True, for a good chunk of the year, much of Canada is frozen hockey-puck solid. Enter curling, tobogganing, snowshoeing, and, of course, ice hockey as passionate pursuits for all those crazy Canucks. (And I should know, I am one.) However, come spring, thousands of people in the Great White North exchange their pucks for Pinnacles. Canadian golf is a big deal. Thanks to the many golf-rich regions in the country — and there are more than you think — the “Great Green North” might be a better moniker...in summer.
Speaking of “green,” the recent weakening of the Canadian dollar makes a trip north of the border a good deal for the value-conscious traveler. Basically, the whole country is on sale. Based on current exchange rates, the general rule of thumb is a 25 percent discount for Americans. In other words, a $100 green fee becomes $75. Consider it your invitation to spend more at the beverage cart.
Regardless of how many “loonies” (the Canadian dollar coin is stamped with an image of a loon, hence the nickname) you have to spend, from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland — and many points in between — the Canadian golf scene is alive and well. Many of these areas, when it comes to the quality and the quantity of the golf, will surprise you. Here are six such regions.
While the best courses on the Vancouver Island Golf Trail — the two Nicklaus-designed courses at Bear Mountain in Victoria and Storey Creek in Campbell River come to mind — are worth the journey alone, it’s the “extras” that make a trip here truly great. The historic harbor city of Victoria, for example, is a delight to explore. Whale watching tours, tucked-away wineries, a cool collection of craft breweries, and a laid-back vibe that can only come from an island, are just some of the highlights. Interestingly, Vancouver Island is one of the only places where they golf year round in Canada. www.golfvancouverisland.ca
The interior of British Columbia, Canada’s westernmost province, is blessed with incredible scenery. Snow-capped mountains, sparkling lakes, and beautiful valleys adorn the rugged landscape. In summer, the Thompson Okanagan region, which is surprisingly hot and dry, is a stunning place to visit. Popular activities include beaching, wine touring, biking, hiking, and, yes, golfing. The region’s top courses include Tobiano (Kamloops), Predator Ridge (Vernon), Tower Ranch (Kelowna), Fairview Mountain (Oliver), and Talking Rock (Chase). There are at least a dozen courses worth playing and countless rural roads to explore so allow plenty of time in the Thompson Okanagan! www.golfkelowna.com.
Banff, Jasper, Lake Louise: these are, without a doubt, iconic Canadian destinations. Quintessential Canada. Like the moose, the maple leaf, canoes — and, of course Tim Horton’s coffee — the soaring, snow-capped Canadian Rockies are a proud symbol of the country. This mountain-surrounded region is also one of the country’s most notable golf destinations. The historic, Stanley Thompson-designed courses at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge and the Fairmont Banff Springs are bucket list courses, for sure. However, the mountain golf genre is, perhaps, best exemplified with the courses in Canmore. Both Silvertip and Stewart Creek feature jaw-dropping elevation changes and photo-ops at every tee box. www.canadianrockiesgolf.ca
A couple of hours north of Toronto, Ontario is the beautiful lake-and-cottage country of Muskoka...and one of Canada’s top golf destinations. The region, while somewhat pricey, is home to some of Canada’s top golf resorts and member clubs. In no particular order, some of the must-plays include Taboo, Deerhurst Highlands, Muskoka Bay Club, Rocky Crest, and Grandview. The beautifully-maintained courses in this region tumble and roll through rock outcroppings and beautiful mixed forests that burn with exquisite color in the fall. Canoeing, camping, and hiking in Algonquin Provincial Park always makes for a memorable add-on when visiting this region. www.golfmuskoka.com
The Maritime island of Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province, is a pastoral, slow-paced place that often doesn’t get its due. However, for golf aficionados who relish peaceful courses in beautiful rural areas, it doesn’t get much better. Crowbush Cove and Dundarave are the stars of the show on the island, but other courses such as Mill River, Brudenell River, Glasgow Hills, and Andersons Creek are not far behind. Top your trip off with a local lobster feast, a tour through historic Charlottetown, and a visit to Cavendish, the place that inspired Anne of Green Gables. www.peisfinestgolf.com
If the seaside golf genre melts your butter, the Nova Scotia island of Cape Breton is your ticket. The one-two punch of Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs exceed on every level. Cabot Cliffs — a Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw design that parades along a dramatic stretch of wave-smashed coastline — has, rightfully, grabbed the attention of the entire golf world. It’s as good as seaside golf gets. But the historic campaign of Highlands Links, an 80-year-old Stanley Thompson course that is often touted as the best Golden Age-era course in Canada, is also exceptional. Linking Cabot Links and Highlands Links is the Cabot Trail, one of the most scenic highways in the world. www.golfcapebreton.com
Andrew Penner is a golf writer and photographer based in Calgary, Alberta.