Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sagebrush Golf & Sporting Club - Part One

Sagebrush Golf & Sporting Club
Nicola Valley, British Columbia, CANADA


7372 YARDS (PAR 72)
COURSE RATING/SLOPE: 75.7/142
COURSE ARCHITECT: Rod Whitman, Richard Zokol & Armen Suny (2008)
ACCESSIBILITY: Private
COURSE WEBSITE: http://sagebrushclub.com/
ROUNDS PLAYED: 7
LAST PLAYED: July 25, 2010.
LOW SCORE: 73 (+1)

ACCOLADES -
- Golf Digest Best New Canadian Course 2009
- Golf Digest Top 30 in Canada 2015: #19
- Golfweek Best Canadian Modern Courses 2015: #8
- ScoreGolf Top 100 in Canada 2014: #10
- Canadian Golf Magazine Top 100 in Canada 2015: #17



"Sagebrush Golf & Sporting Club reaches into, explores, and touches golf’s soul. To play the course is to experience the generosity of spirit that one finds at the Old Course, Royal Melbourne, and Muirfield. Sagebrush embodies traditional values that golf at its best and most exhilarating represents. The open expanse allows the golfer to experience freedom, while inviting a wide variety of shots to answer Sagebrush’s questions. To play Sagebrush is to uncover one’s golfing mind, in a setting that encourages discovery from the first to the final shot."
- Lorne Rubenstein

After spending four days in Victoria, my wife, my son and I flew into Kelowna and made the one hour drive north to Vernon, where we would be staying the next four days with some friends.

The next day was the big one - I was heading out to play Sagebrush, a highly-touted and very private new club about 45 minutes south of Kamloops.

Two-time PGA Tour winner and B.C. native Richard Zokol is the visionary behind this project and shares design credit with Rod Whitman and Armen Suny. For those that don't know the story behind Sagebrush, there were two key moments that inspired him to create his own private golf and fly fishing getaway.

First, a trip to Redtail in Port Stanley, Ontario in 1994, the exclusive private club owned by Chris Goodwin and John Drake. Zokol really enjoyed the whole experience at Redtail, specifically the low-key nature of the club and the camaraderie between friends over fine wine in the Redtail lounge after the round.

Shortly thereafter, Zokol was sitting in the clubhouse at Warwick Hills during the Buick Open, listening intently as Ben Crenshaw passionately discussed the new project he was working on with Bill Coore in Nebraska. Crenshaw was talking about Sand Hills GC and that was the moment that Zokol became inspired with the concept of minimalism in design.

It took another eight years before Zokol’s dream started coming to fruition, as he started his partnership with Terry Donald in 2002 and that started the journey to getting Sagebrush off the ground. The club purchased 400 acres of land on the 100,000-acre Quilchena Cattle Ranch just off Nicola Lake, about an hour south of Kamloops. It opened late last year for limited play and the full course finally opened in 2009.

I have been following all of these developments for a few years now and I was very determined to find a way to play the course. The downturn in the economy helped somewhat - the club is offering some limited public play in 2009, with one or two foursomes a day getting access to the course and all the amenities for $700.00 a day ($175.00 per person).

I figured I'd be able to take advantage of that but a friend of mine told me he could do better - he is friends with Mr. Zokol himself and said he'd make a call on my behalf. Awesome!

I ended up getting a call about a week before heading to BC from Richard, inviting me to the club as his guest, quite the turn of events to be sure! To say I was pumped about meeting him and seeing Sagebrush would be the understatement of the year. This was the day I was looking forward to the entire trip.

I made the two and a half hour drive from Vernon, going through Kamloops down highway 5A. The vision of the club on the hillside in the distance, with Nicola Lake in the foreground, is just stunning and really sets the tone for the experience.

NOTE: You can click on the pictures for an enlarged version. I didn't crop any of them, so they are quite large.



