The Two Canadian Courses I Most Want to Play This Season

Kananaskis Hole No. 4 Mt. Kidd (Image: Kananaskis Country Golf Course)

The par-three fourth on the Mount Kidd course at Kananaskis Country Golf Course is one of the most photographed holes in Canada. (Image: Kananaskis Country Golf Course)

Rebuilt by top architects and ready for their unveiling, Kananaskis Country Golf Course and the Algonquin Golf Course are the most anticipated Canadian course openings since Cabot Cliffs and Cabot Links.

Two high-profile redesigns, at Kananaskis Country Golf Course in Alberta and the Algonquin Golf Course in New Brunswick, are at the top of my—and just about every other Canadian golfer’s—must-play list this season.

Anticipation has been building for the reopening of the two Robert Trent Jones Sr. designs in the gorgeous Kananaskis River valley near Canmore ever since they were virtually destroyed by floods in 2013. For a while there was doubt that they would be rebuilt. Many Albertans argued that surely the provincial government, the owner of Kananaskis, might better spend the money needed for the restoration by putting it toward repairing the massive infrastructure damage caused by the flooding in Calgary and other nearby communities.

In the end, the Alberta government budgeted $18-million to restore the courses to their former glory. Excellent call. The permanent loss of Jones’s two masterful Rocky Mountain layouts, Mount Kidd and Mount Lorette, would have been a cruel blow to Canadian golf.

Algonquin Golf Course Hole #12 (Image: Algonquin Golf Course)

Another Canadian signature hole: the par-three 12th at Algonquin Golf Course. (Image: Algonquin Golf Course)

Calgary-based architect Gary Browning was brought in to oversee the restoration. Browning, best known for his Stewart Creek and Copper Point courses, undertook to preserve the integrity of Jones’s design while incorporating new wildlife migration corridors and working around those parts of the courses permanently lost during the flooding. And what had been brutally difficult designs when they debuted in 1983 were made more player-friendly, in the modern fashion, by reducing the number and size of the bunkers and toning down the wildly undulating greens.

A few local writers given a sneak peek at the new and possibly improved Kananaskis last autumn unanimously raved about the results. The Lorette course will open May 10. On June 1, the front nine of the Kidd course will open, with the entire eighteen coming on line August 1.

Meanwhile, in New Brunswick on Canada’s East Coast, architect Rod Whitman and his team are racing to finish a massive reworking of the Algonquin Golf Course in St. Andrews-by-the-Sea.

Vacationers have travelled to this historic seaside resort town for more than a hundred years to golf and enjoy the high-life at the Algonquin Resort. The red-roofed grand hotel, which was given an impressive $50-million makeover several years ago, has hosted luminaries from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Diana, Princess of Wales.

Algonquin Resort in St Andrews-by-the-Sea (Image: The Algonquin Resort)

Algonquin Resort completed a massive $50-million makeover several years ago. (Image: Algonquin Resort)

Golfers originally played on an 18-hole course designed by the immortal Donald Ross. Then, in 2000, a reworking of Ross’s timeworn design by Toronto-based architect Tom McBroom was unveiled to wide acclaim.

Now enter Whitman, best known for his brilliant work at Cabot Links in Cape Breton, a course that instantly became an international flagship for Canadian golf with its launch in 2011. The Alberta-based architect’s redesign of McBroom’s already strong course is part of a master plan to make St. Andrews-by-the-Sea a must-play golf destination, just as Cabot Links and its sister course Cabot Cliffs draw golfers from around the world to the town of Inverness.

Whitman and his crew have been busy felling trees and re-sculpting tee boxes, bunkers and greens. Especially anticipated is Whitman’s rethinking of the back nine, where two par-three holes (the 10th and 12th) and two par-fives (the 11th and 13th), all featuring sweeping views across Passamaquoddy Bay to the state of Maine, have been completely redone.

Algonquin Golf Course will offer rounds on a modified 18-hole layout starting in April, with a gala launch of the completed course planned for late July.

Like every red-blooded Canadian golfer, I can hardly wait.

 

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