Getting on the green

Blogging about some of the world's best golf holes.

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Hole # 5, River Spirit Golf Club, Calgary, AB

Hole # 5, Millburn 9, par 4, 408 yards

Hole # 5

Hole # 5

It brings back memories of the Alberta floods earlier this year when you see the devastation of fairways and tee boxes at River Spirit Golf Club on Highway 8, west of Calgary. In June, there were so much water spilling off the banks that entire fairways were under water for days. Debris in the form of large trees uprooted and boulders were carried down river, scraping and carving up land.

Mike who is a member at River Spirit, gave us hole-by-hole commentary of how the floods had affected his golf club. Hole # 5 tee box was devastated. When you stand at the blue tee and look back, you no longer see the black tees which used to be way back and surrounded by dense forest. Today, you see a cliff where the black tees used to be and a clearing. The river runs behind the hole and gravel lines the banks. Mike told me that there used to be trees from the end of the tee box to the trees that are still standing, about 150 yards away.

It is amazing to think what Mother Nature has done. Hole # 5 used to be 408 yards but now, it is shorter. It used to take two good shots to come close to the green. Now it is a drive and a mid-iron to the green.

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Hole # 6, River Spirit Golf Club, Calgary, AB

Hole # 6, Millburn 9, par 4, 302 yards

Hole # 6

Hole # 6

This is the time of year to play River Spirit, a golf course west of Calgary, AB with views of the Rocky Mountains and farmland. The autumn colours are most vibrant against blue skies where golf is really a walk in the park.

We drove up to hole # 6 on the Millburn course where there were no noticeable damage to the hole. The Alberta floods in June 2013 swept away a lot of fairways and tee boxes on both the Spirit and Millburn 9’s but this hole was spared. We hiked up to the blue tees while Sean kept going to the black tees where he tees off. Sean was a student of the National Golf Academy in town and held a 8 handicap. He said he used to play a 22 handicap until he took lessons at the academy where they showed him his swing on video. They corrected his bad habits and really grooved his swing. Sean was a good player but he would occasionally spray his tee shot. Unfortunately, he would hit his tee shot left of the fairway, into dense bush.

Mike was up next. As a leftie, he had a natural draw to his swing but after playing 26 holes, it was developing into a pull hook. He compensated by aiming very left and drew his ball into the fairway. He was lucky that his ball didn’t keep going, otherwise it would have been in the right rough. I was up next. Standing on the tee, I couldn’t help but to notice how narrow the fairway looked. It was the framing of the hole. All around you were forest. The fairway was 200+ yards away and bordered by two large trees. It was like threading a needle with your tee shot.

I made sure I kept my head down as I swung my club. It went well and straight down the middle. Sean wasn’t as lucky. Three on the fairway weren’t too bad. I managed to walk away with a greens in regulation and a par.



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Hole # 9, Stewart Creek G & CC, Canmore, AB

Hole # 9, Blue tees, 411 yards

Before playing Stewart Creek Golf and Country Club in Canmore, AB (just 40 minutes west of Calgary), you have to know that you will be playing dab in the middle of bear country. To make things worst, ask the starter whether he has seen any ┬ábears lately and he’ll plant a seed in you that will totally destroy your game. At least that’s what happened to us. He went on telling us that there is a baby bear that comes running out of the forest and likes playing bumper cars with your golf cart. “Oh he’s harmless” says the starter. “He just wants to play with you”.

Stepping up to hole # 9, all you see is forest and no landing spot. There is a large rock behind a sand bunker that you should aim at. It’s about 180 yards from the blue tees so take a long iron or hybrid and scoot the ball up there. Forget the driver because the fairway ends pretty quickly at the corner of this hole. Hole # 9 is almost an elbow right and there is a drastic elevation drop around the corner.

On the approach, the green is 125 feet below you. Water is in play on your right so try to hit a 9-iron straight or a little left. It’s quite a sight from the middle of the fairway as you look down to the 10th fairway and the 18th hole. The green is about 43 yards deep which gives you plenty of landing. Drop it on for a GIR.

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Hole # 4, Mt Kidd, Kananaskis Country, AB

Hole # 4, par 3, White tees, 129 yards

Hole # 4, Mt Kidd

Hole # 4, Mt Kidd

Before playing Kananaskis, people were telling me that the course suffered a lot of winter kill. The maintenance crew was out in full force, trying to put the course back into a pristine condition. Hopefully in August and September, the course will dry out and the rivers will return to a trickle rather than raging waters.

When we arrived at hole # 4, there was a challenge presented to us. You could make a bet anywhere from $10 to $200. If you hit the green, your bet is doubled in the form of gift certificates redeemable in the pro shop. If you miss the green, you get the same dollar value back in gift certificates. Because this was not charity, I had declined. My friends also declined because they didn’t need anything from the proshop. There was a gentleman in the last group that bet $200 and doubled his money because his ball settled on the green.

I shot a 9-iron to the green. Unfortunately it hit the green so hard that it bounced into the rough. Brent played from the blue tees and hit his new RocketBallz iron. His ball sailed over the pin and into the sand bunker. Lawrence pulled his shot into the forest left of the tee box. Mary’s ball also hit the rough but she chipped it close for a par. I walked away with a bogey and Brent did too.

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Hole # 10, Greywolf GC, Panorama, BC

Hole # 10, par 5, Blue tees, 535 yards

Ahhh, playing Greywolf in the morning is really something else. You know you’re in the middle of the Rockies when you drive up to Panorama for the first time. Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, Greywolf is a golf resort that you will never forget.

Hole # 10 is a long par 5 with a hillside on your right. Its a gradual slope but treat it with care. Hitting your ball up there is trouble so it’s better to stay left if you can. A long drive would be best if you can muster it. This is one of those holes that you can’t reach in two so take your time and make every shot count. There are two bunkers on the left side. The first one is reachable on your second shot and the third guards the green.

I used a combination of driver, 4-Hybrid, 7-iron to get to the green. My two friends, Chris and James took four strokes to get on. James had the most trouble, slicing his ball to the incline on the right then taking relief. His third shot found the bunker. Blasting out in four, he took two more shots to get to the green. James had a rough time. Chris hit a beautiful 5-iron to the green, bounced front of the green then rolled on. He followed up with a long straight putt right into the hole.