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By Andrew Penner
In the middle of my week-long trip down the Vancouver Island Golf Trail – just after a white-knuckle rip down one of the fastest and flowiest mountain biking trails I’ve ever experienced – I came to this conclusion: the greatest golf trails in the world are not just golf trails.
Yes, multiple courses spread out along a scenic route are certainly the foundation. The anchor of any good golf trail. But, to make the experience truly great, we need a few outstanding offshoots. Some detours. Rabbit trails. (Mountain biking trails also work.) And this is why, in my eyes, the Vancouver Island Golf Trail can make a strong case for being one of the best golf trails on the planet.
Indeed, what sets the Vancouver Island Golf Trail apart is not the quality of its golf. True, the golf is fantastic. On par with many of the best trails anywhere (and more on those courses later). However, it’s the incredible add-ons, the extra attractions – the remarkable rabbit trails! – that makes Vancouver Island one of the premier golf trail experiences in North America.
From whale watching to wine touring, there are, literally, endless opportunities. Basically, whatever you’re into, you’re going to find a dazzling little detour before or after your round.
Naturally, considering this is an island paradise in the Pacific Northwest, attractions and activities that involve water – beach combing, surfing, whale watching, sea kayaking, salmon fishing, sailing, float-plane tours, and so on – typically top the list. And I’d wager there are a number of things there that pique your interest!
Unquestionably, for many travellers the sport fishing opportunities stand out. And the “fins and skins” theme on Vancouver Island is, for good reason, a popular one. Campbell River – home to a couple of outstanding golf courses – is actually dubbed “the salmon capital of the world.” The waters there are home to some of the largest runs of passing salmon anywhere on the west coast. Private fishing charters, boat rentals, professional guides, and numerous fishing lodges and experiences are readily available in this area and, really, throughout the island.
Personally, I’ve travelled extensively on the Vancouver Island Golf Trail – it encompasses 13 golf courses from Victoria in the south to Quadra Island in the north – and I try to “run” down a different “rabbit trail” on every trip.
A few of these standout side ventures have included: wine touring in the Cowichan Valley, sipping delicious craft beer along the Vancouver Island Ale Trail, sea kayaking in Victoria’s amazing Inner Harbour, wildlife touring via Zodiak in Campbell River, beachcombing on the amazing tidal flats and beaches in Parksville, salmon fishing in Campbell River, surfing in Tofino, and, most recently, mountain biking in various locations along this great and gorgeous not-just-golf trail.
Indeed, for the adventure-focussed tourist, opportunities are everywhere. Bungee jumping in Nanaimo, the brand new Malahat Skywalk (the elevated forest walk and mountain-and-ocean views from the top of the tower are phenomenal!), and racing high-performance sports cars around a professionally-designed racetrack at the Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit in Duncan are just a few other unique options that you just won’t find anywhere else.
And, yes, for some world-class mountain biking madness, Vancouver Island is tough to beat. Meandering through massive old-growth forests and rampaging through rocky corridors, there are numerous trail networks located along the trail. On my last journey – after my morning rounds of golf! – I rode the fabulous old-school trails at Hartland Mountain in Victoria, the challenging cross-country trails at Bear Mountain, and the raw and rugged trails at Mount Tzouhalem in Duncan. The most popular descent there – a trail called Double D – is definitely in my top 5 of all time!
But, in terms of those morning rounds, they are the glue that holds the Vancouver Island Golf Trail experience together. And, no question, regardless of how deep you go into the line-up (playing all 13 courses in one trip is not easy to do!), rest assured, the golf is rock solid. And often off-the-charts spectacular.
If you are including the Victoria region in your trip, Bear Mountain – home to two Nicklaus-designed courses – could easily be considered a flagship facility on the trail. Both courses – the original Mountain Course and the newer Valley Course – feature wild elevation changes, huge rock outcroppings, beautiful bunkering, and an upscale atmosphere that’s second-to-none on the island.
Olympic View, which tumbles and rolls through beautiful arbutus trees, is a personal favourite of mine. The holes are unique, challenging, and the two waterfalls are spectacular! The outdoor patio at the clubhouse, which is perched on the hill overlooking the action, is one of the best you’ll find anywhere. The food is also amazing!
