Traveling about a half hour north of Victoria on the scenic Trans-Canada Highway, you begin to encounter award-winning Cowichan Valley wineries that are quickly gaining notoriety. Well, there is a 1987 vintage golf course as well that should grab your attention and it’s the Arbutus Ridge Golf Club. It is one of a couple of the shorter courses on the Vancouver Island Golf Trail, but fun and testy just as well.
As I traveled up the hill to the attractive, glass-fronted clubhouse and parked, I was anxious to admire the views that combine both the mountains and ocean. From there the golf course tumbles down past housing into the nucleus of the layout that winds its way through tree-lined avenues and sometimes dense forest, and one attractive hole after another.
You are apt to spot lots of deer and other wildlife as I did. Shown above is the 407-yard 5th hole is one of the most challenging putting surfaces on the entire course! (Photo by Robert S. Fagan)
Drivers are not needed on many holes at Arbutus Ridge nor are they advised. At just less than 6,200 yards from the tips, there is not the need to bomb the ball, but rather to accurately finesse your way around the course. Apart from the first hole that is tightly squeezed between housing and an adjacent road, I thoroughly enjoyed the layout and despite the short yardage, found myself hitting most all of my clubs.
My only criticism of the entire Arbutus Ridge course is the first tee shot, but as you can see from the approach to the first green, things brighten up quickly and nicely! (Photo by Robert S. Fagan)
Two of the par threes play 210 yards or more while the 456-yard par-four 12th has plenty of muscle and the uphill 18th plays much longer than its 426 yards. In the first paragraph, I mentioned “fun and testy.” Well, not only did I have one of my poorer scoring rounds of the 12 I played that week, but surprisingly I had as much fun as any too. Now that’s a testament to the golf course, its wonderful conditioning, my host, and the friendly service I enjoyed – and not the rule of thumb with golf (poor score-great time). Yes, the course requires patient placement and accurate approaches if one wants to take advantage of its lack of overall length for it’s no pushover. The greens run firm, true, and fast so they will be appreciated by the skilled, but feared by the rest.
You will want to stay for dinner here at Arbutus Ridge as well – excellent menu, excellent food, excellent service, but reasonable prices.
One of my favorite holes proved to be the 127-yard 9th. Playing with my host, the Club’s General Manager Jason Lowe, I was able to witness him record his first-ever hole-in-one. Of all the holes that day, the hole location was the most severe one tucked way right on a shallow finger of the green behind the right bunker. Well Jason, hit a high pure strike just left of the hole and the ball drifted down a few feet right into the cup. How sweet! Hitting into a slight breeze, I hit my best and was quite satisfied with a 15′ birdie putt. Anyway, it was a thrill to witness a great shot on a great hole on a great day of golf… and I look forward to returning to Arbutus Ridge – a course you will enjoy. And see if you can match Jason!
Below is Arbutus Ridge GM Jason Lowe moments after he recorded his first-ever hole-in-one, and on this great short par-three. Note the hole location on the right-middle of the right bunker. What a shot – nothing flukey about it!
Bob Fagan features one of the most interesting backgrounds in travel and golf. Not only it is likely that Bob has played more American golf courses than any living person, he has been an accomplished player and instructor, holds a Ph.D. in Counseling, has been an innovative golf and life coach, PGA Section Executive Director, golf company executive, “Expert Golf Witness,” and, of course, a highly acclaimed travel and golf writer.