All indications are that travel restrictions imposed due to the pandemic are about to be relaxed, which should make it possible for us to visit new and exciting golf destinations again soon. In the interim, enjoy this article by Ian Cruickshank that appeared in Fairways Magazine in 2008.
I’m settling into the patio chair at the Whistler Golf Club, tipping back a Corona and sawing through a hubcap-sized steak, with Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love cranked up in the background. My new pal, a Whistler regular, says simply, “We’re a party golf club. People come here to have fun.” That feel-good vibe, which wraps both the course and the entire village of Whistler, is as predominant as the surrounding coastal mountains that poke up on the horizon.
Some of the mellow attitude comes from the local Olympic sized scenery – the rocks and rivers, peaks and valleys – but much of it is attributable to the twenty-somethings who live and play on the mountain slopes. These aren’t slackers. Last year I met a kid who was pulling down a full-time night shift at a restaurant in the village, working three days a week during the day at a golf course and squeezing in rounds in the late afternoon. In November, when the village quieted down for a month, he was heading to Nicaragua to surf before returning to Whistler in December for the ski and restaurant season.
Of course, Whistler is about more than good times and twenty-somethings. The golf here is very strong. Chateau Whistler, Big Sky, Nicklaus North and Whistler Golf may be the best foursome in the country. Each has a distinct personality. Chateau Whistler is the most spectacular of the courses, a true mountain layout whose first four holes defy gravity, rising and curling around the edges of the high ground. It’s also home to the highly regarded David Leadbetter Academy that opened along with a new driving range in the summer of 2004.
Whistler GC, which is owned by the town, is a 25-year-old Arnold Palmer design. It is supermodel gorgeous, with a layout that turns gently through the valley beneath the ski runs that the world will be watching during the 2010 Winter Olympics. (Preparations for the five ring circus are well underway. The new bobsleigh track is finished and the athlete’s village is currently under construction.)
The course is also a haven for wildlife. Mom and cubs occasionally tumble across the 18th green and in fact a couple of Decembers ago, the superintendent discovered a bear hibernating in his equipment shed.
Nicklaus North is nestled along the banks of Green Lake and has the feel of an exclusive country club. The place is still buzzing from the Telus Skin’s Game, which was played here in July of 2005. The foursome included course designer Jack Nicklaus, Vijay Singh, Stephen Ames and John Daly and the event organizers hired helicopters, float planes and limos to transport the stars to and from Vancouver. Daly nixed the luxury and asked for a pickup truck so he could personally drive the stunning Sea to Sky highway.
Big Sky, which is located 20 minutes north of Whistler in the town of Pemberton, is the local favourite. Dominated by the muscular shoulders of Mount Currie, which looms over the entire valley, the Bob Cupp design is a strategic gem, where every shot needs to be hit on the button. And it’s not just the course that has personality. Big Sky’s General Manager Chris Wallace, is a PEI native who is faster with a quip than Chris Rock. Even though he’s been at Big Sky for 17 years, Wallace’s dad still thinks Chris will come home soon and take over the family farm.
Besides the high quality of the courses, Whistler gets the economics of golf. Resort golf at a world-class destination can be a bankcard buster. Fortunately, Whistler has fought to be affordable. All three village-based courses have introduced a ‘Kids Play for Free’ program for juniors who are accompanied by a paying adult. They also offer the Passport Special package where for $299 golfers get one round on all four courses. For more information contact www.golfwhistler.com