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Whistler Trip

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It rained for all 18 holes of our round at Nicklaus North, yet as usual the trip to Whistler was impossible to spoil. As soon to be host to many of the alpine events of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, the small village 2 hours north of Vancouver known for its world class skiing has four unique golf courses only minutes from the gondolas.

To really appreciate Whistler you have to see it for yourself, superlatives simply don’t do it justice. While most people likely conjure images of the area as a winter wonderland, and rightly so, the opportunities to actively experience the outdoors are year-round. With that in mind, it was mid-September when two friends and myself arrived in one of the most incredible settings any recreationalist could imagine, ready to play the course that Jack himself deemed worthy of his name.

The morning was quiet. I had woken early, something I find far more difficult to do for skiing, or going to work, or pretty much anything except golf. For those who don’t play golf, or who don’t play it seriously, it’s not a game known for its adrenaline. But for myself the awaiting challenge inevitably proves too exciting to stay in bed.

A short cab ride from where we had been staying at my friend’s chalet brought us to a welcoming reception at the clubhouse’s front entrance. After a quick bite to eat, three buckets of balls, and a couple of poorly hit wedge shots we stepped up to the first tee.

With the angle of the green favoring a tee shot down the right side, the first hole is an inviting par-four that introduces a typical Nicklaus bunkering style early on. Flanking the right side of the fairway and protecting the left portion of the green the curvilinear, white sand traps are well placed, a trend that continues throughout the course.

The following hole is the first of five par-threes which, as strong visually as demanding, are some of the most memorable holes on the course. From the back set of five tee decks, no. 2 is a pleasing 197-yard shot that flirts with water and offers players a taste of what’s to come.

As the rest of outward nine unfolds across the valley floor, peaks of the Pacific Coast Mountains rise on every side. From no. 12 onward the course works its way north to no. 17, travelling between the River of Golden Dreams to the southern edge of Green Lake. It was somewhere between those two points that my wishes of a sunny fall day, or at least a break in the weather, were lost in muted-grey skies of relentless rain.

As an established course in a market that continues to see new courses opening each year, keeping competitive is essential. As Andrew Smart, Director of Golf at the course, said “more courses do not necessarily mean more golfers”. With that in mind, Nicklaus North continues to thrive by providing friendly, courteous service and a well-groomed layout. Just two of the reasons the course continually places comfortably in Canada’s Top 100 Golf Courses.

Also on the list of awards and accolades, the course received Canada’s Best New Course in 1996, from Golf Digest. Since then it has hosted various high profile events including the World Skins game twice, once in 1997 and then again in 2005, with Jack Nicklaus appropriately competing both times.

However, beyond the awards, the signature architect, and the surreal setting is something more impressive, and to be honest something a bit unexpected. Authenticity. There is a sense of commitment to golf and a genuine care that is taken for the individuals who come to play, even though it might knowingly be only once in their lifetime. It’s an attribute surely to be admired, one that is worth coming back for, and one that unfortunately many resorts seem to lack. 

The finishing holes of this 6908-yard, par 71, layout are a pleasure to play, especially no. 17. The 226-yard par-three signature hole is more than just photogenic. Favouring a right to left shot, with Whistler’s biggest lake wrapping around half the green as a hazard, finding the green is no small achievement. After missing par, it was then on to no. 18, a hole with a fairway bunker left and a forced carry on the approach to a green with a multitude of options. 

While the mountain peaks a few thousand feet above us were getting an early start to the winter season with six inches of fresh snow, down in the valley the rain had stopped for our final putts. My ambitions of the morning’s challenge might have been lost somewhere on the front nine, but now in the warmth and dryness of the clubhouse, with a beer, two buddies, and a lot of bogies later, Whistler once again proved to be more than worth the trip.            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Green at No.12  – Par 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Green at No.2  – Par 3

First Picture the approach at No. 16 – Par 4

* All images provided by GolfBC and Nicklaus North.

 

 

 

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Nick

    Nov 18, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    I was there this past summer and played Nicklaus North as well. Well balanced golf course…amazing surrounding. ANd I got to see a bear in a bunker!!!

  2. T Giannelli

    Nov 18, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    Great Article! I’ve lived and played in the Whistler area. one great one to play is Big Sky in Pemberton. it’s about 30 min north of Whistler but well worth the drive.

  3. Dianne Baker

    Nov 17, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    Another interesting article by Brett Hitchins. I have read all his work and enjoy the information on the courses as well as his personal views. Have played in Whistler before but not Nicklaus North. Definitely want to go back now and play there!

