Canada's 10 best golf destinations

Exploring the greens of the Great White North

Too few Americans head north of the border for golf. Canada's vast wilderness offers some of the most pristine natural golf courses in the world. Some, particularly in the National Parks, are full of wildlife.

The country has a great golf culture with a high participatory rate. You should join the fairways with them, even if just for a week. Let's dissect the ins and outs of Canada's 10 best golf destinations:

Canadian Rockies, Alberta

Canada has a long history of stunning par 3s, dating back to the Devil's Cauldron at Banff Springs in the Canadian Rockies.

Top golf courses: Banff Springs Golf Club, Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course, Stewart Creek Golf & Country Club, Silvertip Golf Resort, Kananaskis Country Golf Courses
Characteristics: The sheer majesty of the mountains will inspire. The two iconic Fairmont resort hotels, the massive castle-like Banff Springs and the rustic Jasper Park Lodge, are worth visiting even for non-golfers. Their classic Stanley Thompson designs are two of the top 5 courses in all of Canada. I saw multiple bear and elk while playing Jasper Park.
Drawback: It's a long, albeit beautiful, drive of four hours on the Icefields Parkway between the two Fairmonts.

Whistler, British Columbia

View from no. 17 at Nicklaus North Golf Course

Top golf courses: Whistler Golf Club, Big Sky Golf and Country Club, Nicklaus North Golf Club, Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club.
Characteristics: This mountain getaway several hours north of Vancouver hosted the skiing portion of the 2010 Winter Olympics. Stirring golf accompanies the slopes. At Robert Trent Jones Jr.'s Fairmont Chateau, drives off of elevated tees seem to float forever against the backdrop of pines. Nicklaus North feels like a classic country club. Arnold Palmer's Whistler Golf Club sits right in the walkable village, home to dozens of bars and restaurants. On the drive up from Vancouver on the Sea-to-Sky Highway, stop at Furry Creek Golf Club, a dynamic but quirky layout.
Drawback: Big Sky, a Robert Cupp design in the shadow of Mount Currie, is a bit more isolated, 45 minutes away in Pemberton.

Vancouver/Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The Mountain golf course at Bear Mountain is one of the must-plays of Vancouver Island.

Top golf courses: The Valley Course and Mountain Course at Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort and Spa, Olympic View Golf Club, Highland Pacific.
Characteristics: Staying in Victoria is a great way to play golf and experience this delightful city. Seaplanes and boat traffic keep the harbor buzzing with activity. Vancouver's a great city, too, although most of its best public courses reside on its outskirts (notably Westwood Plateau Golf & Country Club and the 36-hole Northview Golf & Country Club).
Drawback: Getting to the northern golf outposts of the island, Storey Creek and Crown Isle, requires some effort.

Prince Edward Island

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Round Trip Feature: Prince Edward Island

Top golf courses: The Links at Crowbush Cove, Mill River Golf Course, Dundarave Golf Club, Brudenell River Golf Course.
Characteristics: More than 30 courses call "The Gentle Island" home. The beaches and a laid-back island lifestyle draw all sorts of tourists. Rodd Hotels and Resorts owns and operates the four courses above, spread across three nice properties. Crowbush Cove, with its coastal views, reigns as the best. Look into the Glasgow Hills Resort and Golf Club and Andersons Creek Golf Club as well.
Drawback: The only minor complaint would be a lack of wow factor outside of Crowbush Cove.

Muskoka, Ontario

Bigwin Island Golf Club deep in Ontario's Cottage Country finishes in spectacular fashion with a par 5 along the lake.

Top golf courses: Bigwin Island Golf & Country Club, Highlands Course at Deerhurst Resort, Taboo Golf Club, Muskoka Bay Club, Rocky Crest Golf Club.
Characteristics: The rocky Canadian Shield adds a dramatic element to the golf courses in "cottage country" two hours north of Toronto. It all started with the Highlands, built in 1990. As private clubs, Bigwin Island, an island course that requires a five-minute boat ride to reach, and Muskoka Bay do have some restrictions on public play.
Drawback: Bugs can be troublesome at certain times of the year.

Toronto, Ontario

Top golf courses: Copper Creek Golf Club, Glen Abbey Golf Club, Angus Glen Golf Club, Wooden Sticks Golf Club, Osprey Valley Golf Club.
Characteristics: Several dozen top daily-fee and semi-private golf clubs surround Canada's largest and most populous city. Most of them sit too far out of bounds in the suburbs, however, to catch a Blue Jays game after a round (Copper Creek 35 minutes from downtown is an exception). The notoriety of ClubLink's Glen Abbey in Oakville, Jack Nicklaus' first solo design in the 1970s, stems from hosting so many Canadian Opens (30). North of Toronto lie Wooden Sticks, featuring 12 replica holes in Uxbridge, and Osprey Valley's three Doug Carrick designs (Heathlands Links, Hoot and Toot) in Alton.

Drawback: The green fees at peak times can feel a bit inflated at certain places.

British Columbia's Interior

The new Ridge Course at Predator Ridge Golf Resort.

