In early June I had a business trip that took me out to Vancouver, Calgary and Canmore. As with most business trips I take, I made sure to bring my clubs along. The trip was a quick in and out of Vancouver and Calgary so no golf there, but the business ended in Canmore, leaving the perfect opportunity for some world class golf. While I have played in Alberta before, it would be my first experience playing in the mountains.
Canmore, AB is situated 122km west, or just over 1 hour, from the Calgary International Airport. The Town of Canmore (pop. 12,288) is an outdoor enthusiasts four seasons paradise with world class mountain biking, road cycling and golf in the summer, and world class cross country ski and biathlon in the winters (Canmore Nordic Centre was host for Cross Country Ski and Biathlon at the 1988 Calgary Olympics), among other outdoor activities. The town itself has less of a tourist feel than Whistler, BC or Banff, AB, and generally seems a little more low key.
On the golf front, the Canmore area features a number of exceptional golf courses, including Stewart Creek, Silvertip, and the currently closed Kananaskis. Most of the publicity in the golf and travel media is for Stewart Creek and Kananaskis, so I never really knew much about Silvertip before this trip, and actually only booked a tee time because I couldn’t get on at Stewart Creek.
Silvertip is located about 5 min from the centre of town. The course is part of a larger resort, although there didn’t appear to be any hotel on the property, just real estate.
Silvertip was designed by Les Furber and I have to hand it to him, he found a way to create a layout in which almost every shot you hit gave you a mountain view, including the driving range.
The practice area features a full range right beside the clubhouse, which is very convenient. The aspect of the warm up facility I didn’t like was that the practice green was not up near the range, but rather a golf cart drive away beside the first tee. It would make it inconvenient if you ever just stopped in to practice.
Besides breathtaking, the course features a good mix of mounding, bunkers and water. As to be expected for a course built in the mountains, there was a lot of elevation change. On most holes you were either hitting down to the fairway, or up to the green, sometimes both.
Greens featured a lot of tiering, but tiers were pretty flat (a lot of straight putts). To my surprise the greens were not overly quick. If I had to guess I would say they rolled about a 9 on the stimpmeter.
The course features five sets of tee blocks playing from 4800 to 7000 yards. A 6th set of tees were used to create a short course, 18 holes playing at 2700 yards.
Overall condition of the course was excellent, but not the best I have ever seen. It met my expectations.
My favorite hole on the course is 434 yard par 4 18th. From the tee you get a great mountain view, but can’t see the green. The tee shot gives you a couple options, playing it safe (down the middle 260 from the black tees) leaves you about 180 yards to the green. Too long off the tee and your in the woods. Otherwise, you can try and bite off some of the treed corner (270+ from the black tees) and leave yourself a short iron in. Too short off the tee and your in the woods. From the fairway you are looking at a drastically downhill shot, with water protecting the left hand side and the impressive clubhouse and patio just beyond the green.
Post round we stopped into the clubhouse to peruse the proshop as well as grab a beer and a bite to eat before hitting the road. While the The pro shop is more or less the same as every pro shop, the clubhouse overall is impressive, with its crowing achievement being the huge patio overlooking the 18th green. We grabbed a beer and a bite at Stoney’s Bar and Grill, one of two restaurants in the clubhouse (the other being a high end Steakhouse). I am not sure of the full beer selection, but on tap was a variety of micro brews. The food menu was diverse and the flatbread pizza I had was excellent.
Bits and Bites
Silvertip was (is?) the home course of former PGA Tour and now Senior PGA Tour player Stephen Ames.
Golf in the Canmore area (in Alberta in general in my experience) isn’t for those with deep pockets and short arms. A round at Silvertip was $120 (included golf, cart and range balls).
Carts feature gps, which I found handy, although I always have my range finder. Distance to the green or from a hazard is somewhat relative when you take into account the elevation changes, easy to get club selection wrong.
The course wasn’t busy, but was steady. Our foresome played in around 4h30min.
Between the course, the company, the weather and my game, it was a pretty perfect day. I shot my second ever below par round with a -1 71.
Its not every weekend you pay $120 for a round of golf (for me at least). But I am glad I did for Silervtip, especially since I likely won’t be playing there again anytime soon. If you are planning a golf trip to the Canmore area, I would put Silvertip on your list.
See you at the turn,