Of the more than 300 golf courses in Alberta, Scoregolf.ca counts 37 in the Canadian Rockies. All are great plays, I’m sure, but seven of them, including two each from Robert Trent Jones, Sr. and Canadian hero Stanley Thompson, have reached an even higher plateau. Characterized by epic mountain vistas, roaming wildlife (including bears!), first-class operations, and self-esteem-boosting thin air (you get about an extra two percent distance for every 1,000 feet of altitude), a round at each of these tracks is a must for any golfer, and I say that as someone who’s elated with a two-putt. Check out all seven here, then check them off the bucket list with Canadian Rockies Golf (whose packages include discounted greens fees).
Canmore Golf and Curling Club, Canmore
A favorite with the local community, this par-71 course has a wait list for membership a mile long—and Director of Golf Darren Cooke and crew were happy to wait their turns with everyone else. Such is the spirit at this public gem, whose designer, Les Furber, still resides just down the street. The play is not too difficult, but creative bunkers and use of the sparkling Bow River will have you reaching for all the clubs in your bag. (website)
Green Fee (with cart): $80 ($115) for 18 holes, $45 ($62) for 9 holes
Key hole: The par-4 16th, Cooke’s own favorite and a dogleg right; around the bend, the green is guarded by the rushing Bow, so be sure to lay-up carefully.
The Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course, Banff National Park
This classic 18-hole Stanley Thompson track became the first $1 million dollar golf course back in 1928, going bankrupt twice along the way. The elegance of the first completed hole, the “Devil’s Cauldron,” reignited funding both times, and today it remains one of the most famous holes in golf. The course’s iconic partner hotel, Sulphur Mountain, and Mount Rundle lay the backdrop for the rest of this majestic par-72, whose length challenges amateurs and professionals alike. The 9-hole Tunnel Course, opened in 1989, is an easier play. (website)
Green Fee (with cart): $155-$250 (incl.) for the Thompson 18, $60-$80 (incl.) for the Tunnel Course
Key hole: The game-changing “Devil’s Cauldron,” a 200-yard par-3 over water with a spectacular mountain backdrop.
Helpful tip: The Fairmont Banff Springs offers players a “Heritage Golf Experience,” which lets them try out restored wooden-shafted clubs from the time the course opened. Try it—it’s a blast, and as Director of Golf Steven Young will tell you, you don’t have to worry about breaking them.
The Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course, Jasper National Park
Stanley Thompson’s spectacularly fun par-71 in Jasper opened in 1925. The smart, now-revolutionary design (the story behind the 9th hole is golf legend) and great playability brought the track immediate success, and in turn inspired rival Banff’s own Thompson course just three years later. The two have been inextricably linked ever since, most recently as Jasper passed Banff to secure honors as the #1 resort course in Canada. (website)
Green Fee (with cart): $120-$180 (incl.) for 18 holes
Key hole: The 360-yard and bunker-less 14th, whose tee box is surrounded by spectacular Lac Beauvert on three sides.
Kananaskis Country Golf Course—Mount Kidd (18 holes) and Mount Lorette (18 holes), Kananaskis Country
Kananaskis Country’s two Robert Trent Jones, Sr. 18-hole courses, Mount Kidd and Mount Lorette, share the same amazing property, called by Jones the “best natural setting I’ve ever been given to work with.” The par-72 Mount Kidd course is named for the most prominent of the many imposing mountains it’s carved into. Deemed the “sand course” by Head Professional Bob Paley, it boasts 140+ silica-sand bunkers but remains arguably more forgiving than its sister 18. Also named for the mountain it sits beneath, the Mount Lorette track —Paley’s “water course”—requires careful play around the Kananaskis River and a number of glacial-fed creeks. (website)
Green Fee (with cart): $98 ($115) for 18 holes on either course; $95 (incl.) online
Key hole: The par-3 4th on the Mount Kidd Course, which boasts a breathtaking island green.
Silvertip Golf Resort, Canmore
This par-72 Les Furber original plays long and feels longer, and that’s a good thing. The course’s 600 feet of elevation change demand your best golf game but very little skill with a camera, as unparalleled views of the area’s famed Three Sisters mountains (particularly on 13) are everywhere. It’s a tough but rewarding play—and thankfully, carts are included (and they have GPS screens that read distance!). (website)
Green Fee (with cart): $125 (incl.) for 18 holes
Key hole: The par-4, 434-yard 18th, which slopes most of the way into a green beneath the clubhouse patio.
Helpful tip: If you have ever in your life eaten red meat, you are not allowed to miss the steak at on-site Rustica Steakhouse here. The steak at Rustica is easily the best I’ve ever had.
Stewart Creek Golf and Country Club, Canmore
Nestled in the eastern slopes of the Rundle Range, Stewart Creek blends spectacular mountain views with a little bit of Canmore history. Refurbished coal mine entrances—now sealed—dot more than a few fairways on this pristine par-72 track, which is consistently rated 4.5 stars out of 5 by Golf Digest. (website)
Green Fee (with cart): $109-195 (incl.) for 18 holes or $79 (incl.) for 9 holes (5:39 pm onwards)
Key hole: The par-4 9th, which drops off dramatically about 200-yards in.
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