PANORAMA, B.C., CANADA -- About three miles before the twisty road reaches the Panorama Mountain Village Resort, and 1500 vertical feet below it, a sharp curve in the road gives way to a turnaround area. Of course, approaching a mountain paradise, nobody in his or her right mind would "turnaround". To top it off, five minutes up the road the spectacular Greywolf Golf Course, voted Golf Digest's Best New Canadian Course for 1999, awaits.
A closer inspection to this unmarked roadside turnaround and you'll discover a footpath that dives down halfway into a gorge. Two hundred feet down the path you'll end up atop the remnants of an old bridge which used to span the chasm. The trail will be replaced by the pure, misty air of the Purcell Mountains and your knees will start to shake. Over one hundred feet straight below, Toby Creek thunders its way down the valley, finally spilling into the mighty Columbia River ten miles down stream. Don't get too close to the edge!
The wooden framework from this bridge is a reminder of the area's rich history in silver mining. In the early 1900's the town of Invermere, just 15 minutes from Panorama, was home to dozens of miners hoping to reap the rewards of silver and gold which lay hidden in the folds of the Purcell Mountains (the Purcells are a range in the Rocky Mountains stretching from Northern Washington to well into British Columbia, Canada).
Now the people here have exchanged the "gold" for "golf". The Greywolf Golf Course, owned and operated by Intrawest and BMR, is a monumental achievement. Designed by Doug Carrick, Greywolf epitomizes playability with a design built to maximize the natural beauty of the land. Fortunately for Carrick, the natural beauty of the land in and around Panorama is simply breathtaking.
"It has been felt from early on in the planning stages that Greywolf would be a very special golf course and it was obvious from the reactions of the golfers who have played here that this is indeed the case" stated Jeff Stipec, Intrawest's Senior Vice President of Golf. "The award of Best New Canadian Course' by Golf Digest in 1999 verifies the special nature of the course. For those who have played Greywolf we are sure you will concur and for those of you who have not, you have a very special treat awaiting you," finished Mr. Stipec back in 1999 after the award was received.
Not much has changed since 1999 - except the resort is booming. Greywolf continues to overwhelm, inspire, and rejuvenate the golfers' soul. "We're going at full throttle," exclaimed Trevor Goplin, the Head Golf Professional at Greywolf. "Along with everything else up here, our bookings continue to grow at a steady rate," he finished.
"The word is out that The Panorama Mountain Village Resort has a world-class product to offer in the Greywolf Golf Course," cited Peter Smith, the Director of Golf at the resort. I second the motion. Greywolf fits comfortably into my "Top 5 Resort Course" list within the prestigious ranks of Bandon Dunes and Pebble Beach. Surprised? Go see for yourself.
At an elevation of nearly 4,000 feet, it's not uncommon for golfers to feel a little "high" at Greywolf. With a world class ski-hill boasting a vertical drop of 4,000 feet, and heli-skiing opportunities up to 9,000 feet, the operative word at Panorama seems to be "high". As a matter of fact, the par three 12th hole was aptly named "Heli-high".
The quintet of par three's are all treasures. The sixth, or "Cliffhanger", is already regarded as one of the most exhilarating par 3's in all of golf. The green sits perched atop a granite plateau, 175 yards from the regular men's tee. What's truly remarkable about the Greywolf layout is the fact that Doug Carrick routed Greywolf specifically around the spectacular green site at the sixth. While it's likely that whatever postcard you purchase from the Greywolf golf shop (and believe me, you'll want to send a postcard) will feature a dazzling shot of the "Cliffhanger", every hole at Greywolf warrants "postcard" status.
The three opening holes climb up a narrow mountain seam and take you high atop a slender notch to a place they call the fourth tee box. Like every "driving" hole at Greywolf, the first three holes offer plenty of room off the tee. In fact, the Greywolf course is likely the best driving course you're ever going to play. If you like grabbing the "big boy" and taking a rip, your style will not be stifled here.
Holes four through six are amazing accomplishments in the world of golf design. The par 4, 4th begins the descent back to base camp. From high atop your perch the views of the Purcell Mountains will astound you. A good tee shot here is the pinnacle of golf satisfaction, as your ball will sail up with the eagles for what seems like eternity.
As a world-renown golf course architect, Doug Carrick followed with great admiration the work of Stanley Thompson (Banff Springs, Jasper Park Lodge, and Capilano - among others). Thompson's work was signified with ample use of target bunkers - Carrick followed suit. The beautiful par 5, 5th offers one of many "target style" cross bunkers not meant to punish the player, but rather to provide a visual in terms of indicating the ideal line. The fifth appears "meaty" on the card, but it too follows the fall line and at 545 yards is reachable for not just the longest of hitters.
The seventh and eighth, both rock-solid par 4's, are a good tune up for No. 9. The ninth requires a little more courage as "Wolf's Lake" must be carried to reach the green on this 181-yard "teaser".
The entire back nine is a rolling, tumbling ride featuring holes that ride along the cliffs and creeks which frame the area. Each hole offers an entirely unique visual experience from the previous hole - the only consistency is the backdrops filled with mountain vistas, creaking pines, and eagles soaring high.
No. 11 is that one "driveable" par 4 which so many architects like to feature. The decision to "go for it" must be balanced by the fact that water left and a rocky slope to the right are undaunted by your "guts".
Greywolf finishes with "Hopeful Return", a healthy straight par-4 that has a subtle climb to a massive, rolling green. Two well-struck shots are required to complete your "high".
If you have a desire to blend your love for the game with your love of nature and creation, you'll hit a "bulls-eye" playing Greywolf. Greywolf is an ideal mountain golf getaway. Grab your sticks, hiking shoes, and free spirit and head for the Purcells - you will soon find out that at the Panorama Mountain Village, the mountains truly "bring peace to the people".
1860 Greywolf Drive
Phone (Golf Shop): 250-342-6941
Tee Times/Reservations: 1-800-663-2929
Championship Tees - 7,140 yards, par 72, 137 slope, 73.5 rating
Blue Tees - 6,6995 yards, par 72, 134 slope, 71 rating
White Tees - 6,164 yards, par 72, 127 slope, 68.5 rating
Red Tees - 5,400 yards, par 72, 122 slope, 69.5 rating
Practice Facilities: C
Clubhouse/Pro Shop: B
Pace Of Play: B
Overall Rating: A
Greywolf is located in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, twenty minutes by car from the town of Invermere. From Calgary, Alberta (the nearest International Airport) take Highway #1 west to Castle Junction and take Highway 93 into Radium Hot Springs. At Radium Hot Springs turn south on Highway 95 towards Invermere. Signs direct you to Panorama and the Greywolf Golf Course!
Stay at the Panorama Mountain Village. They have numerous rooms available varying from economy "value priced" rooms to luxury townhomes. There are eight lodges to choose from. Call 1-800-663-2929 to reserve.
The Panorama Mountain Village features four restaurants. The restaurant right at the golf course is outstanding and the deck offers amazing views of the course and mountains. The Jack Pine Pub is a good spot after dark. Twenty minutes away in the town of Invermere you will find the award winning fine dining experience at "Strands Old House Restaurant". Also, the "Lakeside Pub" in Invermere is great little spot hugging the shoreline on Lake Windermere.
Hiking, white-water rafting, canoeing, fishing, kayaking, swimming, water-slides, skiing (downhill, cross country, heli), biking, atv's, horseback rides, rock climbing, tennis, and photography.
Andrew Penner is a longtime member of the Canadian PGA. Author of "One Flew Over the Caddyshack," he also writes for a number of magazines throughout Canada and the U.S.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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