Banff Springs - Alberta - Canada

Banff Springs Golf Club,
405 Spray Avenue,
Banff,
Alberta,
T0L 0C0,
Canada


  • + 1 403 762 2211

  • Ken Riordon

  • Stanley Thompson

  • Steven Young

Banff Springs Golf Club is set in perhaps the most spectacular and striking location in the world. The setting in the Canadian Rockies is so special that only the most focused golfers will be able to concentrate on the game in hand.

The Canadian Pacific Railway Company can be thanked for bringing a nine-hole golf course to Banff in 1911 as an attraction for its stunning, turreted hotel, known as the Castle in the Rockies. World War I civilian internees built a further nine holes to a Donald Ross design, but it was the illustrious Canadian architect, Stanley Thompson, who really put Banff on the map when he redesigned the course in 1927.

Thompson brought the course closer to the hotel and literally moved the earth to fashion the new Banff Springs. $1,000,000 later, the most expensive course in the world at that time opened for play to a rapturous standing ovation.

The stunning location presents all sorts of problems for the greenkeepers who battle with the extremities of the Alberta elements – warm days and freezing nights of spring. They do a stunning job because the course is invariably maintained immaculately.

Banff Springs is blessed with many world-class holes, all of which are named but there’s too many to mention here but we simply have to mention the 4th which is perhaps Canada’s most outstanding one-shotter. A climb to the elevated tee presents a heart-stopping view of the Devil’s Cauldron with its punchbowl green which slopes from back to front in order to drain the water off the putting surface as quickly as possible. The green is nestled at the foot of the colossal Mount Rundle and your tee shot must carry across a glacial lake and then avoid numerous greenside bunkers. Can you stay focused and swing smoothly on this 200-yard hole?

Banff Springs is set within a National Park and the course runs parallel with the River Bow with the thundering Bow Falls at one end. We’ve waxed lyrical about the location of Banff Springs Golf Club, but we can assure you that nothing prepares you for the reality, charm and sheer enormity of the setting.

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Reviews for Banff Springs

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Description: We’ve waxed lyrical about the location of Banff Springs Golf Club, but we can assure you that nothing prepares you for the reality, charm and sheer enormity of the setting. Rating: 5.625 out of 6 Reviews: 8

Destination golf course is a term used all too frequently these days. Every new course sells itself as a destination course; somewhere worth travelling to. But despite the hyperbole there are very few courses that really merit the title. St Andrews? Yes. Pebble Beach? Yes. Augusta? Yes. These are all courses that every golfer would crawl over broken glass to play on.

And there are others, courses that aren’t destinations just because of their history and connection to majors. In the US Bandon Dunes has become a bit of a pilgrimage for some. Ballybunion or Old Head might be another two in Ireland. These are places that offer an experience so special that they are the subject of dreams. We envy the experience of people who have played them.

It’s hard to say what really makes a destination course, but I suppose it has something to do with uniqueness. They each provide an experience you can’t get anywhere else. The Old Course layout has been repeated and copied around the world, but no matter how good the copy may be, it’ll never beat the feeling of walking onto that first tee, the anticipation building as you stand firm against a stiff easterly from the North Sea. Even dropping it straight into the Swilcan Burn is unlikely to dampen the spirits.

And it’s not necessarily about being the best golf course. St Andrews isn’t regarded as the best golf course in the world. Nor is it the hardest, unless the weather moves in. But it is special. Special counts for a lot.

One course I have wanted to play for years is Banff Springs, Stanley Thompson’s masterpiece in the Canadian Rockies. To me, it’s a destination golf course through and through. Every picture I have ever seen of the place screamed different, unique, special. It’s also hard to get to, being so very far away from … anywhere.

Luckily my wife and I were spending the weekend at the Fairmont Hotel in Banff, which owns the course, and so the morning after arriving I left her asleep at 6am, threw my clubs over my shoulder and headed to the clubhouse. It wasn’t a cheap round at nearly $200 but when else would I be likely to get the chance again? It was there. I was there. I had my credit card in my wallet…

First of all it has to be said that Banff Springs is all about the views. The actual course I’ll get to in a minute, but you can’t talk about playing golf here without first talking about the huge, majestic, jagged, imposing, grey monolithic mountains that surround and tower over the course, glaring at you from every angle as you play every shot. It’s like being watched by an audience of titans. It’s virtually impossible to remain fed up with a bad shot after looking up and thinking “Wow”!

