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What do you do when you encounter a grizzly on a golf course? Do you play out the hole or leave your ball behind? These are not questions that come up for most golfers — unless they are golfing in Alberta’s Rockies. When you golf where the wild things are, you come home with wild stories or, in this case, wildlife stories.
The Alberta Rockies are home to the first national park established in Canada and a spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site that has become a popular travel destination for visitors from all over the world. Although you don’t normally see golf courses inside national parks these days, the 27-hole Banff Springs golf course and the 18-hole Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course were both built inside the national parks in the 1920s and are renowned for their panoramic views, beautiful landscapes and challenging terrain.
Just outside the national park, in the parkland of Kananaskis Country and the town Canmore, lie more world-class golf courses bordering mountain lakes, rivers and wildlife corridors that are surrounded by towering Rocky Mountain peaks. A Rocky Mountain golf vacation can include several top-notch courses, first-class accommodations, fine dining and loads of other activities — including wildlife watching both on and off the course.
Banff Springs Golf CourseThe Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course is surrounded by towering mountains and is one of the most visually stunning courses in the world. Built in 1928, the course runs next to the Bow River and is surrounded by mountains that create optical illusions that make the course more challenging. The original 18-hole, par 71 course was designed by Stanley Thompson, and an additional nine holes, known as the Tunnel Mountain Course, was designed by Cornish and Robinson and added in 1989 resulting in a 27-hole championship layout. There is a shuttle that runs continuously between the hotel and the course as well as an on-site driving range, a short-game practice facility and a golf academy with instructional programs.
Jasper Park Lodge Golf CourseThe Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course has received many awards and accolades, including being rated by ScoreGolf magazine as the #1 Best Golf Resort in Canada. The 18-hole, par 71 Stanley Thompson Course has elevated tee boxes, beautiful views and wide fairways surrounded by thick forest. It is a ruggedly beautiful and incredibly challenging golf experience. There is a driving range, practice green and on-site instructional programs.
Kananaskis Country Golf CourseLess than an hour’s drive from Banff are 36 holes of amazing golf surrounded by soaring limestone peaks and thick boreal forest. The Kananaskis Country Golf Course is actually two courses — Mount Lorette and Mount Kidd. Named for the mountain peaks that serve as their backdrop, the courses have lush fairways, immaculate bent-grass greens and more than 140 silica sand bunkers between them. The scenery is stunning and the golf challenging.
The 18-hole, par 72 Mount Lorette Course has been called the “water course” because it borders the Kananaskis River and has water features on 13 of the 18 holes. The fairways are narrow and present a challenge when it comes to club selection.
The Mount Kidd Course is known as the “sand course” because of the large number of bunkers, though many experts say it is actually the more forgiving of the two Kananaskis courses. Visitors will find elevated tees and spectacular panoramic views on this 18-hole, par 72 course.
It is commonplace to see wildlife on the courses of Kananaskis Country as well.
How to Book a Canadian Rockies Golf SafariIf you are looking for a tour operator who can package accommodations and tee times for multiple courses, try Golf Canada’s West. The operator offers stay-and-play packages at commissionable rates.
For clients who want to visit only one or two golf courses, it is quite simple to book golf and hotel packages directly with the resorts as well. The two resorts inside the Alberta national parks of Banff and Jasper are both operated by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts and commissionable packages at discounted rates are available.
In Kananaskis Country, the Delta Lodge at Kananaskis has excellent commissionable golf and hotel packages with preferred tee times.
For stay-and-play packages with other courses, visit the individual golf course website.
Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course and Jasper Park Lodge Golf Coursewww.fairmontgolf.com
Golf Canada’s Westwww.golfcanadaswest.com
Kananaskis Country Golf Coursewww.kananaskisgolf.com
Just 15 miles outside the southeastern boundary of Banff National Park is the Town of Canmore. If the courses in Banff are too full or too expensive, there are several stunning mountain golf courses to choose from in Canmore.
Brewster’s Kananaskis Ranch Public Golf Coursewww.kananaskisranchgolf.com
Silvertip Golf Resortwww.silvertipresort.com
Stewart Creek Golf & Country Clubwww.stewartcreekgolf.com