Whistler: Canada's Best Golfing Experience
By Peter Hellman
Hey, let us face it, you messed up. That golf trip to Scotland just never happened and now what to do? It is getting hot in Colorado and local mountain golf -- well, been there, done that! The place for you, my friend, is Canada and more specifically Whistler. Listen to this!
I have made three trips to Whistler and enjoyed the town and all four courses -- Whistler Golf Club - Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club - Nicklaus North Golf Club - Big Sky Golf & Country Club.
Whistler Golf Club is in a forested valley surrounded by nine lakes, two winding creeks and views of Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. This was Arnold Palmers first Canadian course and it is a beauty though mostly flat. The par 71 runs between 5,309 to 6,772 yards and will give you plenty of enjoyable golf. The clubhouse has a charming deck for lunch or an after golf brew.
The Fairmont Chateau Whistler is the mountain course. This 5,157 to 6,635 yard, par 72 course climbs 400 feet as it winds its way through the forests and rocks. Black bear encounters are not unusual. My foursome was delayed 15 minutes on the first tee as a mother and cub took their time traversing the fairway. If you stay at the hotel associated with the course (its fantastic), you have the added benefit of free unlimited play after your paid first round. The hotel, by the way, allows guests to bring their well-behaved dogs into their hotel rooms. I have met many a fine hound in the ruggedly handsome lobby.
The Nicklaus North Golf Club lies in a valley and has two spectacular holes along the shore of Green Lake including the signature 17th. This Nicklaus signature course runs from 4,732 to 6,908 yards with a par 71. It has been home to the Canadian Skins Game for two years and is rated as the 25th Best Course in Canada. As with all four courses, the clubhouse is welcoming and serves good lunches delivered with excellent service.
The fourth course lies about 25 minutes north of Whistler near the town of Pemberton. Big Sky Golf & Country Club is well worth the drive. Located at the foot of Mt. Currie, it sits in a magnificent wide and fertile valley. Unlike the Whistler courses, Big Sky shares it ground with only scenery and the hush of rural life. With a choice of four tee boxes, the course plays from 5,208 to 7,001 yards on its par 72 layout. The course is ranked 5th among western Canadian courses.
The gateway to Whistler is Vancouver though driving from Seattle works as well. Flying into Vancouver requires a passport, but driving into Canada does not - at least not until June of 2009. Drive time between Vancouver Airport and Whistler is about two hours, but what a drive. The road called "Sea to Sky" hugs the coast for most of its length and the vistas are grand. Work to widen the highway has been going on for years and one might experience some limited delays and slow downs along the way.
The golf season runs from early May to mid October and a bit longer at Big Sky. The best golf value is the Whistler Passport. For $299 in low season to $449 (Canadian dollars) in high season, you get one round on each of the four courses. Additional rounds are $119. Regular high season green fees run from $139 at Whistler to $195 at Fairmont.
You can take your pick of accommodations as well. Condominiums, houses, small hotels and the deluxe Fairmont ChÃ¢teau Whistler will satisfy just about any budget and style requirements.
Whistler reminds me of Colorado with its ski areas that turn to golf, festivals and other outdoor activities in summer. Like Colorado, the mountains around Whistler are high, the air clear and the temperature mild. However, unlike Colorado mountain resorts, Whistler is but a bit over 2000 feet above sea level. Whistler Village is one of my favorite things about Whistler. It is a walking village of interesting shops, galleries, sidewalk cafes and cool restaurants. The evenings bring the people out. Watching and been watch are popular things to do. Nightlife and great Pubs abound so your evenings will never be dull.
Whistler is not just a golfing destination for golfing guys or gals, it is great for families as well. My advice is to head up to Canada this summer or fall and experience Whistler. I cannot wait for my next opportunity.