With the world opening up again, this part of Western Canada is beckoning travellers. Stretching from the beautiful city of Victoria in the south-north to Campbell River, the Trail is a trip that’s a delight from beginning to end. And don’t just take our word for it.
The Vancouver Island Golf Trail is world-renowned. It’s been voted the #1 Island Destination in North America and #10 in the world by Travel and Leisure magazine. As well, it was rated as the #2 Island destination in the world by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine.
What makes this such an enticing place to visit, and experience, are the packages available for golf and accommodation over this 250-kilometre stretch. The Trail includes 13 world-class golf courses along with 11 accommodation partners to enable one to put together a well-planned package.
So, let’s get started on this wonderful journey by enjoying six of the courses on the Trail.
This 18-hole layout is something special sitting as it does under the shadows of the Beaufort Mountain range. Since it’s classed as a resort course it offers wide landing areas off the tee and large greens. But don’t be fooled - those factors don’t make this layout a walk in the park. In fact, it’s so good the Q School for the Mackenzie (Canadian PGA) Tour is held here. At the same time though, anyone can play here and enjoy the experience. “It’s a great test from the back tee but also a fun and fair golf course for all levels,” said GM Bill Kelly.
Measuring just over 7,000 yards from the tips and winding down to 5,200 yards with five teeing areas, there’s a spot to start for everyone. With those big fairways and huge greens beckoning, low scores can seem oh-so close. But, when you take in the massive bunkering complexes, a number of water hazards, and greens that are truly fast, one must take care from start to finish.
The par-3 holes here are outstanding. Depending on your skill, and tee, they all allow players to go flag hunting and birdie chances tweet at you on a constant basis. As for all the other holes, the front nine, to me at least, was more interesting, but that’s not to say the home stretch is weak.
“Hidden Gem” is probably an overused term in the golf world these days but this course certainly fits the bill. Redesigned three years ago, the Campbell River Golf & Country Club calls for you to use every club in your bag. At ‘only’ 6,141 yards from the back deck, dropping to 4,400, this isn’t a course where you need the big stick all the time. Yet, at sea level, shots don’t go as far as you think (or hope) so you need to stay focused along with a strong putting stroke to score well.
Said Jesse Moussa one of the pros at the club, “The course had a full restoration and it’s spectacular.”Proof of that plays out over all 18 holes, which includes seven shorties, measuring anywhere from 135 yards up to 170 off the Blue tees. To bring the overall par up to 70, the front nine hosts two par-5 tests while there are a trio of the same on the back.
Speaking to what sets this course apart, Moussa suggested a reasoning along different lines than usual. “It’s a lateral golf course. Here, you feel like you’re on your own hole a lot of the time. It’s almost like a PGA golf course, shrunk down, where players can come back over the trees, or under the trees, trying to save par. All in all, you’ll find Campbell River G&CC is a gem of a golf course — and hopefully, one that isn’t hidden from anyone.
“If I lived here, I’d be a member here.” Those words came from me to head pro Travis Busch after touring this wonderful layout just outside of Parksville. But, a word or two of advice as you get ready to take on Fairwinds Golf Course — make sure you go in with the right mindset.
Someone, trying to be helpful, may tell you how tight some of the fairways are. And yes, some are, but overall this is a great place to tee it up and let it fly …. as long as you hit it straight! A Les Furber design, this track doesn’t offer as many doglegs as his other venues do, but all the same it tests your skills in a variety of ways. The architect uses contours around the greens and a elevation changes to make you think your way around this layout. And then when you add in around 70 fairway and green side bunkers, you treasure each well-struck, and placed, shot.
Because of those tight, tree-lined fairways bordered by fescue rough, this is a track that isn’t going to dazzle you with length. But, it doesn’t need to be long to be good. At a tad over 6,100 yards off the deepest deck and playing to a par of 71, the protection here is based on shots that is fairways and greens.
A great thing here are the short par 4 holes, where well-struck shots can leave short approaches and opportunities for birdies galore. Wander though, and big numbers can just as easily fly onto your card.
Another Furber design, this layout is a challenging play with the usual assortment of mounding, bunkering, and uniquely shaped greens. When all of those are put together you’re served up a true test of one’s game and that’s what golf is supposed to be about. As to what’s out there in a beautifully tree-lined scenic front nine after the second hole, one finds the all sorts of Furber trademarks.
“Les Fuber, through Trent Jones, designs greens that are great targets. The greens here are absolutely immaculate and they set up well. People like to play here,” said GM Barry McWha. There are four sets of tees and a fifth set is being added which allows any player to take on this treasure.
“It’s still attractive to a beginner and we counsel them that there are tees appropriate to their ability. We’re not trying to be all things to all people,” but if you think you’ve got game, or even part of a game, be sure to give Morningstar Golf Club a go.
From start to finish this course is a definite “must play” on this end of the island. From the first hole, a par 5 with a downhill tee shot ending at an elevated green through to No. 18, also a par 5 that follows the same sort of routing, this is a gorgeous track There are tees where length isn’t overbearing and with a wealth of downhill tee shots ahead, one licks their lips in anticipation of a good looking scorecard. But, if care isn’t taken that card can be littered with big numbers as the fescue rough is penal.
There are too many good holes here to pick a “best” so just let it be said they’re all top-notch. And rightfully so, as this carries the Nicklaus name behind it, co-designed by father and son team Jack and Steve.
Distances off the blocks range from 6,800 yards down to 4,500 and with six starting points to choose from there’s a place for everyone
"Don’t choose the tee box on your ego," advised Director of Golf, Rob Larocque. “Nobody asks you what tee box you played from when you say, ‘I made a birdie,’ when you get home!” And on this track, when you’re not being wowed by the views, you can admire your playing partner’s ability (or your own) to be putting for birdie on an exquisite golf course that is truly an a course one has to experience.
This is another beautiful example of many courses in this area carved into tall trees, rolling terrain and rock outcroppings. But more than that, this is a little guy among giants.
You see, Highland Pacific Golf is a family-owned and -operated business, and not a layout controlled by a conglomerate. To the staff and playing public here, that’s important. This 18-hole design was built in two stages. After Herbert Plasterer dreamed of putting a course in this area before he passed, his children took on the challenge of putting together the opening loop. Then Chris Young designed the second nine.
To this day the Plasterer family has stayed involved with the grandchildren now running the operating board.
Highland Pacific features several downhill tee shots which seem ever-present in this area, wide fairways with several blind tee shots, natural water hazards, large greens, and beautiful rock outcroppings and of course, the ever-present huge trees. The Pacific side plays a bit longer than the original Highland side, but both are wonderful layouts. Each offers six teeing areas so anyone can, and should, play here and simply enjoy the day and not worry about scoring.
As to how these two nines work in concert, GM Jeff Palmer noted, “They do flow together quite nicely. While it flows there are a few characteristic differences. Highlands is a bit higher up where the Pacific side goes down into a valley.”
In summing things up about his course’s involvement with the wonderful Vancouver Island Golf Trail, Palmer had this to say: “It’s a great collaborative effort between the 13 golf courses to promote the Trail, and bring visitors to this beautiful area of Western Canada." And remember, best of all, all these courses on the Vancouver Island Golf Trail are open for play year round.
Other courses on the Vancouver Island Golf Trail include Bear Mountain, Mountain Course; Olympic Vies; Arbutus Ridge; Cowichin G&CC; Eaglecrest; Storey Creek GC; and Quadra Island.
For more on this wonderful Canadian golf experience and the courses we played, visit the Golf Vancouver Island website or go to Vancouver Island Golf Trail on Facebook.
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