CANMORE, Alberta - A graceful osprey dives just as you tee your ball at the picture-perfect first hole of SilverTip. His bounty is a rainbow trout. Your gift is an "Extreme Mountain Golf Experience."
"You know from the start that this is going to be something unique," said Les Furber, the veteran Canadian designer with 100 designs worldwide. "SilverTip has the greatest elevation change of any course that we have ever designed."
The slope rating is a mind-boggling 153 from the back tees, playing to 7,200 yards "There's a 610-foot variance from the highest point on the ninth tee to the lowest point on the 13th green. That makes for an exhilarating experience when you play golf here," Furber said.
Situated on the sunny side of the mighty Bow River Valley corridor, with its plateaus and valleys, stunning Canadian Rockies views come at every hole - the southern slopes of Mt. Lady MacDonald, Mt. Rundle, the peaks of the Three Sisters across the valley and the permanent glacier of Mt. Lougheed.
"I think the hardest thing to do on this golf course is focus," said Greg Andrew, SilverTip's Director of Golf. "Everywhere you look there's dramatic scenery and a snapshot. Most golfers want to take some extra tee shots because they are too busy enjoying the scenery to concentrate on the golf."
Golf Digest rated SilverTip, named for a distinctive type of grizzly, the second best new Canadian course for 1999. And at 5,100 feet above sea level your ball will carry an additional 10 percent.
But don't let the slope rating scare you. You may have some silly downhill or sidehill lies, but not in excess.
"Everything feeds into the fairways, so while it appears intimidating from the tee, actually you can really swing away," Furber said. "Everything may appear big and bold, but it plays eaiser than it looks. If you are relaxed and hitting the ball well, you can score well."
No. 4 is giant-sized at 454 yards, but it's all downhill from the elevated tee. Just aim for the 150-yard marker bull's eye then try and hit the slim, narrow bentgrass green on your approch. The green target seems tiny - it's diagonally placed making it tough to hold.
Furber said: "No. 4 gives one the rewards of a long drive and a great sense of arrival. The visual alignment is stunning looking towards a legendary landmark of the Canadian Rockies - the Three Sisters Mountains."
When you arrive at the highest point, the No. 9 tee box, you will see a sweeping 434-yard dogleg left - all downhill. At the end of the journey is a huge jade-blue lake and waterfall.
This impressive hole features more than 100 feet of elevation change. Hit your tee shot just left of the right fairway bunker and the ball will roll down the fairway towards the green.
No. 10, only 372 yards, has even more of a drop in elevation at 125 feet. All you need to do is hit two iron shots - the first between the 150-yard marker and the left fairway bunker.
"At this tee you are on the edge of the escarpment and your orientation will reveal the big, bold and beautiful Bow Valley. You could underestimate the power of your own strength here, so sacrifice power and use discipline and finesse to post your par," Furber said.
"Mother Nature has created a great 433-yard par-four at No. 13," Furber continued. "It's a hole played as an amphitheatre with the green as the stage, protected by a lake and transition bunker at the exit."
Water is placed menacingly down the right side, so play your shot short of the water and you will be left with a 165 yard shot. Any further is very risky with the water pond on the right.
No. 18, a 444-yard par 4, can easily be mastered by playing your tee shot down the right side. Both the creek and the right fairway bunker can only be hit with enormous drives. Play your shot to the green away from the right green-side bunkers.
Furber got excellent schooling from his 14 years with Robert Trent Jones Sr. and now he is regarded as one of Canada's best. Over the years he has been involved in the design of over 50 courses in Canada, many with unique and sensitive environmental challenges.
"Building the SilverTip golf course was a project close to my heart. the beauty and character of the site inspired a course as individually unique as the surrounding mountain peaks. Golf at SilverTip is an awesome, exhilarating experience; designed by Mother Nature and discovered by the architect," Furber said.
SilverTip Golf Course
1000 SilverTip Trail
P.O. Box 8330
Canada T1W 2V1
Toll Free: 877-877-5444.
Green Fees: $129, Canadian, May 25-September 30. $85, mid-April to May 24 and October 1 to close.
Directions: SilverTip is located on the north side of the TransCanada highway within the town of Canmore. It's 60 minutes from Calgary and 20 minutes from Banff. Canmore provides a focal point for activities within the Rocky Mountains. Lake Louise is one hour away and the Columbia Ice Fields are two and a half hours away.
When arriving in Canmore on the TransCanada highway, watch for the signs to SilverTip. If driving from Calgary, you will travel under the overpass and take the Town Centre exit and then watch for the SilverTip signs.
SilverTip is open for play from the first week of May (sometimes mid-April) to the middle of October. The hours of operation are based on the time of year and the weather conditions.
When completed, this village will include a number of hotels, ranging in size from a full service "Signature" 325-room hotel to smaller "Boutique" Condominium Lodges, Country Inns and Cabins. A variety of shops, restaurants, entertainment and recreational facilities will complete the full-service village.
One can also cross-country ski on the track-set trails on the golf course or at the Nordic Centre, host of the 1988 Winter Olympic Nordic Ski events. Skating and snowshoeing are great activities for the whole family! In the winter, world-class downhill skiing is just a short drive away at one of many hills in the area (Sunshine Village is 40 minutes away and Lake Louise is one hour from SilverTip).
The National Parks of Banff, Yoho, Kootenay and Jasper and the Provincial Park of Kananaskis are within a few hours drive of SilverTip. So there is an endless number of mountains to climb, vistas to admire and history to be discovered.
Practice Fac.: A-
Clubhouse/Pro Shop: Temp
Pace of Play: A
Overall Rating: A
David R. Holland is an award-winning former sportswriter for The Dallas Morning News, football magazine publisher, and author of The Colorado Golf Bible. Before launching a career as a travel/golf writer, he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force reserve, serving during the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras. Follow Dave on Twitter here.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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