Golfers love islands because they tend to be long on courses with great sea views if not teetering over the water. In the Canadian West, a wonderful place to go is Vancouver Island.
And it’s a big place, about the same size as Taiwan, with more than 60 courses, some with hotels and others offering attractive diversions such as spas, winery visits, fishing and whale watching.
We got lucky in discovering the Vancouver Island Golf Trail, a one-stop-shop that books six-night holidays or two-night getaways. There are 14 good golf courses to choose from as well as hotels, waterfront locations and restaurants that will surprise.
For example, we thought our first day had gone pretty well, starting with a relaxing ride on BC Ferries from Vancouver to Nanaimo. It was an easy drive north to Courtenay, where Crown Isle’s woodsy course provided a delightful golfing experience.
After all that the Silverado restaurant just had to do a burger to complete our day. Instead, it was topped off with superb Alberta beef and a bottle of wine that I swore had to come from one of France’s best chateaux. But no, we were drinking Burrowing Owl from Oliver, in BC’s Okanagan Valley.
After two tastes of the cabernet sauvignon, I fumbled for something to write on and passed that day’s scorecard across the table. “You want me to sign this?” asked the Crown Isle GM, who had joined us.
“No – just give me directions to Oliver.”
You don’t have to go that far. We soon discovered that Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley has loads of wineries with many clustered around the golf course. The north end of the valley is famous for its salmon fishing, particularly resorts like Painter’s Lodge at Campbell River, which was a favourite of Bob Hope’s. Painter’s is still the place to go, with spectacular waterfront accommodation and forsaking golf one morning, I landed two fine 11-pounders in a four-hour session.
Then back to the business of golf with a visit to Storey Creek. The course is beautifully treed, has deer everywhere and the friendliest pro shop we encountered.
Tigh-Na-Mara at Courtney might be a Gaelic name for “house by the sea” but nothing could be more Canadian than this waterfront resort mainly constructed from logs. I hasten to add that many are vertical, mighty cedars and handsome arbutus trees that are a joy to behold. Staying here is like being in an enchanted forest. Tigh-Na-Mara hangs over a wonderful beach where families played by day and sat around campfires at night. And the spa! Just the thing for weary bones.
Here we played Morningstar and Fairwinds, two challenging yet very enjoyable golf courses. The former has a tree beside a green with a nest of eagles, and when we were there the chicks were being given flying lessons. Fairwinds I could get passionate about; just don’t miss it.
Driving down the island on the old coastal highway was motoring as it used to be – a quiet road through the lush countryside with little farms and cottages. Hardly a billboard was seen; rather a few signs for fresh eggs and newly picked cherries.
Then Victoria, with an Ale Trail no less, but we were not to be distracted, for Bear Mountain lay ahead and what a cracking resort this is. Bear Mountain’s sleek, stone buildings have an uncanny resemblance to Whistler.
This is another place to linger, not a problem as there are two golf courses. We only had time for one, but what a day we had. We were on the Mountain course, where a buggy is essential. They come with a superb GPS system. It can be tight in places, so bring plenty of balls, but this is fun, holiday golf, which can become a serious test for those who venture to the back tees.
Finally, Highland Pacific, close to the centre of Victoria. We enjoyed this one very much. It is a challenging yet fair layout with fairways designed to catch your ball. It too was beautifully treed and we packed up our clubs agreeing that the foremost charm of Vancouver Island golf courses is how the designers have done such clever work in carving these courses out of forests while retaining their natural charm.
Our 250-km island golf adventure ended at the Victoria Regent on the harborfront. We sat on the balcony, hanging over the water, watching seaplanes come and go, and contemplated — the Ale Trail.
It’s not an ordinary place.
- Packages published in 2020 list pricing from $895 CAD for 6 nights accommodation and 6 rounds of golf.
- Visit website for the latest prices… www.golfvancouverisland.ca