The Glencoe Golf and Country Club is located a few minutes west of Calgary, Alberta and has been one of the city’s premiere private golf clubs since 1984. The property boasts 45 holes of golf, including two 18 hole championship courses, a 9 hole course, and arguably the best practice facility around.
This review is for the more difficult and well-known of the two championship courses — The Forest Course. I actually played the Forest Course last summer when I teamed up with my father-in-law for an inter-club match, and probably delayed writing this review to suppress memories of the shellacking we received.
When you play at the Glencoe, one thing you must do is arrive early to utilize the practice facility, which is an experience in itself. They have a massive grass-tee driving range and an impressive short game area where I easily could have spent hours.
The Forest Course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and was his first design in Canada. He has since added three other courses to his Canadian repertoire — the Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club and Wildflower Golf Club in British Columbia, and the Marshes Golf Club in Ontario. We’ve played several of his courses outside of Canada, most notably the collection of them in Kauai, Hawaii, and have had fun playing them all.
Since I was playing at the Glencoe for an inter club match, I didn’t pay as keen attention to taking photos, but it is what it is. I also played from a shorter yardage (only 6232 yards) than I typically would since the matches utilized handicap strokes and included players of all ability. Needless to say I still wouldn’t have attempted the 7505 yard championship tees with a salty course rating of 76.9 and a slope of 144.
As I’ve said many times before, I love when a course opens with a par-5. It’s always fun to rip a driver and stare down a good scoring opportunity to start your day. There is a creek that crosses the first fairway that could come into play from the tee, but the green is reachable from short of it.
You’ll want to take advantage of any scoring opportunity you earn because the course doesn’t give out too many, and there aren’t any freebies out there.
The layout takes you over several creeks, around some ponds, and requires you to navigate large, undulating, well-protected greens. Most of the green complexes are surrounded by tightly mowed runoff areas which will test your nerve with pitch and chip shots. I would venture to guess a lot of members have learned how to putt from these areas.
The fairway bunkers on several holes seemed to be designed to mess with your depth perception, so a GPS unit came in very handy the first time playing the course. On the dogleg-right, par-4 9th hole pictured below, it looked like there was nowhere to hit it except into a bunker.
Did I mention the water? There are several creeks to deal with and, funny enough, they’re always in super inconvenient locations, such as short of the par-5 16th green below.
The greens were quite firm when we played, almost unnecessarily firm, so shots that carried past the middle of the green often bounced or trickled over the back. I got a bit of practice hitting pitch shots from their signature runoff areas.
The Forest Course underwent an involuntarily repair and facelift after it was damaged extensively in a significant flood event that hit southern Alberta in 2013. I had never played the course prior to 2013 but it I can attest to the fact that the course appeared to have bounced back extremely well and was in great shape.
I didn’t really know what to expect from the Glencoe, but I left feeling satisfied with the experience. The staff were awesome and very welcoming to guests, and Robert Trent Jones Jr. turned a relatively flat and benign chunk of the Elbow River floodplain into a fun and stern test of golf. However, the other RTJ Jr. courses we’ve played, while challenging, were slightly more approachable for all skill levels. I’d be curious to know what higher handicaps think about the Forest Course.
If you’re a player with a handicap of 4.0 or less, you can try your hand at qualifying for the Glencoe Invitational held in June, where the winner gets a spot in the final stage of qualifying for the RBC Canadian Open (among other things). Could be your fast track to the PGA Tour, just sayin’…
If you ever get an invite to play golf at the Glencoe Golf and Country Club, I highly recommend you accept and give it a go for yourself. Just remember to get there early to make the most of the practice facility, and it’s also not a bad idea to show up with a sharp golf game.