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May 1, 2021

10 min. read

“Two courses appeared in a yellow wood, and I…I chose the course less travelled by. And that has made all the difference.”

If Robert Frost had been a better golfer (allegedly, his swing wasn’t exactly poetry in motion), perhaps his famous poem, The Road Not Taken, may have gone something like that. But you need not be a poet—nor a great golfer—to appreciate an awesome, under-the-radar golf course. Unsurprisingly, Western Canada is full of them. From the wave-smashed shores of Vancouver Island to Manitoba’s rocky shield, Western Canada is home to nearly 1,000 places to play. While there are many hyped hacker hot spots, more discerning golfers have come to realize that digging a little deeper can uncover the real gold. In other words, take the road less travelled and you may reap a big reward—and often at half the price! Here are a handful of under-the-radar courses to get you started on a western golf journey.

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A well-manicured golf course with lush fairways, sand bunkers, and surrounding trees.

Granite Hills

Lac du Bonnet, Manitoba

Parading along the pretty shore of Lake Lac Du Bonnet in the heart of the Canadian Shield, the Granite Hills Golf Club might be the best course in Canada that’s, well, in the middle of nowhere. (From Winnipeg, it’s an hour-and-a-half drive northeast, so it’s certainly doable as a day trip.)

With several elevation changes, stunning rock outcroppings and six holes to play along the lake, there’s plenty of beauty and drama to fill a day on the course. The finishing run, which is capped by an awesome par-4 that careens along the water, is a fitting conclusion to what is easily one of the most memorable courses in Manitoba.

Considering it opened in 2007—and has been praised by multitudes of Manitoba golfers—Granite Hills is hardly a secret. But it certainly requires taking the road less travelled. “It’s a bit of a drive to get up there,” says Jared Ladobruk, executive director of Golf Manitoba. “But you will be rewarded. Manitoba has many great lakeside courses, and Granite Hills is certainly one of the best.” The par-5 third has water all the way down its left side, reminiscent of Pebble Beach’s famed 18th hole.

A golfer walking on a course near a water body during sunset.


Carseland, Alberta

When a “play day” opens up on the calendar, most Calgarians think about heading west to much-lauded mountain courses. But if you travel in the opposite direction—where rolling wheat fields give way to the heaving banks of the Bow River—you’ll find the spectacular Speargrass Golf Course.

Designed by Canmore-based architect Gary Browning, Speargrass is a prairie links of the finest order. Though peppered with pot bunkers and lined with knee-high fescue, the gently rolling fairways offer plenty of room to play. The hole configuration adds to the enjoyment, with an equitable arrangement of par-3s, 4s and 5s. Many of the latter are quite reachable, even for medium-length players.

“The greens are some of the best playing surfaces in Alberta,” says Tiffany Gordon, a 27-year CPGA professional and national director of the Alberta PGA. “The course conditions are always off the charts at Speargrass. And the sweet finishing run along the Bow River is hard to beat.”

A serene golf course with lush greenery and a mountain backdrop at dusk.


Nipawin, Saskatchewan

Situated 2.5 hours northeast of Saskatoon, where hot-yellow canola fields meet northern forests, the riverside town of Nipawin radiates quaint charm—and a truly stunning golf course. Designed by prolific Alberta architect Les Furber, Evergreen presents as a peaceful parkland challenge that’s not unlike Canada’s best cottage-country courses. Nearly every hole is lined with towering pines, while bone-white silica sand bunkers protect the gorgeous, undulating greens.

“Evergreen is consistently recognized as one of Saskatchewan’s hidden gems,” says Scott Allan, owner and publisher of saskgolfer.com. “Although the course has been hosting one of Saskatchewan’s top tournaments for years—the Scotia Wealth Management Open—it’s still relatively unknown in Western Canada. It shouldn’t be. I think its fairly remote location in northern Saskatchewan has kept it somewhat under the radar.”

Turf conditions are always outstanding. And thanks to a 600-yard opening par-5 that rifles through the woods, you’ll realize very quickly that Evergreen is not to be taken lightly. All facets of your game will be tested here!

An aerial view of a scenic golf course with a river winding through the mountains in the background.


Golden, British Columbia

Every day during summer, thousands of cars take the road most travelled (Highway 1) to cruise through Golden, B.C. But far fewer road-trippers pull into town, cross the Columbia River over a narrow one-way bridge, and peg it up at the Golden Golf Club. It is, without a doubt, one of the great community courses in Canada. The club slogan—“We are a small town club with big time golf ”—is spot on.

With no ho-hum holes and at least half-a-dozen humdingers, a round of golf in Golden is always filled with drama, especially if you play in June during peak spring run-off! Beautiful mountain views, great gambling par-5s (notably the downhill 12th), sweet doglegs, creekside holes and wonderful green complexes add to the experience.

“About the only two things Golden doesn’t have is a massive clubhouse and stuffy atmosphere,” says Scott Allan, who worked at the club in the late ’90s and has played it hundreds of times. “The layout is super fun, there’s a great driving range, excellent RV park, good food in the clubhouse, spacious outdoor patio, friendly people and great value. It just ticks all the boxes.”

Aerial view of a lush golf course with autumn-colored trees and ponds, surrounded by a rural landscape.

Black Bull

Ma-Me-O Beach, Alberta

At over 7,300 yards from the back tees, with a knee-knocking 142 slope and 75.3 rating, the championship course at Black Bull is one of Alberta's toughest. Make no mistake, very few can “tame the bull!” But even if you can’t keep your game together for the full 18 holes, the golf experience is one of the finest in Alberta.

“It’s my favourite hidden gem in the province,” says Wes Heffernan, a two-time U.S. Open contestant and a six-time winner of the Alberta Open championship. “Nearly every hole plays through the forest and it can get tight in spots. There are a lot of challenging tee shots and difficult greens. It’s just an outstanding test of golf.”

About halfway between Red Deer and Edmonton, Black Bull is also home to a sweet little executive ninehole course (perfect for families, cottagers, or those who aren’t quite equipped to fight a “bull”), as well as a seasonal and short-stay RV Park.

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