The parking lot is maybe big enough for 12 cars - you won't see any corporate tournaments out here! It's meant to be very exclusive, with maybe seven or eight foursomes playing per day. You park your car, strap your own clubs into one of the carts that are sitting there and head up the road to the golf shop, which is housed in one of the two Yurts on the property.

I met Mr. Zokol in there and he gave a few of us a quick orientation of the property and the course itself while on the point where the lodging will be built. Construction on the lodging starts in early 2010 and will be able to accommodate around 30 members and their guests.

Richard and I got in a cart and we watched a group of four guys (one member and his three guests) tee off on the first hole. Richard then asked if I wanted a tour of the property. Of course, I said yes and we hopped in his truck and went for a drive through the facility. We made a stop at the Hideout, which in basic St. Catharines G&CC terms would qualify as the world's best halfway house. More on that later...

I figured that might be the end of my day with Richard, as he's got to be a busy guy. Well, thankfully, that wasn't the case.

"I'm going to grab my clubs and we'll go out and play", he said.

Wicked!

Before going into detail on each of the holes, I think it’s important to talk about the intended playing conditions at Sagebrush. Zokol and company wanted to build the first minimalist ‘links-style’ course in Canada and one of the reasons for locating the club in the Nicola Valley was due to the natural dry climate in the region. Very fast and firm fairways would be a prerequisite and at 2200 feet above sea level, the course plays substantially faster and shorter than courses of a similar length. As such, Sagebrush is meant to be explored through the ground game by design.

This is golf on a very grand scale, with wide fairway corridors and at times, extremely large green surfaces which range from 4500 sq.ft. to over 20,000 sq.ft. Wind is a huge factor out here and the wide fairways are an important part of the playability of the course.

There are no specific tee markers at Sagebrush. It’s meant to be a match play course and the player with the honour gets to select where the group tees off. There are up to four or five tee decks per hole and one of the things Richard was most proud of was how beginner-friendly Sagebrush was built to be, with almost every hole having a tee deck on a flat area of the fairway for novices, thereby eliminating the forced carry.

There are rocks placed at the 150 yard mark to the middle of each green but those are the only markers on the whole course. A yardage guide was in the printing stage when I played so that will help but this is a golf course where you need many rounds under your belt before truly understanding how far or high to hit the shot. Richard mentioned on more than one occasion that it took him about twenty rounds to really understand how to play the bumps and knolls at St. Andrews and he feels that Sagebrush requires the same amount of attention before becoming an expert.

Another quirk is the fact there isn't a rake to be found on the entire golf course. Richard believes that bunkers should be true hazards, with the ball meant to be played as it lies regardless of the conditions. Don't confuse them with waste areas - you still can't ground your club! The sand is firm and well compacted and you are expected to smooth out your footprints before leaving the bunkers.

Richard and I each had our own carts and we took off to the first hole.

THE FIRST HOLE: 508 YARDS - PAR 5

A relatively short par five designed to gently ease the player into the round. It is uphill all the way, however, so it definitely plays much longer than the scorecard indicates. From the back tee, you need to hit your shot over the left corner of the cross bunker, which is about a 225 yard carry. It’s a much shorter carry from the other tee decks.


Richard nailed one right down the pipe and then I stepped up and hit a weak fade into the carry bunker.

"Hit another one", he said.

"Some people get a bit nervous playing with a Touring Pro", he continued.

I smiled, teed up the ball and just as I was about to take it back replied "I'm not nervous at all. Just a bad swing."

Then I ripped that one down the middle right past Richard's ball.

He laughed and said "Good!"

We were on our way!

There is a bit of room left of the cross bunker but you have a semi-blind second shot where you have to hit over the sagebrush and more fairway bunkers if you’re looking to hit the green in two.

You get a good view of the bunkering right away on the first hole: rugged and wild, with islands of fescue grasses ready to gobble wayward shots. Richard told me how excited he got when he was able to persuade his fellow collaborators into keeping the fescue islands.

