Couples Golf on Vancouver Island
By Andrew Penner
Ok, I’ll admit it, my wife isn’t generally the first person I’d choose to go on a golf vacation with. I mean, God bless her, she gave me three wonderful kids and I love her dearly, but she just can’t keep up on one of these junkets. She goes to bed early. She gets squirmy when the temperature dips below 20 degrees. And she doesn’t understand that, while 9 holes, afternoon spa time, and a glass of wine are nice, all that’s really needed for daily sustenance are 36 holes and beer and nachos. Simply put, the three idiots I normally play golf with – and, yes, they are idiots – are much more my style when it comes to golf trips. But on a recent foray to Vancouver Island with, you guessed it, my wife, my opinion changed. We golfed our brains out and had the time of our lives.
For those not familiar with Vancouver Island, there’re a few things you need to know. For starters, the island is easy to get to. The Victoria Airport is serviced by a number of prominent carriers (Air Canada, Westjet, United, Horizon, etc.). Ferry access is also relatively easy via a number of mainland ports like Seattle, Horseshoe Bay, Bellingham, Port Angeles, and Tsawwassen (Vancouver).
And the island itself – it’s approximately 450 kilometres long and is home to roughly 750,000 people – is character-filled and loaded with pleasant surprises. Certainly, its raw, natural beauty is more stunning than you think. There are snow-capped mountains, thundering waterfalls, wave-smashed beaches, old-growth forests, rocky fjords, lighthouses clutching rocks, and so much more. The whole island is a feast for the eyes. The golf courses, too, are spectacular. And Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, could be the prettiest city in the North America. No kidding. The inner harbour, the flowers, the architecture, it can make a serious claim.
After leaving the kids at grandma’s house, we hopped on a quick flight to the cozy Comox Airport (another convenient option), rented some wheels, and made the ridiculously short drive to the Crown Isle Golf Resort. Barely two hours into the journey, after leaving near blizzard conditions in Calgary, we stepped onto the first tee of a lush-green championship course of the finest order. I knew quickly this was going to be good for our relationship.
A smooth Graham Cooke design with plenty of interesting contouring, great views, and tons of variety, this was a terrific start to the journey. However, what was even better was the luxurious accommodation at Crown Isle. It’s amazing how much fun two people can have with in-room Jacuzzis, in-room dining, no kids, and a bottle of wine (included in the many couples packages available through Golf Vancouver Island).
It doesn’t matter what level of player you are, the Storey Creek Golf Club near Campbell River is impossible not to enjoy. Carved through a secluded forest with wildlife everywhere, this is, as it is amply dubbed, “a course in nature.” It’s a course where going out as a twosome – i.e. husband and wife – is normal. I’m not entirely certain, but I’m sure the odd couple has gone searching for golf balls in the deep, dark woods and stayed in there for way too long getting all kissy and huggy with one another. We didn’t do that, though, as both of us happen to be very straight hitters.
After a pristine day of golf at Storey Creek we inspected, with plenty of awe, the magnificent Elk Falls just outside of town and then checked into the historic Painter’s Lodge. Sitting on the sun-soaked deck at Painter’s, watching the tugboats, fishermen (this is “the salmon fishing capital of the world), and cruise ships float by, it wasn’t necessary to say anything. I don’t know about you, but my wife and I enjoy those times when we can just relax, sit in total silence, and absorb a beautiful scene. And, yes, this probably has something to do with the fact that we have three boys under five terrorizing our house from dawn to dusk.
The next day we got up early, cruised down the beautiful Oceanside Highway, and pegged it up at Fairwinds. Now, gents, another thing I’ve noticed about the gals: they typically don’t require 7,400 yards and 154 slope ratings to enjoy themselves on the course. That said, Fairwinds is the perfect couples course. It’s short, sporty, scenic, fun, and has a great patio to unwind at after the round. (Not a lot of heavily treed areas, mind you, but sometimes that’s ok, too, increases the pace of play, etc.) At any rate, my wife loved it and I had the best score of the week. You know what I mean.
Like so many places on the island, the Cowichan Valley can really grow on you. This was the next stop on our whirlwind golf tour. A micro wine region (there are now 11 wineries here) with picturesque marinas, antique shops, artisan galleries, and farmer’s markets to explore, the Cowichan Valley is an absolute charmer. The golf, too, is excellent. Arbutus Ridge, The Cowichan Golf & Country Club, and Duncan Meadows golf courses are all friendly, unpretentious places featuring enjoyable layouts that gently roll through lush environments.
The Cowichan Valley presented a wonderful opportunity for us to go our separate ways during the two afternoons we were there. My wife relaxed in the room, had coffee, checked out a winery, went for a stroll, and read by the beach. All the things she can’t really do when the rugrats are, well, in the vicinity. I, on the other hand, tested my luck on the links. With just the right amount of challenge and plenty of one-of-a-kind golf holes, Arbutus Ridge was a course that really grew on me. Indeed, we both found our happy places.
Our last night was spent at the luxurious Westin Bear Mountain Resort in Victoria, the only golf resort in Canada with 36 holes of Nicklaus-designed golf. The Mountain Course is one of the most difficult and dramatic golf courses in Western Canada, boasting dynamite views, island greens, impeccable playing conditions, and 18 unique golf holes. It’s sister Valley Course is the more forgiving of the two. The forward tees offer a significantly shorter course for golfers, like my wife, who don’t particularly enjoy carding eighteen quintuple bogies and donating eight sleeves of balls during a round.
What she does enjoy, however (often more than golf, if we have to be brutally honest) is walking around Victoria’s gorgeous inner harbour. With quaint shops, cobblestone streets, sun-soaked patio restaurants, stunning hotels, lovely markets, and so on, this famed area is absolutely charming. And you certainly don’t have to be a female type to enjoy it.
After golfing at Bear Mountain my wife and I did something that, if I would have been golfing with the three idiots I normally do, I never would have done. We each had a spa treatment in the luxurious Santé Spa at the Westin Bear Mountain. And, I’ll happily admit, I loved every second of it. It was a fine way to close out the trip and it definitely got me thinking about the many benefits of going on a golf junket with your spouse. For example, you get to eat food from all four food groups, you get warm lava rocks rubbed on your golf-weary feet, and, if you hit your ball in the deep woods, you can, if you play your cards right, have an exceptionally memorable adventure.
For more information, please visit: www.golfvancouverisland.ca . To reserve your Couples Golf Getaway, please contact Golf Vancouver Island at 1.888.465.3239.
Andrew Penner is a freelance writer based in Calgary, Alberta.