500 or Less: Royal Colwood Golf Club

Reading Time: 5 minutes

In ‘500 or less,’ author Alex Hunter discusses a golf course in 500 words or less to provide a quick overview. Furthermore, the series introduces a “star rating,” which is based off an opinion on fun factor/repeatability, walkability, routing/design aspects, plus cost & conditioning. Check back in next month for the next instalment of the series!

  • Victoria, British Columbia
  • Private
  • Arthur Vernon (A.V) Macan (1913)
  • #45 in Canada

One of only five clubs in Canada with the royal designation, Royal Colwood can be described as one of the most influential golf courses on the west coast. Designed in 1913 by Arthur Vernon (A.V.) Macan, who was an accomplished amateur golfer turned golf course architect. Colwood Golf Club really elevated the future of golf course architecture in the Pacific Northwest with its composition of rolling terrain and distinctive undulating greens. In 1931 the club officially became Royal Colwood after King George V bestowed the royal status.

Macan crafted a seriously impressive golf course across the tumbling terrain, making excellent use of the Douglas Fir’s and ridgelines. Composed of just 2 par 5’s – the course may appear short on the scorecard (Par 70 – 6721 yards) but delivers many strategic elements that help guard the course even against the modern game.

Holes & Features of Interest

One thing that makes Royal Colwood so special is certainly the grand stature of its Douglas Fir’s, some of which are nearly 500 years old. The captivating nature of these incredibly massive trees excites the senses and frames the course well. Recent trends to remove trees at many Top 100 clubs has been extremely popular, and it certainly benefits these courses immensely. But at Royal Colwood the trees work well in connection with the topography to provide an excellent setting for golf. However, I would not characterize it as needing no tree removal/trimming either. It could certainly benefit from some pruning to improve sightlines and playability.

The Par 3 7th

While the front nine certainly starts with a more subdued experience than the back nine the Par 4 6th is an incredible hole. This long Par 4 is one of the best examples of Macan’s vision for challenging but gettable golf holes. The green is cut into the hillside with the landing area blind from the fairway and is sloped from left (back) to right (front). It requires two excellent shots and big numbers are always in play.

Approach to the green on the tricky Par 4 6th
Closer look at the cross bunkers and hillside

My favourite hole is certainly the 12th – here Macan utilized the ridgeline that runs throughout the property to split the tee away from the rest of the hole. The golfer must execute a tight blind tee shot up and over the ridge to the fairway which is canted from left to right. The hole slightly bends from right to left and the green is severely sloped from back to front and left to right. Being below the hole is a must.

Sick tee shot up and through the narrow shoot of trees
The green sits heavily canted from back to front and left to right. Better be below the hole.

The final three holes are phenomenal. The composition with a variety of elevation changes, tree lines, ridges, and bunkers work well together. It all starts with the Par 4 16th, known as the Cathedral. The towering Douglas Fir’s surround both sides of the hole from start to finish. While the green is mounted into a small hillside with a tricky undulating putting surface.

The tee shot at the Cathedral – sublime
Approach from the fairway. The Green has some heavy undulations and falls off at the front and right sides

The 17th, with its elevated tee shot, tumbles back down the ridgeline and gently turns from right to left. There are some tricky bunkers placed up the left and right sides, so placement of your drive and even approach shots are key.

17th tee – a little tighter than I would like

At the closing hole, Macan routed it back up and into the ridgeline, requiring a tight right to left tee shot. This long Par 4 is extremely challenging if you don’t shape the ball the right way. Macan believed a good Par 4 should require two well executed shots and this is one of his most challenging renditions of that motto.

What a finishing hole. Challenging and beautiful

While I may have exceeded my self imposed 500-word limit yet again, Royal Colwood is absolutely worth it. The club is quaint and private but also welcoming and accessible for many making the trip to Victoria. And I can’t say enough good things about this golf course. Instead, you should try and experience it yourself. Traditionally the club is accommodating for hosting guests from other clubs. The clubs website invites those interested in experiencing the course, to write to the general manager or head professional to inquire if arrangements can be made.


Rating: 8 out of 10.


  • Alex Hunter

    Canadian golfer, nice guy, plays fast. Not chasing any lists, just looking to play architecturally interesting courses around the World and make new friends along the way.

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