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Everything's extreme at Alberta's SilverTip

By Leigh Hallenberg,

CANMORE, Alberta (June 6, 2003) - SilverTip Golf Course calls itselfthe course "where nature plays through."

Canmore resident Les Furber, who designed SilverTip and 100 more coursesworldwide, calls it an "extreme golf experience."

It may sound like just another attempt to appeal to everyone's sense ofadventure, but SilverTip just may be as extreme as golf can get. Nearlyeverything about SilverTip is extreme. From its conception to its designto the extremely positive ratings it received after opening in 1998:It's doubtful there's another course like SilverTip anywhere else in theworld.

Furber says that when he was first brought on to the project, the mainconcern was finding a way to create a golf course, and subsequenthousing for a resort, on a very rocky piece of Rocky Mountain acreage.SilverTip sits on a bench overlooking the floor of the Rocky MountainValley. This made things more difficult than building a traditionalvalley course.

"We had to look at laying out the golf course so that it fit in thelandscape and we did not have to transform the landscape to fit ourdesign ideas," Furber said.

Furber said a difficult process was finding a way to soften the featuresof the mountain property so turf grass could grow. He also wanted tominimize the course's molding so as to allow the mountain's naturalbeauty to be the key element of the course. Because SilverTip sits on abench in the mountains, golfers are able to look across the valley andnot just up at the mountains as typical of most valley courses. Thisprovides different scenery and perspective than most golfers are usedto.

"It's more like being in a helicopter than it is standing down in thevalley or driving a car," Furber said.

These design process challenges became benefits for golfers who now loveto play SilverTip's incredibly scenic and unabashedly difficult course.

The fact that SilverTip resides at 5,000 feet above sea level is one ofseveral ways the course's setting plays into a golfer's game. The lowerdensity of the air can force adjustments when players equip themselveswith clubs for a trip to the mountain course. Balls really will flyfarther. Just ask anyprofessional baseball pitcher who's thrown against the Rockies atColorado's Coors Field.

"It can travel as much as two percent per 1,000 feet," Furber said. Inother words, at SilverTip, any given drive or approach shot can travelalmost 10 percent farther than the same shot at sea level.

Other challenges include the course's tough 153 Slope rating from theback tees and its 7,200 yards of distance.

Boasting one of the greatest elevation changes of any course in theworld, SilverTip has several holes with over 100 feet of elevationchange. It has over 600 feet of elevation change over the whole course.This can make judging distances much more difficult.

"That's probably double most other golf experiences," Furber said. "Iknow several golf courses we've worked on with 250 to 300 feet ofelevation change. [This is] quite a bit more dramatic."

As promised, elevation change is only one of the many elements of thiscourse that are a bit more dramatic than the average golfer is used to.

"The scenery is so big and bold," Furber said.

Furber's definition of scenery goes beyond the course's mountainbackdrop, pine trees and bushes. Several wildlife corridors run throughSilverTip. In fact, SilverTip is named after a rare type of grizzly bearand at the top of the resort's home page (silvertipresort.com), a pictureof a bear takes up almost as much space as pictures of the golf course.The chance of running across some area wildlife is much higher atSilverTip than at other courses.

"We quite often see bear and deer and elk, coyotes and lynx anddifferent things in the area," Furber said.

Designing a course like SilverTip was not some lifelong dream ofFurber's, but he did have some experience previously working withmountains. He continues to design challenging mountain courses. Alongwith working on Europe's highest course, Zuoz-Madulain in Switzerland,Furber has designed other Rocky Mountain courses including Trickle CreekGolf Course in British Columbia which opened in 1993 on the slopes ofNorth Star Mountain.

"You take the challenge when it presents itself, but we didn't golooking for it because not many people would want to undertake it,"Furber said.

The challenge that Furber undertook with SilverTip has not goneunnoticed. It has translated into a similar type of challenge forgolfers who choose to play the course. SilverTip's very nature is"extreme." Furber agrees that this may be the only word that canencapsulate what the course is all about.

"It is extreme," Furber said. "I think the other part of 'the extreme'is the reaction of the people. It is extreme to many people in the wayit presents itself and the way it plays and in the way that it appealsto your senses."

SilverTip seems to appeal to quite a few people. In 1999, it ranked asthe second best new course in Canada according to Golf Digest.

SilverTip is not making ridiculous claims when it says it is an "extreme golf experience." In fact, it may be an understatement. Its marriage ofnature, mountain landscape and challenging golf are making SilverTip,not only one of the most exciting courses around, but also extremelypopular.

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

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