University Golf Club – Everyone Welcome (to Enjoy a Fun Golf Experience)
The fourth hole at University Golf Club will truly determine the confidence any player has in their game off the tee. For me, it was one of the more enjoyable, intimidating and rewarding tee shots in golf this season. I dubbed the hole the ‘Gauntlet’ during my week-long stay in the area where I became the closest thing to a member the course would allow (note: it is a truly public course, they do not have members). Back to the tee…set within mature old stand trees tower over a seemingly narrow fairway (note: when sharing a picture with friends, one quipped, ‘wow, you have to drive it down a cart path?’). The fairway is wider than it appears just as the trees are taller than one can imagine. It all adds to the mystique and enjoyment from this traditional parkland style course.
For seven consecutive days I would walk from UBC’s main campus, just over 20 minutes, to the course. There, I was able to practice and enjoy their excellent facilities, and in three separate instances, play 9 holes. I ate dinner in the restaurant (Westward Ho! has some excellent menu items. I recommend the wild salmon burger and the shrimp croissant, both with salad). For a truly public course, I was witness to a diverse group of community residents and groups play and practice. Along with a full range with instructional capacity and a full banquet facility, the course is a very active and dynamic place.
Opened in 1929 and originally designed by A.V. Macan, the University Golf Club is one of Vancouver’s top public golf facilities. Located on University Endowment Lands, it is adjacent to the University of British Columbia. The layout is walkable, with gentle slopes creating some undulation, notably on the dramatically downhill first hole. The layout is not at all congested or tight with the first 10 holes located on the north of University Boulevard and the last 8 holes south of the road. Just below the clubhouse and sandwiched around the first three holes are the academy and range, which are popular and well used.
I was impressed with the overall conditioning; very good and made for an enjoyable golf experience. Tee boxes were well maintained, bunkers were consistent albeit firm in places. The greens were very good and the fairways clearly identified from rough which was not too penal (which is good for a public facility). The trees create the real awe-effect. My favourite holes were the 1st, 4th, 10th, 11th, 16th and 17th. The back nine was impressive, with the par 3 16th beautifully framed by bunkers and surrounded all around by trees. From a slightly elevated tee box, it is a real delight to experience. And while the par 5, 4th hole will generate considerable attention, the 17th tee brings the mature tree line even closer on the left side. A shorter par 4, the feeling is that the trees would simply spit the ball back into play. Don’t fall for that trap, they won’t!
Staff – pro shop and restaurant – were fabulous and made me feel like it was my own private course. They were professional and accommodating to my many questions. The clubhouse is large and comfortable. The pro shop is well stocked and they are prepared to handle visitors, as a business colleague joined me one evening for 9 and they were able to quickly and easily set him up with what he needed for enjoyable play.
Aura – 8.5 out of 10 – The first hole sets the tone and it is reinforced on many holes throughout the course.
Value (cost / experience) – 8.5 out of 10 – The peak green fee is $76 and they have a progressive graduate fee structure the closer players play near sunset. For someone who came from work and was simply looking to get 9 holes in a few times, this was a reasonable option at $20 or $25. Coming simply to practice was fine, too. I wasn’t alone, as others had the same ideas and the two large practice greens were often busy with people putting or chipping.
Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 8.5 out of 10 – The layout is straightforward with two loops of nine running along a long and narrow swath of land. Tee to green, the conditioning is consistent and very good, not perfect but for a public facility it was very well maintained and players seem to take pride in keeping the course in good condition. The course is very walkable with no significant elevation change. Greens rolled true and consistent, not too fast for a public course which helps ensure good pace of play. I appreciated the fact that on all holes the trouble is straightforward; often there was one side which was more penal the other.
Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – 8.5 out of 10 – This is a true public course and they embrace the principle that everyone is welcome. I made University Golf Club my home course for a week in late spring and was made to feel truly welcome. I enjoyed the golf and the facilities and it provided me good value. I’d happily return and look forward to when I can.