The welcome at the clubhouse is great, as it always is at premium courses in North America. The people are charming to the point of annoying. The facilities are comprehensive. The breakfast is pretty good. The pro shop is well stocked, though with the ubiquitous collection of club branded rubbish, which I always hate but which I always end up buying.

The practice range was new and polished and clean and well run and did what it had to do, ie, terrify me that I was going to embarrass myself. The one good thing about playing 5,000 feet up, however, is that the well struck shots look magisterial, sailing through the thin air as they do. After a couple of those I headed to the first.

I was playing alone so I was paired up with another lone golfer and two Quebecois to make a fourball. I made a solid drive off the first and hit a good 9 iron into the green, so the ‘playing with new people’ nerves were dealt with effectively and for a brief moment they thought I was a good golfer. The first hole on any unknown course is always a bit or a blur. A mixture of nerves and excitement mean that just getting a par is about all I can remember. The only other memorable moment was the starter telling us what to do if we saw moose on the course!

The next couple of holes went by okay but if I’m honest I was distracted by the views. It’s hard to concentrate when faced with something like that. The mountains, shrouded in wispy early morning cloud, are blanketed on their lower slopes by dense pine forest. It looks like something from a Tolkein novel, not somewhere you’d be expecting to hit a golf ball. I was also aware that the course’s signature hole, The Devil’s Cauldron, was coming up at the 4th.

A par 3 over a pretty lake does not sound that daunting, but when you stand there, high up on the tee box, looking at this postage stamp green over 200 yards away, it’s pretty intimidating. Club selection is key here and I pulled a 3 iron from my bag. I never, ever use it in anger, but trying a club I have no familiarity with on a difficult hole on a course I have never played is the kind of idiocy I engage in on such occasions as this. I smacked it into the trees to the left of the hole. Still, I didn’t go in the lake! I got up and down for a par after a fluked second shot from a bunker and moved on.

The next few holes went well, a series of long, wide par 4 and 5s with strategic bunkers and lovely undulating greens. Everything here feels like a premium golf course. It’s well maintained, with good attention to detail. The tee boxes are immaculate, there are ball washers on each hole, there are water stations and bathrooms every few holes and the grass on the fairways and rough is lush and beautiful. Being this far north means it does not suffer the same arid summers as other courses in North America, so in the middle of August it remains a garden of Eden.

Around the turn the course winds along the edge of the Bow River and heads back toward the hotel, with some interesting holes that require pinpoint accuracy. Unfortunately, I was having a period of strong starts and bad finishes to my rounds at the time, so these tricky holes coincided with a loss of form and a good few balls lost to the white water.

The 14th ends at the foot of the hill where the hotel sits and the 15th tee box is about 150 feet up. It’s round about now you appreciate that they insist on buggies because you really don’t want to be walking up and down this hill just for a tee shot. That being said, it is an amazing experience to blast your ball across the Spray River and onto the wide fairway below. I faded (ie, sliced) my ball because I tried to hit it too far, but it still landed in a findable position in the light rough, so it’s a fun hole.

This used to be the opening hole to the course before a change in routing a few years back and the construction of a new clubhouse in the middle of the course. I understand the logic behind that move but it is a shame that this is not where you still start. It must have been an awesome experience and one of the best opening holes in the golfing world. Now the first is one of the more sane holes and this one feels sort of ignored. I suppose a purist could argue that hitting a drive from that high up isn’t really a proper golf shot, but it is fun and definitely special.

Another couple of holes and I was back at the clubhouse, now much busier than it was at 6am when I set out. I was almost tempted to go round again, and had my wife not been shopping with my other credit card I would have chanced it.

