Thursday Day 1
I’ve always wanted to combine my 3 passions into one trip … golf, photography, and interesting places to explore.
In June of 2019, that opportunity presented itself in a golf trip organized by Barbara Gutstadt who owns Women’s Golf and Travel Concierge. Since I’ve never taken a golf vacation out of Florida, and didn’t know what to expect everything was more than I could have hoped for. I’ll share with you some of the highlights.
After flying from Ft Lauderdale to Calgary, My golf buddy and I met up with Barbara and the other 7 adventurous golfers early the following morning.
Since Barbara is a pro, she had everything pre-arranged which made all our excursions a snap. We followed the Travel App on our phones that we pre-loaded before starting the trip and followed the loose leaf binder with printed maps of where we were going every day.
We loaded the 3 SUV’s with our golf gear and luggage and then drove directly to the Heritage Pointe Golf Club which is only about an hour outside of Calgary. We immediately got into golf mode with an hour long private clinic taught by Lisa Longball. What a treat to start our vacation by learning from
Lisa who is an 8 time Canadian Long Drive National Champion. I could only dream of hitting 350 yards, 2 feet, 2 inches. That’s Lisa’s all time record so far. After Lisa’s coaching clinic, we went to the first hole to play our initial round of golf in Canada.
This course gave us our first mountain challenge. There were creeks to hit over, steps to climb just to get to the tee box, and tall grass that we lost lot’s of golf balls in. The first order of business when we got to our next golf course was to buy more balls.
The Rimrock Resort located in the Banff National Park was our next stop for our first full day in Alberta. What a wonderful place to stay for the next 3 nights. This hotel deserves all AAA/CAA Four Diamond awards. After checking into our rooms we explored the bars and scenic views, had a relaxing dinner, and got to finally introduce ourselves to each other. That was just the first day !! Let the games begin …
Friday Day 2
Now that we’ve gotten over jet lag and had a full breakfast we drove over to The Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course for an 11:30 am tee time. Except for playing at local golf courses in South Florida, I’ve never experienced the beauty of a majestic mountain golf course.
It was overwhelming. Even tough there was a drizzle to start the day, it didn’t matter. By the 3rd hole, the sun came out, temperatures rose to the mid 70’s and our small group of 9 golfers peeled off the layers of excess clothing and we felt like champs. Lots of of photos were taken and we couldn’t wait to meet for dinner and talk about our amazing day of golf and share our photos. Barbara set up contests on the front and back which included closest to the pin and longest drive.
After dinner we had the chance to take a gondola ride up to Sulpher Mountain which is walking distance to our hotel. Barbara planned it all in advance which made it so easy. We had gondola and dinner reservations, and I don’t know how she did it, but we had a double rainbow on our way up. Wow, that’s pretty amazing.
From the summit of Sulphur Mountain there is a view of 6 mountain ranges and the Bow Valley. There is a very long boardwalk that goes higher up the mountain plus state of the art interactive displays and a short film of the Canadian Rockies from the view of a bald eagle. After walking all around the observation deck we relaxed with cocktails and a nice dinner before heading back down the mountain.
Saturday Day 3
After 2 days in a row of golf, we had a day off….kind of…from golf anyway. Barbara arranged for us to be picked up at 8 am by Discover Banff Tours with our own private driver. That’s a real treat.
Our destination was the Columbia Ice fields which is between Lake Louise and Jasper. The glacier is a massive dome of glacial ice which is the largest non polar ice cap in the world. On our drive along the Trans Canadian Highway, we had the great fortune to spot and take photos of a full grown Elk. Whenever wildlife is spotted, all drivers stop and take pictures.
A Mama Bear and her cubs were sauntering by a few miles further along the road, as well as a family of White tailed Deer. That’s was just on the way to the Ice fields.
In the early 1980’s Parks Canada was so clever . They built 44 wildlife crossing structures: 6 overpasses and 38 underpasses to allow the animals to cross back and forth to move safely from one side of the Bow River to the other. The animals can’t see the road and the drivers can’t see the animals. That way the wildlife and the drivers don’t get distracted.
We did get to the Ice fields after one more stop along the way. We walked across a very scary glass bottom observation deck overlooking the Bow river. This is not good for anyone afraid of heights. Looking off to the right there was a Bighorn Goat looking down at all of us.
At the Columbia Icefields, we hopped onto a 6 wheel ice explorer bus.It crawled along very slowly to the top of the glacier. We filled up our water bottles with fresh glacial water , which was pretty cool, literally, very cold water.