The layup is no bargain, with a deep bunker sitting about 100 yards from the green. You can see the huge false front and the very deep greenside bunker on the right side in the picture below.

It’s an enormous green, something you don’t really appreciate until getting there, as much of the green is hidden from view down below. There is a punchbowl effect at the back of the green, as balls hit long right will come right back toward the middle of the green. This is an intentional design feature and one that is prevalent throughout the golf course.

I'd actually make a routine two-putt par to start while Richard hit into the front bunker in three and couldn't get up and down, making a bogey six. I had the early lead but it wouldn't last. Haha. A fun opener with enough width to allow most players a birdie chance if they play the hole well and it is a great introduction to what is in store the rest of the day.

THE SECOND HOLE: 454 YARDS - PAR 4

A long par four that plays considerably shorter than the yardage on the card, as the fairway slopes downhill and left to right. Tee shots played toward the tall tree through the fairway or slightly to the right of it will work best, catching the slope and shortening the approach shot.

Big hitters can try to gamble and aim down the right hand side, as the hole does swing slightly in that direction and there is a bit of a slope that will kick balls off to the left, as you can see in the picture below from the landing area.

The approach shot should be played a bit left of the green and you can use much less club than you normally would with that distance, as a low, running approach will bounce off the hillside (yes, even out of the sagebrush) and kick down toward the green. Shots missed even slightly to the right will likely be swallowed by the huge front right bunker.

The green slopes considerably from left to right and features many cool bumps and undulations, as you can see below.


Just a lovely hole with Nicola Lake in the background and one that can play reasonably short in the morning when the conditions are calm or one that can be an absolute bear when the tradewind blows in your face.

We originally teed off on this hole around noon when the winds were calm but picked up our tee shots and moved to the eighth hole when we saw that group of four still on the green. When we came back around to play this hole again, I still used the same 4-iron I used hours earlier, even though the tradewinds were howling in my face. That left me with an exceptionally long second shot of about 230 yards. I was able to get a 4-iron to the front of the green and made the two-putt par, matching Richard on the hole.

THE THIRD HOLE: 416 YARDS - PAR 4

An absolutely gorgeous mid-length two shotter that swings dramatically from right to left off the tee. The play off the tee is slightly left of the fairway bunker on the far right, as the fairway slopes considerably from right to left. Longer hitters can try to challenge the carry bunker on the left side, perhaps aiming a little right of the pot bunker in the distance.

The hole traditionally plays downwind and actually functions as a short par four. Richard told me to ‘really give it a rip’ here and I hit a high draw that kept bouncing and rolling until it finally came to a stop about 30 yards short of the green. And yes, we were playing the back deck! 380+ yards? Needless to say, you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face after that one!

The carry bunker on the left is absolutely huge – if I’m not mistaken, this may have been the first hole they worked on at Sagebrush and when the crew were working on this bunker, Richard kept saying “BIGGER! DEEPER!” – he really wanted to take this one as close to the edge as possible.

If you avoid the trouble, including the little centerline pot bunker, you’ll have a short second and perhaps even just a pitch shot into a green that slopes sharply from right to left and back to front. The ground game works very well on this hole but I certainly found it very tough to get it close to the pin position from in close. I'd still make the two-putt par while Richard hit a wayward drive and made double. Back in the lead!


Like many great short par fours (the hole plays only 278 yards from the front deck), you can elect to layup off the tee or you can challenge the hole with driver, bringing trouble into play. This was one of my favourite holes on the course and the backdrop here is just unbelievably beautiful.

THE FOURTH HOLE: 210 YARDS - PAR 3

A downhill par three that plays much shorter than the yardage on the card. The tradewinds whip from left to right here and the fairway short of the green also runs from left to right. Richard wanted to hit a low stinger here toward the left edge of the green in order to get the kick off to the right but he pulled his slightly and ended up in the greenside bunker. I took the aerial approach and flew it on the green. Options even on the par threes!


