Under construction to be ready for play in Spring 2009, the 18-hole, par-71 Nicklaus Design Valley Course will measure just under 7,000 yards from the Championship set of tees. The first 9-holes opened for play in August 2008, while the full 18 holes will open in April of 2009. Playing at a lower elevation than the Mountain Course, alternating between 300 and 400 feet above sea level, compared to the 1100 feet that the Mountain Course rises to at it’s peak, together, the Mountain and Valley courses will be the only 36-hole Nicklaus Design golf offering with a future Nicklaus Academy in Canada. Coupled with the uniquely challenging course terrain and unsurpassed natural beauty, The Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort & Spa, Victoria is now among the most sought-after golf destinations in the Americas.
The Valley Course – Hole by Hole
- From an elevated tee position the par 5 opening hole moves gently to the right. With a large bunker located on the right side, a well-struck drive down the left side will use the down slope to gain good distance. The second shot should either be played into the golfers favourite ‘scoring’ zone or take on the challenge of a narrow green entry, with trouble once again lurking on the right edge of the green in the form of a 40 yard bunker and beyond that a 100 foot drop. Leaving the ball short of the hole, when on the green, should result in an easier, uphill putt.
- The second hole is the first of the course’s five lengthy par 3s. A low running tee shot that carries the bunker, placed short and left of the green will feed into the green centre while a high towering shot will still hold a deep green. With a large catchment area behind and to the left of the green, and trouble once again in the shape of a pond and creek and thereafter, bunker to the right of the green, there is fun and games to be had on this testing hole.
- The third hole is a dramatically downhill par 4. The further the ball is driven, the narrower the fairway becomes. From the tee, select enough club to comfortably clear the natural creek that crosses the hole. The approach shot needs to be precise as the green is very shallow front to back. Be aware of the heavily bunkered green that has many slopes and contours throughout.
- The par 4 fourth hole requires a tee shot hit favouring the left side of the fairway, with another dramatic drop off right of the fairway. This accomplished, the ball will use the slopes to find centre cut. A short downhill shot now awaits. With a green running away from the golfer, the challenge is in striking the ball purely enough to control the distance upon landing. This green features some of the more heavily contoured slopes to be found on the Valley course greens.
- The short par 4 fifth hole is a classic risk/reward hole. Littered with bunkers, risk takers will drive over or left of the bunker and will be rewarded with a short pitch to the green. With more fairway short and to the right, a longer, uphill approach will remain for most players.
- Although measured at over 200 yards from the back tees, this par 3 will not play near it’s full length, but will likely give the golfer the most headaches over club selection due to the enormous drop in elevation. The largest green on the golf course, has less gradient change than many of the greens, so will offer some solace after the challenges faced from the tee. Golfers enjoy the sounds emanating from the nearby creek as the water tumbles over the rocks on its way into the lake beyond the green.
- The seventh hole is a straightaway par 4. Long hitters should note that the fairway narrows at the farthest point, with a lake to the left and craggy rock framing the fairway right that also juts in obstructing part of the green view if your ball lies in the right side of the fairway. Left side of the fairway, while a risk from the tee, offers a full view of the green and a better opportunity for birdie.
- Although the downhill eighth hole is considered short at less than 370 yards, there are an abundance of hazards. From the elevated tee the golfers’ focus is put to the test straightaway, with trout making their way up the fish ladder and into the lake behind. The next test is to choose a club that finds the fairway short of the creek, and ideally left of the tree and rock that reside in the creek. If the tee shot has been accurate and the branches don’t need to be negotiated, then the approach shot is a mid to short iron that travels slightly uphill to a green with a small plateau centre back.
- The long par 4 ninth hole closes out the front nine in spectacular fashion. Measuring 466 yards from the Golden Bear tees, the hole takes a slow turn right from the tee, with heavy bunkering on the right side of the fairway challenging the tee shot. The left side of the fairway again hugs up against the exposed rock face that frame so many of the holes. With a large bunker front, the average golfer will either try and run the approach in from the left side or need to hit a high, towering approach shot to find the green. This may become a three-stroke hole for many golfers.
- The par 3, tenth hole measures just over 200 yards from the back tees, with the green situated in an amphitheatre type setting. Better long than short here, using the slope beyond the green, may just see the ball return back to a very tricky putting surface.
- The par 4 eleventh hole is again initially played downhill. The tee shot offers a classic risk reward choice, with a creek bisecting the fairway just at the golfer’s dilemma point. The reward for the risk is a short iron from an uphill lie, rather than a long iron from a downhill lie into a smallish green guarded by forest and rock.
- The short par 5 twelfth hole threads its way uphill, through a narrow opening in exposed rock outcroppings that again line each side of the fairway. For those adventurous enough to take on the putting surface in two, peril awaits in the form of a small cluster of bunkers right around the putting surface. Spectacular views of the Clubhouse and Mountain Village are available from different vantage points on this hole.
- With water winding down the full length of the thirteenth hole, before emptying into a large lake situated to the right of the green, keeping your ball dry is a challenge on this long downhill par 4. Favour the left side for your tee shot, then navigate your way around the huge rock situated just short, left of the green. The smart golfer will lay up short and score lower as a result. This may be the most talked about hole on the property.
- The par 3 fourteenth hole requires some precision play. Although shorter than the other par 3’s this wide but shallow green will punish inconsistent distance control. Anything hit over the green, risks catching the small bunker back left. That will still be an advantage over finishing in the front bunker that stretches from the tee all the way to the green!
- The long, par 5 fifteenth hole, offers a challenge from the tee. The shot must negotiate branches from trees right, whilst carrying one of the course’s many lakes to find the fairway. The lake sits left of the fairway, with a fairway bunker playing on the mind of the long hitter to the right! When the golfer successfully finds the fairway they must carry the lake that cuts back across the hole for the second time. The green is, unusually, not protected by any bunkers, but that is more than made up for by the great swales around the green and numerous slope on the putting surface. Possibly the toughest hole on the course.
- The sixteenth is the last par 3 on the course. Again playing over 200 yards from the Championship tees, the green slopes sharply from left to right and back to front and is also fairly shallow. Play for the left portion of the green with a high trajectory shot. Any shot to the right is doomed with a steep drop just yards from the greens edge.
- The magnificent par 4, seventeenth hole, bends slowly to the right, and steadily downhill. The shortest distance to the green is using the right side of the fairway, but this also offers the most amount of risk. Play left, use the slope to feed the ball back into the centre then carry the water hazard and bunker short of the green. From the green, admire the view back up the fairway through the maples, and beyond, to the waterfall that tumbles in the summer and hurtles in the spring.
- The eighteenth hole is a fun par 5. A little over 550 yards from the back, another elevated tee allows the golfer to plan their assault on the finishing hole. No fairway bunkers mean the golfers can wind up for a big one as distance is their friend here. Bunkers left and right of the green, with long, wispy, fescue swaying behind must all be avoided. The green has three tiers and any putt from the wrong tier, either below or above, is a tough one. This hole offers a fitting end to a truly memorable golf experience.