Over the long Alberta winter, we at On The Links thought it would be great to highlight some of the awesome courses and holes that make golf in Central Alberta so special. What we came up with is our eighteen favourite holes which we are calling “Central Alberta’s Ultimate 18”
Above: Hole #4 at Wolf Creek Golf Resort (Old Course), named Hawks Alley this tee shot is beautiful and challenging
There is an abundance of fabulous golf courses scattered throughout Central Alberta. Within an hour of Red Deer you can find immaculate fairways and greens, rolling prairie terrain, scenic river views and Scottish style links that are sure to test your game no matter your skill level.
Over the long Alberta winter we at On The Links thought it would be great to highlight some of the awesome courses and holes that make golf in Central Alberta so special. What we came up with is our eighteen favourite holes which we are calling “Central Alberta’s Ultimate 18”
But how did we come up with our list? We gathered a small group of individuals with a variety of golf backgrounds and skill levels and then let the debate begin. What we found out is that there are a ton of beautiful, challenging and fun golf holes throughout Central Alberta and we are lucky enough to call this area home. Here are a couple of the ground rules for the Ultimate 18:
• Each 18 hole course is eligible for only 2 holes
• Criteria included; beauty, challenge, distinctiveness, and play-ability
What we came up with is an equally beautiful and challenging 18 holes of golf which we feel is a great representation of what golf in Central Alberta is all about. In total our 18 hole course came to 7339 yards and a par 73.
Now of course we expect a difference of opinion on what makes a hole great but that is part of the fun of compiling these lists. Just know that our committee took this responsibility seriously and each selection was filled with thoughtfulness, debate and emotion. Over the summer we will highlight these holes (Issue 1/4 holes, Issue 2/5 holes, Issue 3/5 holes and finally Issue 4/4 holes) throughout our four issues. So without any further adu, here is the first 4 holes of the On The Links Central Alberta’s Ultimate 18!
Lakewood Golf Resort, Hole #3, 401 yards, Par-4
Located just a few minutes east of Sylvan Lake nestled among towering mature trees you will find one of Central Alberta’s hidden gem golf courses, Lakewood Golf Resort. Don’t sleep on this 9 hole track (with approval to add an additional 9 holes which should be ready in 2023), there are some beautiful and challenging holes to be found. Our panel particularly enjoys the par-4 third, and it is the first hole of our Central Alberta Ultimate 18.
This hole plays anywhere from 323 to 401 yards and takes the golfer back towards the lovely A-Frame clubhouse. From the tee it is a fairly straight forward shot, the approach shot is where things get interesting. On the approach try not to be to distracted by the patrons eating lunch out on the patio of the clubhouse or the large pond to the right that is just waiting to gobble up any wayward approach. You can make a birdie or double on this hole and that’s what makes the third at Lakewood a great opening hole for our Ultimate 18.
Wolf Creek Golf Resort (Old Course), Hole #4, 385 yards, Par-4
Wolf Creek Golf Resort is home to two great Rod Whitman designed courses that bring the feel of Scottish golf right to the heart of central Alberta. One of the most photographed holes on the Old Course is also one of its most demanding. Of course we are talking about the fourth hole, aptly named Hawks Alley.
Accuracy is at a premium on this beautiful yet challenging hole. Off the tee choose your straightest club in the bag and guide it down the elevated tee box to the landing area which is guarded by the Wolf Creek on the right and trees on the left. Once you get down to your tee-shot (hopefully in the fairway) you will notice that you actually had more room on the left of the hole to place your tee-shot. Your next shot is arguably harder than the first, as the small undulating green is nestled right up against water left and long...Short here is ok.
The forth is beautiful as it is tough, and proves that a par 4 doesn't have to be 470 yards to make it challenging. If you walk off the green with a par you should happily grab your ball and trot off to the next tee.
Spirit Creek Golf & Country Club, Hole #2, 171 yards, Par-3
Choosing just four par-3 holes for our Central Alberta’s Ultimate 18 was a challenge to say the least. There are just so many great and beautiful par-3’s in the area. Our first par-3 comes from Spirit Creek Golf & Country Club located just outside of Red Deer.
Spirit Creek has a couple of stunning par-3 holes that feature large changes in elevation while also being surrounded by large trees. What sets the second hole apart and makes for our first par-3 entry on our Ultimate 18 list, is the stunning view of the Blindman River Valley.
From the highly elevated tee you can see for literally for miles and miles. A large pond also frames the back of the green and awaits any long tee shots. In 2019 the new owners started to (and continue) make a number of improvements to the course and on the second hole they took out the large tree that used to guard the left side of the green along with some other trees along the sides to open up the hole. It now plays more how the designer intended and this makes the hole much more playable and enjoyable. If you haven't been out to Spirit Creek in awhile we suggest you make the trip.