It certainly qualifies as one of the prettier spots on the course, with Nicola Lake in the background. In the picture below, you can see one of the two Yurts on the property up on the hillside. That is currently functioning as the golf shop and sits right alongside the piece of property where the lodge will be erected in 2010.


You can see just how far this hole plays downhill and how well the ground game works from the tee. Richard would make a nice up and down for par and I'd match him, two putting from about 20 feet.

THE FIFTH HOLE: 430 YARDS - PAR 4

Another risk/reward type of tee shot, similar to the third hole only this time you have a dogleg right and the wind in your face. The more you cut off the dogleg, the longer the shot needs to carry. The ideal shot is aimed at the 150 yard rock through the fairway. You can see the green sitting at the bottom right hand side of the photo below.

The approach is similar to that on the second hole but even more pronounced, as you can land the ball up to forty yards short and left and the ball with still likely tumble down toward the green. I had about 220 yards in for my second shot after hitting well left off the tee – Richard wanted me to hit a 170 yard stinger so I punched a six-iron that landed well short and left but 15 seconds later, we saw the ball rolling toward the cup, stopping about 15 feet away. Tremendous fun!

Approach shots that get a bit frisky can roll through the green right down a large slope, leaving a tremendously difficult pitch shot back up the hill. The front right bunker, shown below, also gobbles up a lot of balls.


Yet another great hole where the ground game is embraced. The approach is similar in some respects to the second hole but the tee shot here is much more intimidating, which offsets the fact that the green is a bit more receptive than the severely sloped second. I'd two-putt for yet another par and Richard failed to get up and down from the bunker, making bogey.

THE SIXTH HOLE: 264 YARDS - PAR 3

A very long par three that plays decidedly shorter than the scorecard yardage due to the tradewind at your back. The play here is to aim for the right side of the green or even a bit further, as the fairway and the hillside both slope right to left and toward the green.

I hit a 4-iron from the back deck (!) with the winds whipping from behind and I pushed it about 10 yards further right than I wanted.

As it was in the air, Richard told me to grab another ball and hit again, thinking it might get stuck in the sagebrush. I turned to my bag, grabbed a ball and then heard laughter from the group (we had joined up with Club President Terry Donald and CFO Bob Garnett for two holes), as my ball just then trickled onto the front of the very large green. Again, even the sagebrush is forgiving at times out here. Richard knocked his 2-iron to about 6 feet...easy hole!


You can see in the photos above just how windy things can get in the mid-to-late afternoon at Sagebrush.

In the picture shown above, you can see how the hillside will take balls back toward the green and the open front allows the player the opportunity to run the ball in to the green. You don’t often think of long par threes being fun but this one certainly qualified for me. I'd make an awesome two-putt par from about 60 feet while Richard shockingly missed his short birdie effort, settling for par as well.

By the way, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the little cooler stations near the tee every few holes. As Richard told me, golfers need their nourishment!


Loads of water and chocolate bars...just take what you need to keep you going! It's on the house!

THE SEVENTH HOLE: 646 YARDS - PAR 5

From the longest par three on the course to the longest hole period at Sagebrush. Thankfully, the wind is still behind you here as you face a slightly uphill tee shot that ideally is aimed at the Yurt on the hillside with a slight draw. You can try to gamble a bit and hug the left side and the gaping fairway bunker to give yourself a shorter second shot.

The second shot is completely blind, with an aiming rock in the distance. You want to go slightly right of that to leave yourself a short, downhill third shot.

If you accidently go left, as I did, this is what you will be facing...

This bunker is about 120 yards from the green and there is about 40 yards of sagebrush in between this and the green.

The ideal third shot is a little pitch shot down to one of the biggest greens on the course, measuring over 20,000 square feet. It's so big, the back portion acts as a nursery for the rest of the course, if needed.



