Fairmont Chateau Whistler: More Than a Ski Resort

Whistler and Blackcomb mountains are famous for world-class skiing, but during the spring and summer months golfers also flock north from Vancouver, British Columbia, for some of the best mountain golf in Canada.

The resort course at Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club in climbs 400 feet from the clubhouse up the slopes of spectacular Blackcomb Peak and features tight fairways, doglegs, severe drops and rises from tee to green, plus uphill, downhill and side-hill lies.

Don’t be fooled by the 6,635 yards shown on the scorecard; look instead at the 145 slope from the back tees, because this scenic beauty can play like a beast.

However, this is a resort course, playing toa par of 72, so playing from the one of five tee boxes that most suits your game can bring an enjoyable and even exhilarating golf experience–but selecting the right club is a must.

The valley views are incredible on this course that winds through granite rock outcroppings and tall Douglas fir trees, some that are 1,300 years old, with a river and fast-running streams dissecting many holes.

Carts are required because of the steepness of the course, and don’t be surprised to see a bear looking for a handout.

The course opened for the season 10 days ago and will remain open through Oct. 13, weather permitting.

It does not take as long to reach Whistler these days because of a construction project that widened the scenic Sea-to-Sky Highway to handle traffic for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in the Vancouver area.

Workers blasted enough granite out of the mountains to fill 60,000-seat B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver, where the Opening and Closing Ceremonies were held, and all of the rock was recycled into fortifying the old two-lane Highway 99.

Whistler was the site of the Alpine skiing events, and Canadians were disappointed their country did not claim a single medal at the venue, but they still celebrate the gold that Nancy Greene of British Columbia claimed in the giant slalom at Grenoble, France, in 1968.

Greene was instrumental in the development of Whistler, and the locals did not forget, naming a street located on the way from Chateau Whistler Golf Club to Nicklaus North Golf Club as Nancy Greene Drive.

The first ski run opened at Whistler in 1965, and golf did not arrive until Whistler Golf Club was created in 1982. However, the most distinctive of the four local courses opened in 1993, Chateau Whistler Golf Club, designed by Robert Trent Jones II.

After a fairly straightforward start on the 505-yard first hole, the toughest stretch of the Chateau Whistler course tests the golfer on the second through sixth holes — the first three dramatically uphill.

No. 2 is a deceiving 326-yard par 4, with a delicate second shot from a severe uphill lie to a dramatically sloping green guarded by a rushing stream and a large bunker. The third hole plays much longer than its 399 yards from the back and requires a long tee shot in order to clear the stream and a natural hazard with the approach.

The third consecutive par 4, No. 4, is even longer at 411 yards and might be the most difficult driving hole on the course. Make sure to hit enough club on the approach because of the false front to the green.

Use at least half a club less on the 190-yard fifth hole because of the drop, but a well-struck shot will leave a chance to make birdie.

The last of this challenging fivesome is a 457-yard par 4, rated No. 1 on the card, that plays downhill from the tee and then back up to the green. Try to land your approach shot on the front of the green, which slopes toward the back.

The signature hole is No. 8, a 212-yard par 3 that plays downhill to a green with a granite wall on the right and a large lake on the left. Playing safe and hitting your tee shot off the wall sometimes will kick the ball onto the green for a birdie opportunity.

The best of the back nine is saved for the finish.

While the sound of all of the rushing water almost makes you feel if you are playing in the shower, the roar on the par-4, 444-yard 17th is the loudest, perhaps because water cuts across the fairway twice. Two precise shots are needed to reach the tricky green, where a large swale dominates the right side.

The 543-yard finishing hole plays downhill off the tee toward one last lake 300 yards away, with trees on the right side of the fairway but open area to the left. Try to stay below the hole on the approach because the green is banked from back to front.

Bring your kids when playing at Chateau Whistler because players under 18 golf free when accompanied by a paying adult.

And there is more outstanding golf in this area of British Columbia.

Whistler Golf Club, located barely inside the town limits, was the first course in the area and the initial Arnold Palmer-designed layout in Canada. It opened in 1982 and underwent a $1.8 million renovation in 2000.

Nicklaus North Golf Course, less than a five-minute drive from Fairmont Chateau Whistler, was the first course in the world to have the name of the greatest golfer in history on it. The course brought thousands of golfers to the Whistler area when it hosted the televised Telus Canadian Skins Game in 1997, and the event returned in 2005.

Big Sky Golf and Country Club, located about 25 minutes north of Whistler, is a spectacular course designed by Robert Cupp and John Fought at the foot of Mount Currie in the Pemberton Valley. It opened in 1994 in a valley where potatoes once grew, and it features seven lakes plus several streams that bisect the course.

If you have a chance on the way up from Vancouver, stop and play Mayfair Lakes Golf and Country Club below the towering Coast Mountains in Richmond, or picturesque Furry Creek Golf and Country Club, about 30 minutes south of Whistler on the Sea-to-Ski Highway.

All of them are not far from Fairmont Chateau Whistler, part of the worldwide chain that has its flagship in San Francisco, which is one of several spectacular golf properties owned by the corporation in Canada.

Also included are Jasper Park Lodge Golf Club and Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course in Alberta, Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello Golf Club and Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu Golf Club in Quebec, and Algonquin Golf Course and Academy in St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick.

Golf can be arranged by the concierge at outstanding local courses for guests of the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth in Montreal; the Fairmont Tremblant in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec; the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City; the Fairmont Palliser in Calgary; the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald in Edmonton; and other Fairmont properties that do not have their own courses.

Conde Nast Traveler magazine has selected the Fairmont Chateau Whistler as the No. 1 ski resort and No. 1 golf resort in Canada. Whistler receives 46 feet of snow a year, and the Wizard chairlift right outside the back door of the resort whisks skiers up the slopes of Blackcomb Peak to 8,100 acres of skiing terrain.

After returning from the slopes and/or the links, have yourself pampered in the Vida Spa. Then enjoy exceptional cuisine in the Wildflower Restaurant, the Grill Room or the Portobello Market and Fresh Bakery, and have a drink in the Mallard Lounge. For even more exceptional service, stay on Fairmont’s exclusive Gold Level.

Other winter activities include cross-country skiing, horse-drawn sleigh rides, snow-shoeing, dog-sledding, ice skating, four-wheel driving, indoor rock climbing and snowmobile riding.

During the spring and summer, guests also enjoy kayaking, wakeboarding, windsurfing, jet boating, whitewater rafting, swimming, fishing, rollerblading, mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing and canoeing.

Other top hotels in Whistler include the Four Seasons Resort Whistler, the Westin Resort and Spa Whistler, the Whistler Alpine Chalet, the Delta Whistler Village Suites, the Crystal Lodge & Suites, the Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside and the Chalet Luise Bed & Breakfast Inn.

ON THE WEB: www.fairmont.com/whistler; www.fairmontgolf.com/whistler.


–Story courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre

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