Photo Credit: Sandra Smith
Golf the North: Coastal, mountain and flatland putting — all part of the northern experience
No one ever thought I would take up golf, least of all me. My entire life, I thought it was the most ridiculous game, the greatest waste of time, and the worst use of land. Mind you, I had never actually tried it.
It was my mother-in-law’s fault. She loves golf, and I played a couple times to humour her. On our third time out, near the end of the game, a strange feeling came over me: I wanted to keep going! I had hit a few shots that sort of went where I’d been trying to get them, and I thought, “Hey, maybe I can figure out how to do this!” I’d been bitten by the bug.
As a result, to the astonishment of my friends, I have spent a surprising amount of time in recent years tramping around northern BC’s golf courses. I am not that good, even after 10 years, and my shots tend to fly in unexpected directions. I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods and bushes and along the shores of ponds, streams and rivers searching for my errant balls.
But, hey—it turns out that there is a lot to enjoy out there. All of our northern courses are in idyllic natural settings, usually with spectacular views. Wildlife is remarkably abundant: moose, deer, bears, foxes, coyotes, beavers, muskrats, weasels and fish—including salmon and steelhead. If you’re a birdwatcher, there is a wide variety of habitat in and around our golf courses; I have spotted well over 100 species while golfing.
I was happy to discover that, on a clear day, a golf course is a beautiful place to be. And contrary to what many people think, golfing provides a surprising amount of exercise. In an 18-hole round on a full-length course, you will walk at least eight to 10 kilometres (or more, if you play like me), up hills and down, pulling or carrying your bag of clubs. Swinging the clubs takes more energy than one would think. And if you’re like me, peering beneath bushes and into tree branches in search of missing balls is even more exertion.
One of the golf-related issues that concerns many people, including me, is the use of herbicides on the course. These are intended to keep plants like dandelions out of fairways that are deemed preferable if they are just grass. In general, the trend in turf management is increasingly to accept plant diversity more and use as little herbicide as possible on golf courses. Some courses in our area do not use herbicides at all.
If you are new to the game, you can rent clubs or find a second-hand set to start. Fees to play an 18-hole game range from $20 to $50 on our northern courses—less for juniors and seniors. Most offer lower rates in the evenings and for early- and late-season play when conditions may not be perfect. Most courses rent clubs and carts and provide lessons. Some have a driving range. Most have a coffee shop or restaurant and lounge, which you may be grateful for at the end of your game.
Although Mark Twain characterized golf as “a good walk, spoiled,” I recommend you give it a try. Once you get to know one course, you will want to explore others. Each one provides a different experience.
Some of my friends still chuckle at the thought of me out golfing. Mind you, most of them have never actually tried it.
Willows Golf Course, Sandspit
Dixon Entrance Golf & Country Club, Masset
Golfing at the edge of the world! At these two seaside courses, some holes are exposed to the ocean weather while others are protected by forest. Both facilities are working hard to encourage young golfers by providing free golf to anyone 17 and under, thanks partly to the efforts of Vince Brzostowski, manager at Willows Golf and creator of Golf Haida Gwaii. “My goal is to promote golf on Haida Gwaii, as well as pushing to make golf free for all youth across Canada,” he says. Both courses have a policy of no herbicide use. Weekly burger night tournaments at both courses are fun for all.
Willows: (250) 559-4709 • www.willowsgolfcourse.com
Dixon Entrance: (250) 626-3500 • www.dixonentrancegolfcourse.com
Golf Haida Gwaii: www.golfhaidagwaii.com
Tucked among towering stands of coastal rainforest, the Prince Rupert Centennial Golf Course is lush, challenging—and sometimes quite wet! This is a fun course, winding its way between the town and the steep slopes of Mount Hays. Although rain is common here, there are lots of trees to take cover beneath. It’s a good place to play in the early spring when other courses in the region are just starting to wake up.
(250) 624-2000 • www.princerupertgolf.ca
Skeena Valley Golf & Country Club lies at the foot of Thornhill Mountain just outside Terrace. The beautiful course is varied with rolling hills, water and trees throughout. You may spot climbers scaling the dramatic cliffs that tower over the course, and occasional booming reports from the nearby gun range add to the exciting atmosphere.
(250) 635.2542 • www.svgc.ca
The Hirsch Creek Golf Course has two distinct flavours: the first half has been chiselled from coastal forest with outstanding views, while the second nine is a more traditional, wide-open layout. The dramatic elevation drop on Hole 2 makes it a favourite. “We work to minimize our environmental footprint here,” manager Steve Haggard says.
(250) 632-4653 • www.kitimatgolf.com
Remote, uncrowded and herbicide-free, Mossy Acres is nestled beside the Kispiox River with 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers. The family-run course operates on the honour system: put your money in the Tupperware bin, sign the guest book and off you go! “It’s basically a hobby farm—we cultivate and harvest golf balls,” owner Cliff Hagen says. Sitting a half-hour drive north of Hazelton, it’s best to call for directions.
