HOWE SOUND, British Columbia - Robert Muir Graves, who died just this past year, was known for designing exciting golf courses within often difficult landscapes. A good thing for the mountain site that rises above Howe Sound halfway between Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia, had to have been one of Graves' more interesting challenges.
Easy to describe, the site goes straight up and straight down, punctuated by deep gorges, creeks, water, tall pines, cedar and fir. Most mortals would undeniably have been mentally and physically challenged by the thought of building a course on such rocky mountainous terrain which plunged 400 feet from the top down to a bed of boulders at sea level.
What Graves said when he was first shown the land is not a matter of record. What he accomplished is a masterpiece in engineering. Think of Furry Creek as a golfing adventure with views of Howe Sounds, the North Shore Mountains, greens and fairways stretched out below elevated tees. Tall pines, firs and cedars flanking the fairways as they march up and down the mountainsides; views that easily distract.
It is no wonder that Furry Creek is often named British Columbia's most scenic course. And don't forget the bald eagles, white tailed deer and black bears who hang around here. You are, after all, in a wilderness area.
Located in a 1,036-acre oceanside master-planned community, Furry Creek plays 6,025 yards from the tips with a par 72. It's not the longest course on the planet but it is one of the most dramatic, and plenty challenging, especially for those who have trouble finding the fairway.
Strategically placed bunkers, a half dozen dog legs, rocky granite outcroppings and scary carries over wide wastelands like on No. 6 and No. 7 add to the drama. Undulating greens make a three-putt easy stuff.
If you're looking for a classic course where you can hit out to wide fairways, strap your bag on your back and get some exercise by walking, you can forget playing Furry Creek. It's a cart-only course and for good reason. Given the rugged terrain and obvious difficulty in constructing the course, there are lengthy, albeit, scenic jaunts between many of the holes.
Between No. 13 and No. 14 you ride through a tunnel, and when leaving No. 8 , you go back down past the concession stand, past the first tee and on to No. 9. You drive around a lot on this course, over creeks, through tunnels, up, down and around hills. On this course, your GPS system may very well be your newest best friend.
Shock therapy sets in immediately on No. 1. Driving from the elevated tee to the green below, a 165-foot drop, the starter will remind you that if your ball lands in the ravine that runs along the right side of the narrow fairway, that you are not to look for it, but to take a drop. (Actually there are six drop areas on the course which you are encouraged to use). With a mere sliver of rough fringing the cart path, finding the fairway is a daunting feat. And don't even think of straying left. There's a pond to deal with on that side.
Furry Creek has seven par 3s. So long hitters love No. 17, a 471-yard par 5 where a hit 'em and rip'em shot, straight down the middle, is what you want.
The centerpiece to Furry Creek is its 33,000-square-foot timber, granite and glass clubhouse, a soaring design where east meets west. In addition to the Sea to Sky Grill which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and special drinks like margaritas and mojitos, there is the Creekside Room with its panoramic window walls often used for weddings and other special functions. There is also a large pro shop and well appointed locker rooms.
One of the unique marketing gimmicks at Furry Creek is the Sea to Tee Golf n'Safari where you are whisked by boat from Sewell's Marina in Horseshoe Bay, Vancouver, up Howe Sound to a landing spot near No. 14 where you are met and taken up to the clubhouse, equipped with a set of Callaways and a sleeve of balls. Cost is about $142. (888) 922-9462).
Even though No. 14 which pushes out into the water atop a boulder-rimmed peninsula is the most photographed, it is the craggy character and steep elevations of the terrain that make Furry Creek memorable. It may not be the easiest round you've ever had, but you will remember it.
Furry Creek? What a name. Fury Gorge. Now that's more like it.
There is one thing for sure: play Furry Creek and you will remember it. With the crazy elevations, the sometimes hairy cart rides up, down and around the mountain and the boat ride if you decide to arrive that way, golf at Furry Creek is an adventure.
Some might call it tricked up and they'd be right - to a point. But in the case of Furry Creek, the topography is the reason for the course's eccentricity. That is also the fun of it.
With spectacular snow-covered mountains in the distance and a thousand-acre forest inside the city limits, Vancouver, which rises from the shorefront of British Columbia's Howe Sound, is one of Canada's most stunning and sophisticated cities. Explore trendy shops, art galleries and hotels; discos, pubs, funky boutiques, hip restaurants like Araxi and Blue Water Cafe, and five-star hotels like Fairmont. But as grand as it is, you can still get around the city on foot.
With water water everywhere, boats, water taxis, yachts and oceanliners of all sizes dot the harbor which is dominated by Canada Place, the former Canada Pavilion at Expo 86 which juts into the water like a huge cruise ship. Topped by five enormous white sails, this is now the home of Vancouver's cruise ship terminal.
Check out The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, a grand castle-like 556-room property in the heart of the city, where you can unwind in the Willow Stream Spa (After Furry Creek you might welcome a good massage). Or check into The Fairmont Waterfront perched on the water's edge. Modern, efficient convenient, most rooms have superb views of the harbor. To book tee times and make reservations call www.fairmont.com; 604-684-3131; 800-441-1414.
Meadow Gardens where the 18th hole is created from three separate islands, is a Les Furber design with several risk and reward holes. Morgan Creek is home of the Professional Golfers Association of British Columbia.
Northview offers two courses designed by Arnold Palmer, the Ridge playing 6,900 yds. from the tips and the Canal playing 7,101 from the tips.Mayfair Lakes, 45 minutes from Vancouver, is a pretty level track set against the North Shore Mountains.
The Redwoods, is a rolling course with plenty of tall pines.Westwood Plateau enjoys a stunning mountain setting with rugged ravines and massive granite rock faces.
Visit www.golfvancouver.com or call (888) 599-8299.
September 1, 2004
Katharine Dyson is a golf and travel writer for several national publications as well as guidebook author and radio commentator. Her journeys have taken her around the world playing courses and finding unique places to stay. She is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, Metropolitan Golf Writers of America; Golf Travel Writers Organization and Society of American Travel Writers.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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