River Bend Golf Course, Hole #9, 533 yards, Par-5
Located on Red Deer’s east side wrapped around the Red Deer River you will find one of the few city owned courses in Central Alberta, River Bend Golf Course. River Bend sits on over 420 acres of forested parkland and is an ideal setting for a golf course. Water is a key design feature on the front nine with 7 of the 9 holes boasting a water hazard. You finish your front nine with what one of our panelist described as a “slicers nightmare,” (for a right handed player) the 533 yard par-5, ninth hole.
Water lines the right side of the hole from the landing area off the tee-shot all the way to the green. The left side of the hole is guarded by well placed bunkers and trees. This is a fun par-5 that can play different everyday depending on the wind, it could be very get-able one day and the next day, par could be a good score!
Innisfail Golf Club, Hole #6 (Hazelwood), 362 yards, Par-4
Hole #5 in our Central Alberta Ultimate 18 takes us to the challenging and scenic Innisfail Golf Club. Home to three distinct 9-hole courses (Aspen, Hazelwood & Spruce), Innisfail is known for their tight mostly tree-lined fairways, quick, undulating greens and superb conditions. There are many beautiful and challenging holes at Innisfail but one of our favourites is the signature par-4, sixth.
On the sixth you are faced with an elevated tee shot down to a landing area surrounded by Hazelwood lake on the left and large mature trees to the right. A tee shot of 240 yards will leave you with a short iron to what is a gorgeous approach to the almost island green. The sixth is a fun, beautiful and challenging hole where you can just as easily walk-off the green with a birdie or a double-bogey. (Photo Credit: Innisfail Golf Club)
Whispering Pines Golf Course, Hole #18, 240 yards, Par-3
Did you know you can find a island green par-3 right here in central Alberta? Well you can, and you will find it along with 17 other enjoyable holes out at Whispering Pines Golf Course.
Whispering Pines is a fully gated residential resort community which has something for everybody, including a 6000 yard par-72 golf course, a 55-slip marina on a natural Alberta recreational lake, a 10,000 sq.ft. clubhouse & family restaurant, a sports lounge, a patio restaurant, an indoor hot tub & pool, and countless outdoor amenities for every age group.
The signature hole is the par-3, 18th and it is our 6th hole of our Central Alberta 18. This challenging finishing hole boasts a large island green and plays anywhere from 155 to 240 yards. (Photo Credit: Whispering Pines Golf Course)
Ponoka Golf Club, Hole #6, 408 yards, Par-4
Ponoka Golf Club is located about thirty minutes north of Red Deer in the scenic Battle River Valley. This well established and regarded course features undulating greens, and a mix of tree-line and links-style holes.
The hardest handicap hole on the course is the seventh hole on our Central Alberta’s Ultimate 18. Playing uphill, the 6th hole at Ponoka plays much longer than the yardage would indicate. A long accurate tee shot in the fairway is required off the tee - Be aware of the large bunker guarding the right side of the fairway. Your approach shot plays uphill (at least one club) to a heavily bunkered green. If you are lucky enough to find the green, a two put isn’t guaranteed, on this quick, slopping green.
Balmoral Golf Course, Hole #14, 430 yards, Par-4
Located on Red Deer’s blossoming east side you will find Balmoral Golf Course. This parkland styled layout has been a staple in the city since 1963, and is a great course for all types of golfers.
One of Balmoral’s strongest holes is the 430 yard fourteenth. To score well on this hole your drive must find the fairway, a miss to the left or right, will make it very difficult to hit the green with your second. If you are lucky enough to find the fairway you must then work your ball through a narrow alley to the well guarded green. Take your par on this hole and move on.
Alberta Springs Golf Resort, Hole #15, 539 yards, Par-5
To finish off the front nine of the Central Alberta Ultimate 18 we head only minutes west of Red Deer, to Alberta Springs Golf Resort and the 539 yard par-5 fifteenth.
Like the course name indicates, there are a lot of water hazards on this 6800 yard course. In fact water comes into play on eight of the nine holes on the back nine. The par-5 fifteenth is one such hole where water comes into play as a water hazard runs all the way down the left side from the tee to the green. The landing area off the tee is actually quite narrow for a par-5, so accuracy off the tee is a must. A tee-shot down the left side next to the hazard will be rewarded with a chance to hit the green in two on this slight dog-leg left hole. A tee-shot down the right side is much safer, but will allow only the longest hitters to get home in two.
A large undulating green awaits your approach and can make one or two putting a challenge. You should be able to make birdie or par here but one wayward shot and you will be walking off this hole with a much larger score.
Central Alberta Ultimate 18 Front Nine