As temperatures rise and ski season comes to an end, many outdoor recreation enthusiasts break out their golf clubs. With Whistler’s courses open to the public as of May 12, there are several tried-and-true options to choose from—and each has something new to offer this year.
Whistler Golf Club
Ro Davies usually hopes for an early start to golf season—perhaps the final week of April or first week of May. Of course, those hopes rest upon Mother Nature, and this year the Whistler Golf Club opened May 12.
Davies, who is the club’s sales manager, is excited for the arrival of a new spring. According to him, Whistler Golf Club staff members have been renovating bunkers, curating cart paths, revamping tee boxes and making general course improvements over the last several months, all of which should make for a smoother guest experience. The course wintered well and is in healthy shape, he added.
According to its website, Whistler Golf Club holds the distinction of being the first Canadian course that Arnold Palmer designed. With five tee setups ranging from about 3,000 yards up to 6,676, it is equipped to cater to beginners and pros alike. The number of people looking to improve their skills remains high, as the club’s Academy instructional clinics are all but sold out.
“We’ve always [prioritized] playability of the golf course and pace of play to complement excellent course conditioning,” Davies explained. “The Arnold Palmer layout generally gives you lots of opportunity for risk-reward. If you play it safe and consistent, it probably works out for you, but there are also many places to go for it.”
The Whistler Golf Club aspires to be an all-season destination for locals to tee off at. That’s why it now offers an indoor golf simulator powered by Trackman 4 technology.
“It was really popular [last winter],” Davies recalled. “A lot of people had fun taking lessons or playing courses around the world on that. It will be back again in the fall, so people can keep the golf going year-round.”
Nicklaus North Golf Club
Although he’s entering just his second year as Nicklaus North Golf Club’s general manager, Gavin Eckford knows the place like the back of his hand, having worked there for more than a decade in the 2000s. He understands the challenges of running a golf club in the Sea to Sky, and is pleased to report that they haven’t stopped Nicklaus North from opening on schedule.
“Because our golf season is so short in Whistler—we’ve only got about five months—it’s a big ramp-up to get things going,” Eckford said. “And the last couple of years have been the busiest we’ve ever had, so to open the doors and just be that busy for that long was a lot of energy, a lot of effort put in by the team.”
Staff members were hard at work shovelling snow off the fairway just a few short weeks ago, and a lengthy winter challenged them to shorten their preparation window. There have been no major changes to the course, but its trees, waterways and bunkers have all been groomed for a more aesthetically pleasing view. Heaters have also been added to the patio, making for what in Eckford’s opinion is “the best patio in Whistler.”
The golfing experience isn’t too shabby either.
“We are a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course,” Eckford said. “I think he did a really good job of creating a challenge for players who want it, and a little bit more playability for players who are maybe a little bit less skilled.
“We’ve got five sets of tee decks, so … you can choose how long you want to play the golf course. The shorter tee boxes are just a little bit more forgiving, and if you are a very high-level player, you can choose the back tees and end up with a really, really solid challenge.”
One of Nicklaus North’s favourite sons is Stewart Walker, a homegrown junior talent who committed to play for Long Island University after a seven-win season in 2022. Eckford and his colleagues are proud of Walker’s journey, and they believe that guests will continue to be drawn to Nicklaus North for the same reasons he was.
“Golfers know the name ‘Nicklaus.’ He’s just one of the greatest of all time, so that’s definitely a big draw for us,” said Eckford. “Playability as well—despite the fact we’re in the mountains, it’s a relatively flat golf course, so you can enjoy it no matter what your skill level is.
“But for us, the big thing is our team. We put a huge amount of effort into hiring the best and training as much as we can to try to get everybody on the same page … no matter what the position. The team is definitely our big differentiator at the end of the day.”
Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club did not respond to requests for comment before press time. You can read more about that course's offerings here.