Whistler, in British Columbia, has become one of the top golfing destinations in Canada and Chateau Whistler is one of the main reasons for this. It is one of four major golf courses in the Whistler area along with Whistler (Palmer), Big Sky and Nicklaus North.
Designed by Robert Trent Jones Junior, Chateau Whistler opened in 1993. It is part of the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Resort which, although primarily serving skiers and golfers, also offers sporting activities such as fishing, climbing, rafting, mountain biking and swimming. The resort also has a health club, spa and David Leadbetter golf academy as additional facilities.
Fairmont are also responsible for top class courses at other resorts like Banff Springs, Jasper Park Lodge and St Andrews (Torrance and Kittocks courses) so quality on the fairways is guaranteed at this mountain golf retreat. Laid out on the base of Blackcomb Mountain, Chateau Whistler climbs over four hundred feet from the clubhouse to a height of 2,850 feet above sea level. It has fairways framed by Douglas Firs, granite rock outcrops, lakes and tumbling, rocky streams along its routing of nine holes out and nine back.
One of the feature holes on the front nine at Chateau Whistler is the 399-yard par four 3rd, which rises steadily from tee to green. The drive needs to be placed to the right centre of the fairway to give an angle for the approach as the hole doglegs left. The second shot has to carry the Horstman River and a ravine that protects the front of the elevated putting surface so a high trajectory second shot is required to hit and hold the green.
The signature hole at Chateau Whistler is the daunting, 212-yard par three, 8th, where the elevated tee looks down to the green which has a granite outcrop to the right and a lake to the front and left with a large bunker between putting surface and water – now is the perfect photo opportunity if you have remembered to bring your camera!
The 361-yard 15th offers a birdie opportunity on the back nine. It’s a left dogleg hole that demands accuracy off the tee and with the approach. A bunker guards the green front right, a creek lies near the back and a ridge runs through the centre of the green – maybe a par four is not such a bad score after all!
Chateau Whistler is an awesome course. Yes, it is a resort and yes, the breathtaking scenery can be over-stimulating, but Jones did this one right. Of the multiple courses in the area, this is the only one that is truly mountain golf. I understand the construction economics, river bottom is easier and cheaper, but certainly not as much fun for the golfer.
The first half a dozen holes are uphill. The first is a welcoming par five. Big hitters can get home in two, but the fairway runs out about 210 yards out and there is a large greenside bunker right. The 2nd is a good birdie oppty. It is uphill, leans left and the fairway bunkers are about 250 from the tee. There is a river left and the green sits behind it. Consider laying up and you will still have an attack wedge in. The third is a dogleg left. As you get closer to the green the fairway narrows and the green is also behind the river. The 4th is a long par four. Favor right of center off the tee. Three large bunkers front left and one rear right. The fifth is a picturesque par 3 with bunkers front right and left. The 6th bends left is the longest par four and the number one handicap hole. Favor the right side off the tee. I hit a good drive, a good five wood and was still 30 yards short. The 7th is a straightaway par five. Favor right of center and most of the trouble and bunkers is left. The long par 3 8th is probably the signature hole. Cliff right and water hazard and bunker left. My favorite, yes, I birdied. The 9th leans right and is the shortest par five but it is very tight. Trees right and a gaggle of fairway bunkers on the left side. The green is tucked right behind a large bunker.
The back starts with a flip wedge par three. Pretty hole, but don’t get sucked in as the green is surrounded by bunkers. The 11th is short but tight hole, fairway bunkers left and trees right. Another well protected green with four bunkers. The 12th is longer, but it has one of the wider fairways and there is only a right front bunker to contend with. The next four holes are scoring oppties. The 13th is a short downhill par four. The fairway is hourglassed with bunkers about 120 yards out. I considered laying up and didn’t and doubled. Choose wisely. The 14th is almost the same yardage also downhill but veers right. Fairway bunkers both sides. Best line is at the right edge of the left fairway bunker. This will give you a flip wedge in. I considered laying up again and convinced myself there was no way I could screw up again. I was wrong. The 15th is a bit longer, but much more open. Aim at the left fairway bunker off the tee. The last par three is pretty benign. Bunkers front left and right. The 17th is a long demanding par four. There is a fairway bunker in the landing zone on the right side. Favor left of center off the tee. This has one of the more daunting approaches on the course. Long, over the river with a bunker greenside left. It is the number two handicap hole. The 18th is the longest par five. The river crosses the fairway about 240 yards out. If you are going to miss, left is much more betterer than right. The green has two bunkers right and one left.
This is a fun course, tighter than I expected and certainly not your standard resort course. I would pay to play it again. Don’t feed the bears.
Chateau Whistler Golf Club is located right in the heart of the lovely ski town of Whistler. Adjacent to and part of the Fairmount hotel the course is known as one of the best mountain courses anywhere with elevation changes of up to 400 feet through the course.
Robert Trent Jones Jnr was the architect and he created Chateau Whistler in 1993. In doing so he used the mountainscape brilliantly and surrounding peaks and features became the focus on a number of holes
The routing goes out and back with a few twists along the way. The first 6 holes go out and up and is a very difficult start for the first timer as you can be tested for length, carry and accuracy all at once. Hole 3 is just a tad overdone in my opinion as a tee shot landing on the fairway can still be blocked out, or partially blocked out- and the shot in to the green over the creek, through the trees is testing enough… Holes four and six uphill are just strong holes
On the flip side the downhill holes on the return journey are an absolute delight with elevated tees and plenty of hang time. Good drives will give you a series of approach shots with short to middle irons to nicely sculpted green complexes.
In general the collection of par three holes are very very good. The par 3 downhill eighth hole is the signature hole. The tee shot must carry water diagonally to a green set hard against a cliff wall on the right and water on the left. Depending on your chosen tee it will require a mid to long iron, so it is no pushover!
Notable holes include:
hole 2- a short uphill par 4 which requires a wedge approach over a creek to an elevated green.
hole 5- a drop shot par 3 with Whistler Mountain in the background.
hole 8- a spectacular mid length par 3 with green wedged between water and cliff face
hole 10- a short but gorgeous drop shot par 3
hole 13 is a short downhill par 4 to a well bunkered green
hole 14- another delightful downhill par 4
hole 17- a dogleg par 4 from an elevated tee, and featuring an approach to the green over water and heavy vegetation. The tee shot must be accurate to make the second shot practical….
One comes away from Chateau Whistler enthused with the beauty of the course, and memories of all those exciting downhill shots.
And bears! Our round was interrupted with a black bear running across the fairway in front of us- apparently this is not uncommon.
Chateau Whistler is just a lovely place to play golf, and one of the best mountain courses I have come across..
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.