Literally two minutes from downtown, the Smithers Golf and Country Club is rated one of the best courses in northwest BC. The spectacular location at the base of Hudson Bay Mountain makes you want your game to never end. A creek that winds through the course provides scenic variety as well as challenge. The many trees provide extra difficulty; the resounding thwackof balls ricocheting off them is a common sound.
(250) 847-3591 • www.smithersgolfclub.com
If you’ve never golfed before, a par-3 course is a good place to start. Smithers Par 3 and RV is an easygoing, family-oriented course, complete with driving range. It is super scenic, set beside the Bulkley River with Hudson Bay Mountain close by. This is one of the facilities that, as a policy, does not use herbicides. Ask about their many specials.
(250) 847-3229 • www.smitherspar3andrv.com
For a real “down-to-earth” golfing experience, try Manure Meadows along the Telkwa High Road. As the name suggests, the course is laid out through an active cow pasture. “Not for the faint-of-heart,” says Joe Toner, a regular. “The holes are long, and the putting is rough!” Look for the golf flags beside the road and hop the fence to begin your game.
Willow Grove is a fun course: not overly challenging but with many trees and lots of water to complicate things. Located just east of town, you will enjoy the welcoming, down-home atmosphere.
Named for the high concentrations of molybdenum nearby, Molyhills Golf Course is off the beaten path. The idyllic-but-hilly location on Francois Lake guarantees a lot of exercise. On several holes, the ball is hit from a hilltop toward the green far below—or from a low tee to a green far above! Views over the lake will take your mind off the shots you muff, and there is plenty of wildlife sharing the course with you.
The Omineca Golf & Country Club offers a full-length course in good condition. The first half winds through aspen forest with some tricky gullies and ravines, while the rest is out under the open prairie sky. The comfortable clubhouse is a cool place to relax on a hot day.
Fort St. James
Stuart Lake Golf Club is a challenging course on the shore of Stuart Lake, five minutes from Fort St. James. You will be distracted from your game by the views over the lake and the sheer rock face of nearby Mount Pope. The friendly hospitality of this historic frontier town will keep you coming back. Wednesdays are two-for-one.
(250) 996-8736 • www.stuartlakegolfclub.net
A few minutes north from downtown, Aberdeen Glen Golf Course follows a series of undulating ravines that wander through the countryside. This course provides lots of exercise if you are walking; some hills are steep enough that there is a shuttle service to the top. The course is superbly maintained and provides a golfing adventure. And if you want to live on a golf course, this is your chance, with homes and building lots available alongside its fairways.
(250) 563-8901 • www.aberdeenglengolf.com
Alder Hills Golf is a beautiful par-3 course on the east side of Prince George. A gully that runs through the middle adds excitement and entertainment to the game at all skill levels. Course owners and builders Lee and Rita Sexsmith and their family are proud of the facility, including the six bridges that are incorporated into the layout.
(250) 963-7500 • www.alderhillsgolf.com
Water hazards, natural creeks, and lots of trees make life interesting at the walkable and affordable Aspen Grove Golf Course. “It’s quiet—and quite enjoyable,” says Jen Brander, a member of the Norbraten family who has been operating the course since it started 47 years ago. Pay for one game and golf all day!
(250) 963-9650 • www.aspengrovegolf.com
The Links of Maggie May started 16 years ago as a family project. In a relaxing country atmosphere, its large greens and open fairways help to keep your game from getting too complicated. A unique feature: “We’ve put eight-inch holes in the greens, as well as the usual four-inch size, to make it more fun for beginners,” says Margaret McConaghy, whose family still owns and operates the course.
(250) 963-9561 or 1-800-491-0991 • www.linksofmaggiemay.com
Pine Valley Golf Course, Prince George’s only community-owned course, serves golfers at all levels of ability and mobility. The landscape of this 18-hole, par-3 course changed dramatically when the pine forest in which it was located was cleared due to pine beetle infestation. Since 2010, the city and volunteers have worked together to plant thousands of seedlings and new trees, and otherwise improve the course’s landscape.
(250) 562-4811 • www.pinevalleygolfcourse.ca
The challenges at the Prince George Golf Club will require all the clubs in your bag. This level and rolling full-length course is easily walkable.
(250) 563-0357 • www.pggolfandcurling.com
Richbar Nursery Golf & Gardens’ nine-hole course provides a “more intimate experience,” with most holes separated by native timber and landscape plantings. Occasional 100-foot fir trees guard some of the greens, adding character and challenge. The course is joined to a garden nursery and the 24 Carrot Café.
(250) 255-4653 • www.quesnelgolf.com
Have you ever wanted to own a golf course? This one’s for sale! At the Quesnel Golf Club, set in the typical rolling terrain of the Cariboo, the first half of the course is open, straightforward golf with “no gimmicks.” The second half provides many challenges as it dodges a meandering creek through large trees and wooded hillsides.
(250) 249-5550 • www.quesnelgolfclub.com