© David Cooper
The play’s the thing
We raise the curtain on the best golf-and-theatre double bills in Canada
Golf and theatre
Canada is full of phenomenal golf, and we’ve also got some fantastic live theatre just minutes away from your last putt. If you’d like to combine daytime swings with evening box seats, consider one of these golf and spectator combos.
Pick and play
The aptly named Harvest Golf Club (tel: 800-257-8577; harvestgolf.com) is a golfer’s garden of Eden. Depending on the season, you might be tempted to pluck peaches, apricots, pears, cherries or apples from the trees lining the luscious fairways during your round.
Canadian architect Graham Cooke routed the 7109-yard Harvest through a series of working orchards and vineyards on a bluff overlooking Lake Okanagan. The 414-yard, par-four 15th cuts such an impressive swath through the bounty that you may be wondering whether to take out your driver or a wicker basket. Number four is a deceptively tricky par-three requiring exact aim and enough carry in order to avoid the bunker and pond left of the green.
The clubhouse, offering Pacific Northwest cuisine and an extensive wine list, looks over a waterfall and infinity pond landscaped with a Japanese garden and red pagoda-style bridge. Kelowna Actors Studio (tel: 250-862-2867; kelownaactorsstudio.com) serves up dinner and a show with Broadway hits such as My Fair Lady (July 18 to August 4), Kiss me Kate (September 20 to 23) and Barefoot in the Park (October 10 to 27).
Awe-stuck by the majestic mountains in 1888, William Van Horne, vice-president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, famously announced, “If we can’t export the scenery, we will import the tourists.”
The awe-factor lives on, especially on the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course (tel: 403-762-6801; fairmont.com/banffsprings). Designed by Canada’s foremost architect, the late Stanley Thompson, it has received numerous accolades, including one of the 10 best in the world to play. Thompson’s genius was in refusing to impose a course on its setting. Indeed, it’s hard to concentrate on your swing with snow-frosted mountain peaks, azure glacier lakes and elk, bear and geese that have the right of way.
Devil’s Cauldron, the par-three fourth hole best exemplifies Thompson’s mastery of design. Emerging from a pine forest onto elevated tees, one must whack the ball over a boulder-filled glacial lake against a backdrop of mountain peaks.
After your game, head into The Banff Centre (tel: 800-413-8368; banffcentre.ca) in town. During the Banff Summer Arts Festival (June through August), enjoy a dinner at the Centre's Three Ravens Restaurant (receive a 20-percent discount with an event ticket), then stroll up the hill to take in Music for a Summer Evening (Thursdays until August 16), Dance Masters (July 18, 19, 20, 21), Don Giovanni (August 15, 17, 18, 19), plus dozens of other events.
Prefer your culture al fresco? Acts like Blue Rodeo (July 8) and Emmylou Harris (August 9), among others will be performing under the stars in the Centre's Shaw Amphitheatre.
Tour de force
With more than 40 courses built, and more on the drawing boards, it’s safe to say that the Niagara region has become a golf mecca. If you’re looking for 18 classic holes, head to the Whirlpool Golf Course (tel: 905-835-2547; teeingitup.com/niagara). Designed by Stanley Thompson and opened in 1951, the venerable course unfurls above the spray rising off the Niagara River, Gorge and Whirlpool.
You’ll experience more history at the Legends on the Niagara complex where two of Canada’s top golf architects created masterpieces. Thomas McBroom designed Usher Creek and Doug Carrick takes credit for Battlefield. With a sprawling lake and zillions of bunkers, Carrick’s creation requires every weapon in your bag.
If you prefer a leisurely nine, start your swing where it all began back in 1875 when the Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club opened. Acknowledged as the oldest course in Canada where the game is still played on the original site, this stately tract meanders along the shores of Lake Ontario and around historic Fort Mississauga.
Plan your rounds so you’ll have time to wander through Canada’s prettiest town and enjoy some brilliant live theatre. From April to October, the Shaw Festival (tel: 800-511-SHAW; shawfest.com) presents the work of George Bernard Shaw and playwrights writing around Shaw’s lifetime (1856-1950).
Perhaps the perfect après-golf show would be Noël Coward’s Present Laughter, an affectionate take on the playwright’s own celebrity life, complete with adoring fans and witty repartee. But don’t expect a golf-themed play by Irish-born, social reformer Shaw, who once quipped, “golf is typical capitalist lunacy.”
Taboos and follies
In 2003, the Muskoka Sands Inn in Gravenhurst, Ontario changed its name to Taboo Resort, Golf and Spa (tel: 866-982-2669; tabooresort.com). Architect Ron Garl’s deft design on the Taboo course seems to empathize with the natural environment. The 7400-yard wild track takes you through wetlands, Canadian Shield outcroppings and a forest of birch, pine and balsam.
You won’t forget number seven, a long par three chiselled out of two walls of striated pink and gray granite. Miss this one and your Titleist behaves as though it’s ricocheting through a pinball machine. Another rocky road runs across number four where a sign reads, “Taboo rocks — use at own risk.”
Gateway to Muskoka, the town of Gravenhurst celebrates its 125th anniversary this summer. The Gravenhurst Opera (tel: 888-495-8888; gravenhurstoperahouse.com), now in its 111th year, is hosting lots of fun shows. For dinner theatre during July, you can catch Noël Coward’s Fallen Angel or another comedy, Kindly Leave the Stage. Throughout the summer other musicians and comedians will also grace the stage.
