tee box sitting snug on the shore of Lac Beauvert and the rumpled fairway curling around the lake to the small, elevated green, this is the type of golf hole you could play every day and it would never get old! But, of course, this is just one of 18 reasons why Jasper is widely considered the best golf course in Alberta.
The Best Par-5s
Canyon Meadows Golf & Country Club, Hole 18, 551 yards – True, the best players on the PGA Tour Champions typically eat this hole up during the Shaw Charity Classic. (Case in point: Fred Couples’ eagle chip-in in 2015.) Smash a good drive and the water-guarded green might be in reach. A hole “Tin Cup” would love!
D’Arcy Ranch Golf Club, Hole 7, 521 yards – Careening through a natural coulee with a razor-thin green hard on the water, the 7th at D’Arcy Ranch is equal parts beauty and beast. From the elevated tee, the spacious fairway begs you to “let the big dog eat!”
Wolf Creek Golf Resort, Hole 11, The Links Course, 527 yards – Dubbed “Hell’s Full Acre” (a play off Pine Valley’s famous “Hell’s Half Acre” hole), this awesome and artistic Rod Whitman concoction deserves more love. From the semi-blind tee shot to the rugged, wasteland of sand, this is a one-off hole that epitomizes Whitman’s talent and creativity.
Glendale Golf & Country Club, Hole 17, 536 yards – A late-round eagle? Hmmm. Maybe not. This prodigious round-wrecker is always a handful. Blast a drive down the right hand side and thoughts of getting home might surface. However, plenty of water, bunkers, and shin-high rough are cause for concern. And so is the massive, three-tiered green.
Blackhawk Golf Club, Hole 11, 562 yards – Plunging into the serene North Saskatchewan River Valley, the 11th at Blackhawk – one of four awesome par-5s at Blackhawk – begins an amazing run of holes along the river. From a visual standpoint, golf holes don’t get any better!
Naturally – given the fact that Alberta is home to over 300 golf courses! – there are, literally, hundreds of heavenly holes that could easily have made the grade here. And a meager list of “honorable mentions” can hardly do it justice. The 1st at Wintergreen? The 9th at Heritage Pointe (Heritage 9)? The 18th at the Lethbridge Country Club? The 1st at Athabasca? The 18th at the Edmonton Country Club? The list goes on and on.
In a golf-rich province such as Alberta, debating the best golf holes could last weeks. Fortunately, as we all know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And in Alberta, when it comes to beautiful golf holes, there are plenty to behold.
Alberta’s Best Holes
This article was originally published in the 2017 edition of The Alberta Golfer Magazine. To view the full magazine, click here.