Golfing the great eight

Calling the Sea to Sky scenic is akin to calling Tiger Woods skilled. The spectacular drive northward takes you o long way and the sights, tees and greens of this eye-pleasing region offer a bucketful of opportunities. By Bentley Doyle

Make it an eight-course feast this summer as you take a golf tour along the Sea to Sky highway. Great play lies past West Vancouver and all the way through to Pemberton, particularly for those with the patience to drive safely along the winding road and the poise to drive straight onto the gorgeous fairways of the area's courses.

Calling the Sea to Sky scenic is akin to calling Tiger Woods skilled. Both statements are true, but they don't go far enough (unlike Tiger's drives). The spectacular drive northward from Course 1 to Course 8 -- the great eight -- takes you a long way and the sights, tees and greens of this eye-pleasing region offer a bucketful of opportunities.

Driving time, of the vehicular kind, taps out at less than 90 minutes between starter course and finishflag hole. And no matter how far you hit the big stick, you'll need a car, not a cart, to cover the 120 km of beautifully scenic surroundings. With that, your tee-time is set for the bevy of water and snow-capped-mountain views along the Sea to Sky and, of course, the 144 holes it brings into play.

Stop one of this southnorth extravaganza starts just a nine-iron shy of Britannia Beach, at Furry Creek. Soon after tapping in for par, wave as you pass the mountain face known as the Stawamus Chief and quickly look up -- way up -- to spot the glorious view of Garibaldi's pronounced peak. Then, look forward to seven more slices of heaven before putting out at Pemberton Valley.

1. Furry Creek Golf and Country Club. Par 72. Yards: 5,442 (whites), 6,009 (gold). Summer green fees: $109 (peak), $89 (twilight) including pawercart.

About a five-wood south of Squamish, Furry Creek offers everything but a slow start for local golfers and bag-touting tourists. Those who have played it know that a 165-foot drop greets golfers moving from tee one to its fairway. One of the first to open each year, by early spring Furry Creek provides a beautiful blend of sights to shoot at, including the tempting 14th hole, a wind-wielding par-3 that takes golfers to the water's edge, hitting right at Howe Sound.

SQUAMISH

2. Squamish Valley Golf and Country Club Par: 72. Yards: 5,631 (whites), 6,464 (blacks). Summer green fees: $60 (peak), $30 (twilight).

PAY & PLAY

Green fees vary due to the variety of seasonal specials and promotional packages offered by Sea-to-Sky courses. Many break their golf season into several periods at a wide range of fees and concession rates, including: matinee discounts, supertwilights and so forth. Additionally, some courses have perks for B.C. residents. It is worthwhile to check with each course before embarking on a golfing adventure.

Open year-round, Squamish Valley promotes a quest for eagles high and low, both spotting and scoring. A recent redesign added two lakes to this golfing equation, yet maintained the immense firstgrowth stumps for the viewing benefit of woodpacking patrons. The course is versatile; golfers can tack on 800 yards from the front tees to the backon-black ones. All the while, the club's officials ensure the pace of play remains sub 4:09. This semi-private gem, off Mamquam Road, includes a solid practice facility.

 

3. Garibaldi Springs Golf Resort. Par 64. Yards: 4,700. Summer omen fees: $49.50 (Planned promo gets two people on with a power cart for $99, the fee being a nod to the See-toSky Hwy 99.)

Two minutes ahead is the region's newest addition, Garibaldi Springs, which debuts this summer. Off Garibaldi Way is where you'll find "masters golg' -- a 10stroke extension to the popular executive-style courses. The format allows for a quicker round than a full-length course, but still presents an 18-hole challenge. Ponds and creeks are in play on 14 of the resort's holes, a challenge to hacker executives, part-time masters and beyond.

WHISTLER

4. Whistler Golf Course. Par 72. Yards: 6168 (whites), 6676 (Palmer). Summer green fees: $159 (peak), $99 (twilight).

Forty-five minutes away, at Whistler Village, this course is always open for play by early May. Whistler's original course was designed by legend Arnold Palmer, his first feather north of the border.

If you hit from Palmer's tees, the course presents a mighty-long challenge below its Whistler/Blackcomb backdrop. Already beautiful by nature and design, Whistler got a $2.2 million upgrade four years ago. The course is complemented with an equally impressive learning and performance centre.

Chateau Whistler5. Chateau Whistler. Par 72. Yards: 5692 (whites), 6635 (gold). Summer green fees: $225 (peak), $164 (twilight) including power cart.

Located in the upper village, Chateau Whistler opened 11 years ago and has been an area delight ever since. The course provides a superb perch to view Whistler Valley. At the same time, it compels golfers to ascend 400 feet while hitting for the pins. Built on the side of Blackcomb Mountain, the course is a tough test, though one equipped with the resources to help you through it. A year ago, the facility's practice and learning  centre became the site of international golf teacher David Leadbetter's first Canadian-based golf academy.

6. Nicklaus NorthNicklaus North. Par 71. Yards: 6004 (whites), 6908 (gold). Summer green fees: $210 (peak), $125 (twilight) including power cart.

Built by a Golden Bear (the Jack Nicklaus), this course is Whistler's youngest and longest. It gained prestige hosting the Skins Game in 1997, an event featuring the man himself, along with Nick Faldo, Greg Norman and Fred Couples. A year later, the latter coupled with Emie Els for a match-play special. Lined in part by glacier-gifted Green Lake, Nicklaus North is brilliantly groomed and offers five sets of tees, an area-high. It's located between the village and Meadow Park.

PEMBERTON

7. Big Sky Golf and Country Club. Par 72. Yards: 6037 (whites), 7001 (blacks). Summer green fees: $157 (peak), $79 (twilight).

A mere 25 minutes from Whistler, Big Sky lies at the foot of magnificent Mount Currie and makes use of an absolutely breathtaking view of this spectacular mass. Playing from the tips, Big Sky is the longest of the region's great eight, though its size is made less remarkable underneath the stunning backdrop. It is a site to be seen and the course is one to savour. Big Sky has the highest golf rating (73) of the area's courses.

8. Pemberton Valley Golf and Country Club. Par 72. Yards: 5972 (whites), 6407 (blues). Summer Green Fees: $65 (peak), $39 (twilight).

Two minutes ahead on Airport Road is home to Pemberton Valley. The area benefits from a weather system that eases the fall of rain. Nevertheless, this course brings water into play on eight of the front nine holes. Though a short par-4, hole No. 8 is an island green of a test. Some seasoned locals regard the front side as a warmup for the tighter back nine. The cominghome half lines trees throughout its fairways for an added golfing challenge.

Getting in touch...

Big Sky Golf and Country Club 1-800-668-7900
Chateau Whistler 1-877-938-2092
Furry Creek Golf and Country Club 1-888-922-9462
Garibaldi Springs Golf Resort 1-866-441-4747
Nicklaus North 1-800-386-9898
Pemberton Valley Golf and Country Club 1-800-390-4653
Squamish Valley Golf and Country Club 1-888-349-3688
Whistler Golf Course 1-800-376-1777