Kananaskis Country Golf Course is located in the Rockies, near Canmore, a small town that can be reached within an hour by car from either Banff of Calgary in Alberta. There are two 18-hole, par 72, courses at Kananaskis, Mount Lorette and Mount Kidd at this 600-acre property.
Named after the nearby mountains that rise to 10,000 feet above sea level, the Kananaskis courses themselves are 5,000 feet above sea level, so your long game will be flattered as the golf ball travels a little further than normal in the thinner air. Try hard also to concentrate on your game, as the surroundings are simply sensational and quite a distraction.
The construction of both courses was part funded by the oil-rich Alberta government in the early 1980s and Robert Trent Jones Senior was the architect responsible for each layout. He routed the holes through pine forests around the Kananaskis River and glacial creeks, adding nearly one hundred and fifty bunkers for good measure.
Mount Lorette has two feature holes which conclude each loop of nine holes back at the clubhouse. The 9th, a 560-yard par five, has two large bunkers left of the fairway at the landing area from the tee. There is water down the left of the fairway from just past this point that then cuts into the front left of the green. It goes without saying that the smart play here is to stay down the right, all the way from tee to green.
The closing hole is a 463-yard par four and there’s an enormous bunker left of the fairway which threatens the tee shot. The hole doglegs slightly left and a creek lies in front of a green that has a severe slope from back to front. The percentage golfer might consider a three wood off the tee, lay-up in front of the water then play an accurate wedge to the green followed by a single putt. Sounds easy.
With special rates available for seniors, juniors and Alberta residents, Kananaskis certainly promotes itself in the provision of affordable golf for all golfers. With complimentary valet parking as you arrive to the Summit restaurant and fireside lounge in the Robert Trent Jones Pavilion, the off-course experience matches all that the Mount Lorette and Mount Kidd courses have to offer.
Both Kananaskis courses were devastated by flooding in 2013 and were rebuilt by architect Gary Browning at a reputed cost of $23 million, with the province expecting to recoup three quarters of that sum from Ottawa’s disaster recovery program. Thirty-two of the thirty-six holes that were badly damaged by gravel, mud, silt and fallen trees had to be totally reconstructed from scratch. The Mount Lorette and Mount Kidd layouts re-opened in the summer of 2018.
If majestic mountain scenery and amazing photographic opportunities are your thing then look no further than the Kananaskis Country Golf Course just an hour drive west of Calgary.
In 2013 both the Mount Kidd and Mount Lorette layouts were devastated by the flooding of the Evans Thomas and Kananaskis Rivers. However, during reconstruction, the club raised the fairways and reengineered the drainage system in hopes of preventing future incidents. Both courses reopened in 2018 and are now back to their former glory.
We did not play Mount Kidd, but I found that the Mount Lorette Course had few elevation changes even though you meander through a gently sloping river valley moraine tucked some 5000 feet above sea level. The views are mesmerizing and there are plenty of bunkers and water to keep you on your toes. It offers wider fairways and groomed rough around the trees making it more player-friendly for the average golfer. There are 6 sets of tee blocks ranging from 3792 to 7232 yards so it an ideal resort style course.
The par-4 first hole was undoubtably the toughest hole on the course but after the flood of 2013 the fairway was widened, and a greenside bunker was removed to try and ease the difficulty. Regardless of the effort, you are still faced with a narrow landing area. You need to favour the large pond on the left because anything right, could be blocked out by the heavily tree-lined forest to this key-hole shaped approach. Nothing like a good punch in the gut to get you started.
I was told that #14 is the only hole that was completely redesigned after the flood. It changed from slight dogleg right to a severe dogleg to the left par-5 to avoid the flood plain. Your approach shot must land short of this green since your ball will certainly bounce forward.
The 18th is ranked the 2nd toughest hole on the course and now I understand why. Your drive will determine whether you should attempt this lengthy par-4 in regulation or settle for an up-and-down to save par. A large bunker protects you from shaving off the corner on this long dogleg left. Plus, you need to be aware of the winding creek in front that may be hidden from your viewpoint. With a severely sloped green from back to front, a bogey is a good score here.
Not necessarily my favourite golf course in the Rockies but the conditioning is excellent, and the scenery is breathtaking. The bunkers are soft and consistent, filled with sparkling white silica sand. The greens are large but fair with little undulation, however they are very firm as they were all just replaced. For now, plan on landing some of your long approach shots just short to be able to hold some of these putting surfaces.
If you are planning to visit Calgary and explore the nearby Rocky Mountains, you will certainly want to play Mount Lorette. I would also highly suggest you book your tee times well in advance. This is a very popular golf resort for Albertans as well as tourists
To follow Dave Finn’s golf travel adventures, visit www.golftravelandleisure.com