Story by Miguel Strother
Vacay.ca Sports Editor, Western Canada
NORTH VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Although there are plenty of golf destinations in Vancouver, it’s still far from a destination golf city. Sure, you can’t really put a dent in a long drive without hitting a golf course somewhere in or around the largest city in British Columbia. As for golf resorts, however, that is a very different story.
As I thought about playing in the city on successive June weekends, I was hard-pressed to find courses I could actually stay at. In fact, after a little research I found exactly none. Enter the clever hotelier.
There are desirable destination golf resorts in practically any direction you travel from Vancouver: Whistler (Nicklaus North, Whistler Golf Club) and Pemberton (Big Sky Golf and Country Club) to the north; Vancouver Island (Big Bear, Crown Isle) to the west; and the Okanagan (Predator Ridge) and Kootenay’s (Greywolf at Panorama Resort) to the east. But in Vancouver proper, the gorgeous green city on the sea, there are great courses (UBC Golf and Country Club, Langara Golf Course) but no real golf resorts to speak of. What the city of Vancouver does have are some excellent hotels, a few of them very well known, right in the heart of the city, pricey, and in many instances, well, well worth it. But the beauty of British Columbia is in just how many spectacular places there are to explore even within minutes of Vancouver’s lauded city centre.
Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier sits on the edge of Vancouver’s North Shore, against the eye-widening west coast mountain scape, including the famed lions, and looking directly at the city’s silhouette. On the right wind, with a reasonable lie, and a good bounce off a barge, I don’t doubt Tiger Woods hits downtown Vancouver in two from here. One if this was a McDonald’s commercial. The hotel was built just in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics and joined the Lonsdale Market and the wonderfully well-kept boutiques and eateries of Esplanade and Lonsdale streets, which are still something of a secret amongst the many travellers who come to Vancouver.
Perhaps the best part of North Vancouver, which is a municipality in itself, for active travellers is just how many recreational opportunities there are. From where Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier is perched, there are ski hills, kayaking, cycling and all of the recreational options along the Sea-to-Sky Highway, which leads to Whistler, right at the hotel’s doorstep. It is an absolutely excellent location to get an adventure holiday in British Columbia started, especially for golf lovers.
While I stayed at Pinnacle I opted for the Stay and Play golf package with Northlands Golf and Country Club, a mountain-side track favoured, I am told, by the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. Situated at the rainforest-base of Mount Seymour, the 18-hole course is just minutes from the waterfront hotel. Because that is Vancouver for you, mountain and ocean minutes apart. And wow, does this golf and country club take advantage.
A VANCOUVER GOLF PACKAGE THAT’S AN ACE
The 6,504-yard course, about 10 kilometres from the hotel, is flanked by multi-million-dollar mountain homes (none actually on the course) and a clubhouse with clear views of the Second Narrows Bridge and the Burrard Inlet. In the right season it would take an adventurous soul no more than 15 minutes to get from the course to the Mount Seymour ski area, and you know we love the ski and golf combo option.
I played the course with a few hockey players who quite honestly were hitting the hell out of the ball on what was an absolutely brilliant, sun-filled Vancouver day. One in our group, a goalie with calf muscles that probably pop out of his overstuffed pads on the ice, played extremely well, dropping a few chips from distance and recording at least a couple of strokes under for most of the way.
I loved the chance to hit the ball hard on the surprisingly open fairways while taking in the signature waterfall and tee box to seaside views. Although it’s not the most difficult golf course I have experienced (thankfully), it is far from the easiest (138 Slope Rating). It’s quite a challenge in places and despite struggling mightily on the front, I had an excellent back nine, started by the season’s first birdie on the 10th hole. In addition to this par 4, there are some difficult stretches on the back nine, including the back-to-back par 5s to finish.
Players are forced to hit uphill and over tough hazards. These include the Thomas Creek crossings, protected natural habitats on the 15th, 17th and 18th holes. If you don’t work your way through wisely from the tees here, these hazards will definitely gobble up a few golf balls and scar your scorecard. But rolling through those last holes at dusk, looking back at the city lights flickering on as the sun sets, is an excellent finishing point for an outstanding 18.
As my editor has pointed out once or twice before, I have an excellent touch around the 19th hole, and I quite like the one at Northlands. The modern post-and-beam dining room and expansive patio offer excellent food (pub-style and a formal dining room) and fresh local beer, all in full view of the city and Burrard Inlet. It was a fantastic place to sit, add up our scores, chat, and watch for celebrities before making the 20-minute drive back to the hotel to complete the last leg of my stay and play.
Night-time activities around Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier are mostly limited to a seaside stroll, but there are pubs and eateries open later that are within easy walking distance. These include the very stylish and perfectly well-appointed Lobby restaurant in the hotel (try the fillet Oscar if you are hungry) and the newly opened Pier 7 Lounge just a stone’s throw away. Likely the best thing to do for nightlife, if you really want it, is to hop on the Seabus next door. It might just be the coolest 10 minutes of public transit in the developed world.
The rapid commuter ferry boats zip around the tanker hulls and tug boats between North Vancouver and City Centre at all hours with the ease of a Bubba Watson trick shot. And for $3 and little more than 15 minutes of time, you can make it from your hotel room door at Pinnacle to Vancouver’s Historic Gastown entertainment district, where whatever you are after, you can find.
For me, after five hours of golf in the sun and fresh air, I wanted a good night’s sleep and after a few beers on the deck overlooking the cityscape and Burrard Inlet, the perfect pillows, fresh air, and king-sized bed did just the trick.
MORE ABOUT THE PINNACLE HOTEL AT THE PIER
Location: 138 Victory Ship Way, North Vancouver, BC
Contact: 604-973-8008; website: http://pinnaclepierhotel.com
Stay and Play Package Price: Starts at $269 based on double occupancy.
MORE ABOUT NORTHLANDS GOLF AND COUNTRY CLUB
Location: 3400 Anne Macdonald Way, North Vancouver, BC,
Contact: 604-280-1111; website: http://golfnorthlands.com
Greens fees: Prices are reasonable, ranging from $30 (sundowner) to $70 (peak times).
MAP OF THE DISTANCE FROM THE HOTEL TO THE COURSE
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