  4. Barrie

    Nov 11, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Nice story. I have lived in the Vancouver area for 15 years now and have never golfed in the Whistler area.
    One nitpic, the mountains in that area are not the Rockies but rather part of the Coast Mountains.

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Courses

Kingston Heath: The Hype is Real

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We touched ground late in the afternoon at Melbourne Airport and checked in very, very late at hotel Grand Hyatt. Don’t ask about our driving and navigating skills. It shouldn’t have taken us as long as we did. Even with GPS we failed miserably, but our dear friend had been so kind to arrange a room with a magnificent view on the 32nd floor for us.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The skyline in Melbourne was amazing, and what a vibrant, multicultural city Melbourne turned out to be when we later visited the streets to catch a late dinner. The next morning, we headed out to one of the finest golf courses that you can find Down Under: Kingston Heath. We had heard so many great things about this course, and to be honest we were a bit worried it almost was too hyped up. Luckily, there were no disappointments.

Early morning at Kingston Heath C) Jacob Sjöman.

Here’s the thing about Kingston Heath. You’re driving in the middle of a suburb in Melbourne and then suddenly you see the sign, “Kingston Heath.” Very shortly after the turn, you’re at the club. This is very different than the other golf courses we’ve visited on this trip Down Under, where we’ve had to drive for several miles to get from the front gates to the club house.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Nevertheless, this course and its wonderful turf danced in front of us from the very first minute of our arrival. With a perfect sunrise and a very picture friendly magic morning mist, we walked out on the course and captured a few photos. Well, hundreds to be honest. The shapes and details are so pure and well defined.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Kingston Heath was designed by Dan Soutar back in 1925 with help and guidance from the legendary golf architect Dr. Alister MacKenzie, who added to its excellent bunkering system. Dr. MacKenzie’s only design suggestion was to change Soutar’s 15th hole from a 222-yard par-4 (with a blind tee shot) to a par-3. Today, this hole is considered to be one the best par-3 holes Down Under, and I can understand why.

I am normally not a big fan of flat courses, but I will make a rare exception for Kingston Heath. It’s a course that’s both fun and puts your strategic skills to a serious test. Our experience is that you need to plan your shots carefully, and never forget to stay out of its deep bunkers. They’re not easy.

The bunker shapes are brilliant. (C) Jacob Sjöman.

Kingston Heath is not super long in distance, but it will still give you a tough test. You definitely need to be straight to earn a good score. If you are in Melbourne, this is the golf course I would recommend above all others.

Next up: Metropolitan. Stay tuned!

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Courses

Barnbougle Lost Farm: 20 Holes of Pure Joy

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Another early day in Tasmania, and we were exploring the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw-design, Barnbougle Lost Farm. The course was completed in 2010, four years after the neighbor Barnbougle Dunes, resulting in much excitement in the world of golf upon opening.

Johan and I teed off at 10 a.m. to enjoy the course at our own pace in its full glory under clear blue skies. Barnbougle Lost Farm starts out quite easy, but it quickly turns into a true test of links golf. You will certainly need to bring some tactical and smart planning in order to get close to many of the pin positions.

The third hole is a prime example. With its sloping two-tiered green, it provides a fun challenge and makes you earn birdie — even if your tee and approach shots put you in a good position. This is one of the things I love about this course; it adds a welcome dimension to the game and something you probably don’t experience on most golf courses.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The 4th is an iconic signature hole called “Sals Point,” named after course owner Richard Sattler’s wife (she was hoping to build a summer home on the property before it was turned into a golf course). A strikingly beautiful par-3, this hole is short in distance but guarded with luring bunkers. When the prevailing northwesterly wind comes howling in from the ocean, the hole will leave you exposed and pulling out one of your long irons for the tee shot. We left No. 4 with two bogeys with a strong desire for revenge.

Later in the round, we notice our scorecard had a hole numbered “13A” just after the 13th. We then noticed there was also an “18A.” That’s because Barnbougle Lost Farm offers golfers 20 holes. The designers believed that 13A was “too good to leave out” of the main routing, and 18A acts as a final betting hole to help decide a winner if you’re left all square. And yes, we played both 13A and 18A.

I need to say I liked Lost Farm for many reasons; it feels fresh and has some quirky holes including the 5th and the breathtaking 4th. The fact that it balks tradition with 20 holes is something I love. It also feels like an (almost) flawless course, and you will find new things to enjoy every time you play it.

