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The Castle in the Rockies – Banff Springs Hotel & Golf Course

A tradition truly unlike any other and a terrific way to enjoy your first post-Covid-19 getaway


The year 2020 marked not only the end of the second decade of the new millennium, but a world engulfed by the coronavirus with its lockdowns, vaccination development efforts and restrictions on travel and recreation. Skipping forward a year, we are still engulfed by the coronavirus but with immunization programs now in effect throughout many parts of the world, we’re easing towards the world that we knew as restrictions are gradually removed with travel and leisure activities resuming.

With the fatigue that developed during the pandemic, it is only natural that we look towards forms of “recreational escapism” to commemorate the gradual return of a more normal world. For many people, that means loading up the golf bags and duffel bags or suitcases for a golf trip with some friends, perhaps a nice getaway with your significant other to enjoy some golf and “me time”. Or, maybe it will mean planning a small getaway to thank some of your business clients for their support during this period.

Castle in the Rockies

Chateau style castle of Banff Springs Hotel
The Castle in the Rockies -- A majestic view towering over the landscape

Whatever the reason and motivation, one of the places that should come to mind, is the natural wonder and beauty that is Banff Springs Hotel and Golf Course. Known as the Castle in the Rockies or sometimes the Castle in the Sky, the Banff Springs Hotel first opened for business in 1888, shortly after the creation of Canada’s first National Park – Banff, and the completion of the new transcontinental railway in 1885.

Built near the confluence of the Bow and Spray rivers, nestled amongst the majestic peaks of the Rockies, the hotel was the brainchild of William Cornelius Van Horne, the railroad magnate behind Canada’s new transcontinental railway. The hotel resort would serve as a getaway spot for passengers on his new railway, bringing a bit of the European mountain tradition to North America.

Today, the Banff Springs Hotel is a world class resort located in Banff National Park and World Heritage Site. With its 757 - guest rooms and finely appointed amenities, the Hotel normally boasts at least 5 restaurants on site, ranging from the Vermillion Room and the 360° Dome to the Lookout Patio and Stanley’s Smokehouse. They offer a wide variety of menu choices and cuisines to choose from with standards of excellence to be expected from all of them. As we gradually emerge from the Covid-19 health restrictions, there will continue to be potential interruptions in service and availability, so it is best to check ahead with the hotel. It has long been a favourite destination for celebrities and luminaries alike.

Marilyn Monroe enjoyed golf and played often
Marilyn Monroe working on her golf swing under the watchful eye of the local golf professional (1953).

The "Last Word in Golf"

As good as the rooms and amenities are at the Banff Springs Hotel, the primary reason for planning a golf trip will be the golf itself – and the Banff Springs Golf Course does not disappoint.

Like the hotel itself, the Banff Springs Golf Course is steeped in golf history. The 18-hole championship course can trace its roots all the way back to Old Tom Morris himself. His young apprentice, Bill Thomson designed the original nine-hole course in 1911 that would eventually become the 18-hole course of today.

If having an apprentice of Old Tom Morris was not enough of a pedigree for the design, it would surely be enhanced when the course was expanded from the original nine to a new 18-hole course in 1924. The architect of the new course was none other than famed golf course architect, Donald Ross. Many of Ross’s courses are in the golf annals of course architecture, reading like a “hall of fame” for golf courses. They range from Seminole in Florida (a favourite of Ben Hogan), East Lake in Atlanta (home course of Bobby Jones), to the famous courses of Ohio (Scioto Country Club) and Michigan (Oakland Hills Country Club). He would also design Aronimink in Pennsylvania and Inverness in Toledo, Ohio. Of course, Ross is probably best known for Pinehurst No.2 – arguably the historical and spiritual centrepiece of American golf courses.

Now, most golfers would be well satisfied with a Donald Ross design, but the Banff Springs was not content to be anything less than stunning in every sense of the word. So, when they caught word that Stanley Thompson was going to design a course in neighbouring Jasper, to become the “last word” in golf course design, he was lured away and hired to make Banff Springs the “last word in golf courses”.

Co-founder of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, Stanley Thompson’s work at Banff is often viewed as the epitome of his impressive career. He redesigned the course in such a manner as to emphasise or capture the subtleties of the mountainous terrain while integrating many aspects of traditional links golf. While Thompson incorporated some of Donald Ross’s holes, he created stunning new holes, with the highly regarded Devil’s Cauldron, (the Par-3, Fourth hole) as its finest example, overlooking a glacial lake with the imposing Mount Rundle serving as its backdrop.

The redesigned Stanley Thompson 18-hole championship course opened in 1928 and was the most expensive course built at the time. The Canadian Pacific Railway spared little in creating this gem. Perhaps the best testament to Thompson’s design is the fact that in today’s world of oversized drivers, advanced golf ball technology and long driving players, the Banff Springs course continues to play in the same way that Thompson intended with its hole layouts, strategic bunkering and greens. If that wasn't enough, the vistas and wildlife are breathtaking.

There is much that can be said about Banff, but perhaps the "last word in golf" should be that if you have not played this course, you must simply add it to your bucket list for its heritage is virtually unmatched and the experience is second to none.


Banff Springs Golf Course has golf rates and tee times available <here>

Hotel Reservations can be made <here>

The World of Golf has not accepted any fees, commissions or other payments regarding this feature.


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