5 of Canada’s Top Golf Resorts

A glance at the top ranks of players on the PGA Tour these days brings many red Maple Leaf Flags to the forefront. Any given week, it’s likely that a good chunk of the Tour’s top 50 players will be Canadian born. Yes, the Canucks are coming on strong at the professional level, but when it comes to desirable destination golf, most American golf consumers don’t consider their options north of the border, despite the fact that Canada is home to a slew of phenomenal public courses. With that in mind, we’re taking a closer look at five of the country’s leading golf resorts.

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Cabot Cape Breton

Cabot Cape Breton (Inverness, Nova Scotia)

The gold standard when it comes to resort golf in Canada, Cabot Cape Breton shines for delivering an authentic links experience on one of North America’s easternmost shores. When the resort’s premiere layout, Cabot Links, opened for play in 2011, its 18 holes—the handiwork of Canadian architect Rod Whitman—dazzled golfers with its firm, rumpled fairways. (The copious, unobstructed views of the Gulf of St. Lawrence didn’t hurt, either.) Four years later, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw put the finishing touches on a second course, Cabot Cliffs, which sparkles with a design that encourages (and rewards) creative shots that aim to utilize the firm contours of the fairways and greens. Since then, the resort has added 10 par-three holes that make up The Nest, a short course routed across one of the highest parcels of land on the property.

“I’ve been all over the world chasing these great golf courses and what I fundamentally believe is there’s no great golf course and no great destination that doesn’t have a spectacular piece of real estate,” says Cabot’s founder, Ben Cowan-Dewar. “That’s what I went looking for. For me, it’s just rooted in finding spectacular land that I think people will want to go to for 100 years and it’s building off of the vernacular that is the place.”

Cabot Cape Breton (photo by Rob Romard)

Fairmont Banff Springs (Banff, Alberta)

During the first half of the 20th century, Toronto-born Stanley Thompson did for Canadian golf what Donald Ross did in the United States. Should you venture upon a beautiful, Golden Age golf course in Canada, chances are it has Thompson’s fingerprints all over it. According to the Stanley Thompson Society, the architect completed more than 120 courses in nine of the country’s 10 provinces. One of the most dramatic and picturesque, the Banff Springs Hotel Golf Course, circa 1927, was crafted along the Bow River, seemingly in the shadows of Sulphur Mountain’s and Mount Rundle’s snow-capped peaks.

Today, the 18-hole course is complemented by an additional 9-hole layout, Tunnel Mountain 9, designed by Geoffrey Cornish and William Robinson, which opened for play in 1989. Together, those two courses comprise the golf offerings at the Fairmont Banff Springs, a resort set deep within a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Banff National Park) where a sprawling castle-like hotel is outfitted with 739 guestrooms and suites. Many of those accommodations are equipped with fireplaces and original architectural features, all of which reflect the historic nature of the resort—a property that garnered the nickname “Castle in the Rockies” when it first opened in 1888.

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Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course (photo by Christopher Amat)

Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort & Spa (Victoria, British Columbia)

Although it’s home to two Jack Nicklaus-designed courses, the Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort & Spa on the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island delivers two disparate golfing experiences based on which track guests choose to play. The Mountain Course introduces demanding terrain and dramatic elevation changes, as most mountain-based layouts typically do, but unlike most alpine tracks, this design also presents stunning views. Its lower-elevation sibling, the Valley Course, provides a friendlier embrace to most golfers thanks to its wider fairways, larger greens, and fewer bunkers. Much like its brawnier brother, the Valley delivers a plethora of natural beauty, as golfers will travel through forests, alongside lakes, and over creeks as they complete their round. Best of all, the resort is just minutes from downtown Victoria, which means guests can balance their mountain getaway with the right amount of cosmopolitan living.

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Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort & Spa

Predator Ridge Resort (Vernon, British Columbia)

British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley is perhaps best known for its viticulture. In addition to its vineyards and wineries, however, the Okanagan boasts several world-class golf properties strewn across the region’s 8,000 square miles. Predator Ridge is one such example. The resort offers a slew of vacation-rental style accommodations that include full kitchens, fireplaces, and balconies, among other amenities; and they’re an ideal refuge to return to after a day out on the links.

As for the property’s two golf courses, the Predator Course, built by Les Furber in 1991, plays as its name suggests—hard. Ironically more spacious and wide-open than its sister course (more on this in a moment), the Predator is a stern test largely due to its narrow, heavily bunkered fairways, tall fescue grasses that line most of the playing corridors, and aggressively sloped green complexes that often feature multiple tiers. The Ridge Course, by contrast, is more player friendly despite the fact that it carves its way through woodlands and weaves around granite outcroppings—many of which are in play. Designed by Doug Carrick, the Ridge opened in 2010 and delivers stunning views from some of the property’s highest points.

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Predator Ridge Resort (photo by Olya Krasavina)

Fox Harb’r Resort (Fox Harbour, Nova Scotia)

Across the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Northumberland Strait, about 100 miles west of Cabot Cape Breton, the Fox Harb’r Resort offers a dynamic golfing experience complete with an academy, clinics, and an 18-hole course designed by Graham Cooke that’s characterized by two distinct nines. The front meanders through woodlands and around lakes with “really interesting golf holes with nice contours,” according to Cooke. The back nine, however, plays right along the water from beginning to end. “You’re pretty well standing on the ocean on very hole,” the architect says.

While Fox Harb’r shines now, it also tantalizes for what it will soon become. Currently, work is underway on a new nine holes that, when complete, will be combined with the existing inward nine holes to create a full 18-hole track that plays alongside the ocean. Those fresh holes are the handiwork of Thomas Broom and Doug Carrick, who will also tackle an additional parkland nine holes, currently being tagged as the “Vineyard Course.” When all is said and done, the resort will feature two contrasting 18-hole courses that seemingly will offer something for everyone.

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Fox Harb’r Resort

Have you played at any of these golf resorts in Canada?