North Vancouver, known more commonly as the North Shore, is a community that honours the values of nature and recreation that are embedded in the fabric of British Columbia. It is here that Northlands Golf Course focuses on its site’s natural topography as a means to create a challenging and dynamic 18 holes of golf. Steep, rugged, and tree lined the course pays homage to its mountainous terrain featuring rock outcroppings, a 30 foot waterfall, and conifer-framed fairways. The result is a genuine course that will leave you wanting to play it again.
The Les Furber design opened in 1997 to rave reviews, including a Best New Course of the Year award from Golf Digest. The par 71 layout, with five par 3’s and four par 5’s, offers a variety of visually stunning holes. Ranging from 6504-5135 yards, the routing consists of two looped nines that meander up, down, and along the forest hillside of Mount Seymour, both beginning and ending at the clubhouse.
Navigating shots from the tee is the key to a well played round. Tight and demanding drives encourage golfers to reexamine their experience with strategy in the form of course management. The undulating fairways, spotted with collection areas, mimic the rugged terrain and lead golfers to large, receptive, well-maintained greens that putt quick and true. Carefully controlling the adjacent contours, the architect uses terraces, ridges, and shelves to create gentle greens with distinct opportunities for pin placements.
The course incorporates a number of hazards that are aesthetic and strategic: a large rock splitting the fairway at No. 6, a creek protecting the green on three sides at No. 10, and several environmentally sensitive areas on the back nine.
However, it is the use of the site’s natural topography that makes this track an enjoyable round. Hitting uphill into a dark green backdrop of conifers’ needles, the bright white contrast of a Titlest flying on its piercing trajectory appears a silvery sight. And how downhill proves is even sweeter. Rising higher and higher, above the fir trees below, a shot with even the faintest power appears to last forever, making long drive contests a joy to recount over a pint on the clubhouse restaurant’s second story patio.
The finish offers opportunity to regain strokes with three of the last four being par 5’s. Hole No. 15 plays uphill and while birdie is available par is good. No. 16 is a short downhill par 3 with an open window to score. At 457 yards, No. 17 would play stronger as a long par 4. That said the opportunity to hit a green in two is welcomed, though, requiring a drive crossing and avoiding water left, this is easier said than done.
Ending with a par 5, No. 18 stretches 489 yards. From an elevated tee the hole starts downhill before climbing back uphill with a second shot across an environmental area that must avoid bunkers on the left. This sets up an approach to the three-tiered green, bunkered front right, which if negotiated successfully leaves all but a scary two-putt to finish the day, with clubhouse patrons watching.
Having played Northlands twice in the past month, once under ideal conditions and once under a full day of rain, I can say the course can be both beautiful and tiring to walk. From a quality standpoint it is the best golf value I have found in the area, offering a diverse mix of holes and melding nicely with its natural setting. While city courses rarely offer a whisper of wildlife, with only an occasional sighting of scattered squirrels, spotting three deer and listening to songbirds on a Sunday afternoon reconnects a typical 9-5 office worker with the joys of nature. Fitting for a course on the North Shore.