The first hole at Sundre Golf Club — trees to the left, water to the right.

Finding the fairway despite the trees in Sundre

There are golf courses that welcome my finely honed slice with yawning fairways, virtually transparent stands of spindly pines and light rough that’s as wispy as gossamer.

The Sundre Golf Club is not one of them.

So, should you have the good fortune to play Sundre in the next little while, and you happen to fancy Noodles or Nikes, you’re welcome.

Set in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, about an hour’s drive southwest of Red Deer, Sundre’s 18 holes are a test of accuracy off the tee. It’s not target golf by any means, far more a typical country course. The fairways are occasionally sloped, sometimes undulating, and always appear deathly narrow from the blue tees, at least for a golfer with a serious slice.

The opening holes at Sundre Golf Club are graced with fountains in the pond.
The first fairway at Sundre Golf Club. Dan hadn’t yet started his forays into the forests.

There’s also more than enough water on 11 of the 18 holes to give you trouble off the tee and/or on some approach shots.

Should you choose to hit it straight, on the other hand, the course is truly a delight.

In 2009, Sundre completed a two-year, $10 million renovation, largely driven by a need to fix the course’s poor drainage. Nine irrigation ponds were added, fairways were widened, greens enlarged and bunkers added. “It’s so much more player friendly,” a course spokesman told the Airdrie Echo in 2009.

On the lovely late May morning Therese and I played, Sundre was at its early-season best. Greens were firm but forgiving, fairways lush and soft. And narrow. Did I mention how narrow they are? The many water hazards on the course are rimmed with jagged grey rocks, which look as dramatic as they play. A show-stopper for us was on hole number 3 where an errant bounce off the rocks dropped it neatly onto the green.

There really is a golf god.

Sundre Golf Club
• Located just east of Sundre on Highway #27.
• 250 kilometres from downtown Edmonton. Give yourself almost three hours for driving.
• 18 holes

A tee-box sign nestles in the trees at Sundre Golf Club.
A tee-box sign nestles in the trees at Sundre Golf Club.

By the numbers: I played the blues and found those 5,998 yards plenty challenging for a bogey golfer. The tips are 6,778 for this par 72 design. Therese played the forward tees and found the 5,097 yards fit her game pretty well.

$$: Rate including GST for 18 holes is $61.95 Monday through Thursday, $82.95 on Friday, weekends and holidays. Green fees include range balls on the small, screened practice facility.

Course deals: There are a couple of Stay & Play packages with the neighbouring Best Western Mountainview Inn & Suites. For $169 per person (based on double occupancy), you get one night in the hotel and two rounds of golf — either two rounds at Sundre or one round each at Sundre and nearby Coyote Creek Golf Resort. We took a drive out to Coyote Creek and figure it’s worth a try. From the road, it appears in good shape with wide-open fairways that could make for a nice antithesis to Sundre’s tighter track.

Defining characteristics: Not much doubt, for me anyway, that Sundre is defined by its plethora of narrow, tree-lined fairways. Therese would opt for the rock-lined ponds, which do indeed stand out.

Walkability: Nice easy course to walk. No long hikes between holes, and not much uphill on the fairways either. Therese’s FitBit suggests we walked about 8.5 kilometres — notably, this is about 1.5 kilometres shorter than we walked at Coal Creek. The tight track occasionally manifests with an uncomfortable closeness between you and players on adjacent holes.

On-course amenities: We didn’t see the refreshment cart even once, which we were later told is the norm when you play Monday through Friday. This would have been useful to know before teeing off. (Consider yourself told.)

The restaurant on the top floor of the clubhouse is quite comfortable. The patio looks out over the first, 10th and 18th holes and is a great spot for a post-game nibble and beverage. I had the bacon poutine, which was outstanding. Therese went for the buffalo chicken wrap and enjoyed it as well. The menu doesn’t push the envelope but the kitchen obviously takes pride in its quality.

Did you ever wonder why Sundre greets visitors with a sign bearing a giraffe and an elephant?
Did you ever wonder why Sundre greets visitors with a sign bearing a giraffe and an elephant?

As long as you’ve made the drive: It’s unfair to call Sundre a one-horse town, because you completely overlook the fact it also has a giraffe, an elephant, a lion, leopards and a rhinoceros. Seriously. The Chester Mjolsness World of Wildlife, presented by the Sundre District Historical Society, is an unexpected delight. Hosted in an expansive room inside the Sundre Museum, the exhibit features some incredible taxidermy by Povl and Bibianne Munksgaard of Olds, set against dramatic murals painted by Lorraine Hughes of Sundre. Mjolsness, who was born in Didsbury and raised on a farm close to Sundre, retired from Spray Lakes sawmill in 1980 and took up trophy hunting. He bagged big game on five of the globe’s seven continents and the World of Wildlife now features 170 animals, both exotic and domestic. The museum and World of Wildlife is located just off the main road through town. Call 403-638-3233 for more info and hours of operation.

Related from around the web
Sundre Golf Club: Long drives not required — Calgary Sun, 2011
• Sundre Golf Club on Facebook and Twitter

In this Drive Time series, RoadWordy will spend the summer finding some hidden golf gems easily accessible to Edmontonians as a day or overnight trip.
Into the black sands at Coal Creek
Dan Barnes: Golf, the original social network 

Do you have a suggestion for a golf course we should try? Tell us about it in the comments and maybe we’ll pay it a visit.

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