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No. 4 at Fairmont Banff Springs might be the most photographed hole in Canada.
No. 4 at Fairmont Banff Springs might be the most photographed hole in Canada. (Courtesy of Fairmont Banff Springs G.C.)

Tour Calgary: A guide to the Stampede City's top tourist attractions, golf courses

Wes GilbertsonBy Wes Gilbertson,
Contributor

For a 10-day span in July, it's all about cowboy boots and blue jeans.

For the rest of summer, Calgary is as golf-crazed as any other city in Canada.

If you only visit once, try to plan your trip around the Calgary Stampede, an annual beer-swilling celebration of country music, chuckwagon racing, rodeo and all things Wild West.

Don't forget to bring your golf clubs, though.

Here's a guide to the tourist attractions -- and, just as important, your golf options -- around the Stampede City.

So you wanna see ... the mountains?

You're not alone. The Canadian Rockies are the main attraction for many visitors arriving at Calgary International Airport, which is about a 90-minute drive from the gates of Banff National Park.

If you have golf clubs in the trunk of your rental car, you can't get much closer to the picturesque peaks than the fairways at Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course, where the 192-yard fourth is perhaps the most photographed hole in Canada.

Banff Springs is the work of famed course designer Stanley Thompson, who also mapped out the holes at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge. While Thompson's mountain masterpieces are almost always mentioned in the same breath, be warned it's a four-hour drive between the two courses.

If you want to stay a bit closer to Calgary, book a tee time in Canmore. Silvertip Resort and Stewart Creek Golf Club are modern courses chiseled into the mountains that frame the town, while Canmore Golf & Curling Club sits on the valley floor but offers up outstanding scenery.

So you wanna see ... the prairies?

A round of golf is a great excuse to explore the prairie landscapes and small towns that surround Calgary. The good news is you can drive any direction and it won't be long before you find fairways and greens.

If you head west of Calgary, check out Redwood Meadows Golf and Country Club or The Links of GlenEagles in Cochrane, which have both hosted events on what's now known as the Web.com Tour. There's also Water Valley Golf & Country Club, a tree-lined layout that will test your accuracy, and Cochrane Golf Club, a nine-hole loop that will leave extra time to get the scoop on MacKay's Ice Cream on the main drag.

If you drive south, plan a stop at 27-hole Heritage Pointe in DeWinton or D'Arcy Ranch Golf Club in Okotoks, which both dip and dive out of the foothills. Okotoks is also home to a short course called Crystal Ridge Golf Club, a good spot for families and beginners.

Just east of city limits is Chestermere Lake, a popular summer hangout and home of waterlogged Lakeside Greens. Among the many options north of the city, the best challenge might be the links-style back nine at Collicutt Siding Golf Club in Crossfield, which is especially tough when the wind howls.

So you wanna see ... Calgary's downtown skyline?

Although there are no golf courses in the downtown core, that doesn't mean golfers can't get a good look at the Calgary Tower, the Scotiabank Saddledome and other buildings in the heart of the city.

Inglewood Golf & Curling Club was among the courses hit hard by the historic flooding in June 2013, but the loss of trees along the Bow River opened up even more sightlines into the downtown core.

On the opposite side of the hub, Shaganappi Point Golf Course is arguably Calgary's most popular muni. As you size up your putt on the elevated green at No. 13, you'll be able to see for miles across the city.

Lynx Ridge Golf Club is located on the northwest edge of Calgary, but the glimpse of the skyline from the fourth tee box rivals the view from any other course in town.

So you wanna see ... Calgary's other attractions?

Calgary put itself on the sporting map as site of the 1988 Winter Olympics, and thrill-seekers can race down the bobsled track on wheels during the summer months at Canada Olympic Park. Once you catch your breath, you can tee it up just a few minutes away at Valley Ridge Golf Club, with several assignments alongside the Bow River.

Another summer hotspot is Spruce Meadows, a world-famous equestrian facility on the south edge of Calgary. Just down the road is Sirocco Golf Club, a tough test that will host a PGA Tour Canada event in 2014.

If you're a sports fan, catch a Canadian Football League game at McMahon Stadium, home of the Calgary Stampeders. The stadium is about a 15-minute commute from Hamptons Golf Club, once an exclusive private facility that now welcomes outside play.

So you wanna see ... something totally different?

Drive 90 minutes from Calgary to the town of Drumheller, and you might feel like you've arrived on a different planet.

Dinosaur Trail Golf & Country Club is one of the highlights of Alberta's badlands. Although the front nine is a ho-hum parkland stroll, the back nine dips and dives through the coulees. Since you'll wonder why the fairway at No. 11 is so skinny, the answer is the hillside had to be preserved after fossils were discovered, a relatively common occurrence in these parts.

Before you head back to the big city, spend a few hours at Royal Tyrrell Museum, home to 40 full-size dinosaur skeletons and more than 100,000 fossils.

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.

 
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