CRANBROOK, British Columbia - When you step onto the tee at St. Eugene Mission's closing hole - a hazard-strewn par-5 - you'll have an opportunity to go for broke. But if you don't pull off a heroic drive, which must carry a huge fairway-splitting bunker to get within striking distance of the green, then you'll likely be clawing and scratching for a par.
But, hold on to your hats, even if you make the carry, trouble looms everywhere. Joseph Creek guards the front of the green and anything mishit will sink to its murky depths. It's golf gambling at its finest. At the St. Eugene Mission Golf Resort the opportunity to "roll the dice" presents itself many times over - and in a variety of forms.
Anyone who knows the game of golf is well aware that "gambling" is an exciting and inevitable component of the game. In fact, players often have two distinct choices when playing a shot: a) play safe, or, b) throw caution to the wind and "go for it." But now, at the St. Eugene Mission Golf Resort, the "gambling" is taking a whole new direction.
In the fall of 2002 the Casino of the Rockies and the Delta Hotel at the St. Eugene Mission Golf Resort opened their doors. The casino, which is operated by Lake City Casinos in Kelowna (they now operate five casinos in British Columbia), is part of a new-look resort that has added an exciting dimension to a golf vacation in the B.C. Rockies. The $42.1 million (Cdn) expansion features the 19,000-square-foot casino (225 slot machines, blackjack, roulette, Let It Ride, three-card poker, and more) and the 125-room Delta Hotel. Now golfers can cruise around a silky-smooth Les Furber track, which boasts a unique combination of river, mountain, and links-style holes. And, after playing Let It Ride on the golf course, golfers can keep their hot hand going in the casino's version of the same game.
"The Casino of the Rockies brings distinction to the B.C. Rockies as a tourist destination. We're excited to be in the Cranbrook area," says Suzanne Carter, Lake City's director of marketing.
Not surprisingly, many of the locals and golf operations staff are also excited about the resort's new look. Don Shindle, the general manager of the resort, echoes the same feelings. "The expansion of St. Eugene is great for the local economy," he says. Not surprisingly, his thoughts seldom stray too far from the resort. "The luxurious Delta Hotel, the casino, the fabulous golf course, the beauty of the area, can it get any better?" The short answer: No.
The history at St. Eugene dates back to the early part of the last century when Catholic priests set up a mission to help teach the local natives. Started in 1908 and completed in 1912, the massive stone mission building with Spanish architecture is still the centerpiece of the property. It now, however, has been transformed into 25 luxurious rooms at the Delta Hotel.
If you're a golfer, you'll focus on the terrific 18-hole championship golf course. Even if you're not a gambler, the course is certainly reason enough to plan a trip to St. Eugene.
The strongest attribute of the layout is its variety. Most courses fit into some type of category - mountain course, prairie course, links course, etc. As for St. Eugene, Furber has been able to incorporate a number of styles simply because of the remarkable terrain he was given to work with.
The course starts out in the open and the feeling is that of vast, wind-swept, links land. But on hole No. 3 - a short, twisty par-4 - the pines start to close in. Holes four, five, six, and seven roll gently through the forest but offer little in the way of birdie chances. The seventh, a long par-3 over a depression, features one of the wildest greens you'll ever see. The left side of this green appears to have sunk in an earthquake. Needless to say, three and four putts are the norm here.
Holes eight and nine cruise along the wide, rock-strewn waters of the St. Mary River. The ninth, perhaps the best hole on the entire course, is wicked in character but an absolute treat to play. The river chews into the landing area and will swallow anything hit left. However, with a long, high-flying drive you can carry a big chunk of water and potentially give the green a go in two. The problem with that, however, is that Furber wasn't in a good mood when he built the green complex. It's small, narrow and pinched between sand and a pond. A slight miss, and you'll be lucky to make a six.
The back nine takes you into the rugged slopes that frame the south side of the course. The 13th, a plunging par-3 with a glorious vista from the tee, will be a hole burned in your memory for quite some time. Club selection falls into the "grab a stick and cross your fingers" category. Whatever weapon you choose, it's virtually impossible to keep your game face on while standing on this tee. The closing stretch at St. Eugene once again takes on the links character as 16, 17, and 18 head into the open, grassy areas from where the course started.
Whether you decide to play a few hands in the casino or explore the exceptional beauty of the area, a trip to the St. Eugene Mission Golf Resort is bound to be a memorable one - hot hand or not.
Andrew Penner is a frequent contributor to Travel Golf Media and a member of the Golf Travel Writers' Association. His golf humor book, One Flew Over The Caddyshack, has just been released.
St. Eugene Mission Golf Resort
7725 Mission Road
Cranbrook, British Columbia
St. Eugene Mission is located just 10 minutes from the city of Cranbrook, British Columbia. Cranbrook is eight hours east of Vancouver and 4.5 hours southwest of Calgary, Alberta. While the nearest international airport is found in Calgary, connecting flights and charter flights are possible into the small Cranbrook/Kimberley Airport, which is just five minutes from the resort.
The city of Kimberley, 15 minutes up the road from the resort, is a scenic, Bavarian-style village with numerous gift shops, restaurants, and specialty stores in their walking-only platzl. Also, there is a historic train ride and tours of the massive (but now shut down) Kimberley mine. Kimberley is famous for its music festivals and summer activities. The St. Mary River is also world-renowned for its fly-fishing.
Within half an hour from St. Eugene are two other excellent Les Furber championship courses, making this area one of the best golf destinations in British Columbia. The Bootleg Gap Golf Course, the newest in the area, is an interesting layout that meanders though Ponderosa pines and features scenic holes along the St. Mary River. Trickle Creek, located near the ski hill in Kimberley, is a tough mountain course with great shot values, huge elevation changes, and a beautiful Marriott hotel at its doorstep. The Kimberley Golf Club and the Cranbrook Golf Club are two other worthwhile plays in the area.
February 4, 2004
Andrew Penner is a longtime member of the Canadian PGA. Author of "One Flew Over the Caddyshack," he also writes for a number of magazines throughout Canada and the U.S.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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