Golden Golf Club: Memorable Golf In The Columbia Valley

By Andrew Penner, Contributor

In the early part of June, just before the good folks in Golden shore up for the spring runoff, a perfect "7" appears within the snow melt atop the Golden peak named, interestingly enough, Mt. Seven. Each year Mother Nature ensures this snowy "7" mystically appears. However, after two or three weeks of spring, it vanishes. Fortunately for you, your memories of the Golden Golf Club will last much longer.

The Golden Golf Club is an outstanding 18-hole mountain golf getaway located on the banks of the Columbia River just outside of Golden, British Columbia. The town of Golden is a cozy mountain town surrounded by some of Canada's greatest National Parks (Yoho, Glacier, and Revelstoke). As of late, Golden is surging onto the tourism scene.

Just recently the former Whitetooth ski area received a massive face-lift which included the installation of an eight-man gondola reaching the upper bowls of Whitetooth Mountain - formerly an untouched powder wonderland. In fact, the "Kicking Horse Resort," as it is now called, boasts the most significant growth of any ski resort in North America this year. Bring a snorkel - the snow gets deep near Golden.

The Golden Golf Course is a true community effort. Owned and operated by a local society and board of directors, the laid-back mountaineers, mill-workers, loggers, and railway workers turned born-again golfers, volunteered thousands of man hours picking rocks, clearing trees and shaping the original 9 holes back in 1985. With the help of Alberta architect Bill Newis, they proudly opened their charming 9-hole test in the spring of '86.

It's been nothing but bigger and better since then. In 1992 Roger Ross, heading up the local driving force behind Golden's mission to see championship golf become a reality, commissioned Les Furber to create a back nine to complete the project. Today, the 18-hole product stands out as one of the finest golf courses in Western Canada. Fittingly, the Golden Golf Club was recently awarded "Gold" status from the Canadian Golf Course Ranking Magazine.

"The people here are proud of this place - it's theirs," says Head Golf Professional Rick Crowson who has attached himself to the area. "We offer a unique experience here," he continued, "the golf course itself matches up against the best courses in Canada, but the atmosphere is very laid-back and non-commercial." He's right. Other than the quaint cedar clubhouse, there isn't a building visible from any hole within the property. In fact, the closest thing to a house you might see would be a RV parked in the club's newly developed camping area and RV park.

I'd be lying if I didn't admit my own bias towards the town, the people, and the golf course in Golden. Muzzy Greco, Forrest Roemer, Merv Schick, and the rest of the crew in Golden would not be impressed if I didn't level with you. I was privileged to work for Rick Crowson and the Golden Golf Course for four years as an Associate Golf Professional. In many ways my heart has never left.

I learned to hook the ball in Golden. It won't take you long to notice the course strongly favors a right to left ball flight. If you have trouble "getting around" on your first few shots, don't worry, the course features an outstanding driving range where you can get your rhythm going and work your "draw".

The course opens soft with a gentle right to left bender with loads of room. However, it doesn't take long for the Golden Golf Course to clench its teeth and show its "grit" - something the local loggers know a little about. The 475 yard, par-4 second is a downhill bruiser, which grants you numerous opportunities to lose your ProV ball. To top it off, the green, a long, slender target, is usually hard and difficult to hold. It's a "four" on the card, but any member will tell you "five" is fine on No. 2.

The greens in Golden are almost as mysterious as the natural wonder that takes place on Mount Seven every spring. They dip and dive and twist and turn in many peculiar ways. In fact, if it wasn't for the mountain views, the deer prancing along the fairways, and the chattering of creeks spilling alongside the shiny fairways, one might get a little frustrated from time to time. "Bring a well-trained putter to Golden" offers long-time member Muzzy Greco in his low, raspy voice.

Holes 11 through 13 are the best three-hole sequence on the course. No. 11, a short 365-yard par-4, is a gem. During peak runoff, Holt Creek comes charging out behind the rocky shade of its mountain domain and thunders down along the angled tee. Big boulders smash and crash their way downstream - they're no match for this angry creek when the water is high. You'll need to yell at your playing partners if you expect them to hear your voice! Albeit for the noise, the tee shot at No. 11 is the easy part. A pinpoint short-iron approach is needed to hold this firm green, clear the creek and avoid a nasty pot bunker fronting the floor.

No.12, a short, downhill par 5 is a classic "gambler". The bold who go with their driver might be given an opportunity to knock a mid, or even short iron into the green in two. However, the slightest miss off the tee will no doubt impose an adventure that, when finally over, a six, seven, or eight will likely be the outcome. Hint: Take a peak at Mount Seven from the tee box - let it soothe you. Then in your mellow state, grab the "big dog" and let it eat.

The 13th, a one-shot test over Holt Creek, is a memorable par-3 with a nasty three-tiered green. A front hole location can be humbling!

Golden finishes with another par-5 that offers yet another sub-par opportunity. One final "draw" around the bend and the green will be in sight. Take aim and fire! After all, you're apt to be inspired at this point. The deep, inviting target at the 18th is warm to a successful completion of your round.

Golden has a special aura that's tough to find. It's world-class golf but it sneaks up on you. It's really quite amazing how well the two nines - and each individual hole for that matter - have melded together to form a well routed, well planned, scenic test of golf. Like a fine Merlot, the course gets better with every sip. "No doubt about it, the golf course grows on people," offered Ken Mackenzie, a personal friend and Golden's talented long-time superintendent. For four years it grew on me and I enjoyed every round.

When all the tallying is done, another piece of the "7" might be gone, but your recollections of this special place will live for a long time. Before you go, make sure you say hi to Muzzy.

Where To Stay

Golden has a number of B & Bs that are affordable, clean, and comfortable. Try the Country Comfort Bed & Breakfast (250-344-6200). Also, the Prestige Inn offers spacious suites, conference facilities, and spa (250-344-7990). The Rondo Motel (250-344-5295) and Mary's Motel (250-344-7111) in the heart of Golden are less expensive and closer to amenities.

Where To Eat:

Mulligan Mike's located right at the golf course offers authentic Greek food as well as traditional North American sandwiches, snacks, etc. In town try out Katerina's (Steak House), or The Turning Point. After hours check out the live band at Packer's Place or head to the Mad Trapper Pub. If you want a true mountain pub experience, ask a local how to get to "The Moberly".

Other Activities:

Golden is famous for it's whitewater rafting down the Kicking Horse River. It's always best to go in high water at the end of June and through July. A more relaxing float down the Columbia River is also an option. Other things to do include: hiking, skiing, atv rentals, biking, paragliding (call Pete Mclaren with Golden Eagle Tandem Paragliding at (250)344-5174 for a tandem sail down the Columbia Valley that will take your breath away), fishing, camping, snowmobiling, and photography.

Yardages/Ratings:
Championship Tees - 6818 yards, par 72, 134 slope, 72.8 rating
Regular Tees - 6263 yards, par 72, 128 slope, 70.1 rating
Forward Tees - 5380 yards, par 72, 121 slope, 70.0 rating

Green Fees: $49.50

Directions:
Golden, British Columbia is located on Highway 1, three hours west of Calgary, Alberta and one hour west of Lake Louise. The Golden Golf Course is located five minutes northwest of Golden on Dogtooth Road towards the Kicking Horse Ski Resort.

Andrew PennerAndrew Penner, Contributor

Andrew Penner is a longtime member of the Canadian PGA. Author of "One Flew Over the Caddyshack," he also writes for a number of magazines throughout Canada and the U.S.


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