Keeping the clubs out for autumn

Jim Bailey and Guy Bertrand made a concerted effort to research the various area golf courses this summer.

It’s officially autumn Saturday and while the baseball gear has long been stowed, and the hockey skates sharpened and ready to scratch the ice,  like NHL players and owners across North America, I’m still not quite ready to put the golf clubs away.

Fall is my favourite time of year to hit the links. The weather is sunny and warm, not too hot or too cold, with fall colours adorning the fairways, and courses in prime playing condition.

Editor Guy Bertrand and I made a concerted effort to research the various area courses this summer. We put our minimal golf skills to the test at Birchbank, Redstone, Champion Lakes, and Castlegar and have distilled the information into a brief and completely subjective assessment of how the courses played,  rather than how poorly we played them.

Birchbank is one of my favourite courses for its long season, and its forgiving nature, and its friendly demeanor towards those of us who like to walk.

The scenic track winds its way through the contours of the Columbia River Valley making for some beautiful long holes, lined with majestic weeping willow, towering cottonwood, and thick cedar and fir that attract golf balls like river moths to lamp posts, but at least you usually  find them.

While the greens did not fare well through winter, the grounds crew did an amazing job of bringing them back to life by mid-season and the Men’s Open.

Best features: The trees, roomy clubhouse, and the precipitous 13th hole par three and 14th tee that offer stunning views of the Columbia and Red Mountain.

The Castlegar Golf Club is a pure joy to play.  A lengthy front nine followed by a much more rugged, compact and forested back nine makes for interesting lies and challenging approaches. The fairways are in impeccable shape, the greens fast and, for some of us, often unreadable.

Best feature: The long second hole par-5 with dog leg right, will test your skill immediately. The blind green, sloping fairway, and brand new giant sand trap on the right will thwart those who look to cut corners.

Redstone is four golf courses in one, depending on which tees you play.

It is a different course from the tips to the fore-tees, a difference of almost 2,000 yards from black to red. Even the whites play close to 1,300 yards shorter than the black tees, making certain that Redstone will accommodate all levels of player. The holes are interesting, varied, and challenging with sloped fairways, wicked doglegs, and undulating, lightning fast greens. It is perhaps the most challenging and course management is key to score well at Redstone.

Best Feature: The greens and the views. The eighth hole par 5 with green surrounded by pond and bridge with fairways stretching towards clubhouse is mesmerizing. Also the par-5, 14th hole with incredible views from the tips’ launching pad into the valley and then back up to elevated tee box surrounded by bunker, a nice and sometimes painful experience if you’re ball flies errant, also wildlife including the ball-stealing coyote Pro V-1.

Champion Lakes is in the best shape I’ve ever seen it. The fairways and rough are lush and with the recent trimming of trees from number 4 tee boxes, and number six green and number seven tees has let the sunshine in, and allowed the course to flourish. The nine- hole course is not only a great deal, but provides a wonderful setting for socials and dining.

Best feature: Some may not agree but the short par-4 third hole with its wicked dogleg right and elevated green, offers one of the more challenging risk-reward holes on any of the courses.

So channel that inner swing and get out and play, our local golf courses have yet to realize just how good they are, all are affordable and spectacular in their own unique way.