• Victoria at Different Speeds

    The gentleman at the car-rental counter wasn’t stalling. After a couple of quick questions, I had keys in hand.  

    The luggage crew was also working at an impressive clip. When I arrived at the carousel, my golf clubs were waiting.  

    It had likely been less than 10 minutes since I stepped off my flight at Victoria International Airport on beautiful Vancouver Island, and already I was ready to roll. That’s like a birdie on the opening hole. Maybe even an eagle.  

    I have been here several times. I always bring my clubs along. And yeah, I’ve had that same speedy welcome each and every time.  

    The airport is the one place we are always in a rush. But once you’re out the door, you can do a golf getaway to Victoria — and Vancouver Island — at different speeds. Whatever your preferred pace, here are a few suggestions.

    I’m here to unwind

    Cowichan Golf Club

    Victoria is the capital of British Columbia but if you’re picturing a hustling and bustling urban centre, that’s not quite the case. Which means even though you’re in a city, it’s easy to slide into ‘island time.’ After all, this is supposed to be a vacation. It doesn’t get much more relaxing than a trip to tee it up at Arbutus Ridge or Cowichan, both less than an hour’s drive from the downtown core and both providing a great mix of challenge and charm. (Cowichan boasts a neat history too, with nine holes that were laid out by renowned designer A.V. Macan.) It’s a bonus there are wineries — complete with tasting rooms — close to both up-island courses, so you can turn this into a sip-and-swing. If this is an escape with your better-half, there are lots of romantic restaurants to choose from. And after treating yourself to a sleep-in, you will want to check out one of Victoria’s best brunch spots. I hit both Blue Fish Café and Floyd’s Diner on my latest visit and both were absolutely worth the weekend lineup. At Floyd’s, I ordered the chicken and waffle benny and I’ve been dreaming about it ever since. 

    I’ll rest when I’m home

    Majestic mountain range at Highland Pacific.

    If you’re one of those golf-trippers who loves a jam-packed itinerary, an obvious starting point is Highland Pacific, the closest Vancouver Island Golf Trail stop to the airport. Collect your luggage, pick up a rental car and beeline to the first tee. Highland Pacific is a popular layout that tumbles through the forest and rugged rock outcroppings and serves up some terrific views, none better than the look from the elevated tee-deck on the signature eighth assignment on the Pacific Nine. As a go-go-goer, you’ll be aiming for a 36-hole day at Bear Mountain, too. Most golfers find the Valley Course is a couple shots easier, so maybe save that one for after lunch. You know, for your ego’s sake. Your home-base will be one of the downtown hotels, which puts you right in the middle of the action. This is a paradise for beer-drinkers, so sample a flight at one of the local craft breweries … or, in my case, maybe at several of them. If you enjoy live music, don’t hit the sheets immediately after dinner — even with the current capacity regulations, the entertainment ensures a fun atmosphere at Bard & Banker, Darcy’s, Irish Times or one of the other pubs.  

    I’m here to adventure 

    View of Mount Finlayson from Bear Mountain green

    If you fancy yourself a bit of a thrill-seeker, you should be staying — and playing — at Bear Mountain. This resort community features a pair of Jack Nicklaus designs, both ranked among the Top 100 in Canada by SCOREGolf Magazine. The Mountain Course has twice hosted the legends on the PGA Tour Champions circuit and has a superb collection of Par-3s, including an island green and a cliff-hugger with a jaw-dropping view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and downtown Victoria. The Valley Course is hardly the ugly sibling. In fact, I personally think it’s even more fun. (Bear Mountain is also the official training centre of Golf Canada’s national junior program, so that smooth-swinging youngster on the practice range might be headed places, like the PGA or LPGA Tour.) After your round, rent a mountain bike and try out one of the many trails on the property, ranging from family-friendly spins to expert-only descents. If you’d rather keep your two feet on the ground, hike to the summit of Mount Finlayson. Take it from me, it’s not as easy as it looks. With several dining options, you can refuel, rest up and get back to adventuring in the morning.

    I’m here for the water 

    Two orca whales swimming side by side - Prince of Whales.

    Well then, you’ve come to the right place. Located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, Victoria is surrounded by Pacific Ocean on three sides. Chances are, you’ll be able to spy the water from the window of your hotel room. Be sure to set aside time for a stroll around the Inner Harbour. You can book a whale-watching excursion — if you have never seen one of these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat, it is quite a sight — or kayak trip. Or if you prefer the view from above, a float plane tour is a real treat. Your friends will be envious of your photos, and you’ll marvel at how smooth the landing is. When it’s time to tee it up, try to avoid making a splash at Olympic View. Although you can’t see ocean, this course — the first in B.C. to host Tiger Woods during his amateur days — features a dozen ponds and the signature moment is the approach shot on No. 17, where a 60-foot waterfall crashes behind the green. Before the sun sets, find a seat on a waterfront patio. My personal favourites are Canoe Brewpub and Spinnakers, but you really can’t go wrong. 

    I’m just getting started 

    Elegant table seating at Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort.

    Trust me, Victoria is the sort of city you won’t want to leave. Unless, of course, this is just the outset of an epic vacation. There are seven more stops on the Vancouver Island Golf Trail — Eaglecrest, Fairwinds and Morningstar are neighbours in the Parksville area and then as you continue north, you can hit Crown Isle, Storey Creek, the redesigned Campbell River G&CC and take the ferry for the unique nine-hole experience at Quadra Island. There are plenty of off-course highlights, too. You can reel in salmon or halibut on a sport-fishing trip, watch the surfers on iconic Long Beach or fill your gut with the Endless Tapas feast at Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa Resort. By the time you leave, you’ll already be pondering a return trip. 

    Arial shot of Story Creek golf course.

    Guest Post by Wes Gilbertson – Postmedia golf/travel feature writer and self-admitted golf nut.
    Twitter: @WesGilbertson

    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.

    Couples Golf Trip