Of course we took plenty of group photos, all bundled up holding the American and Canadian flags.
Eventually we headed back to the beautiful town of Banff which is lined with shops and restaurants. That was a pretty long day and most of us went to sleep early. Golf was set for the next morning and we were all pumped to get back on the course.
Sunday Day 4
Our next destination was to the town of Canmore. Golf was at the Stewart Creek Golf Course about 30 minutes from Banff. This course was designed by the Canadian Golf Architect Gary Browning in 2000. The breathtaking views of Three Sisters, Pigeon, and Ha Ling Mountains, surround the Stewart Creek Golf Course. I didn’t know if I should take pictures or hit the golf ball. I did both, how could you not do it all ?
After golf, we checked into the Blackstone Mountain Lodge in Canmore. What a gem this place is. 2 bedroom suites with a private balcony and mountain view’s on both sides. My roommate and I hung out on the balcony till 10:00 pm waiting for the sunset. Too many clouds to see it, but we loved hanging outside just waiting, just in case.
Monday Day 5
Today we had another full day of site seeing. We learned all about the history of this UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Canadian Rockies. Barbara pre arranged another private tour with Discover Banff Tours. Our driver took us to Lake Louise and we had High Tea at the famous Fairmont Hotel. This is a rather elegant way to spend a few hours sipping tea, sampling mini sandwiches and eating unlimited desserts which was accompanied with champagne to make it even more special.
On the way back to our hotel, we stopped at Moraine Lake. It is located in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, at an elevation of 6,183 feet. It is one of Canada’s most photographed lakes. I’ve never seen water so turquoise. It was breathtaking. All I could say was WOW !
Johnston Canyon was our last stop of the day. It is one of the most popular places to go for easy day hikes. We only had time to walk over the catwalk alongside the Johnston creek but it gave us a good sense of the park.
It’s amazing how much we have explored and learned every day.
We all joined in for dinner in town at the Crazy Weed. Then we needed to get ready for our next day’s golfing.
Tuesday Day 6
After checking out of the Blackstone Lodge we drove to Kananaskis Country Golf Course which was only about 45 minutes away.
There are two 18 hole courses that we played. Both are designed by Robert Trent Jones which are named after the surrounding Limestone Peaks of the Canadian Rockies that soar 10,000 feet above sea level. It is surrounded by dense boreal forests, and glacier fed creeks and ponds.
After picking up some balls I hit into the creek, I can attest to the fact that glacial water is very cold. The Mount Kidd course has plenty of sand traps and the Mount Lorette course is surrounded by a lot of water hazards.
This golf course was closed for 5 years, after massive flooding. If you visit their website, you’ll see incredible video of before, during, and after the flood. A lot of hard work and money brought it back to life. You can also see the ski slopes from the golf course where the 1988 Olympics were held on the Nakiska Ski Hill.
After golf we checked into our last hotel of our incredible vacation, the Crosswater Resort. It is connected to another hotel that they partner with called The Pomeroy Kananskis Mountain Lodge. There are five star restaurants for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Most relaxing and fun was the fire pit in the courtyard where you got to make your own marshmallow and chocolate schmore’s. Just like being a kid again, roasting marshmallow’s on a stick.
Wednesday Day 7
After breakfast we had our final day of golf at the Mt Kidd Course at Kananskis Golf Course.
We kept our eyes open for Bears or Elk but only saw ducks and rabbits today. Oh well, we weren’t around for mating season which apparently is a pretty wild scene here on the golf course.
We were given a special phone number to call incase we spotted bears along the course. Sure makes you want to hit the ball in the fairway andnot in the woods.
Our farewell dinner was at the Cedar restaurant inside the Pomeroy Lodge.
Barbara graciously handed out our well earned prizes and I was happy to be one of the winners getting closest to the pin on a par 3 at the Fairmont Banff Springs golf course.
I’ve already got 3 friends who will join me for the next great golf adventure. They were so enthralled with the photos I texted every day and the stories I told of our daily adventures and how professional Barbara runs The Women’s Golf and Travel Concierge, that they all said ….” sign me up for the next trip.”
I’m so glad I went. It has opened up a whole new world of travel and the opportunity to combine my 3 passions … golf, photography, and interesting places to explore. A bonus was that I made new friends that I’ll play golf with right here in my own backyard.
Written by Abbe Ginnis, Guest