Top golf courses: Tobiano, The Ridge Course and Predator Course at Predator Ridge Resort, Salmon Arm Golf Club, Greywolf Golf Course.
Characteristics: Rugged Canadian wilderness equals great golf. Kamloops, located at the confluence of two branches of the Thompson River near Kamloops Lake, boasts a half-dozen or so courses, including the acclaimed Tobiano. The Okanagan Valley is close enough, or far enough away (about two hours), to be combined with Kamloops or be an entirely separate trip. More than 35 courses populate this wine region that skirts Okanagan Lake.
Drawback: Since it's five hours away from the Okanagan, the spectacular Greywolf in Panorama might be better off fitting into a trip to the Canadian Rockies (it's 2 and a half hours southwest of Banff Springs in Alberta).

Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

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A Trio of spectacular courses on Canada's Cape Breton Island

Top golf courses: Cabot Cliffs, Cabot Links, Highlands Links, Bell Bay Golf Club
Characteristics: Diehard golfers have long journeyed to remote Ingonish Beach to reach Highlands Links, a Thompson masterpiece more than a five-hour trek from the Halifax International Airport. A restoration remains ongoing to return Highlands Links to its glory days. In 2012, the opening of Cabot Links in Inverness about 2 and a half hours to the south on the opposite shore of the island suddenly made this tiny island a full-fledged destination. Five holes of linksy Cabot Links hug the beach and all the rest look out upon the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Cabot Cliffs, just the sixth course on the island, opened for preview play on Canada Day, 2015.
Drawback: All the driving between the airport and the courses.

Mont Tremblant, Quebec

A view of a green at Mont Tremblant Resort.

Top golf courses: Le Maitre, Le Geant, Le Diable, La Bete.
Characteristics: The mountains that provide such great ski runs sometimes can be too severe for golf holes. La Bete and Le Geant have a couple of goofy holes cut through the rocky terrain, but the scenery is so good, it's easy to forgive such design flaws. Le Maitre, a private ClubLink facility, offers stay-and-plays through several local hotels such as the Fairmont Tremblant.
Drawback: Golfers might get paired with somebody who doesn't speak English in this French-leaning province.

Niagara Falls, Ontario

Designed by Stanley Thompson, Whirlpool Golf Course sits beside the Niagara Falls parkway and opened in 1951.

Top golf courses: Whirlpool Golf Course, the Battlefield Course and Ussher's Creek Course at Legends on the Niagara, Grand Niagara Golf Club
Characteristics: Niagara Falls still attracts more honeymooners than golfers, but there are enough quality courses to make a golf widow of any spouse. Legendary Canadian architect Stanley Thompson designed his final course here, Whirlpool Golf Course, on a gorgeous piece of land beside the Niagara River banks. It is home to 18 of the 63 holes run by Niagara Parks, which operates the impressive 45-hole Legends on the Niagara complex, where modern-day Canadian architects Doug Carrick and Thomas McBroom have layouts. Endless activities entertain away from the course -- the hokey museums, arcades and attractions along the strip; Maid of the Mist tours of the falls; casinos; 60 wineries within 15 miles and more.

Drawback: Niagara attracts tourists from around the world. Lodging, especially with falls views, can be pricey, and so can the main tourist area restaurants and bars.

Updated 6/4/19, 02:19 PM: UPdates included new courses opened and Kananaskis reopening
Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 1,000 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfadvisor and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
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This post is sadly out of date. Accommodations at the Cabot courses are top notch and they have made it a destination of choice and quality. Most of these posts could be refreshed as they diy, as currently posted, a disservice to the places mentioned

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I never wrote that the Cabot accommodations were poor, merely noted that the island lacked a wealth of quality places to stay for golfers.

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I think you missed the best public course in the Toronto area- Eagle's Nest. Tremendous Doug Carrick design, can't think of any other course to compare it to.

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Thank you for the info on the great courses of Canada.We are extremely proud of our courses.Your section on drawbacks is certainly not necessary.They are meaningless.Playing with French speaking people is part of travelling to a different country and culture.This is why in our travels to play golf in Portugal and New Zealand we have never played with any Americans.

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Just a footnote that both Cabot courses are better than there cousin courses at Bandon. Just to quantify I have been to both locations 2 times.

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I have played pacific dune and bandon dunes due to a bucket list commitment that predates the cabot properties. I hope you are right as I will golf Cabot next year on a year long golf odyssey with my playing partner (i.e. my wife). It will be epic and cover at least 30 US states and all 10 provinces.

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They are definitely comparable 1-2 punches. I think what separates Cabot from Bandon is the little gem up the Cabot Trail in Ingonish.

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Please update this list as both courses at Kananaskis were reopened in 2018 . I played one last May and it was in fabulous shape. Total cost of renovations was 18 million.

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Thanks Jim. Updated. One of our writers is headed there this summer.

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This 2014 article needs some Kananaskis in the Alberta Rockies, it can be reported that all 36 holes have reopened in 2018, and together with the other courses in the region, plus proximity to Calgary with its good airport connections, make this part of Alberta one of the highlight areas for golf.

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Toronto-Glen Abbey Golf Course, hosting the Canadain Open in 2000 and 2009....I don't think so, try 28 opens!!!. It is Canada's most famous golf course and, for nearly 40 years,has been home to Golf Canada and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. It has hosted 28 Canadian Open Championships, more than any other course, with the first having been in 1977. Many historic sports achievements have occurred on thiscourse, including a shot by PGA star Tiger Woods regarded as the mostspectacular both of Woods' career and in recent PGA Tour history

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it would be better if green fee players could get on it.

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Thank you for the feedback. The article has been updated. 

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Canada's 10 best golf destinations