The Valley Course at Bear Mountain Resort, located in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia, is often referred to as the slightly tamer of the two Jack Nicklaus designed courses on property, but it is by no means tame. You are still treated to a thrilling and challenging mountain golf experience with elevation changes, beautiful views, tough greens, and a remote feel to each hole.
The playing corridors are a little wider and the course, in general, is slightly more approachable for all skill sets than The Mountain Course, but it would be a huge mistake to underestimate what will be required to score here.
Our round at the Valley Course was our second of two rounds at Bear Mountain in the same day, and came near the end of our maiden voyage on the Vancouver Island Golf Trail, but we were running on adrenaline and excited to tackle the par 71, 6800 yard layout.
The first thing I noticed about the Valley Course was the rugged, natural look to it. Long, native grasses, rock outcroppings, and some gnarly bunkers give the course a unique feel. If dramatically downhill tee shots get your juices flowing, the course doesn’t waste any time giving you one. The par-4 3rd tee shot, pictured below, is more about position than it is power.
I really enjoyed the collection of par-3’s on the Valley Course. The par-3 6th green was just a big, fun target at the bottom of the hill, with many difficult 2-putts awaiting. I didn’t leave my ball very far from the hole, but it hung up on top of a slope, leaving a treacherous putt.
The rock outcroppings throughout the course not only contribute to the mountainous and rugged feel of the course, but also play with your sight lines and your strategy.
One of the most visually unique holes was the long par-4 13th hole, featuring a wide fairway and plenty of visual intimidation with rock outcroppings lining the hole, and a pond long and right of the green to catch any downhill approach shots gone awry. The left-to-right sloping fairway urges shots towards the water, but the contours and wide run-up to the green allows you to be creative with your approach shot and take the water out of play. Rumor has it that Jack placed the large rock next to the green with his bare hands. Cool hole.
If you’re feeling beat up after the 13th hole, you’ll get a chance to soothe your bruised ego with a short par-3 at the 14th, with a very large, challenging green complex. The gnarly bunkers and heavy cabbage short of the green may have you clubbing up.
The round finishes with a downhill par-5, featuring a wide and subtly undulating fairway. It’s a bit unlike Jack to provide such a good scoring opportunity to finish a round. A fun way to finish.
The Valley Course is a nice compliment to the Mountain Course and provides another scenic mountain golf experience that is slightly more approachable for all golfers. While I tend to gravitate more towards walkable layouts, I did have a lot of fun playing the Valley Course. I thought Jack did a good job using the natural terrain to create a dramatic yet playable layout. I found it to be a great vacation course where I could kick back, treat myself to a rare cart ride, take in the views and the unique golf experience it provided.
There is something to be said for each hole being its own little haven, without anybody yelling ‘fore’ at you from paralleling fairways. It’s an escape into nature, while playing golf, which makes it that much more fun.
One thing I’d like to see is some sort of halfway hut on the Valley Course. The front-nine doesn’t loop back to the clubhouse (which is fine) but there wasn’t a place (that we could find, anyway) to go to the bathrooms or fill up our water bottles. To be fair, there ended up being a beverage cart floating around, so we weren’t completely deserted, but it’s typically nice to have a place to grab a drink/snack, go to the bathroom and reset for the back nine. I assume this is something they’re going to work on in the future, especially considering the great ‘turn’ they have on the Mountain Course.
While the Valley Course ranked behind the Mountain Course in my Top 10 Courses of 2017, it was kind of a toss-up, to be honest. This could very well flip-flop in the future with more opportunities to play and learn each course.
A round at Bear Mountain doesn’t always come cheap, with peak season rates at the Valley Course coming in at $189, but they do offer discounts for resort guests ($149), Vancouver Island residents, and have twilight and shoulder season discounts ($79). You can also look at golf packages with Golf Vancouver Island that include rounds at Bear Mountain to find your best possible value.
The Valley Course at Bear Mountain is a unique addition to the Victoria golf scene, and turned out to be a beautiful escape from the hustle of the city below.