Campbell River G & CC

Breaking The Mold

You may have read once or twice in past reviews I have referred to Jack Nicklaus’ comments a couple of years ago about the future of golf and its growth. Perched next to CBS TV commentators Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo, “The Golden Bear”, was asked by the duo what he thought was the most important decision, direction or trend that golf should take. The answer was in some ways almost too simple coming from the mouth of the legendary Ohioan. He said that new golf courses were too challenging, too difficult and not attractive to those of average or less than average skill. He also softly scolded ex-tour pros who were now “golf course designers”, lending their name, and very little expertise in my opinion, in building courses that suited their well-honed game and not that of the paying masses.

The well lit, popular and stylish Velocity Lounge

I don’t think Jack’s comments were the impetus or motivation for the layout and style of course that owner Kris Mailman hired Graham Cooke for.  But if it was, Jack would give them an A+, a gold star and a big pat on the back for what welcomes you in the northern part of the spectacular Vancouver Island of British Columbia, Canada. 

Myra warms up and stretches on the grass tee box of the driving range

Campbell River Golf and CC established in 2017 is really now in its first full year and is brand new; like squeaky clean brand new. It oozes quality in ever finished portion of the operation. Note the word “finished” as there’s still a number of areas under construction, so don’t be emailing me to complain about the parking lot. Knowing the little that I do about Mr. Mailman,from what my wife Myra and I experienced this past Monday on our maiden visit, I wouldn’t be surprised if the finished parking lot has a valet service and glow in the dark lines painted on it.

A separate practice chipping green with sand bunkers.

Now most of us have been to that new mall, new restaurant or new grocery store. Ten years later the polish has worn off and often it is in the early stages of becoming an eyesore. A very easy prediction is that this entire development will never, ever look untidy or rundown. It’s no secret the ownership has an abundance of capital, all well earned from a successful history of residential and commercial construction as well as an astute business acumen. This coupled with an incredible sense of community is a guarantee of the long-term development of a facility which will always be of the highest of standards and quality.

For a brief few minutes Myra stands alone on the exquisite practice putting green.

Now let’s move on to the experience of the day. The main building that houses the Velocity Lounge and Driving Range also contains a very smart looking and well positioned “micro” pro shop.  In the near future you will see a much larger one built looking out to the first tee as well.   

A gentle start greets you on the Par 4 opening hole.

The Velocity Lounge is an 8 bay “party golf” fun pit. For starters, the décor is very tastefully modern. This state-of-the-art application allows groups of people, perhaps those not well versed in all the skills of golf, the opportunity to give golf a try. Toptracer computer technology follows the flight of the person’s shot; it’s kind of like playing a video game on a larger scale.  Your shot is displayed on 2 flat screen monitors to the eager group seated on comfy sectional sofas who are sipping a cold one and munching on a great choice of yes – “party food”. You get where this is going?

Hole 3 another great straight forward Par 4.

Outside of the indoor bays is the actual driving range itself. The grass was so perfect it almost looked fake, which is an oxymoron really, but this was the flattest, tightest grass on any teeing area I’ve seen at a driving range anywhere on the island. Looking back towards the building, it’s easy to admire the wonderful West Coast architecture which the wood and stained cedar shingles epitomize.  

What made it most enjoyable upon our arrival was the personal tour we received from Head Professional Kyle Stoudt, who I know from his days down the road at Storey Creek G and CC.

Looking downhill at the first of the outstanding Par 5’s the 5th hole.

He also pointed out the indoor teaching academy he and fellow pro William Mounsteven use for teaching lessons. Incredible is the word that came to my mind given the two separate hitting bays and Trackman ball flight technology appearing on the monitors next to the golfer. Next, we saw a chipping and putting practice area that is unparalleled in these parts replicating anything you would see on a pro tour or at a 5-star resort. Why not? That’s the future of the place.

Quality golf courses are surrounded by talented people and leading the troupe is General Manager Amanda Raleigh whom I spoke with  before teeing off. If your resume doesn’t include a warm smile, dynamic personality and excellent customer service, move on. That’s a mainstay at CRGCC and was evident when we met Chris Billings a retail expert who happily relocated from the mainland. The one person we failed to meet probably because he was tending to this artistic canvas was Superintendent Greg Austin who was there from the inception and now gets to nurture Graham Cooke’s masterful conversion of the old Sequoia Springs GC into the newest concept in golf.  

Outstanding in every way the best Par 3 on the course, Hole 6.

The Par 70 maximum 6100-yard course is a unique mixture of 7 yes 7 par 3’s, 6 par 4’s and 5 par 5’s. It’s the first combination of that I’ve ever seen in 50 years of golf (I started very, very young) and goes against the grain of what I personally look for in a course.

I’m a par 72, 36 in 36 out kinda guy. Or well I used to be. Myra benefitted from the shorter holes and I loved the quirkiness of the Par 5, Par 5, Par 3, Par 5 Par 3 finish. Love it, love it, love it. There’re some tame holes, some brutes, some ticklish ones and a couple of devils too.   

The Par 5 5thhole may look unreasonable because of the blind tee shot, but fear not, aim slightly right of the bunker you see in front of you and once to your ball the dramatic view downhill to the green appears. It’s really the first of the many holy cow, OMG moments here at CRGCC. The Par 3 6th is the next one. I call these types of Par 3’s “bucket of chicken” holes. Gimme a bucket of chicken legs, a bucket of balls and what the heck an ice bucket full of O’Douls and I’ll see you in a couple of hours. The water feature behind the green is your “Instagram” moment. Sensational hole.

A unique way to begin the back nine, the Par 3 10th.
The Par 4 11th, picturesque in every way.

My favourite holes won’t be yours and yours won’t be mine, but here’s the ones I replayed in my head that night laying in bed. 5 and 6 obviously, the Par 4 11th, the back to back Par 5’s of 14 and 15 followed by the shot of the day hole Myra’s shot to 10 feet on the Par 3 16th. 14 in my mind is the best hole on the course with 15tha very close second. Both of them could be airlifted and dropped onto any course you enjoy watching on TV every weekend – ok not Augusta. 

An outstanding Par 5 the 14th, my personal favourite long hole.

The greens won’t freak you out with lightning speed, you won’t disappear into huge caverness bunkers and your ball retriever won’t be your most well used “club” in the bag either.

The perfectly angled and straight cut lines on the 14th fairway, simply juicy.
or is this my favourite….the Par 5 15th, magnificent bunkering.

With its tree lined fairways, small rows of boxwoods framing some of the tee boxes and carpet like fairways, welcome to a rare, gem of a course one that will leave you thinking Golf stands for Great Outing Lotsa Fun. 

At 613 yards and into a slight breeze the Par 5 17th could be named “Colossus”.

In 50 years of golf in over 16 countries and 300 courses I have only ever said I played one “10” Kingsbarns Golf Links in Fife, Scotland 6 miles from where I lived in St. Andrews. 

The final hole a short Par 3 a welcome break perhaps from a diet of recent Par 5’s.

I hope the team at CRGCC isn’t offended with a 9. It’s well deserved, now if I didn’t make a 7 on the 613 yard 17th “Colossus” it might be a 9½.

Thank you, Mr. Kris Mailman, for your contribution to recreational excellence.

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Bill Flower

Bill Flower is a passionate golfer and lover of the game who lives on Vancouver Island in Parksville, BC. He has played the game since the age of 10 and has spent many years in the golf business ranging from full time teaching pro to part time professional caddy, golf tour operator and golf writer. He loves to travel with his wife Myra throughout the US and Canada playing and reviewing golf courses of all styles. To date he has reviewed over 125 golf courses.

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