Readers Tee Off: Letters to the OntarioGolf.com Editor
Review of the Ridge Course at Northview Golf Club
The first thing you notice when you pull in past the gates and onto the neatly manicured grounds of this beautiful British Columbian golf facility is the name given to the short road leading up to the clubhouse. Intended to honor one of the first participants of the Air Canada Championship, the PGA event held annually at this Arnold Palmer-designed gem located just north of Vancouver, Payne Stewart Drive; is just one of the ways Northview remembers the professional killed in a tragic plane crash just two years ago.
There are also the many photographs of Stuart which adorn the clubhouse walls serving as poignant reminders of the man's great talent and his unforgotten importance to the game. Stewart's entry into the Air Canada Championship provided a welcome boost that helped legitimize its presence as Western Canada's only stop on the PGA tour, and indeed, the first new tournament awarded to any course by the PGA in the 1990s. After playing here, it certainly isn't difficult to see why the Northview links enticed not just Stewart, but a whole host of other top-flight players from around the world.
This year's field promised to be one of the strongest ever, drawing such marquee names as Mark Calcavecchia, and one of this years PGA top 10 money leaders, Joe Durant. Quietly nestled among the orchards and farms of the fertile Fraser River Valley, Northview's 36 holes of championship golf affords spectacular vistas of the North Cascades to the east, while its close proximity to the Pacific allows gentle westerly breezes to cool the mid-summer air.
Both eighteen hole courses, the Canal and the somewhat statelier Ridge course, are as accessible to the average golfer as they are challenging to the scratch player.
On this particular outing, the test would be at the Ridge course, which is the one the big boys play for a large amount of Canadian loot each year. Relatively flat and a joy to walk at 6,001 yards from the regular white tees, length on this par 72 course is not a major factor. That changes every year around this time when the Air Canada Championship tees are moved as far back as the real estate allows in order to beef up the Ridge's defenses. The course then extends out to a mighty 6,900 yards from the gold Palmer tees; But I'm no golf masochist, so I teed it up at the 346-yard par 4 1st behind the more reasonably placed whites.
It becomes obvious from the first tee shot that while the Ridge course won't rely on length to defend its quick and sometimes tough to read greens, the ubiquitous bunkers and abundant water hazards more than compensate for its brevity. A decent drive leaves you just past three deep traps on the right and just short of a narrow stream that dissects the fairway. Water is a consistent companion at Northview, so bring some extra range balls or that telescopic ball retriever your grandmother got you for Christmas.
The fact is, there are significant water threats on 15 of the 18 holes and enough sand to conjure up cotton-mouthed images of scorched treks through the Sahara . No less than 12 sand traps menacingly buttress the short Par 5 12th, which would be a most impressive surplus of silicon, if not for the 16 bunkers that jealously guard the 483-yard par 5 number 7’s narrow sliver of a green.
The good news is that the damage can be controlled by intelligent tee shot selection. Those that sacrifice distance in favor of accuracy will fair well at Northview. The longest hole on the course is the par 5 18th, at just 493 yards. But even here the more daring player can lop almost 100 yards off that total by taking the shortcut and leaving themselves a risky 200-plus yard approach over water that surrounds the green.
This epitomizes the Ridge course's charm: there is no one way to play it. Mr. Palmer has, through abundant yet thoughtfully placed hazards, inventive use of severe doglegs and a few blind approach shots, cleverly designed a course rich in option and intrigue. Another excellent example of this is the par 4 number 8.
At 297 yards, not necessarily a hole that should inflate the handicap too much, right? But then, that's if you play the 297-yard version. The actual hole you will play (and don't try to fight it, resistance is futile) is the go-for-the-green-in-one 240-yard version. It's a much more exciting way to play. Of course, if you miss, you're probably either in the drink or plugged into one of the eight bunkers coiling the green, but don't think about it too much. That's what the extra range balls are all about.
And you'll need more of those on the back nine, when the real fun begins. Every hole on the back, with the exception of the par 3 16th, has a significant water presence, and five of these holes have it where it counts: stubbornly flanking the flag stick. Often at the Ridge the water can be reached off the tee, turning a drive you think you crushed perfectly down the fairway into a water seeking missile.
That's why the three wood, or even the three iron, are popular weapon's when confronted with drives on number 10, 14, 17 and 18. Both par-3s on the back are short; number 11 is only 105 yards and number 16 is 141 yards. But there's water galore at 11, so hit the wedge carefully. In fact, hit every shot on this golf course carefully!
Sure, that's good advice for golf challenges in general. Pin-point accuracy is awarded on any golf course. But some make you pay more than others for errant shots or foolish attempts at winning imaginary long-drive competitions.
This is one such course. And that is exactly what makes for enjoyable championship golf, PGA style. If you choose your battles wisely on the Ridge course at Northview, not only will you let yourself appreciate the mountain view, but you also just might surprise yourself on the scorecard as well.
Praise for Trickle Creek Golf Resort
Trickle Creek sounds like a heaven for golf, because it challanges all aspects of the game. It is hard to hold back on drives due to yardage, and a golfer always thinks I can do it. Although, what makes a great golfer is the one that hits the 5 iron and sets up for a 6 iron in. Knowing that they will stick it 10 feet. Amateurs tend to go for it and end up 30 yards in the tree. I noveled at your description of Trickle Creek, but I would like to offer a free round of golf for you.
There is a course in Alabama, I know it is tough to believe, but it is called The Ledges. I have been to phoenix and much greater courses in my hobby of golf. This place offers a world of difficulties, and especially on the greens. If any one in your company is close I will be more than welcome to take them for an incredible course with a British style bunker. The limp on the bunker on sixteen is at least 15 feet tall. Please e-mail back if you wishh to play. This course is in the begining stages of being a replecta of the Orlando course. The lots around the houses go from $60,000 to $2,000,000. I would beworth a free round, and also many people would not have knowledge of this course. I am only a member of 22 years old, but my experiences have told me this is the hardest.
October 2, 2001