"A course that is best in the region, worth flying in to play"
I actually convinced someone to get up at 3:30 am to catch a flight to make an afternoon tee time at Banff Springs and he thought it was worth it.
As Stanley Thompson mountain courses there is a consistent debate between Jasper and Banff and I have come to the conclusion that they are both very different courses both in how they play and how they interact with the surroundings. My preference is Banff as it feels swaddled between the mountains along the river. But, the debate is truly about personal preference. If you are "flying in" play both.
I live in Calgary and it is just over an hour to drive to Banff. I am a big fan of Mountain Golf and particularly Canadian Mountain Golf. Banff is a fantastic example of a Mountain Golf Course in the valley which means that you get to play golf from a flat lie. in my opinion there are too many golf courses that get you on the mountain where the ball is forced above or below your feet. At Banff an uneven lie (they exist) is based on Stanley Thompson choosing it to be there.
Before my time, the course got re-routed. The 14th hole was 18. I can't imagine having to finish my round into that afternoon wind. The, now, 15th tee shot is majestic. Make sure you go back. All the way back. The ball might actually spend too much time in the air. I am a big fan of current finish - 16/17 are on the shorter side, but still present the need to hit good shot. The par 5 18th is just a great finishing hole. Like a lot of great Thompson par 5s the bunkering is visually intimidating and creates some nerves on your second shot. I believe the proper way to play this hole is to draw one off the road, off the cart path, and on to the fairway. But, I can't hit a draw. For mortals, a safe shot out the the left still requires a well executed 2nd shot over the fairway bunkers to leave a wedge into the green. Great hole.
It would be tough to review Banff Springs without talking about the signature hole (4th). It is a beautiful (prettier than the pictures) elevated par 3 where you need to be confident that you cover the hazard without getting above the hole. Bogey is a good score from above the hole.
Value GIRs on the par 3s and stay out of fairway bunkers and you can score well. But, in the end just enjoy the entire day. There are few places I have played golf this visually stunning.
Date: November 23, 2020