By Brent Long
Been there, done that, when it comes to golf on Vancouver Island, but when we headed to Vancouver for a family wedding last August it didn’t take long to figure out we should do it again. It had been almost a decade since my wife and I first hit the links as part of an eight-night trek from Victoria to Campbell River for some terrific golf and relaxing “island time.” This time along we added a six-year-old avid golfer to mix as we hopped into a brand new 2013 Acura RDX for a 90-minute crossing on one of BC Ferries (www.bcferries.com) sleek ships that transport 20 million guests annually – talk about traveling in style – booking and boarding couldn’t have been smoother!
On our initial journey we played seven of the 11 courses that now make up www.golfvancouverisland.ca. This time around, the goal was to hit the other four, so we could officially say we have been there and done “all” of that. Over the next few days we played stalwarts Arbutus Ridge GC and Cowichan G&CC and newcomers the Valley Course at Bear Mountain and Highland Pacific Golf while touring several of the island’s wonderful wineries and keeping the little guy amused with an abundance of recreational and outdoor activities.
I must confess I don’t drive an Acura at home, so this was a treat to test out the 2013 RDX, the second generation of Acura’s five-passenger crossover SUV. It didn’t take long for us to load it up with golf bags and luggage and still have ample space to relax and enjoy the ride. We quickly learned that the 2013 RDX significantly ups its game with a new 3.5L V-6 engine with 33 more horsepower than the previous model and a new six-speed automatic transmission for a smooth and powerful ride – and no speeding tickets!
Our first stop upon departing the pleasant ferry ride was Victoria Butterfly Gardens where hundreds of the insects fly peacefully through an indoor garden and if you’re patient they may just land on you when you least expect it – perfect for youngsters of all ages. Victoria is a terrific little city with a quaint downtown core highlighted by a bustling harbour that’s easy to stroll through or take a zippy harbour taxi across for a shortcut – the Downtown Victoria Business Association even publishes a walk/run map that’s perfect for getting to know the area by foot and working out at the same time.
We played four rounds of golf in five days . . . awesome! We totally enjoyed our stay at the luxurious Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort and Spa – a fine hotel with terrific dining and great views. We put Jacob into the Kids Club for the afternoon and enjoyed the newer Valley Course to ourselves. It’s the second of two 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Designs at the resort and is certainly the more player-friendly and enjoyable of the two layouts with lots of awesome elevated tee shots and terrific vistas.
Within a peaceful 50-plus lifestyle community in the heart of wine country you’ll find GolfBC’s Arbutus Ridge – a perfect setting for youngsters and families. We played with GM Jason Lowe, who we first met nearly a decade ago at nearby Olympic View GC and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere. After playing 18 holes and fueling up with some terrific grub on the balcony overlooking the course at the Satellite Bar and Grilll, Jacob headed back to the range to hit two more baskets of balls – who knew? Props go to GolfBC’s nine courses in British Columbia that have tee times available for junior golfers 16 years and under to play free, seven days a week, when accompanied by a paying adult.
Cowichan G&CC is a quaint semi-private 18-hole parkland track that’s relatively flat and a course that was designed for walking highlighted by demanding greens and quaint older-style bunkers. I totally enjoy courses that are tucked into the woods without homes on the edges and this is one of them.
The highlight of the tour was a 7:30 am tee time and three hour round with Highland Pacific Golf General Manager Doug Hastie who hails from Toronto, but has since moved on. I didn’t have any expectations coming into this round because I hadn’t heard much about the place, but I’ll definitely return in the future. There’s a double-decker range to warm up at and a great layout with a lot of different shot options.
On the road again in the RDX we stopped at several of the 25-plus wineries on the island including Cherry Point Estate Vineyards, Merridale Estate Cidery, Averill Creek Winery and I couple of others I didn’t take notes on. Even with a six-year-old in tow, wine-tasting and chatting with the local wine makers makes for an enjoyable day. Between the golf and wine tasting, we also tried zip lining – a first for the three of us, beachcombing and spa treatment at the amazing Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa resort and Conference Center in Parksville, shopping at Coombs Old Country Market and a glimpse of an old growth forest at Cathedral Groves. It was certainly a ride to remember and a vacation to cherish.
If we’d had a few extra days we would have headed further north to Campbell River, “the Salmon Capital of the World” for a little fins and skins action at Storey Creek Golf Course and a stay at renown Painter’s Lodge, where a 5 a.m. wake-up call beckons those who would like to try their luck catching the plentiful Chinook, Coho, Sockeye, Spring and Pink salmon that funnel through the scenic Discovery Passage. www.hellobc.com is a great tool for checking out everything that is BC!