Course Reviews – Salmon Arm Golf Club – A Shot Makers Paradise
Of my three-course B.C. adventure, this course is the one that piqued my interest the most. And having played it now, it stands out as one of the more challenging, unique and enjoyable courses I have played in some time. I don’t recall ever playing a course where I performed so poorly yet had so much fun. Salmon Arm is a top Canadian Golf Magazine Top 100 course in Canada and rightfully so, it combines superb conditioning with stunning natural surroundings and a venerable, tree-lined course design which places an emphasis on accuracy over length.
The course is located in the south-east portion of Salmon Arm, and for travelers it is easy to access off the Trans-Canada Highway. It is a 27-hole facility with a 9-hole Heritage course east of the highway and the 18-hole Champions course. It is easy to get to from town or from away with clear directions located on their excellent website. With a peak greens fee of $85.00 there are many opportunities for excellent value throughout the year.
The first hole is set off the club house with a dramatic drop off before a strong dog leg left. Conditions were immaculate and the staff advised me of groups playing ahead so as to manage expectations around pace of play which was appreciated, though I will say the few groups I encountered were gracious to let me play though being a single. Offered a cart, I took it and appreciated it as it is a stout walk. The terrain is very undulating and this makes for interesting and dramatic holes throughout. The course is walkable but it would serve as a significant workout. Having played 18 earlier that morning, I appreciated the chance for a more relaxed experience.
The course opened in 1928 and Salmon Arm GC has a proud heritage. History lovers will enjoy the website which provides details on the development of the course from its inception, along with pictures and images. Les Furber redesigned the course and did a masterful job in allowing the terrain to dictate the layout. The course does not loop out and in; it is a more a meandering design. A halfway house (actually after the 8th hole) is extremely well stocked and has very courteous staff working there.
But the course, well, that is real star. The greens rolled very fast but true and are some of the best I have experienced in some time. Bunkering is strategic, not too penal and of a quality and consistency that other courses should strive to achieve. The tee boxes (and I love the Salmon tee markers!) were well maintained. But the minute you tee up your ball you need to be mindful of the challenges; the course is tree-lined and tight in most places. Players will really need to think there way around and focus on getting in the fairways versus a more aggressive bombers approach to the game. The course also uses water very effectively. Ponds on 5 and 18 serve as strategic hazards but also frame golf holes exceptionally well. The 4th hole is a challenging, tight par 5 but my favourite may be the 14th, another par 5. With tees set back, the drive will demand your attention. I imagined I was on the 18th at Augusta, needing to thread the needle to get the ball deep in play to manage the dog leg right. I loved it.
Fact is, Furber created amazing diversity and subtle design elements that create unique challenge. The par 3 17th is a shorter par 3 but the green has a false crown as anything right and long propels balls off a slope to adjacent OB. It is a course you could play over and over again and never get bored. It will demand great shot making and reward those who do.
Add to the beauty of the course design the natural setting. Mount Ida looms in the distance; you will play adjacent to the local airstrip which services smaller planes. There is no development or housing to speak of around the course. And with the tall boreal forests, it creates a sense you have the course to yourself.
I really appreciate the layout, design and rich sense of history which exists at Salmon Arm. If a top 100 course in the country can be underrated, Salmon Arm certainly is.
Aura – 7 out of 10 – Even for a top 100 course, Salmon Arm is somewhat understated. Geography may play a role somewhat. And while I respect its modesty, allow me to work to move this score up significantly.
Value (cost / experience) – 8 out of 10 – The experience was unique, outstanding and to do it all over again, I’d gladly pay the peak fee. But there are value options on their website. Afternoon play is less, membership options provide exceptional value.
Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 8.5 out of 10 – This was a tough course for me, as a player who tends to hit it far and occasionally straight. And while I didn’t play well, I really appreciated this classic layout with strong natural design elements. The forests and terrain provide 18 truly unique golf holes. But add to it greens which are some of the best I’ve played and a commitment to quality throughout the course. And I suspect the more I would play here the more I would love it.
Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – This course provided solitude and a golfing challenge which I have not experienced in some time. And while relaxed, this is a golfer’s course. The course, from tee to green, demanded my attention in strategy, shot making and scrambling. But it was subtle; it did not beat me up. More so, it served as a challenge and tested part of my game which I had not considered before. Would I return? You better believe I would. – 8.5 out of 10
Highlight (what is great about the course) – 18 unique, beautiful and challenging golf holes. But add to it the value, the staff that was friendly, professional and helpful for a traveler new to the course and area. There is also the natural setting, vistas which overlook the hole but the surrounding area – all of which come together to create a great golfing experience. The greatness of this course is really a tapestry of several factors which are unique and captivating. After the round, enjoy the patio and make time to reflect back on strokes lost and memories made.