By Gord Montgomery, Senior Writer, Inside Golf
In golf, as in life, you get what you pay for. And, at the Northern Bear Golf Club you most definitely get your money’s worth.
Seen by many as one of the best places to play in the Edmonton area this is a true test of your game. Needless to say, Northern Bear is a gem from start to finish as proven by the fact that it is continually ranked in Score Golf as a member of their Top 100 Canadian layouts.
Designed by Jack Nicklaus and opened in 1992, this bear of a course has had some difficulties in the past. But those have now been put to rest said Blair McDowell, the Director of Golf at this rural course, and you now find this track is in top-notch shape. And to back that up, all you have to do is look at their tee sheet which is basically full every day.
Then when you look at the scorecard, a precursor to anyone’s round, you see some tough challenges but also holes that are ‘gettable.’ The former is borne out by its slope off the longest tees, sitting at 143 and playing over 7,300 yards . From the Blues it is still a haul at 6,800 yards and one tee in front of that it’s just over 6,000 yards. From the front end, the yardage is pared down to slightly over 5,200 yards.
Given the distances here, and the five sets of tees, McDowell noted, “Ultimately the golf course is good for anyone in terms of skill level. Obviously not a lot of guys can play from the back tees (but) we also have combo tees. We have tees for every skill level.”
“The whole golf course is in great condition. Water isn’t a problem (anymore). We’ve tried to alleviate that problem by digging some of our holding ponds deeper. For the most part we’ve dealt with that issue.”
“As you know we’re one of the better golf courses in town. I’m not sure, percentage-wise, how much the Nicklaus name plays for people coming here, but we’re always ranked in the top 100 by Score Golf and the rankings the course gets are always high, so that plays into things as well,” in keeping the tee sheets near capacity.
Like every Nicklaus design, the putting surfaces at Northern Bear are large, meaning a one-putt can be a tricky task if your ball lands on the far side of the green. At the same time, once you get the speed down, and they are fast, you know that a well-struck putt has a chance of going in the hole as long as your line is correct. In playing to the terrain given to him, Nicklaus makes use of the trees on the course, where some of the holes are bordered by brush with others being quite wide open with spacious fairways on every hole.
“For the most part as long as you drive it well you can hold your own,” the pro noted. “It’s certainly not a tricky golf course but it is a course where you have to hit a good tee ball, for sure. Each hole is a great golf hole here. You’re not going to find two holes alike. There’s not a bad hole on the golf course. Not only is it a great layout but every hole is a great hole!”
In order to get ready to take on The Bear, the club offers what McDowell refers to as, “Probably one of the better ranges in town,” featuring grass tees and plenty of room to air out all your sticks. Post-round, the beautiful clubhouse offers a great selection of menu options (hint: try the fish tacos) created by a chef who is determined to please you palate.
As to getting what you pay for, McDowell agreed that his club is well worth investing those green fee dollars in. And, their prices really aren’t that far out of line with other top-end courses.
“Comparable places fees are coming up higher and higher and closer and closer to our rates,” he noted. “Ultimately, are we a little more expensive? Yes, but like you said, you get what you pay for,” and at the Northern Bear Golf Club, you do get a bang for your buck at one of the country’s top-end golf courses.
In closing, McDowell said, “It’s important to us, when you come out to Northern Bear, to offer you a full meal deal, so to speak. We not only offer great golf but a beautiful facility to spend time after your round.”
For great rates on tee times at the Northern Bear Golf Club, click here.