Some of the most enjoyable golf one can experience is often in unexpected places. And many of those places across Alberta lie in rural areas, where small towns don’t mean small layouts. Rather, these courses provide some of the most relaxed, fun, scenic, and challenging rounds of golf. And in most cases, they are only a short drive away.
Dinosaur Trail G&CC a unique mix of nines
By Gord Montgomery – Western Canada Senior Writer, Inside Golf
DRUMHELLER — Until you experience what the Dinosaur Trail Golf & Country Club has to offer, you can only imagine what is in store for you. Sure, your friends can tell you how this 18-hole layout goes from a parkland style to something entirely different but really, you have to experience it to get the true feeling for the diametrically different nines.
In the land of dinosaurs, this golf course offers a tantalizing experience unlike any other in the province. Or put it this way: On the outward stretch you get a baby-sized dino like the Compsognathus, about the size of a turkey, while the back nine offers up a monster in the form of the formidable T-Rex. And yes, that home stretch is somewhat intimidating.
Asked to speak to this unique layout, General Manager Neil Dobell explained how this playground came into being in two separate stages.
“The first nine is a parkland nine, built along the river, that was done in 1965. Then after a few years the members wanted to build a back nine. They went across the highway into the hoodoos and built that in 1996. It’s totally different back there …. once you play it, you’ll understand.”
Or as Dobell said of that intriguing nine: “Back there it’s a cross between desert golf and the moon!”
On the front nine you’re immediately put at ease with tree-lined fairways that are quite wide, with short rough and greens that are both receptive and relatively flat. It plays out to just over 3,200 yards off the back tees, winding down to 2,900 off the white blocks and 2,657 from the front deck. With your confidence built up after maneuvering around this stretch, it’s time to grit your teeth and take on the beast on the back.
After a somewhat startling climb to reach the 10th tee, a par-5 of 476 yards off the white tee, you see a fairway that looks dauntingly narrow. After all, it’s bordered on both sides by drop-offs meaning your aim must be true. In fact, over the whole back nine, any shots that disappear into the unknown are simply played as lateral hazards, to save time, and yes, golf balls. The next hole, a short par-4 of 278-yards calls for a shot to the right that is somewhat daunting given what looks like a narrow landing area but it is larger than it appears and leaves one with a car shot into the green. If you go left though, you still hit fairway but you need to elevate your approach shot over a massive rock wall blocking any view of the green. And similar challenges continue from there.
As to the mindset one needs here, Dobell noted, “The front nine is easier although there are some tricks there. But, once you go to the back nine you want to bring a lot of golf balls! There are places it eats golf balls. It gets rather hungry back there!”
Now while this sounds terrifying, it is a fun play and a good test to see if your game is as good as you think. It’s a brand of target golf, you need to make sure you hit the right club, and have a bit of luck here and there.”
“Basically, you’re on top of the hoodoos so there are steep drop-offs,” said Dobell. “You don’t have much room for error. It might sound scary but once you see the pictures (and make sure to use the yardage book) and you go back there, you realize how spectacular it is. It’s more visually appealing than scary.”
Now, if you’re perhaps a bit leery about teeing it up here because it’s a bit of a drive, Dobell indicated there is a deal online that makes playing here even more enticing. He explained that anyone using playgolfalberta.com gets an “exceptional discount,” with a saving of 47% off the regular green fee, to give this test a try, and see just how good your game really is on what has to be one of the most unique, interesting, challenging, and yes, fun back nines in the province.
Since Drumheller is more than a day trip for many, there are several options to spend the night, and yes, to take on Dinosaur Trail G&CC a second time once you have the lay of the land. Here’s a list of spots to pitch your tent, or park your trailer for a night or two in this interesting badlands area. In no particular order, they are: River Grove Campground; Dinosaur RV Park & Dino’s RV Nest; 11 Bridges Campground, RV and Cozy Cabin Park; Pinters Campground; Horseshoe Canyon Campground; Dinosaur Trail RV Resort & Cabins; Hoodoos RV Resort & Campground; and Bleriot Ferry Provincial Recreation Area.
Or, if you prefer a bed, there are several motels around this town of 9,000 or so, including the Heartwood Inn, a quiet, comfortable establishment away from the downtown area, that offers a variety of rooms for singles, couples and groups. In fact, this place, originally built in 1905, has an interesting history including at one time or another being a brothel (yes, you read that right!); a home for disturbed young men; a boarding house; and now, an inn.
All in all, this golf experience is unlike any other in Alberta and one that has to be tried to be appreciated. For tee times to Dinosaur Trail GC, go to playgolfalberta.com and follow the links.