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Canada's best, Greywolf, truly is a special place

John GordonBy John Gordon,

"Greywolf is without question the most spectacular site I've ever worked with," says course architect Doug Carrick of Toronto. "There areunbelievable mountain views on every hole and almost 500 feet ofelevation change on the golf course, including one hole that dropsalmost 200 feet from tee to green, and a par-3 across a 100-foot-deepcanyon to a cliffside green at the base of a massive mountain peak."

Owned by Intrawest Corporation of Vancouver, British Columbia, whichalso owns other spectacular properties such as Whistler/Blackcomb,alsoin British Columbia, and Mont Tremblant in Quebec, Greywolf opened forlimited play late in 1998. Golf Digest rankers promptly rewarded it withthe magazine's "best new course in Canada" honor in 1999.

"There are 18 signature holes at this course," says Carrick of theproperty which winds through and around mountains, providing -appropriately enough - a panoramic view of various peaks and valleys.The course is bentgrass from tee to green and has water on 14 holes.Surprisingly, for a mountain course, a relatively small amount of rockwas blasted, and the lion's share of that was at one hole.

Right from the first time he visited the site in January 1996 - "It was30 below on the back of a snowmobile," he recalls with a grimace -Carrick knew this project was special. And the centrepiece had to bewhat eventually would be the 180-yard par-3 sixth hole, now called"Cliffhanger." Set across an alpine valley from the tee, the green sitehad to be knocked down about two metres in order to be more receptive,necessitating the removal of substantial bedrock.

"That green site stuck out the first time I saw the property. The mostdramatic way to utilize it was to hit the tee shot across the canyon andhave the green perched on the edge of the cliff. You've got a fabulousmountain backdrop behind the green and then if you look to the left ofthe green, you're looking up an unbelievably beautiful river valley thatyou can't see from the tee."

The remainder of the rock was blown out of the site of the 13th fairway,resulting in a rolling, rugged hole not unlike some at the brawnyHighlands Links on Cape Breton Island, designed by the late StanleyThompson. Interestingly, Carrick is in some ways the inheritor ofThompson's legacy, having partnered for a time with Robbie Robinson,Thompson's associate.

Although Carrick had previously worked with a wilderness setting at thespectacular Twin Rivers Golf Course in Newfoundland, he found newchallenges at Panorama. "You really have a lot to work with, but therouting is tremendously important. That's everything. You have to workwith the terrain, you can't fight it." As a result, the course risesabout 250 feet in just the first three holes. Don't even think aboutwalking at Greywolf.

He struggles when asked to identify some special holes among these 18beauties. No doubt the third hole is a contender. The drive on thisuphill 523-yard par-5 must clear a mountain stream that runs down theleft side of the fairway before cutting in front of the tees. The secondshot must either carry cross-bunkers on the right side of the fairwaythat angle toward the green, allowing an easy pitch to the elevatedgreen, or face a tough shot over deep bunkers for those electing to stayleft.

One of the benefits of mountain golf - aside from the scenery - is evident at the 477-yard par-4 fourth hole. A 150-foot drop, abetted by the fact that the golf ball flies further at this elevation, means this apparent monster is a driver-wedge for the better player. "This is a funhole," says Carrick, "because the fairway is shaped like a big catcher'smitt, sort of bowled, so you can really let go on the tee."

Carrick repeatedly uses the word "fun" to describe Greywolf, with itsgenerous fairways and receptive greens. Visually intimidating, it isvery playable. "On every par-4 and every par-5, you can hit your driverwithout any real worries. The golf course looks much tougher than itplays." Kudos to Carrick and Intrawest for designing a layout appropriate for the clientele, who will mostly be tourists staying atthe Panorama Village.

But that doesn't mean Grey wolf, at 7,140 yards from the tips, won't eatup an unwary visitor, or any player who overestimates his or herability. The fifth hole is a prime example. This reachable par-5 dropsabout 120 feet off the tee, with a sizable mountain stream that cutsacross the fairway between the first and second landing areas on aright-to-left diagonal. "You can try to go straight at the green,carrying the creek, "says Carrick, "or you can bail out to the right atmany different angles, leaving yourself a tough downhill pitch to alittle popup green with a bunker on the right. So, the further right yougo, the worse angle you have into the green, so you really want to biteoff as much of the river as you can. It's a great strategic par-5."

Panorama Village, the largest accommodation facility in the region,offers hotel and condominium accommodations, restaurants, shopping, anoutdoor pool, river rafting, tennis and a variety of other summer activities. The addition of this great golf course ensures the true four-season versatility of this mountain resort, already renowned for its alpine skiing. Interspersed throughout the course, but hopefully notintruding on it, will be homes reflecting the character of the oldnational park lodges and mountain chalets with stone accents and rough-hewn timbers.

For more information, visit panoramaresort.com or call (800) 663-2929.

John Gordon has been involved fulltime with golf since he became managing editor of Score, Canada's Golf Magazine, in 1985. In 1991, he was recruited by the Royal Canadian Golf Association to create their Member Services and Communications departments, and to revive Golf Canada magazine, their national membersmagazine which had been defunct for a decade. After successfully relaunching Golf Canada and serving as its inaugural editor, he was named executive director of the Ontario Golf Association. He returned to fulltime writing in 1995.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

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