For me the biggest test of a course is whether I’m as sad for it to end as I was excited for it to start, and Banff Springs definitely achieved that. The neo gothic castle that is the Fairmont Hotel gives it an air of romantic fairytale, which complements the over the top mountain range in which it’s nestled, but the golf course itself matches them for grandeur. It’s not a difficult course, with generous fairways and large greens. Even the ample bunkering felt well placed and not simply there for show. Nor has it been tricked up to be special. It’s special enough just by being where it is.

One thing I have to note as an addendum is the mosquitoes! There was a plague of them when I was there and though this is apparently rare, the buggers were the size of crane flies and they wouldn’t leave me alone. I had to keep long sleeves on even after sun up or they wouldn’t stop biting me.
5 / 6
Banff Springs
April 30, 2015


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regripped
September 03, 2016

This has to be one of my favorite reviews on the site. I feel like I have played the course along side you and can't wait to get up there to play for myself!

An excellent championship course set at a resort. The bunkering reflects Stanley Thompson at his best with bunkers guarding the best approaches to the greens and presenting challenges for shots into the greens. If you take a look at an aerial view of the course (Google Maps) you may see how much fun he had designing the shape of several of the bunkers. Hard to see from the ground so look before you go. Par 3's are a great part of the design. The downhill Devil's Cauldron over the pond to the bowl green is probably more intimidating to look at than to play but a very attractive hole. The 10th (Little Bow) may be a significantly more difficult shot with water covering the entire length of the right side of the hole, a large bunker guarding the left side of the green and 218 yards. Shame circumstances required rerouting the 1st tee away from the hotel as the initial tee shot over the river must have been quite the challenge. Conditioning of the course was quite marginal on the day of play due to the late Spring and recent heavy rains. Bunkers were untended and almost unplayable (compacted with stones floated to surface). The Staff was busy bringing the course back.
5 / 6
Banff Springs
June 28, 2012


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On a June 2010 visit to Canada I played Banff Springs whilst staying in the Banff Town, I had heard many great things about this Stanley Thompson designed course and had seen many pictures, I had even played the course on the Tiger Woods play station game so had an idea of what to expect.Overall Banff Springs is a very good course with many standout holes, it is worth noting that as part of the national park they are not allowed to use fertilizers on the course or use water at certain times of the year so this will impact on the conditioning of the course. The greens were not brilliant to be fair, they were pretty sandy and were clearly still recovering from the snow which had only melted a month or so previously, however they were more than playable and didn’t dampen my spirits despite the $229 green fee.The course is set in a stunning mountain location, the views from nearly every hole are incredible and fortunately for me it was a sunny day so I got to see the course at its best, many of the holes are tree lined and whilst the fairways are not overly tight you do have to be careful with placement off the tee as the bunkering was pretty clever on certain holes.A feature of Stanley Thompson designed courses are long par 3’s and this is relevant for the 9th which was playing 220yds on the tees I used, although the 4th which is famously known as ‘Devils Cauldron’ was playing about 160yds and is a beautiful par 3 over water into a ‘basin’ of a green.For me there are several highlights on this course, number one is the scenery and general aesthetics of the place, the other is the Bow River which cuts through the course at certain points and is particularly stunning on the 14th par 4 which plays towards the beautifully imposing Fairmont Springs Hotel. This then leads on to the best hole on the course, in my opinion, which is the par 4 15th. You have to drive your buggy up towards the hotel where the tees are set into the hillside elevated high above the fairway, the hole looks huge from the tees but if you hit a good drive you’ll be surprised just how far it goes due to the elevation – a stunning golf hole that is worth the price alone, in fact this used to be the 1st hole on the course until they shuffled it around in the 90’s.The range practice facilities are very good, as they seem to be at most of the Canadian courses I played, with complimentary Taylormade range balls and you were able to hit off the turf too rather than range mates. The clubhouse is very nice with a well stocked pro shop, although the prices of garments were high!Overall I highly recommend this course to any serious golfer out there, it provides a good challenge from the tips and the setting alone is worthy of a visit. I thoroughly enjoyed my round at Banff Springs and would not hesitate to head back there one day.
5 / 6
Banff Springs
July 02, 2010


