10 Canadian Courses On My Must-Play List

Humber Valley Resort River Course (Image: Humber Valley Resort)

Winter daydreams are made of views like this one at the Doug Carrick-designed River Course at Humber Valley Resort in Newfoundland. (Image: Humber Valley Resort)

From the mountains of British Columbia to Newfoundland’s Humber Valley, 10 top Canadian courses I’ve spent the winter daydreaming about playing.

Sadly, hoping for something doesn’t always translate into actually doing it. But I’m definitely going to try my best to play these 10 very special Canadian courses this season. Some are old friends, while others are layouts I’d love to finally strike off my must-play list.

1. Banff Springs Golf Course. A friend of mines jokes that the Banff Springs is my mistress. And it’s true that I’ve been hopelessly in love with this Stanley Thompson-designed masterwork ever since my first visit. I’m always awestruck by the looming, brooding, staggeringly immediate presence of the Rocky Mountains on every hole; by how Thompson so brilliantly incorporated the charging Bow and Spray Rivers into his design; and by the sheer perfection of Devil’s Cauldron, Canada’s—if not the world’s—most unforgettable par-three hole.

2. Whitewater Golf Club. I’d love a return visit to this Tom McBroom-designed beauty in Thunder Bay. McBroom’s course perfectly captures the wild allure of a Northern Ontario river valley with its rough-and-tumble routing through and around dramatic plateaus, steep cliffs, ravines and wetlands. I also remember being charmed by a clubhouse furnished with beaver pelts, paddles and other antiques recalling the area’s fur trading past.

3. Waskesui Golf Course. This season I’m determined to finally see for myself why Saskatchewan golfers have cherished this Stanley Thompson design in Prince Albert National Park (about one hour north of Prince Albert) since its unveiling in the 1930s. I’ve heard how Thompson made brilliant use of the heavily forested setting, infusing each hole with a feeling of stand-alone serenity.

4. Canmore Golf and Curling Club. Though I’ve toured it, I’ve never actually played a course that offers many of the same mountain golf experiences—alpine vistas, a meandering glacial river, towering forests of evergreens—as the nearby Banff Springs and Stewart Creek courses at about half the cost.

5. Dakota Dunes Golf Links. I played this stunning Wayne Carleton-Graham Cooke design near Saskatoon shortly after Golf Digest declared it Canada’s best new course of 2005. Time for another look at a layout that kicks and bucks across 240 acres of windswept prairie, and has hosted the PGA Tour Canada’s Dakota Dunes Casino Open since 2008.

6. Greywolf Golf Course. This drama-filled British Columbia mountain design by Doug Carrick is another course I’m eager to play again. Tucked in the Purcell mountain range near the town of Invermere, Greywolf features 500 feet of elevation change, as well as the aptly named Cliffhanger, one of Canada’s most thrilling par threes.

7. Wildstone Golf Course. I still haven’t played Canada’s only Gary Player-designed course. Opened in 2011, Wildstone is set on the rolling mountain highlands above the British Columbia town of Cranbrook. “Wildstone excels in scenery and strategies,” raved Ron Whitten, Golf Digest’s Senior Architecture Editor.

8. Clear Lake Golf Course. Stanley Thompson worked his considerable magic in designing the front nine of a beloved Manitoba layout carved through the boreal forest in Riding Mountain National Park, about 95 kilometres north of Brandon. Another compelling reason for a first visit this summer is Clear Lake’s renown as one of Canada’s most environmentally progressive courses. Green initiatives include the rigging of six maintenance machines to run on used cooking oil gathered from nearby restaurants.

9. Humber Valley Resort’s River Course. I loved it at first sight, and I’m long overdue for another look at a brilliant Doug Carrick design set in rugged terrain near the Newfoundland town of Deer Lake. Several holes play alongside the meandering Humber River and the shores of Deer Lake, while others skirt ponds and streams.

10. Cabot Cliffs. Set on soaring oceanside bluffs just outside the Cape Breton town of Inverness, Cabot Cliffs is even more spectacular than its celebrated sister course, Cabot Links. Last summer I played a preview round when the greens were still growing in. I’ve been daydreaming ever since about a return once the course is finally in the championship shape envisioned by architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.