The Bear Mountain Westin Resort is the centerpiece for two outstanding Nicklaus-designed courses offering a host of other amenities as well!
This is the tale of two upscale golf courses; both designed by Jack Nicklaus and son, Steve – the only such two-course complex in Canada . If you only play the Mountain Course at Bear Mountain just outside of Victoria, British Columbia to see the amazing panorama from the par-five 13th summit of a green or the testy 165-yard 14th, you won’t feel the least bit cheated. The view of Victoria below you in the distance with the expanse of water surrounding the skyline is one of the most impressive golf course vistas I’ve seen and I’ll bet you agree. And if you don’t venture to also play the Valley Course, you have cheated yourself big time!
Even dusk can’t dim the spectacular view of a sublime par-three that stretches to 189 yards (14th on the Mountain Course) and distant views of Victoria beyond. (Photo by Robert S. Fagan)
Bear Mountain is a residential/resort community of 1,100 acres set in the foothills that opened its initial course (Mountain Course) in 2003. From its elevated location, Bear Mountain offers sweeping vistas of not only adjacent Victoria, but the Strait of Georgia and Strait of Juan de Fuca and Western Washington’s Olympic Mountains. It is the only 36-hole facility designed by Nicklaus and is defined as the “premium” golf complex on Vancouver Island – world-class golf.
These distant silouette golf figures appear to be putting on the top of the world, but it is the 13th, the highest point on the Bear Course with spectacular views to be enjoyed. (Photo by Robert S. Fagan)
The Mountain Course is more than a two-hole wonder. Views of the ocean, city, and mountains greet you as you wind your way through the hilly, rugged mountain terrain. Prepare for a stellar test by Jack Nicklaus. Its 142 slope is indicate of course not only of gorgeous views, but frequent elevation changes, rock outcroppings, blind shots, and a nice variety of length. Speaking of length, it’s not “championship long” at just a tad under 6,900 yards, but don’t let that fool you. Par is only 70 and rating is 73.2 off the tips. Water, undulating greens that bleed off into their surrounds, and some forced carries make for many challenges. While the fairway corridors are generous, if you are too errant, trouble abounds.
The 194-yard 4th hole on the Mountain Course dictates that you don’t under-club. The views from the putting surface in any direction are sublime. (Photo by Robert S. Fagan)
In addition to the aforementioned 13th and 14th holes, there’s more than two stars in this cast. There’s the 152-yard island hole at the tenth or the greenside rural vistas that stretch out from the 194-yard 6th. The descent that continues at the 189-yard 16th is another sight that is sure to dazzle you.
Looking back from behind the green toward the tee of the 152-yard 10th hole with its island green evokes comparisons to the 17th at the TPC Stadium Course at Sawgrass. (Photo by Robert S. Fagan)
The Mountain Course is probably the most esteemed resort course in Victoria, but to my surprise I enjoyed the Valley Course just as much – maybe more. Even when I was on property, I assumed that the Valley Course would be a flat layout on the lower elevation and less scenic. Boy, was I wrong!
Dawn brings another day to the Valley Course as the Nicklaus’ begin you with a rather benign par-five to get you started. (Photo by Robert S. Fagan)
While the Valley Course is indeed located beneath the on-site Westin Hotel, it seems to have as much elevation changes to its holes as the Mountain Course. There are few flat lies and no uninteresting shots. One thing that caught my attention is that it has more elevated tees that preview the hole than does the Mountain Course with its several blind tee shots. I also particularly enjoyed the fescue grasses and more rugged appearing bunkers, definitely a bit more rustic than the slightly more manicured look of its sister course. The Valley Course is only just a little bit shorter than the Mountain with a par-71 frame, but I felt essentially the same degree of challenge. And unlike the Mountain Course where there is housing quite present on several holes, presently there is no housing influencing the Valley Course.
While there are not the off-course vistas on the Valley Course, the holes paint themselves in perhaps even a more artistic fashion. I almost began to tire of saying to myself, “Oh wow!” as I approached every tee shot. This was Nicklaus Father-Son at their shaping best. I never felt that they bull-dozed the site into submission as has sometimes happened elsewhere, but rather they let the wonderful terrain speak for itself with thoughtful twists and turns. There would be holes where a bit of brawn might be required, but if you play the correct tees for your ability, it came across as “good variety” as opposed to meaningless length. The age old wisdom of keeping the ball in play definitely applies to the Valley Course.
Bear Mountain conveniently situated less than a half hour from downtown Victoria and atop a little mountain, it gets no drive-by traffic so it’s far from noisy or congested. What’s more, both golf courses are part of the Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort & Spa. It was especially nice for me to stroll to the elevator and go down a few floors to find the golf shop and staging area a few steps away. The friendly attentive service and well-appointed rooms are excellent. When you add views of Mt. Baker and Mt. Finlayson from the rooms, the on-site savory restaurants, well-appointed spa or The Cellar (wine), this becomes the perfect spot to not only play golf and explore other courses if you will, but to also venture into beautiful nearby downtown Victoria with its many attractions. Be it a romantic retreat, buddies’ golf excursion, or even a business function, the Westin’s 156 rooms are the perfect anchor for your Victoria stay.
While Bear Mountain Golf & Country Club is positioned as the premier golf and resort in Victoria and the Vancouver Island Golf Trail, its amenities, service, and all still position it as a welcome value play. Green fees at comparative American facilities will run 35-100% more than Bear Mountain. As for golf, the Nicklaus’ have offered two differing looks that will be attractive to the more experienced or accomplished golfers with discriminating expectations. Bring your “A-game” to Bear Mountain and get ready to experience the same in return!
For more information, go to: www.bearmountain.ca.
Below: don’t be short on the 152-yard 14th hole on the Valley Course. Note the rugged bunkering. (Photo by Robert S. Fagan)