The big question after trying both courses at Barnbougle is which course I liked best. I would go for Barnbougle Dunes in front of Barnbougle Lost Farm, mostly because I felt it was more fun and offered a bigger variation on how to play the holes. Both courses are great, however, offering really fun golf. And as I wrote in the first part of this Barnbougle-story, this is a top destination to visit and something you definitely need to experience with your golf friends if you can. It’s a golfing heaven.

Next course up: Kingston Heath in Melbourne.

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Courses

Barnbougle Dunes: World Class Golf

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We arrived to Launceston Airport in Tasmania just before sunset. Located on the Northeast Coast of Australia’s island state, Tasmania, Barnbougle is almost as far from Sweden as it gets… yet it immediately felt like home when we arrived.

Launceston Airport, Tasmania. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The drive from the airport was just over an hour, taking us through deep forests and rolling hills before we arrived to Barnbougle Golf Resort, which consists of two courses — The Dunes and Lost Farm — a lodge, two restaurants, a sports bar and a spa. Unfortunately, it was pitch black outside and we couldn’t see much of the two courses on our arrival. I would like to add that both Johan and I were extremely excited about visiting this golf mecca. We later enjoyed a tasty dinner at the Barnbougle Lost Farm Restaurant before we called it a day.

The locals at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The next day, we woke up early and got out to The Dunes Course as very first guests out. Well, to be quite honest, we weren’t actually the first out. There were a few locals — Wallabies, lots of them — already out on the course. The natural landscape at Barnbougle is fantastic and my cameras almost overheated with the photo opportunities. After two intense hours of recording videos and producing photos both from ground, we headed back to Lost Farm for a wonderful breakfast (and view). After our breakfast, it was time to try our luck.

“Tom’s Little Devil.” Hole No.7 at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Before describing our experience playing the courses, I would like to mention about Richard Sattler, a potato farmer and owner of Barnbougle. In the early 2000’s, Richard was introduced to U.S. golfing visionary Mike Keiser, who had heard about his amazing stretch of farmland in Tasmania and came down to visit. Mike convinced Richard that Barnbougle (which at that stage was a potato farm and still grows potatoes and raises cattle today) might be perfect for creating a top quality golf course.

After an introduction to well renowned golf architect Tom Doak and the formation of a partnership with former Australian golf pro and golf architect Mike Clayton, the development of the Barnbougle Dunes Course commenced.

The walk between the 4th and 5th holes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Featuring large bunkers dotted between fun rolling fairways shaped from the coastal dunes, Barnbougle Dunes offers the golfer some tough challenges, in particular on the first nine. This is indeed a course that will entertain all kinds of golfers.

After our round, we looked back at some fantastic highlights such as playing the iconic 7th hole, a short par-3 called ”Tom’s Little Devil,” as well as the beautiful par-4 15th. We were just two big walking smiles sitting there in the restaurant to be honest. Lets also not forget one of the biggest (and deepest) bunkers I’ve seen at the 4th hole. The name of the bunker is “Jaws.” Good times!

As a small surprise for Johan, I had arranged a meeting after our round with Richard Sattler. Richard, ever the farmer, entered the car parking just in front of the clubhouse in a white pick-up van with a big smile un his face. We talked to Richard for almost 30 minutes. He is an extremely humble man and left such a warm impression on us. Richard explained the Barnbougle story: how it all began and the property today.

To me, this is a high-end golf destination offering something very unique with two world-class courses in Barnbougle Dunes and Barnbougle Lost Farm, both ranked in the top-100 greatest golf courses by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine (U.S.). With the courses located just next to each other, it’s probably one of the best golf resorts you can find down under and a golf resort that I would like bring my hardcore golfing friends to visit. Everything here is exceptional with the resort providing spacious rooms, comfy beds, good food and spectacular views.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Barnbougle Dunes is a real treat to play for any golfer and will leave you with a sweet golfing memory. Compared to the golf courses available on the more remote King Island, Barnbougle is accessible (given Tasmania is connected by better flight connections) and the hospitality and service at is much more refined.

The golf resort is one of the absolute best I’ve been to. I can also highly recommend playing Barnbougle Dunes; I had great fun and you can play it in many ways. Tomorrow, we will be playing and experiencing the other course at Barnbougle: Barnbougle Lost Farm, a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw course with 20 (!) holes.

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19th Hole

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