Victoria, B.C., Canada
Shot Options: 8.0 Layout Variety: 8.0 : Challenge: 8.0 Aesthetics: 8.0 Conditioning: 7.5 Fun: 9.0 Overall Grade: 8.1
This is the tale of two distinct nine holes. There is not a front or back nine here at Highland Pacific. They alternate the two nine’s from week to week. When I arrived on Vancouver Island, I had heard this was a great track but could rarely find a tee time for 18. After playing the Pacific nine a handful of times, I finally secured a spot for a full round and a chance to play the highly rated Highland side.
The course was designed by Chris Young and opened for play in 1991. It was his first solo effort after years apprenticing under some of the greats of Canadian golf architecture including Doug Carrick and Thomas McBroom.
Overall, the course is an interesting and enjoyable test with multiple elevation changes and shot requirements. The Highland side is indeed the better nine with each hole providing a distinct challenge, and many with sweeping views of the island. The only thing that slightly mars the aesthetics is the occasional hydro line intrusion. The Layout Variety score would have been higher but I deducted half a point because all the par-3’s are approached from an elevated tee.
One of the highlight holes on the Pacific side is the par-5 fourth hole that is a 3-shotter for any caliber of player. There is a generous landing area for your drive but then things get tricky. The shallow green is elevated with a rock face guarding the left and center of the putting surface. The ideal play is to place your second shot to the flat area to the right of the green. This allows for a slightly less difficult approach shot – but be wary of the false front.
The par 3 third and ninth holes on the Highland side are both long, dramatically downhill and fraught with danger. Coming away with two pars on these holes is not an easy task. The par 4 fifth is the number one handicap hole for a reason. Chris Young confronts you with a choice off the tee: hit driver over the left hand bunker to a small landing area and have a short approach shot from a good angle, or hit your 200 yard club to a much wider space to the right and contend with a long approach to a green perched just left of a large water hazard. There is a bail-out area short and left for the faint-hearted.
This course is a tough walk. Many regulars will walk the Pacific side and opt for a cart for the Highland nine. Your best value – and greatest comfort – will be a twilight weekday round with a cart. However, for a mere $140, you can get a yearly membership that discounts your fees and gives you a few extra days to book over the general public.
Pacific #2 – Once you have established your yardage, temperature and wind effect, take one club less from this elevated tee.
Highland #1 – The fairway bunker guarding the left side of this fairway sits about 220 yards from the white tees. It’s easy to hit and difficult to clear. I suggest you hit your 210 yard club that will leave only a short iron second shot.
Highland #3 – You need to avoid – at all costs – the right side of this hole. Anything short right will either feed into a cavernous bunker or role into the penalty area guarding the entire right side of this treacherous par 3.