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Cheap and charming, Vancouver golf stacks up with better-known B.C. meccas

Jason Scott DeeganBy Jason Scott Deegan,
Senior Staff Writer

VANCOUVER, B.C. - When it comes to golf, Vancouver is a victim of circumstances

British Columbia's biggest city is sandwiched between three of Canada's best golf destinations. To the north, Whistler enthralls players with four world-class courses designed by the likes of Nicklaus, Palmer and Jones Jr.

To the west, Vancouver Island touts the natural beauty and low cost of its 10-course golf trail.

To the east, the Okanagan Valley boasts 40 golf courses and some of the country's top-rated wineries.

With its traveler-friendly airport, Vancouver is better known as North America's gateway to the Pacific Rim. But there's no reason it shouldn't register as a golf hot spot. Within 45 minutes of downtown lie several top-flight courses, brimming with personality and priced right. Throw in the pulsing nightlife and the "Cuuz" (rhymes with "ooze") can stand with its golfing neighbors.

Must plays

The 6,770-yard Westwood Plateau Golf & Country Club in Coquitlam blows the local competition away with its rugged terrain. Michael Hurdzan did wonders to find a golf course hidden in this mountainous landscape of granite rock faces and cavernous gorges.

The best one-two punch comes courtesy of Morgan Creek Golf Course and Northview Golf & Country Club about 40 minutes southeast of downtown.

Located seven mails apart, the two courses are flat yet flamboyant. Toronto's Globe and Mail ranks 6,968-yard Morgan Creek No. 35 among Canadian public courses; Northview's Ridge course hosted the Air Canada Championship from 1996 to 2002.

Furry Creek Golf and Country Club, about 45 minutes north of Vancouver on the way to Whistler, is short on yardage (6,025 yards) but long on ocean views. Some holes are gimmicky, notably the 107-yard fifth, but stunners like seaside 14th make up for any lapses in golfing taste.

Solid seconds

Just 10 minutes from the airport, Mayfair Lakes Golf & Country Club, home to a Canadian Tour event, is the perfect first stop off the plane or for final tee time heading out of town.

Shaped by Canadian architect Les Furber, the property was once a working farm in the river-delta land, and water provides the golfing fireworks, coming into play or view on 13 holes.

University Golf Club, which just celebrated its 75th anniversary, is the closest, cheapest option to the hopping downtown waterfront. Its majestic tree-lined fairways have been a local favorite since 1929 (a national one too - the Globe and Mail lists the venerable layout among the top 100 in the country).

It might be a stretch to call Squamish Valley an enclave of Vancouver - it's closer to Whistler - but it's worth the trip if you're looking for a pleasant parkland course. The 6,464-yard Squamish Valley Golf & Country Club was established in 1967. Robert Muir Graves and later Gary Browning had hands in designing this pleasant mix of doglegs and strategic challenges.

Stay and play

The Fairmont-Waterfront on the shores of Burrard Inlet is the best of the three Fairmont properties in the city. Located beside the Cruise Ship Terminal and an enclosed walkway to the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Center, its within walking distance from Stanley Park and Gastown.

The Wedgewood Hotel is 14 stories and 83 rooms of elegance (most of them recently refurbished). Both Travel & Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler ranked its service among the best in the world, and it offers golf packages to seven area courses.

The Opus, a luxurious boutique hotel in the trendy Yaletown district, was ranked "Best of the Best" in Conde Nast Traveler's 2005 Readers Choice Awards and took second place in the "Best Hotel in Canada" category.

Dining out

The Elixir Restaurant in the Opus Hotel isn't just a place to eat; it's a place to be seen. The beautiful people all seem to congregate here, dressed their best to roll up by limo, stroll down the avenue or dance at the adjacent Opus Bar. The food is good, but it's the atmosphere that really makes an impression.

The Westwood's Bacchus Restaurant and Lounge at hired internationally recognized chef Lee Parsons to ignite the senses. The Menu Gourmand features six courses of Parsons' seasonal specialties for $85; options include boneless grain-fed quail, seared filet of halibut and grilled strip loin of Alberta beef.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.

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