Sunday, October 17, 2021

A Staycation in Victoria - Bear Mountain Golf Club

My favourite golf course in Victoria is the Victoria Golf Club. But it is difficult to get on to play unless you are the guest of a member or belong to  Capilano, Point Grey, Shaughnessy, or Marine Drive since each of these clubs has a reciprocal privilege. The club was founded in 1893 and is the oldest 18-hole course in Canada in its original location. The distinction is important since the Royal Montreal Golf Club, which I wrote about a few years ago, was founded in 1873 and the Royal Quebec Golf Club, which I played in August was founded in 1874. But it moved in 1925. 

According to the Victoria Golf Club website, it is the second oldest club in North America in its original location. If you want to see what other clubs are on this list, go here:

During my recent Thanksgiving staycation I played two other impressive courses: the Valley and Mountain Courses at Bear Mountain. The only problem with these courses is the price. Unless you live on Vancouver Island, or have reciprocal privileges, the rate until the end of October is $239 for the Valley Course and $269 for the Mountain Course. While I think the courses are worth the price, fortunately the Richmond Country Club to which I belong has a reciprocal arrangement which allows significantly reduced green fees.

Bear Mountain has a fascinating history. Just ask the folks at HSBC who lent Len Barrie a lot of money to develop the resort community. You can find an account of some of the history in this 2008 Globe and Mail story

Today the community has grown around the courses. The existing community includes approximately 1,150 homes which are predominantly single-family, although there are some townhouse and apartment developments. the current population is about 3,000. At build-out, there will be over 4,000 homes and approximately 10,000 residents (which makes it similar in size to the approved plans for UniverCity at SFU). There is also approval for 645,000 sq.ft. of commercial space. Today there are two hotels and some neighbourhood commercial, but a new village centre is proposed and no doubt some office development will come at a later date. The developer is Ecoasis Developments, who purchased the property in 2013.

I was there to play golf but also hopefully learn lessons that might be applied to Furry Creek, the resort community between Vancouver and Squamish with which I have been involved for 30 years.  It currently has approval for 920 homes, resort facilities and commercial space, in addition to the golf course. A rezoning application that is presently being considered by the SLRD board will add another 120 units of affordable housing and provide greater detail on the location of the resort facilities, village centre, marina, and other amenities. Some details can be found in this presentation made to the Howe Sound Community Forum three years ago.

I had initially planned to stay at the Westin or Fairways Hotel but since the restaurants were closed due to Covid, and I thought it might be beneficial to stay closer to Fairfield where my daughter lives, we ended up at Abigail's Hotel. (see previous blogpost).

Moreover, I discovered that the hotels are now both under different ownerships and therefore it's not possible to arrange a 'stay and play' package, which one would normally expect at a community such as this.

That said, the courses are spectacular, but a high-handicapper like me (19) who doesn't hit the ball very far, must be careful in tee selection. Otherwise, you will lose a lot of balls. (Fortunately I can hit it fairly straight, which is a valuable asset at times). While each of the courses is challenging, the Mountain Course is the more challenging of the two. 

If you're a golfer, and planning a holiday in Victoria, I highly recommend Bear Mountain. But if you want a good golfing experience, at less than half the price, check out Olympic View.  You will enjoy it too.


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