1000 Islands drama
The first fairway at Smuggler’s Glen (tel: 800-268-4536; smugglersglen.com) is a real drama queen. Set high on a cliff over the St. Lawrence River in the Thousands Islands Region, the scenery is awesome; then there’s the confidence-defying carry over a deep gorge.
Boyd Barr routed and blasted this championship par-71/72 through rugged terrain including walls of Canadian Shield granite, pine and birch groves, wild fescue and creeks. At 6572 yards from tips and 4741from the forward tees, it’s not long by today’s standards, but size isn’t everything — course strategy and precision will dictate how you score.
For more than 50 years, David Seal and his family have owned The Glen House Resort, located across the road. When Seal decided to expand into the golf business his goal was to build a course that was one of the best in the eastern Ontario. He received the “seal of approval” when Golf Digest magazine nominated it for Best New Golf Course in Canada in 2006 and for the Top 100 Courses in Canada 2013.
Be sure to work up an appetite for the resort’s slow-roasted prime rib served in the Shipman’s Dining Room. Later, enjoy top-notch live theatre at the Thousand Islands Playhouse (tel: 866-382-7020; 1000islandsplayhouse.com) in nearby Gananoque, celebrating its 30th season this summer. At the original Springer Theatre, a renovated canoe club on the St. Lawrence, visitors flock to the dock at intermission for refreshments and moonlit views. Enjoy seven professional productions plus classical concerts at small-town prices.
Somewhere Beyond the Sea, about a retired librarian who escapes her stay-at-home hubby for a food and wine tour of the Scottish Highlands, might appeal to golfers.
A round of applause
In 2011, the International Association of Golf Tour Operators named Prince Edward Island Undiscovered Golf Destination of the Year. The island boasts more than 30 courses including 10 of the top 100 in Canada.
Golf Digest Places to Play awarded The Links at Crowbush Cove (tel: 866-465-3734; golfpei.ca) four-and-a-half stars and raved that the Thomas McBroom design is “golf at its absolute best.” Routed through 1000-year-old sand dunes on the Island’s north shore, each fairway presents its own unique series of challenges. There are nine water holes, plenty of pot bunkers and sudden gusts from Crowbush Cove to keep you on your toes.
From the elevated tees at Sully’s Run, the challenging 565-yard par-five 11th signature hole, you have a grand view of the beaches along the north shore. If you can tame the Links’ 6903 yards, arguable the toughest on the island, you’ve earned bragging rights.
PEI also pioneered the International Couples Golf Festival a few years ago. It’s a terrific way to spend some quality time with your better half in four non-competitive, fun-filled days of golf and parties (July 15 to 19).
After your round, head into Charlottetown for a taste of island cuisine at Mavor’s, the bistro in the Confederation Centre of the Arts. In the same complex, the Charlottetown Festival (tel: 800-565-0278; charlottetownfestival.com), in addition to Anne of Green Gables—The Musical, now in its 48th year, might tempt you with some other shows. Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash is a toe-tapping tribute featuring 35 hits, from gospel to country.
Come-All-Ye, starring homegrown musicians and storytellers is a hilarious take on island life. Gourmet golfers should enjoy The Kitchen Witches, a farcical plot about two rival cooking show hosts who wind up sharing the same kitchen on a new TV show. Imagine Jerry Springer meets Martha Stewart.
Rock and roll
At last count Newfoundland and Labrador boasted about 20 courses, from nine-hole duffer-friendly tracks to 18-hole championship gems. And the green fees and stay-and-play packages here are (pardon the pun) Rock bottom.
Terra Nova (tel: 709-424-3102; golfnewfoundland.ca), dubbed the “Pebble Beach of Newfoundland,” is located in the national park of the same name. Golf Digest ranked Twin Rivers, the resort’s flagship course, as one of the top 10 courses in Atlantic Canada. The late Robbie Robinson designed the original nine holes; Doug Carrick was hired to create nine more in 1991. Terra Nova runs between dense forests, the Atlantic Ocean and two frothing salmon rivers.
What makes Terra Nova so special are the outstanding par threes. Number eight, for example, requires crossing a raging river of white water to an elevated green protected by bunkers. Number 18, a downhill drive across a river to a postage-stamp green, leaves you feeling exhilarated.
Closer to St. John’s, take a swing at Pippy Park (tel: 709-753-7110; pippypark.com). Architect Graham Cooke’s championship 18-hole Admiral’s Green opened in 1993. Number seven, the par-three signature hole offers panoramic views of St. John’s Harbour. The topsy turvy terrain becomes all the more challenging by the sou’westers that can blow up to 60 kilometres per hour. I doubt many other destinations can tempt golfers with iceberg sightings, but should you tee off in spring or early summer you might well spot one.
The Spirit of Newfoundland troupe (tel: 877-661-3023; spiritofnewfoundland.com), formed in 1997, flaunts their island heritage by singing passionate, vibrant and harmony-filled ditties that span the broad gulf between Celtic and Broadway.
Located in downtown St. John’s in the historic Masonic Temple, this summer’s dinner shows includes Nunsense (running until end of Augsust), a musical comedy featuring a cast of zany nuns. With luck your three-course dinner will end with rum cake laced with Screech.
This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.