Richard calls this hole the 'redheaded stepchild' of the golf course, as it is the hole that has given them fits from a conditioning standpoint. They just seeded the green in September last year but it looked and played just fine to me. Yeah, there were some rough spots on the fairway but nothing that detracts from the playability of the course.

I'd lose a bunch of ground to Richard here, making a double bogey when I airmailed the green from the sagebrush just past that bunker on my third shot while he made a routine par. I'd need to play this hole a couple more times before being comfortable - the layup is very challenging for a first-timer, let me tell you.

THE EIGHTH HOLE: 474 YARDS - PAR 4

A long par four with a blind tee shot. The ideal line is over the aiming rock just in front of the fairway. The fairway here slopes sharply from right to left and eventually goes downhill so slight misses to the right may be rewarded.

The second shot plays shorter than the distance, as the hole tumbles downhill all the way to the green. Again, the fairway slopes sharply from right to left so the perfect shot is hit toward the right edge of the putting surface and will kick toward the middle. This might be the most beautiful vista on the entire golf course, with the ninth fairway sitting well above the eighth green in the distance.


This is a great green complex, completely naked with no bunkers for protection and a running shot is the best option. The putting surface very large and you can feed the ball into the back right portion of the green and watch the ball feed all the way to a back left pin.

Richard and I both hit perfect drives and good second shots and we both escaped with solid pars. An excellent hole!

THE NINTH HOLE: 442 YARDS - PAR 4

The last hole on the front side features a long carry from the back tee uphill over a carry bunker. The fairway is extremely wide here but you don't want to stray too far to the right, as the carry becomes much longer the further you go in that direction. I'd find out the hard way, as my tee shot faded a touch and ended up pretty much dead, right up against the ragged lip of the bunker.

The second shot must be played boldly over the right front bunker, as the green tilts quite sharply from right to left.

This green complex might be the best on the golf course. There is a bunker cut into the left side of the green, which wraps around the top of the bunker to give it almost a horseshoe-like design.

Richard and I must have spent at least ten minutes on this green, trying all sorts of cool shots. If you're on the back left portion of the green and the pin is front left, you can putt the ball all the way to the other side and it will fall back toward the other side of the green and right to the pin. Conversely, if you need to access the back left pin from the front, you can chip the ball over the bunker from the putting surface if you'd like. Richard says you're not confined to using only the putter on these expansive surfaces. However, if you take a divot, you're supposed to let the staff know so they can fix the damage.

I'd have to punch out of the bunker here but ended up taking my second double of the day while Richard made a solid par, giving us both front nine scores of 40. This is just another tremendous golf hole.

Since I'm turning this course review into a novel, I should cut it short right here and come back in a couple of days with the back nine. Let me know what you think of the course so far!

SAGEBRUSH GOLF & SPORTING CLUB - Read Part Two Here



Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bear Mountain Golf Resort & Spa - Mountain Course

Bear Mountain Golf Resort & Spa - Mountain Course
Victoria, British Columbia, CANADA


7203 YARDS (PAR 72)
COURSE RATING/SLOPE: 75.1/152
COURSE ARCHITECT: Steve Nicklaus and Jack Nicklaus (2005)
ACCESSIBILITY: Resort
COURSE WEBSITE: http://bearmountain.ca/
ROUNDS PLAYED: 1
LAST PLAYED: August 10, 2009.
LOW SCORE: 78 (+6)

ACCOLADES -
- Golfweek Best Canadian Modern 2015: #23
- ScoreGolf Top 100 in Canada 2014: #43
- ScoreGolf Top 59 Public Courses in Canada 2015: #23
- Canadian Golf Magazine Top 100 in Canada 2015: #59


"These 36 holes, combined with its incredible land and seascapes, is irresistible, and I expect Bear Mountain to become one of the most sought-after golf destinations on the continent."
- Len Barrie, President and CEO of Bear Mountain

The business that took me to Victoria had the added perk that we'd be heading out to Bear Mountain to play the Mountain Course as part of the itinerary with the convention.

