A recent day trip to Victoria ,BC to get our SUV serviced 2 hours south of our home in Parksville turned into over nighting in beautiful Brentwood Bay and 18 holes of golf. With more than a dozen great choices of courses in Victoria, we opted to avoid the ever increasing congestion and hustle and bustle of our province’s capital and play closer to home.
At the behest of numerous golf buddies, we opted to stop on the way home at the beautiful residential bedroom community of Cobble Hill and play Arbutus Ridge GC. I had heard numerous times what a well-kept and enjoyable course it was and how friendly and accommodating the entire staff are.
The positive impact made by the staff occurred before we even stepped foot on the course. Head Pro, Andrew (Andy) Hajer, responded to my email within 24 hours. He couldn’t have been more obliging on the phone in inviting Myra and me to come and play and review the course. We were graciously offered a prime time tee time, a power cart and range balls. In person he was even more buoyant.
A brief but friendly check in with Jaime and Arthur in the tastefully decorated and well stocked pro shop was followed by a short warm up on the range. It’s often the smallest things that make the biggest impact and notably on the range it was the very effective rubber tees mounted into the mats. We’ve all used driving ranges where the rubber tees especially for hitting the driver are never just the correct height. Not only can you place your own wooden tee into the fixed ones at Arbutus Ridge, but when you make impact with the ball the rubber tee collapses forward eliminating the time consuming chore of trying to remove broken pieces of wooden tees that are often wedged into the rubber tee.
The skies were a little daunting, but a few sprinkles didn’t matter. The carts have brand new protective club covers that could be dropped down in mere seconds. We stopped adjacent to the first tee to get the speed of the greens on the practice putting green. I love a putting green that close to the first tee, you can putt right up until it’s your turn and away you go. Ken the starter explained the optimum opening shot and on cue Myra and I both nailed drives down the fairway and the much anticipated day at Arbutus Ridge was underway. Very early into the round it was obvious that this course was going to be very rewarding to play. The landing areas were generous, the turf grass healthy and forgiving and the huge greens were in beautiful condition with a few gargantuan in size. There were short dogleg Par 4’s where driver was not the suggested club off the tee and Par 5’s like the 7th where you better bomb it off the tees if you are back where I was on the blue tees. We cruised along witnessing many greenskeepers hard at work and stopped to share a moment with Golf Course Superintendent Aaron Mansbridge and his assistant Daniel.
His team can be proud of the works its doing and of the overall condition of the entire course – very good verging on excellent would be apt.
There were few weaknesses, if any, and maybe the only negative was a light rain which persisted from the 13th to the 16th limiting the light for quality photographs. If the ones I post don’t express the course adequately turn to www.arbutusridge.com.
The best moments from a purists playability standpoint came when we crossed the road heading back towards the clubhouse to play the Par 3 17th and then the finishing hole, the Par 4 18th.
The best was definitely saved for last. The downhill 17th requires a very accurate tee shot over water to basically an island green, mind you one big island. I hit my shot to the back of the green and had about a 70 foot breaking downhiller to a front pin position. Walking off with a par was actually quite outstanding. Myra’s bogey was no less impressive.
The one hole that even the top players that you see on TV would really rave about is the final hole. From the back tees its visually and classically sound. It rises gradually uphill all the way to an enormous undulating green and depending on the position of the flag you might putt all day and not hole out. I two putted from 50 feet relying on good putting instincts and very little greed.
The climb up from the 18th green to the clubhouse provided an opportunity to look back not over the entire landscape of the course, but of this diamond in the crown of this wonderfully rewarding course. From lovely dedicated garden areas with free relief to expansive fairways, impeccable massive greens and 4 dedicated tee boxes, this short but challenging course is a true winner.
Rather than head home and discuss the course, we opted to stay for dinner at The Satellite Bar and Grill where we were greeted warmly by new Food and Beverage Manager Mits Nakagawa. The fish and chips did not disappoint and equally so Myra’s simple but scrumptious chicken breast burger. How do I know this; there’s usually that moment whereby she says “I’m full, can you finish this hon?” Head pro Andy Hajer was also there at the end of the round, he wished us well and actually thanked us for coming to review the course. This Bill Robinson designed treat built back in the late 1980’s with its very playable and accommodating length of 6,150 yards from the back tees is a guaranteed day of great golfing.