Being a former Albertan, or more specifically, a Calgarian, I used to throw my chest out and say that I live next door to the world famous Banff Springs Golf Course. Just seventy five miles west of Calgary, nestled in the Banff National Park and adjacent to the town of Banff, the Banff Springs Golf Course is a must destination for the avid golfer.
Banff Springs Golf Course
On a revisit, we noticed that the golf course has been entirely realigned with the addition of a clubhouse situated in the middle of the course. There were several architectural and design changes to the course. Stanley Thompson, the premier golf course architect in Canada, is credited with the current championship golf layout. Les Furber, another prominent Canadian designer, had a hand in redesigning greens and bunker placements. The course plays to 6,389 yards from the middle tee that can accommodate 7,000 yards for the pros, down to 5,444 yards for the shorter hitters. Speaking of pros, the 2006 Skins Game was played here that featured Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, John Daly, Stephen Ames, and Sergio Garcia.
When you first step onto the grounds of the Banff Springs Golf Course and look around, you may temporarily forget that you came here to golf. As you gaze around as well as up and down, you will instinctively and silently mouth such phrases as “man!…wow!…look at that!.”. Nestled, first along Mt. Rundle (the Rundle nine) and progressing along the nearby Sulphur Mountain (the Sulphur nine), the golf course meanders through several ice cold, snow fed streams or creeks that join the nearby Bow River The classic admonition to keep your head down does not apply while playing this course. You are allowed to look up after every shot and view with awe, the majestic beauty of the snow capped mountains surrounding you. As you wend your way along the fairways, you will tend to speak in whispers as you feel like a speck amongst these green rolling fairways and the gigantic, towering mountains. The cracking echo of your tee shots rebounding amongst the trees will remain with you long after you’ve finished your round. Each golf hole, as in Augusta National, has a colorful name; such as, Hoodoo, Papoose and Magpie. Three of these holes will be described later.
In addition to the scenic beauty of the golf course, you will be tickled with the abundance of wild life roaming freely on the golf course. Although very much controlled now, there used to be more elk than golfers in the olden days. There used to be a time when the golfer needed to walk gingerly around the ubiquitous mounds of droppings! I can recall watching, very carefully, a black mother bear trailing her young cub scampering around; climbing trees, sniffing the air and pawing the ground. This was happening not more than twenty to thirty feet away, and you can see that the mother kept looking our way more than towards her cub. We made sure to remain seated in the electric cart with the foot ready to pounce on the pedal should the mother come running after us. I have always wondered, later, whether the cart would have been fast enough to outrun the bear if she decided to charge.
The first thing we noticed on our revisit was the realignment of the holes. We used to anticipate teeing up on the first hole, The Spray, by climbing back up the cliff towards the Fairmont Hotel, looking across a little creek down below, cascading towards the Bow River, and fixing our gaze on a line that would avert the row of trees on the left. It always used to be a tense moment because of the usual gallery of other golfers waiting to tee off as well as the pro shop staff watching and anticipating a classic pratfall. The hole is now number fifteen and consequently, has lost some of the edge of the anticipatory golf.
The tenth hole, Little Bow, was previously hole number fourteen. At over two hundred yards from the middle tee, this is a character building par three because of the swift flowing creek running along the short fairway that, depending on the line you take to the green, actually cuts in on your line of sight. We tend to aim right of the green here because of a huge bunker that guards the left side of the green and therefore, brings more of the creek into play. The notable thing about this water hazard is that if you’ve ever tried to play the ball stuck just shy of the flowing water line, you may do a Woody Austin imitation of Aquaman! As mentioned before, these are snow fed streams with the water temperature not much above freezing!
The signature hole on this golf course is the one hundred and eighty yard fourth hole (previously number eight), called the Devil’s Cauldron. The Cauldron is one of those golf holes that will remain with you forever. As you stand on the tee box, the stunning beauty of the panorama that faces you will take your breath away. The pristine, spring fed lake lying about a hundred feet below you, and the majestic Mt. Rundle serving as the back drop to the towering pine trees guarding the sloping green, give credence to the old adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Although the green is guarded by five bunkers, they are set far enough away so that a slight miss will still allow the ball to trickle onto the green
The realigned golf course is centered by a new clubhouse that apparently was built to resemble a Teepee. All the usual amenities are there; pro shop, clubhouse grill, snack bar as well as beverage carts on the course. There are rental clubs, practice range, chipping and putting areas (golf carts are mandatory).
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
For the vacationing golfer, there is, first and foremost, the gigantic (eight hundred room) Fairmont Hotel. For most people, however, I would expect they will have more fun staying in a motel/ hotel in downtown Banff. Banff, being a world renowned tourist destination, is teeming with activity during the summer months. Fine dining, souvenir hunting and shopping should occupy your leisure time away from golf.
For one of your sightseeing ventures, you must include a visit to the Bow Falls that you passed on the way to the golf course. From here, the mighty Bow River wends its way through the town of Canmore and down to the City of Calgary and beyond. A gondola ride up Sulphur Mountain is also a must do trip. If time permits, you may wish to take a longer trip by taking a Banff to Lake Louise bus tour.
A visit to this part of the country should fill you with awe at the sheer beauty of nature; rejuvenate your body with the clear crisp air, the perennial sunshine and the majesty of the Rocky Mountains. Having been thus stimulated by your visit to the Banff Springs Golf Course, you may now wish to visit the remaining pride and joy; the Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course on the Canadian National line, about two hundred miles west of Edmonton, the provincial capital; and Alberta’s pride and joy, the provincially run Kananaskis Country’s Mt. Kidd and the Lorette golf courses, just a short hop east of Banff.
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