There used to be a lot of golfers within the Balpex group of distributors but its dwindled down considerably over the years to the point where we had only seven players going to Bear Mountain.

One of those Mercedes limos picked us all up at the Hotel Grand Pacific where we were staying and made the twenty minute or so drive to the golf course. Bear Mountain is a 36 hole facility, with both The Mountain Course and the brand new Valley Course being designed by Nicklaus Design. Jack and his son Steve share the billing for the Mountain Course but if I was a betting man, which I am, I'd wager that Steve did most of the work out here.

The complex is part of the Westin group of resorts and this place just reeks of money. As indicated in my Royal Colwood post, Tampa Bay Lightning owner Len Barrie built Bear Mountain with the help of other NHL'ers like Ray Whitney, Mike Vernon, Joe Nieuwendyk, Rob Niedermayer and Ryan Smyth. Those guys all liked the idea of owning a golf course but I doubt they envisioned the thing would blow up into a full-fledged resort complex - I hear many of the guys want out, as the place is just a money pit by the looks of it.

In fact, the resort recently took on a new investor from Dubai, who poured a reported $350 MILLION dollars into the resort. WOW!

After doing some reading at the Nicklaus Design website, I found that this course cost approximately $17 million dollars to build while the newly finished Valley Course cost about $20 million!

I can honestly say you actually see the money they put into this place. It's truly beautiful, with marble everywhere and the course and real estate are all on the mountainside, where they must have used a hundred trucks full of dynamite to blow up all the rock out there.

The golf course was a pleasant surprise as well. I knew it was ranked in the top 100 but I'm not usually a fan of courses where an extraordinary amount of earth had to be moved in order to build. The Mountain Course is the antithesis of minimalism, that's for sure, but that doesn't diminish the accomplishment they made with the place, as the golf course is much better than average and visually is quite stunning almost the whole way through.

I didn't bring my camera to Bear Mountain, as it was raining almost non-stop the entire round. I took a few pictures with my blackberry but the quality was garbage, so the pictures included in this post were taken from the Bear Mountain website.

The first hole is a winding, downhill par five with a slightly elevated green site that is perched on the other side of a creek. I nailed a great drive here and had about 230 yards into the green but a downhill lie forced me to layup short of the creek, pitch on and two putt for the opening par.

The next interesting hole was the fourth, a gorgeous uphill par three measuring 194 yards. There is nothing behind the green but the Vancouver Island horizon so intimidation is a factor on the tee, as it looks like anything long is dead. A heavily contoured putting surface contributed to my three-putt bogey.

The 432 yard par four sixth features a pinched fairway and a long forced carry for your approach shot to a huge, undulating green. Really tough hole and another bogey for yours truly.

The toughies continue on the uphill par three seventh, shown below, measuring 173 yards. There's a cavernous bunker in front of the very long green surface. I'd hit a good tee shot that hit the green but spun back into that bunker, where I'd fail to get up and down, making bogey.

There's a bit of quirky routing to come, as you are forced to come back about 200 yards from the eighth green down the cart path back to the ninth tee. The fog rolled in really quickly on the par five ninth but I killed a drive and had about 215 yards in for my second. At four over through eight, I wasn't in the mood to layup and hit a perfect 4-iron that drifted into the fog in the distance. I drove up to the green and saw I had about a 30 footer for eagle but I'd THREE PUTT that too, making the very disappointing par for a 40 on the outgoing nine.

I'd bogey the deceivingly tough uphill par four tenth, a hole with an interesting greensite and then proceed to three-putt the par three eleventh, with its island green (yawn) shown below. Three 3-whacks at this point

A couple of interesting par fours follow - the 12th has a blind tee shot over the crest of a hill then tumbles downhill toward a huge pond that fronts a large green. The 13th is a 488 yard doozy - a dogleg right off the tee with an extremely narrow fairway and water running down the left hand side for about the last half of the hole. It's a terrorizing looking tee shot for a player who draws the ball off the tee, let me tell you. I'd bogey that hole as well to fall to +7 after 13.