In Victoria, Highland Pacific is another course to put on your list. Like so many courses on the trail, the holes are cut through giant trees and the terrain is raw, rugged, and beautiful. This is golf on Vancouver island!
The courses further up island in the Courtenay and Campbell River area have a similar vibe. The Storey Creek GC in Campbell River, another personal favourite, is a parkland gem that’s routed through a gorgeous, unspoiled forest. Nearly every hole is tucked away in towering trees and wildlife sightings occur regularly. Morningstar, a challenging Les Furber design, and Crown Isle, a Graham Cooke design, are both rock-solid championship courses with beautiful scenery throughout. And The Cowichan Golf Club is a timeless A.V. Macan design that parades through massive cedar and fir. However, for the ultimate away-from-it-all round, the quaint 9-holer on Quadra Island might be the most remote and tranquil “forest” course you’ll ever play. Complete with trip!
If you prefer your golf shorter and sportier with exceptional playing conditions, Fairwinds, Eaglecrest, Arbutus Ridge, and the Campbell River GC are excellent choices. These are all walkable, player-friendly tracks with exceptional value and high fun-factors. They are also incredibly popular with locals and visitors alike!
If you need help in terms of planning where to play, course locations, accommodations, and so on, I’d recommend you visit www.golfvancouverisland.ca. You’ll also find information on special packages, promotions, trip ideas, tips, and much more.
Regardless of where you play, a trip down the Vancouver Island Golf Trail is going to produce some life-long memories. Especially if you go down a few rabbit trails along the way!
Andrew Penner is a freelance writer based in Calgary, Alberta.
The marketing and distribution rights to the following publication-ready story, “Vancouver Island Golf Trail: The Mother of All ‘Trails’,” by golf travel writer Andrew Penner, have been purchased by Golf Vancouver Island. You are welcome to publish the piece free of charge, and images to accompany the article are available by contacting our Marketing Coordinator at via the form below. If you do print the story we would appreciate receiving a copy of the published piece. Golf Vancouver Island wholly owns the rights to “Vancouver Island Golf Trail: The Mother of All ‘Trails.’”
As we pulled up to the fourth tee box on the Valley Course at Bear Mountain – one of my favourite courses in Canada, I’d like to add – I was faced with a dilemma. A head-scratching, …
If you’ve ever seen the gang movie “The Warriors” – it’s a B cult classic! – then there’s a pretty good chance the line “Waaaariorrrrs, come out to play-ay!” still reverberates within you from time to time. …
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This (Bear Mountain Resort – Mountain Course, on the Vancouver Island Golf Trail) is my new favourite golf course – I just love the layout. It’s really one of the prettiest golf courses I’ve played in my life, I’ll come back here on vacation, it’s that good.
Scott McCarron, PGA TOUR Champion
I always treat golf courses as how many poor holes there are. This (Bear Mountain Resort – Mountain Course, on the Vancouver Island Golf Trail) is a very good one. There’s not one poor hole on this golf course.
Colin Montgomerie, PGA TOUR Champion
Great job on the initial booking and subsequent changes requested. Easy check-in at the golf courses and the hotel made the trip hassle-free. Nice touch with the driving directions and discounts at recommended food and beverage establishments. Will definitely recommend your service to friends and business associates.
Vancouver Guest, Corporate Golf Outing
Terrific trip: well presented website, knowledgeable staff, and the golf and accommodation were second to none.
Couples Golf Trip
We will make this trip an annual April vacation. We will definitely book with Golf Vancouver Island again in 2017!
Annual Couples Golf Trip
Very much enjoyed our trip and staff were great to deal with - we'll be booking more trips through Golf Vancouver Island in the future.
Buddies Trip Golf Package
Wonderful trip, well planned and organized. Fantastic golf. Wish we stayed longer.
Buddies Golf Trip
I have used Golf Vancouver Island a number of times and have found them very helpful and professional. Everyone in our group had a great time, the courses and accommodation were first class.
Repeat Customer, Buddies Golf Trip
Staff did an amazing job! So easy to work with. I am already looking to book another trip next year, making this an annual event.
Annual Buddies Golf Trip
Personalized, quick response, good customer service and reasonable price. Overall experience was great.
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