“There is no substitute” for elevation. It’s a phrase I have heard multiple times from golfers and golf course designers alike. Whether you play from it, up to it, or in the shadow of it, the rise and falls of valleys and mountains seem to breathe a different life into a golf course. Elevation opens up vistas, provides interesting playing grounds, and serves up inspiring backdrops for a game that is already visually stimulating. Varied topography makes it even more so.
With that in mind here are five golf courses to consider travelling to visit where elevation plays a role.
1. Highlands Links, Ingonish, Nova Scotia
Stanley Thompson called this his “mountains and ocean” course and it never fails to impress. His design from 1939 is timeless. Expect that to be even more so as it now under the control of Ontari0-based GolfNorth who are giving it the cash injection and the attention it deserves.
What I like: The rumpled fairways harken to a time when fairways were shaped by hand.
2. Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, Jasper, Alberta
Another Thompson delight and favoured by many over Banff Springs, the “other” Canadian Rockies course of similar vintage. The setting makes you feel at one with nature and the playability of the design is not lost on true fans of the game.
What I like: Jasper Park always reminds me just how small I am and how big the world is. Massive peaks nearby and high above you are a constant.
3. The Resort at Glade Spring, Glade Springs, West Virginia
You’ll not likely have heard of it but deep in the West Virginia forest this resort offers three fabulous courses. The amenities of the resort are outstanding and the Stonehaven Course has elevation change of up to 80 feet on a number of holes.
What I like: I cherish the ruggedness and seclusion you can find here. Unlike many resorts you can find yourself alone a lot, on isolated golf holes surrounded by nothing but nature.
4. Threetops Par 3, TreeTops Resort, Gaylord, Michigan
There are 81 holes at this year-round resort but none may be more fun than those found on their par 3 course. Now open for almost 25 years it has consistently been mentioned as the best par three golf course in America.
What I like: Watching golf balls (even those struck poorly) fly for what seems like forever. Even novice golfers will appreciate the cool factor of barely hitting a ball but watching it fly downhill long distances.
5. Tower Ranch Golf Club, Kelowna, British Columbia
Among Thomas McBroom’s best work, Tower Ranch overlooks the Kelowna Airport and the entire city below. To be fair, it is a tough test as the course has some 650 in elevation change throughout the layout yet McBroom’s spot-on routing only manages to have two holes actually play uphill.
What I like: The back nine holes, as you reach the peak of the property, serve up stunning views. The 15th hole, a par five that plays along a ridge, will actually remind you of an Irish coastal course with its tall grasses and aim markers guiding the way off the tee.
/ Scott MacLeod @Flagstick