My game would noticeably improve the rest of the way, as I'd figure out some things on the greens. The 14th is a STUNNING uphill par five with a fairway split into two tiers. The approach shot (see below) is played to a green that sits alone up on top of the mountain, with a single tree offering background perspective. It's just a wicked looking hole and when you get to the green, you have a view of downtown Victoria from the top of the mountain. Made a two-putt par here to start a strong finish.

Right off the 14th sits the '19th hole', a lovely, short par three shown below with the gorgeous view of Victoria as the backdrop. This hole is meant to settle bets and also likely serves as Len Barrie's practice hole, as I believe he has a large house that sits just to the left of the green. Didn't play this one, as it was 'out of service' at the time, although the pin was just taken out of the hole and was laying beside it on the putting surface.


The par four 15th (shown below) plays back parallel to the 14th and obviously tumbles well downhill. It's a blind tee shot and the second requires a long carry to a severely undulating green surface.

The 16th (shown below in a heavily photoshopped picture) is a dropshot par three with a housing complex running down the right hand side, marring the visual somewhat.

The 17th is a 343 yard downhill par four but plays back uphill to the green, something that is repeated often out here. I'd make my second birdie of the day here to get back to +6 on the day, really recovering after my poor start.

The last hole is a long 603 yard par five with a hazard running down the entire left hand side of the hole until the creek winds back through the fairway about 350 yards up the hole. I actually drove my ball into the hazard here, dropped, hit 6-iron/wedge to the green and sunk about a 30 footer for the great par as the rain just poured down on us to end the round.

I ended the day with a very satisfying 78 (+6), going one under on my last five to do it. So, how does Bear Mountain compare with Royal Colwood?

You have to hit a variety of shots out here and there's a pretty good mix of risk/reward as well. A very good test of your game. It's a bit on the tough side for higher handicappers but there aren't too many forced carries and the up and down nature of the golf course, with all the elevated tees, helps the novice player get the ball rolling on the ground.

The slope rating seems a bit high, as the fairways are reasonably wide, for the most part and the greens are larger than average. Still, not an easy course by any means and a capable test for all levels. There is some good variety in hole lengths, with a couple of reasonably short par threes, some shortish par fours and a couple of very long par fives. There isn't an overabundance of left to right holes either, something Nicklaus design has always been accused of due to Jack's preference for the shot. I'm not a fan of the island green but it's early enough in the round so I'll let it go. Most of the memorability here comes from the gorgeous vistas but many of the holes are standouts regardless of the setting.

One could argue that aesthetics would be the course's strong point, as the backdrops and vistas are almost overwhelming at times. I must have said "this course is beautiful" about three or four times to my playing partners.

Conditioning was excellent, from the smooth greens to the very firm fairways. I was told that all the rock underneath the grass would cause crazy bounces but I didn't see anything unusual.

The weather wasn't great but the advantage with all the rain was that the course was practically empty when we played. I'd be willing to bet that on a normal day, this is a five and a half hour round but we played very quickly and it was a pleasure.

Unfortunately, there is no chance for walking out here, not with all of the crazy green to tee drives up the mountain. I suppose you could walk if you had a caddy but it would be a true test. They are playing the Telus Skins Game in 2010 out here so I'll be interested to see how they cope.

I stand by my assessment that this is a stonger course overall than Colwood and I definitely had more fun playing Bear Mountain as well. Nothing against Colwood - I just think Bear Mountain is very strong and perhaps even good enough to be a Top 50 in the Country as opposed to #62, where it sits at the time of this profile.

If you go to Victoria, you should definitely get out and play Bear Mountain...it won't disappoint!