The Whistler, British Columbia area is primarily a winter sports centre. The region hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics and it’s best known for world class skiing. But, when the snow is gone, Whistler is, in my opinion, one of Canada’s greatest golf destinations.

Within a few miles you can play 4 of the country’s premiere courses, and that’s not just me saying that. The PGA of Canada and Score magazine both have Whistler Golf Club (an Arnold Palmer design), the Fairmont Chateau Whistler (Robert Trent Jones), Nicklaus North and Big Sky Golf Club rated in their top 60 public courses in Canada.

Nicklaus North has its attributes, no doubt. Whistler GC is an Arnold Palmer design that rolls gently up and down the middle of the community. Robert Trent Jones designed the Fairmont Chateau Whistler course and it’s the only one in the area you wouldn’t want to walk as it’s built right on the side of a mountain.

Big Sky Golf Club, however, tops them all, both metaphorically and topographically. It’s located in Pemberton, about a 25-minute drive north of Whistler. Artist-turned-course designer Robert Cupp was the architect and he has painted a masterpiece in the valley below Mt. Currie.

Club marketing describes it as “gentle rolling links”. It is certainly surprisingly flat for its location and makes dramatic use of the infinite natural surroundings. They also say it’s “an untamed mountain setting”. It is definitely that. On the third hole during our round on this mild October afternoon, a bald eagle came whipping by, not more than 10 feet overhead, its physical presence preceded by the audible flapping of its wings. We also saw evidence of bears. They were, however, courteous enough to leave their traces in the rough and not to venture in from the woods while we played through their backyard.

Early in the round, we could also hear a distant clicking, like a trolley on a rough track. It was, we were told in the clubhouse, just random rocks tumbling down the sides of the steep, surrounding slopes.

While the spectacle of nature’s beauty and impeccable course conditions blend together the recollection of many holes, there are 2 that remain enduring memories. On the first tee, we experienced a remarkable (for us non-mountain dwellers) meteorological anomaly. A band of clouds hung over the fairway, yet not thick enough to cover the tops of the hills in the distance. So, teeing off, we watched the balls rise through and then above the clouds, to drop into the clear on the other side. A still, 2-dimensional image does not do the experience any justice.

Somewhere, we hope, there are also other pictures of that day that endure. Heading to the back nine, we noticed a wedding being performed on the clubhouse patio. Irreverently (yet quite soberly), we photo-bombed the ceremony by driving our cart through the background while the photographer snapped away. We toasted the happy couple later in the round.

The club’s signature hole, #14, is a beautiful, narrow par 4 with abundant water and bunkers and a spectacular mountain backdrop. But it’s the 17th, a lengthy par 3 that stands out the most. From the tee, it looks like you’re hitting your iron into a forested hillside. The ball appears to hang in the air like a tiny balloon until gravity takes control and brings it back down to earth.

Big Sky was an awesome experience. I describe it as pristine playability. Besides the euphoria of the natural surroundings, I enhanced my enjoyment of the day with a pleasant, 5-over 77. This course is at the top of my list, both in altitude and golfing luxury.

Forget the boots and poles, bring your shoes and clubs when you visit Whistler.

What’s in Scott’s Bag?

Each of the Chasing Par contributors also shares what’s in their bag. We find it’s a great way to give more details about the round and golfer. When possible, we like to link to a product page for each of the clubs for you to find more information.

Club TypeScott’s Club of Choice
Driver:Callaway Epic Flash driver – 65g Mitsubishi stiff shaft
Wood(s):Callaway Rogue 4 wood 
Hybrid:TaylorMade burner rescue (3)
Irons:TaylorMade RSI2 irons 4-gap wedge
Wedges:Ping Glide wedges – 54
Ping Glide wedges – 60
Putter:Odyssey White Ice*
*found in the deep grass – yes I was looking for my ball – about 40 yards off the 6th green at Oklahoma University golf course – must have been quite a toss! Tried to turn it in at the clubhouse but they told me to keep it – been using it ever since