In the shadow of a legendary castle is one of the world’s most challenging—and breathtaking—courses.
Nestled inside the Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, the town of Banff is known for its breathtaking natural beauty. At the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course, those scenic views are combined with golf challenges that make for an exceptional playing experience.
Whether you’re a complete novice or a top golfer, this course doesn’t disappoint. Each hole provides a different view of the Canadian Rockies that adds a majestic feeling to the game regard- less of the final outcome. Ranked a top five classic course in Canada by Golf Digest, many consider this a must-play.
Golf course designer Stanley Thompson wasn’t content to let nature be the only draw when he created the par-71 course. The 18-hole main course provides a challenging but exhilarating experience; it leverages the surrounding scenery to create optical illusions that make you reconsider each stroke.
Originally opened in 1928, the Banff course is one of two Thompson designed courses in the Canadian Rockies, with the other located in Jasper. But it’s the Banff course that has one of the most exciting and challenging par -3s, known as the Devil’s Cauldron.
The fourth hole of the course is situated at the bottom of Rundle Mountain and that location makes it unplayable until around May each year. Because the green is tucked against the side of the mountain, it receives minimal sunlight, which means it takes longer for the grass to regrow and be hearty enough to handle the amount of traffic it receives. And, as one of the most famous holes in the world, players tend to spend more time there. In fact, it’s one of the world’s most photographed holes and the Fairmont has even allocated more time to play this hole than it normally allows for a par-4 hole.
Those who can wait until the heavily bunkered green opens will be rewarded with an unforgettable experience. The elevated tee offers views of the Canadian Rocky Mountain forest, and to make the shot, golfers must send the ball over a glacial lake and into a sloping, bowl-shaped green.
While the other holes may lack the notoriety of the fourth hole, each offers its own unique view and its own set of challenges. And, along the way, expect to see plenty of wildlife. Grizzly bears, deer and elk are among the visitors to the area, and it’s not uncommon to see a herd of deer meandering across the course.
MORE PLAY TIME
In 1989, the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course opened a second nine-hole course to complete the golfing experience. The 36-par course brings the length of the combined courses to more than 7,000 yards.
Use of the driving range and practice facilities are included with green fees, and they’re also open to visitors who aren’t ready to venture out onto the course but want to get in some practice. Guests also have full complimentary access to the practice chipping, putting and bunker greens.
Those who want to improve their game—either before or after taking on the course—can take private or semi-private lessons. Group or customized lessons are available, as are drop-in lessons.
If you want to enjoy the views of the course after your game, Stanley’s Smokehouse Restaurant lies in the midst of the course. This renowned southern BBQ house features a bank of windows to allow perfect views of the Stanley Thompson fairways, the Bow River and the Tunnel and Rundle mountains. From the patio, you can observe the ninth hole and there’s also a lounge with comfy seating and big screens for watching sports.
On the menu, you’ll find options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and anything in between. With breakfast served until 10:30 a.m. and the all-day menu available from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., there is plenty of time to enjoy the selection of meat that’s been smoked in-house for up to 24 hours.
From grilled salmon to smoked brisket and dishes including ribs, pulled pork and chicken, the options are inventive and broad. And there’s a well-rounded dessert menu to top it off that includes such things as maple pecan tarts, warm chocolate brownies and apple pie.
BEYOND THE ORDINARY
Staying at the Fairmont Banff Springs where the course is located brings advantages far beyond close proximity. The legendary “castle in the Rockies” is an exceptional way to get away from it all, with an array of options for dining and relaxing. In addition to golf, guests can enjoy hiking, fishing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, skating and dog sledding.
For families, there are a number of program designed with kids in mind; an extensive pool area, a bowling and entertainment center that includes live music and neon blacklight bowling, pool tables and ping pong tables ensure that there’s plenty of fun for all ages.