By Michael Cunningham, golfandtravelwriter.com
Why is Lethbridge such an attractive golf destination?
The warmest weather and longest golf season east of the Rocky Mountains, Lethbridge becomes the gateway to golf throughout Southern Alberta.
There are 5 golf courses less than 20 minutes from Lethbridge’s city centre, and another 9 within 90 minutes; diverse in design, spectacular within their settings with challenges to suit every level of golfer. Historical destinations intermixed with modern-day course design crafted by some of Canada’s finest course architects.
GOLF IN AND AROUND LETHBRIDGE
Golf is an important pastime for the residents, and the region does not disappoint.
Henderson Lake Golf Club
Henderson Lake Golf Club, opened in 1917, is an attractive public course where exceptional hospitality and well-maintained conditions make this a favourite for locals and visitors.
Lethbridge Golf and Country Club
This is a private club but if you have a contact, then take advantage and experience the private Stanley Thompson-designed Lethbridge Golf and Country Club. One of the original five historic golf clubs of Alberta, they have been the host to provincial and national tournaments since their opening in 1913 and is a challenging and beautiful course.
Magrath Golf Club
A half-hour drive south is another Southern Alberta classic, Magrath Golf Club, a player favourite since its inception in 1925. Well-manicured fairways, the course features beautiful vistas from many holes. Not long, by today’s standards at 6,300 yards, but the course can be a test as fast, and true greens add to the challenge. A hidden gem in Southern Alberta.
Picture Butte Golf Club
A short distance north of Lethbridge and you will discover 27 holes of golf at Picture Butte Golf Club. The courses are all well maintained with three combinations of play; Heritage, Homestead and Harvest, which provide a diversity of challenge and character. No matter your skill level Picture Butte will be an enjoyable day of golf.
Bridge Valley Golf
Bridge Valley Golf is an affordable family golf destination, is set amongst the coulees and eroded hills of Lethbridge’s river valley, this nine-hole design has been a favourite for locals and visitors since 1963. Very affordable, you can play the course for less than $20. It’s a great way to spend a few hours.
Evergreen Golf Centre
Though all of the courses feature driving ranges, the place where everyone practices is Evergreen Golf Centre. Featuring state-of-the-art training equipment, a clubhouse, ProShop, Toptracer driving range, mini putt and an enjoyable par 3 course, this is a great place to have fun while honing your skills.
LETHBRIDGE —GATEWAY TO GREAT GOLF IN SOUTHERN ALBERTA
Over the past years, Lethbridge has seen an influx of golfers from Western Canada and neighbouring States wishing to experience the city and the surrounding golf courses of Southern Alberta.
Drive west towards the majestic Rocky Mountains; one will discover an exceptional variety of golf courses. Championship in nature, historical by pedigree, all affordable and crafted by Canada’s most accomplished course designers, Thompson, Browning, Furber and Newis.
Five courses that have become regular stops for me are Lethbridge’s Paradise Canyon, Cardston's Lee Valley Creek, Waterton Golf Club, within the National Park and the recrafted Crowsnest Golf Club in Blairmore. In addition, the nine-hole Fort Macleod Golf Course is a fun and fitting addition to this list of celebrated courses where two days a week, golf is a dollar a hole.
Did You Know? Canadian Stanley Thompson designed over 180 golf courses worldwide!
The HEAVEN’S BREATH GOLF TRAIL
“The perfect name but here the winds can seem a little less heavenly and much more devilish”.
From Lethbridge, a circuitous route west along Highways 3, 6 and then 5 will bring into play five memorable golf courses, each unique in playability and vistas. The Heaven’s Breath Golf Trail takes you along two-lane highways ascending from the depths of ancient river coulees to the high passes of the Rocky Mountains. Where 150 years earlier, settlers once journeyed for days to reach the Rocky Mountains, it now takes less than ninety minutes to reach the end of the Trail.
Paradise Canyon Golf Resort, Lethbridge
There could not be a better course to initiate play along the “Trail” than Paradise Canyon Golf Resort within Lethbridge’s city limits. Golf Digest recognized it as one of Canada’s Top 60 Golf Courses and the Best Course in Southern Alberta. This eighteen-hole championship course is another highlight of internationally acclaimed Canadian architect Bill Newis. Much of the course rests beneath ancient cliffs formed by the meandering Oldman River, where Newis artfully incorporated an assortment of terrain variations into his award-winning design. The course provides four sets of tees ranging from 5282 to 6810 yards.
I still smile at the comment made by Director of Golf Matt Barkway, when discussing the opportunities in creating the Heaven’s Breath Golf Trail, “The perfect name but here the winds can seem a little less heavenly and much more devilish”.
This course is a true treasure!
Lee Valley Creek Golf Course, Cardston
From Lethbridge, take Highway 5 to Cardston, less than 50 minutes away. For 115 years, this centre of Mormon faith has been “dry.” Yet there is a spirit of the town reflected by the populace’s pride in its historical preservation. Cardston is also the site of the Remington Carriage Museum, which houses North America’s largest collection of horse-drawn carriages and stagecoaches. It is so well known that an episode of The Simpson’s identified it as a vacation destination.
