Golf and road trips go together like cake and ice cream. Beer and nachos. Wine and cheese. You get the idea. In Alberta, there are many options when it comes to planning a stick-swinging sojourn. Scenic highways peppered with pristine courses zig and zag their way through Wildrose Country.
Part of the fun is mapping a route that speaks to you and the particular golfing experiences you favour. Alberta, of course, has them all in spades: fairways nestled amongst Rockies peaks and river valleys; tee boxes boasting widescreen prairie vistas; greens set against a backdrop of Badlands hoodoos and coulees.
The mountain courses have a lot of sex appeal, but be warned that they may be crowded this summer, especially with the influx of visitors expected due to free admission at Banff and Jasper national parks. Instead, saddle up and take the road (slightly) less travelled as part of a golfing trip through Alberta’s cowboy country.
Between Mayerthorpe and Cardston along Highway 22, the Cowboy Trail takes road trippers through rolling, cow-flecked foothills, serving up unforgettable views—and plenty of outstanding, budget-friendly golf courses. A few to pique your interest: Drayton Valley Golf Club, a bit more than an hour outside of Edmonton, and Pine Hills Golf Club farther south; Sundre Golf Club, due west of Olds; The Links of GlenEagles; Wintergreen Golf and Country Club, D’arcy Ranch Golf Club and Turner Valley Golf Club—within easy driving distance of Calgary; and Waterton Lakes Golf Course and Lee Creek Valley Golf Course at the southern tip of the trail.
With so many excellent courses to choose from, deciding where you want binge on birdies is going to be a daunting task! Sundre and Bragg Creek’s Wintergreen Golf and Country Club, for example, offer a great one-two punch of pretty, in-the-pines experiences. But the vast, wind-swept courses on the high plains epitomize what golf on the Cowboy Trail is all about.
Parading through aspen-lined coulees and boasting beautiful mountain and prairie views, D’Arcy Ranch Golf Club in Okotoks could be the poster child for golf on the Cowboy Trail. The course, designed by architect Ken Dye, also features bold bunkering, dramatic downhill holes and massive, undulating greens. The nearby Turner Valley Golf Club is another course with a charming “western” flavour, a pastoral retreat with a gorgeous run of holes plunging into a peaceful dale. To top it off, the country course’s rustic clubhouse was converted from an old schoolhouse.
There’s much to discover in between rounds, too. Smack in the middle of the route from Drayton Valley to Sundre, you’ll find Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site, where visitors get an immersion in the origins of the fur trade. Alternatively, if you’re travelling the southern stretch of the Cowboy Trail, it’s easy to incorporate a visit to Bar-U Ranch: The birthplace of Alberta’s legendary ranching industry, Bar-U features live ranching demonstrations, horseback riding, authentic cowboy grub and much more. Nearby, the town of Longview boasts a famous beef jerky emporium, and arguably the country’s best cuts of meat at the Longview Steakhouse. And Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, of course, is a must-visit monument to Aboriginal heritage and contemporary archaeology.
But in the end, it’s all about the golf. Whether you play one Cowboy Trail course or fashion a tour with multiple tee times, just remember: No matter where you plan your high-noon shootout, gunslingers with the best aim are usually those who live to tell of their exploits.
HOW TO SAVE
AMA Members save 25% on the Canada Golf Card, a discount card that’s valid at hundreds of golf courses across the country, as well as in the U.S. and Mexico. Along the Cowboy Trail, cardholders save at:
Drayton Valley: 2-for-1 green fees (Mon.-Thu., and after 2 p.m. Fri.-Sun.)
Pine Hills: Free cart with two green fees (Mon.-Thu., and after 2 p.m. Fri.-Sun.)
Wintergreen: 50% off second green fee (Tue.-Thu.)
Turner Valley: Free cart with two green fees (Mon.-Thu.)
Waterton Lakes: 50% off second green fee
Lee Creek Valley: 2-for-1 green fees (weekdays, and after 3 p.m. on weekends)
Buy the Canada Golf Card at AMA centres or online