Review: Calgary Golf & Country Club
Reading Time: 9 minutes Some of the better sets of greens in the country, Willie Park Jr.’s design in downtown Cowtown is exceptional
- Calgary, Alberta
- Willie Park Jr. (1922)
- 34th in Canada (SCOREGolf)
At the heart of Stampede City lies Calgary Golf & Country Club, a 1922 Willie Park Jr. design chalked with history. In 1911, Tom Bendalow came to Calgary to set out the original golf course on the Elbow River. However, the club wanted to update the course to modern standards in 1922, bringing in Willie Park Jr. to re-design the golf course. In 1929, Canada’s own Stanley Thompson, fresh off his designs at Banff Springs and Jasper Park Lodge, renovated the golf course.
It’s a beautiful golf course that can’t truly be captured in photos. Most of the brilliance here is in the green complexes, which I think as of writing this are the best I’ve seen. There’s so much movement, knobs, ridges, fall offs, and more.
The first hole climbs up the river bottom that you drove into down to the clubhouse. At 460 yards, it’s a short par 4, but probably plays 40 yards longer because of the nature of the hole.
After getting the ball in play (it looks a lot harder to hit the fairway standing on the tee with the range, starter, clubhouse all looking at you), you continue to climb.
The green complex features a fantastic knob in the front portion, kicking shots left or right, depending on the side the ball lands. With a wedge it’s no problem, but going for the green in two it might come into play.
From the first green, you can see how steep the first hole is.
The second is a par 3 moving slightly downhill, to a very, very undulated green (!).
It’s only a mid-iron at 180 or so yards, but there’s so much movement that anything outside 20 feet requires caution, especially above the hole to a front right pin, or anything on the left side.
The third swings to the left ever-so-slightly. A par 4 playing slightly over 400 yards, the landing zone is pinched by two bunkers left, and one right.
Again, a great green complex falling off to the right. I distinctly remember playing six feet of break on my 15 footer and being low.
The 4th is a straight away par 4, playing around 430 yards. At about 280 yards off the tee the landing zone is pinched by bunkering left and right.
A slightly uphill approach shot to a good green complex surrounded by bunkering awaits the player.
The tight 5th is another 400 or so yard par 4, playing fairly straight. A bunker on the left really isn’t in play here anymore.
The approach here is quite tight, contained by trees moving into the hole.
I love the shared chipping area between the 5th and the 13th here.
The 6th is the biggest surprise here for me. 385 yards, this hole moves to the left around some huge bunkering on the inside corner. A change of pace, the 6th is wide and abundant with options.
A bunker over the dogleg as the hole moves back down awaits a mishit driver to the right, and again a good green complex. This is one of my personal favorite holes.
The 7th is another mid-length par 4 (there’s a lot of them here. The golf course is only 6500 yards, par 70), but doglegging to the right around two bunkers. Most golfers will be able to hit driver over the bunker complex right.
This is, in my humble opinion, one of the best green complexes here, as it rises slightly from the fairway, and the land in front of the green blocks out the view of the green complex.
It is quite low profile though, and features a lot of subtle movement towards the middle.
The 8th is the longest par 3 here at 225 yards. It’s a long iron to a difficult green complex.
The green complex slopes off the bunker on the right, and a good bail out here is right as the ball will likely end on the green.
The 9th is one of the more photographed holes here, moving back down into the river bottom. Playing from a very elevated tee, the 9th is a 364 yard par 4 that’s actually drivable with a slightly favorable wind (in Calgary, it’s always windy).
A simple wedge from a flat lie to a fairly benign green complex leaves a good birdie opportunity to end the front.
The 10th is a very interesting drivable par 4. It’s only 310 yards, up the hill that 9 came down and 1 went up, but slightly doglegging to the right, the tiger golfer can drive it fairly easily.
I’m not sure how I feel about the trees on the inside corner of the dogleg, but I get the point of them. It makes the tee shot harder to pick the ideal line to the green, but I’m not sure, they feel weird to me.
Laying up here leaves a really difficult wedge up the hill, and the green slopes aggressively towards the front. Anything above the hole with slightly aggressive pace could roll off the front.
The 11th is a shorter par 3, playing 160 yards or so slightly up the hill. Another great complex is here, sloping towards the front right.
The 12th is a longer par 5, playing just shy of 600 yards tipped out. The landing area features some of the best undulating land on the golf course, but keeping it right near the bunker on the upper side leaves the easiest approach in.
I love the bunker in the landing zone here, too.
I’m not sure the story behind this hazard, if it was a swampy area when the original layout was here or not (I doubt it), but it feels really weird, especially with the repulsive fountain. It’s only in play for the layup area, though.
Again, an interesting green complex with some great movement in the back right portion.
The 13th is the third and final par 5 on this golf course, and the second of back-to-back par 5’s. This is such a good hole, being reachable in two for the big hitter with a good drive between the two bunkers.
There is some brilliant undulations here, too.
A pretty intense green here, running away slightly in the front and right, with the shared collection area on the left with the 5th.
The 14th is another good par 4, playing over the entrance road. It’s short, shy of 400, but having a comfortable club into this green complex is key.
I love the bunkering here. On the right, it’s beautiful, and merges in with the bunkering green-side and green complex.
A big false front awaits a wedge usually, and I actually managed to spin it from the middle portion of the green off the front.
You can see the severity of the green below.
The 15th starts an interesting par 3-4-3-4 finishing stretch, with a short, 168 yard par 3 with the Elbow River banks on the right.
It’s a fairly straight forward hole, but is a fantastic one shotter.
The 16th is a 400 yard par 4 playing back over the entrance road. It’s actually about 310 yards off the tee, so less than driver to keep it in the fairway is the best call.
This is another aggressively sloping green towards the front. A front pin location was extremely difficult.
The 17th is maybe the best hole so far, a 194 yard par 3, slightly downhill to a wild green complex. Like, really intense. A lot of movement here.
The 18th is the best finishing hole in Alberta. Period. 484 yards, from a massively elevated tee, playing to a fairway angled to the right. The Elbow River runs up the entire right side of this hole.
The bunkering left is about 300 yards off the tee, so you can decide to bust driver between them and the Elbow River, or 3 wood or even a shorter club right at them.
After the tee shot, the hole plays flat to the green, but the approach is cool with the bluffs of the Elbow River in the background.
A cool little swale on the right side of the green on the 18th could make some dicey pin locations.
One things for sure: if you can get onto Calgary, it’s worth it. It’s the hardest tee time to get with an actual membership west of Toronto in Canada (of course, there are the really, really exclusive ones without memberships in the West that you can view here and here), and an overall great club.
One of the biggest critiques I’ve found about Calgary is trees. It’s a hot topic issue right now in golf architecture, and while Calgary could use a bit of removal for sure, it never really restricts play. Sure, if you hit it too far left one hole you might have to draw it, but thats your own fault. Off the tee, you’re never forced to hit a shot outside of the third hole which requires a straight shot or draw. I didn’t mind it at all, and while a bit of tree removal would help a lot, it had an old school feel and an enjoyable presence.
Make you sure you get a milkshake at the turn, enjoy the golf course, and take a few pictures. Just remember, don’t talk or be on your phone!