Victoria, B.C., Canada
Shot Options: 7.0 Challenge: 6.5 Layout Variety: 6.5 Aesthetics: 7.0 Conditioning: 8.5 Fun: 8.5
Overall Grade: 7.3/10
My wife and I moved to Vancouver Island in October 2020. The move was to avoid both the winter weather and the more severe Covid-19 situation in Ontario. Before traveling to the Island, I had reviewed the golf courses in the Victoria area and had not seen much written about Cordova Bay Golf Course. It is not part of the Vancouver Island Golf Trail or any of the packages you can purchase as a tourist.
I found it by searching “golf courses” on Google maps. It was the fourth golf course I had visited since I arrived and I was immediately struck by its incredible conditioning. This was in late October when my usual Ontario courses were preparing for winter hibernation.
Cordova Bay is a semi-private course about a 20-minute drive from downtown Victoria. The public is welcome but there are three forms of membership you can consider: Full, Men’s/Ladies League, and Players Card. At the time of this writing, there is a wait-list for Full and League memberships. You can always purchase a Players Card which provides a small discount on green fee’s, food and merchandise.
There are two descriptions that you will hear about Cordova Bay – “forgiving” and “great conditioning”. While there are a handful of holes that will penalize errant shots, the course allows for wide shot dispersion. In other words, you can spray it a bit here and still find your ball – and even have a decent shot at the green.
My overall grade for this golf course is influenced by the aforementioned conditioning and the enjoyment you will have while playing this attractive, relatively flat / easy-walking golf course. Assuming you play from the appropriate tee box, you may find yourself scoring a couple of strokes better than your usual round.
The Layout: The course was designed by Bill Robinson and opened in 1991. It was built on a flat and gently rolling landscape and most holes appear to have been designed “naturally”. The only artificial aspects to this golf course are the many mounds that both guard and separate several holes throughout the course. The mounds are almost all of identical shape and size and are too acute in this writer’s opinion.
The lower end grade (6.5) for layout variety is due to the preponderance of doglegs that bend to the left. On the front nine alone, five tee shots require a right to left shape. On the back nine there are no true doglegs, but a right to left tee shot on at least 3 holes will be of benefit. So, if you are naturally able to shape your tee shots right to left on this golf course, it will be a huge advantage. The 7.0 grade for shot options is based on the likely need to play every club in your bag at least once during your round. This owes to the varying lengths of the holes, particularly the five par threes where you will face a great variety of shot requirements.
As with any golf course, the most important thing for your enjoyment and that of the group playing behind you is that you choose the appropriate tee box from which to play. The two back tees (Black and Blue) should only be used by golfers who can “carry” their tee shots at least 250 yards and play to at least a 10.0 index. For mid-handicappers who can carry their tee shots at least 220 yards, the silver tee box is appropriate.
Hole #5 – The most difficult par 4. It is possible to cut the corner of this dogleg, but the prudent play is to either shape your tee shot right to left or aim your drive as close to the large tree on the corner as you can to shorten your approach to the green.
Hole #11 – The green on this par 3 has a unique hourglass shape. It is guarded by water on the right and two bunkers and a steep slope on the left. When the flagstick is set in the middle, play one less club and shape your shot left to right. You may come up short of the green, but the grass is cut short and you use your putter to lag up to the hole. If the flagstick is positioned in the back location, take one extra club and aim left of the hole.
Hole #14 – This is a three-shot par 5 for all but only a select few. The shallow green is the most difficult on the course. Try to approach this green from a distance that allows for a high and soft shot. The green feeds swiftly from left to right, so always aim your approach left of the flagstick. The smart play – if you hit a long enough drive – is to play your second shot to the far end of the fairway which will allow for an easier approach back into the sloping green.