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In direct contrast to Jasper this certainly didnt disapoint. I thought it was fantastic. The condition was much better than JPL and it had a more intimate (tree lined) feel. I thought the bunkering was also a standout feature of the course. Its probably the dearest of all the Canadian courses but its probably justified. Truly awesome...
6 / 6
Banff Springs
June 22, 2010


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As others have written, this is an awesome course whose setting draws the eye so often that you can be forgiven for any mishits (that's my excuse anyway). It can be windy and in that case some of the longer holes are a real challenge. But while you are waiting to play, just look around at those majestic mountains, admire a coyote being herded across the fairway behind you by a family of elk pretecting thier young, and accept that some greens may have had the same elk leaving hoof prints. The best hole is, in my opinion, the original first (I think), now the 14th(?) high up the side of the mountain and near the hotel, where your drive has to clear a river - a real invitation to let rip.
6 / 6
Banff Springs
April 13, 2010


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Banff Springs is one of the most enjoyable courses I have ever played. It's set in the beautiful Rocky Mountains where golf is just one of the amazing outdoor activities. The course layout is fantastic with the par 3 4th, Devil's Cauldron, being the most spectacular. The course continues to challenge the golfer while providing breathtaking views on nearly every hole that follows. The cost is a little high, with peak times costing around $300. The only drawback happens to be good for the environment. Because Banf is a National Park, pesticides are not allowed. This may provide less than smooth early season conditions but this course is worth the visit any time of the year.
6 / 6
Banff Springs
December 20, 2008


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Banff Springs is simply one of the best courses in Western Canada. The layout is outstanding with a variety of holes to test your game. The par 3 4th, offers a unique tee-shot into a bowl surrounded by bunkers and water. Club selection is key as there is a significant elevation drop from the tee.Because Banff Springs is located in a Provincial Park, certain chemicals are not alowed to be used. This will affect course conditions especially coming out of cold Alberta winters. The fairways and greens aren't perfect but the course is a joy to play even with those factors. The course is fair but challenging and would be a treat to be a member at. The biggest drawback for me was the price as I believe its the most expensive course in Alberta. Enjoy it if you can!
6 / 6
Banff Springs
November 29, 2008


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Banff Springs had always been a course that I had wanted to play since I saw it in a book given to me one Christmas. It took me about 30 years to get there, but it was well worth the wait. I booked the tee time at the golf shop in the hotel, and on the morning jumped the shuttle bus down to the pro shop as a helicopter buzzed low overhead. There the staff (who were all kitted out in a uniform of white shirts, black plus-twos and argyle socks) could not have been any more helpful. As I was doing a trans-Canada tour & this was to be my only round, I hadn’t brought my own clubs but hired some. I was given a full set of brand new Taylor Made’s. The emphasis here is on service; range balls were included (“Just help yourself sir”) the buggy had an icebox with complimentary bottles of water in it, there were tees, a pitch mark repairer & a towel in the front (“We’d like the towel back sir, but keep the rest”). I was paired up with another 3 visitors, and off we went. The course itself was in excellent condition and is a very good test of golf, but to some degree suffers from the absolutely stunning views around it; if the same holes could somehow be set elsewhere without the views, I’m sure the golf course itself would get excellent reviews and be well regarded. There are a good mix of par 3’s, both in length & changes of elevation, the short par 4’s invite you to take them on but bite back if you are careless, the longer 4’s test you and the par 5’s can be played a number of ways. As a first time player you can see all that you need to from the tee. And for all that, you keep looking at the amazing views. It turned out that my visit was a couple of weeks before a Skins game at Banff; the helicopter was doing the flyover shots, and we were politely interrupted on a few holes by the pro & a camera crew doing the descriptive shots about how the hole should be played, but this was done in such a manner that it added to the experience. Cost was £130 in summer 2006 for the green fee and the clubs, and as far as I am concerned was worth every penny. If Lorne & Mr. & Mrs lee happen to read this, thanks for your company, it added to the day.
6 / 6
Banff Springs
December 26, 2007


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