The Scorecard: Vancouver GC is one of those courses that gets overlooked. Part of it is likely because the club isn’t hugely keen on publicity, though it is hosting this year’s CN Canadian Womens Open (which could still mean it isn’t interested in publicity, I suppose). In fact, I had to talk my way into a quick early-morning round at Vancouver GC when I was out at the Canadian Open this past summer. The course was under construction at that time – the club was rebuilding a couple of holes on the front nine with former Tom McBroom associate Ted Locke – but there’s no denying that Vancouver GC is an subtle, understated and warranting of more attention.
• An interesting mix of hills that are more open and wide, and flatter areas confined by pine trees, Vancouver has a lot more elevation than either Marine Drive or Shaughnessy, and uses it, for the most part, quite well.
• The greens are wonderful, with the exception of a couple of places where they’ve clearly been rebuilt (like the 13th, the only green I recall seeing with tiers). For the most part they play with your mind, with the pitch of the land offsetting the pitch of the greens and occasionally making it very difficult to determine the amount of break. On a course that isn’t exceptionally long, the greens seal the deal.
• The finish. Vancouver GC has one of the most outstanding closing holes in Canada. Playing downhill, with the city in the background, the 18th was long and wet and playing into the prevailing wind when I tacked it, making its 424-yards seem a great deal longer. Judicious use of a few well-pruned trees, and a green that is bunkered on the right side, make this a terrific hole worthy of more discussion.
• Aesthetics. Vancouver GC can seem pretty plain in places and the large, modern bunkers could use something to set them
• Too many mid-length fours: By my count there are 11 par fours under 400 yards from the tips, several of which play shorter since they are downhill. I don’t think length is the quest here, but I did find some of the shots repetitive (ie: 3-wood off the tee, wedge into the green).
• No standout one-shot holes. The club is rebuilding its No. 3 hole, the first par three one faces, so perhaps this will change, but when I played in the summer of 2011, there wasn’t a par three that really stood out. In fact the best one we played was likely the 19th hole, set beside the current 18th, that played downhill to an interesting fall away green. I’m sure that’s not what the club wants….
The Final Tally: Vancouver GC never really has that moment that elevates it to the company of the city’s two key designs – Shaughnessy and Capilano – but it is superior to the likes of Marine Drive, which holds a place on Score’s Top 100. The tumbling land at Vancouver GC is both its strength and difficulty, I suspect, with some of the best holes (the long 6th hole, for example) providing the most interesting on the course, while a couple of uphill, mid-length par fours are a bit of a letdown. The bunking is plain and relatively modern looking, and I suppose the course might underwhelm some from an aesthetics perspective. But the greens are devilish and difficult to figure out and overall as a sum of its parts, Vancouver is a fun, engaging golf course.