|Trees, lush greens and mountains dot the picturesque landscape of Bootleg Gap Golf in B.C. (Courtesy of Bootleg Gap Golf )|
KIMBERLEY, British Columbia -- It's the on-course equivalent of ordering the sampler platter at a clubhouse lounge.
If you showed somebody a photograph of each hole on the championship course at Bootleg Gap Golf in British Columbia's East Kootenays region, they might not believe all 18 share the same scorecard.
Some of the fairways are surrounded by fescue grass that sways in the wind. Others are bordered by towering pine trees that don't sway for anything -- and certainly won't budge for wayward golf balls. Some trace the banks of a river.
From badlands to mountaintops, the views are varied as the terrain.
"It's definitely got a mix of everything," said Head Professional Trevor Simkins. "There are some links-style holes out in the open with views of the hoodoos and the St. Mary River. There are holes around our water feature, and then there are some holes with a little bit more elevation that go into the tree-lined fairways.
"It really is a mix of everything. It's not just one style of golf. We kind of have three different settings."
Add 'em up, and the result is a 7,157-yard track that's become a popular hangout for locals and is also frequented by value-seeking out-of-towners.
As you cruise by the city-owned course on Highway 93, you can spy the relatively short second hole of Bootleg Gap's recreational nine, a family-friendly loop that serves up some fun but is certainly no equal to the championship setup.
Keep driving, and you won't realize what you're missing.
Bootleg Gap's full-length layout is the work of architect Les Furber, who makes his home on the other side of the Canadian Rockies in Canmore, Alberta, and whose resume is highlighted by mountain courses such as Golden Golf Club, SilverTip Golf Course and Trickle Creek Golf Course.
With that in mind, it seems fitting that the most memorable assignment at Bootleg Gap is No. 12, a picturesque par-3 that plummets into the St. Mary River valley. With a 50-foot drop from tee to green on the 193-yard assignment, it can be tough to select the right stick even if you're accustomed to golfing in the thin mountain air.
It might also be tough to believe that just a couple of hours earlier you were chasing your golf ball across a wide-open plateau that provides the foundation for the opening stretch. You can afford a couple of wayward shots as you warm up for the tree-lined tests at Bootleg Gap, one of the reasons Simkins likes to call the championship course "user-friendly."
Rob Cooper of Lethbridge, Alberta, has another expression for it.
"I call it golfer friendly," Cooper said. "You can see where you're supposed to hit the ball. The greens run the way they look like they're going to. Especially for a person that doesn't know the course, you come to town, and you're going to enjoy playing that course."
Cooper had heard some good things about the track before teeing off at Bootleg Gap for the first time but admitted he was still pleasantly surprised.
"Sometimes when people tell you it's a good course, you get your hopes up and you can be disappointed," Cooper said. "I wasn't disappointed at all. I'd go back in a heartbeat."
The Kimberley/Cranbrook area is crammed with golf courses, with seven full-length challenges within a span of about 25 kilometres.
What Bootleg Gap Golf offers is a little taste of everything.
It's also a bit of a bargain, the kind of place where a round of golf, a cart and a bite to eat could cost you less than $100, even on weekends. Although Bootleg Gap is owned by the City of Kimberley, you won't find the kind of rough-around-the-edges playing conditions that give some munis a bad name.
"Definitely, a lot of golfers are surprised by our rate and the condition and the quality of the golf course," Simkins said.
Bootleg Gap Golf has a full driving range and practice facility. And don't forget the 2,675-yard recreational nine, which was also designed by Furber and is a good spot to sharpen your skills or teach a beginner the finer points of the game. Professional instruction is also available.
November 15, 2011
Wes Gilbertson is a sports reporter and golf feature writer at the Calgary Sun. Living in Calgary, Alta., he trades his golf clubs for a hockey stick in the winter months. When the snow melts, he's living proof that thin mountain air doesn't turn everybody into a long-drive specialist. Follow Wes on Twitter at @GilbertsonGolf.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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