Did You Know? Cardston is the birthplace of King Kong’s girlfriend, Faye Ray.
But it is not just the historic buildings and collections that have visitors coming to the area; the Les Furber designed Lee Valley Creek Golf Club has been an area attraction since its opening in 2004.
The course features numerous elevation changes and some of the region's most challenging greens and demanding par threes, a few measuring over 200 yards. But with four sets of tees, there are alternatives for every level of golfer. Furber is regarded as one of Canada’s most respected course architects, a protégé of Robert Trent Jones, Furber’s signature courses are found throughout the world. Furber’s design philosophy is straightforward, create a course where the average golfer has alternatives for shot-making and “learn what people do not like about a course and avoid doing those things”. Lee Valley does not disappoint as the course conditions are kept to a high standard. A grass driving range with plans to build a new clubhouse, Golf Advisor rates Lee Valley a 4.2 rating out of 5.
“Where Mother Nature would build a course”.
Waterton Lakes Golf Club, Waterton Lakes National Park
There are few courses in North America that are as scenic, historic, and affordable as Waterton Lakes Golf Club. Inspired by the acclaimed Stanley Thompson and constructed in 1929, this eighteen-hole gem rests in the shadows of the great peaks of the Rocky Mountains, forming an imposing backdrop for the lushness of the course.
In the true sense, this is not a course where one should think of a championship. No, Thompson designed this course to encompass the breathtaking beauty of the land. Not to say there are not challenging holes, there are many, but this is a course for a relaxed game with friends and family, a course where elk and bear keep their distance, enriching the natural experience of this historic location.
Did You Know? Waterton Lakes National Park in 1932 became the world’s first international peace park with Glacier National Park in Montana and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The course has two sets of tees, white and red, that plays 5421 to 6108 yards. You will use every club in your bag!
The clubhouse and ProShop are rustic in their design, adding to the historical sense of the course. Definitely enjoy a beverage and a bite to eat on the deck; there are few more scenic spots!
The course is situated within Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park, which is just across the border from Montana’s Glacier National Park.
Another Stanley Thompson gem!
Crowsnest Pass Golf Course, Blairmore
Crowsnest Pass Golf Course is Rocky Mountain golf at its finest. First opened in 1918 it has always been recognized as a beautiful and enjoyable course to play.
Where most courses across North America have been “watching their pennies” with regards to major capital expenditures, Crowsnest has recently completed a major redesign and renovation. Gary Browning, one of Canada’s premier golf course designers, whose award-winning projects include Stewart Creek, Priddis Greens, and the re-creation of Kananaskis, is the man behind the makeover.
Under his watchful eye, eight new or redesigned holes were created that have transformed this course as a definitive destination for golf in Western Canada. Every fairway and every undulating green are spectacular by nature, pristinely integrating glacial streams, majestic stands of pine with the distinctiveness of the terrain. There are four sets of tees; many of them elevate.
Rocky Mountain golf at its finest!
Fort Macleod Golf Course
If you have time, as you return to Lethbridge, along Highway 3, it would be a shame if you did not have the opportunity to play one of Canada’s most historic courses, the nine-hole Fort Macleod Golf Course.
In 1890 the Fort Macleod Golf Course became the first course built between Winnipeg and the West Coast. With mature tree-lined fairways well-kept greens, it is a pleasure to play. Play where the Prince of Wales teed it up in 1924. Along the coulee of the first hole, where wagon trails can be seen, you can golf the route that once transported the earliest of settlers to Calgary and beyond. On the third hole, bleached bones are evidence of a cattle drive that perished in a blizzard in 1898. Golf and history for less than forty dollars, the perfect course to end your journey along the Heaven’s Breath Golf Trail.
Did you Know? Fort MacLeod is the origin of the North-West Mounted Police (later becoming the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and their musical ride. First taking place in 1876, the performance is still a popular spectacle today. You can see a re-enactment of this performance during the summer at the Fort Museum!
Historic from tee to green!
GET OUTSIDE — GOLF!
Lethbridge prides itself as a city for sports. With a progressive attitude and welcoming western hospitality, the city’s Sports Council, in partnership with Tourism Lethbridge, regional, national and international events, have discovered a city focused on showcasing itself to visitors.
Golf is no exception! Over the past few years, the city received national coverage as the exemplary host for the 2019 Canadian Junior Girls Amateur Championship, held at the prestigious Lethbridge Golf and Country Club.
On the PGA Tour, many of today’s stars earned their stripes as players on the PGA’s Mackenzie Tour. Since 2016, Paradise Canyon Golf Resort has been ranked by Golf Digest as one of the Top 60 courses in Canada and has been a favourite stop for these international Tour players.
Did you know? There have been 17 PGA Tour winners who have played on the Canadian Tour?
Golf in Canada has now become the go-to sport for outdoor recreation, somewhat remarkable that a world pandemic would reignite a passion for the game unthinkable three years prior.
Thousands of new and reinvested golfers now navigate the fairways of golf courses, from coast to coast and around the world, experiencing not just why it is an ideal pastime but the supplementary benefits of exercise, mental health and camaraderie, even from a social distance.