Review: Priddis Greens G&CC (Priddis, Alberta)
Architect: Bill Newis, Gary Browning
Sometimes even a really solid golf course goes largely unrecognized. Most times it is because (like Twin Rivers in Newfoundland, for instance) its location is remote, or that it gets little buzz (take Kawartha in Peterborough in that case). I’d put Priddis Greens in the second category — a solid course that gets little love for some unknown reason.
Frankly, I didn’t expect much. No one suggested I go see Priddis. None of my architecture geek buddies put it forth as something I was missing. I went, frankly, because I was in the area in August and it was one of a slight group of courses I hadn’t seen that resided on ScoreGolf’s Top 100 Courses in Canada list.
My other option was to return and see the restoration of Calgary G&CC, but I decided on Priddis. I’m glad I did.
The architect behind parts of Priddis was Bill Newis, who was responsible for many of the courses that were built in the 1960s through 1980s in and around Calgary (including the interior of BC). I have little sense for Newis, and truthfully some of Priddis’ 36 holes includes work by local designer Gary Browning, who used an existing routing by Newis and retouched some of the course’s features. Knowing little about Priddis, and expecting less, I set out with super James Beebe, head pro Ron Laugher and GM Ron Hood for a round in misty conditions.
I can’t say I was overwhelmed at the start. Priddis’ Hawk 18 starts out quietly, with a mid-length downhill par-4 followed by a short one-shot hole and a meatier par-4. The holes are set on gently rolling land — nothing spectacular, just solid golf. It isn’t until the sixth hole, a 397-yard par-4 that falls steadily downhill and doglegs to the right, that one gets a sense of the possibilities of the land at Priddis. This theme is repeated on the terrific par-5 8th, with bunkers bounding the right side of the landing area and a green perched above the fairway, and the terrific 9th, a 211-yard downhill beast with a tricky green that punishes those who miss in the wrong area of the putting surface.
The back nine amps things up a touch with two meaty par-4s — the 10th, at 476-yards and the 11th, which is likely the strongest hole on the course. Golf courses often sport “half” holes — holes where par is likely a half shot higher than the listed score on the card. Such is the case with the 11th, a hole with carry bunkers straight off the tee that require a big drive. Like the best risk/reward holes, there are options here — golfers can play to the right for a safer tee shot and then be forced to play a long iron uphill to the plateau green. Those taking the bolder route will have a short iron — still not an easy shot, but making birdie a possibility.
The elevation is once again used to great impact on the 14th hole, a classic short par-4 that plays up the slope to a fairway that slopes right and a green that is protected by a forward-facing bunker. By playing it safe down the right side, golfers face an uphill, blind approach, while those taking the bold line have a much easier pitch. I don’t know who is responsible for the hole — Newis or Browning — but it is smart strategic golf.
That’s not to say everything works quite so well. Flat areas of the property are often used to create underwhelming holes, like the classic transitional par-3 15th, with its oddly-shaped green reminiscent of something constructed by early Nicklaus or Bob Cupp. In fact, it is the inconsistencies in greens that are the most off-putting thing about Priddis. Take, for instance, the 18th green, the conclusion on a 547-yard par-5. This conclusion is the last of a three-hole mix of relatively unremarkable holes (the course opens and concludes this way), but the 18th also offers a large, segmented green unlike anything else on the course. Very strange.
Nonetheless, Priddis was a real eye-opener. Where the land is great — which is a majority of the course — it is superb. And even the weaker holes are solid — they just don’t stand up to the best the course has to offer.
Set on a terrific property, with fine practice facilities, another 18-hole course and walkable (and with 800 members!), Priddis Greens ranks up there with the most overlooked courses in Canada. Hard to say why more people don’t talk about this one — but the members seem just fine with it.