Golf in Vancouver is usually split into two camps: mountain golf and flatter parkland style golf. The latter is golf courses like Point Grey, Shaughnessy, or Langara. The former is usually north of the city, such as Capilano, Westwood Plateau, and Northlands, a 1992 Les Furber design in North Vancouver.
The golf course starts on a bit of a weak note. At 424 yards, this dogleg left par 4 plays around a pond on the left. The views are nice from high above the city, but I feel like this is just an odd starting hole given the obvious hazards.
After the severely downhill tee shot, the second shot plays gently uphill, maybe a half club up. While you could technically call it a double green with the par 3, 3rd, you wouldn’t really be able to tell. The third green is quite a bit above the 1st (almost acting as a backstop), and the skinny sliver of green they share should not come into play.
The second is a gentle dogleg right par 4 at 353 yards. A semi-obstructed view, but there is room to the right (over the rock on the right of the photo below is a great line).
The green sits quite nicely, with a fall off left and the hillside to the right. In fact, this is one of the better green sites on the golf course.
As mentioned earlier, the 3rd comes back to the 1st green with a 177-yard par 3 playing back down the slope.
The fourth is not the best golf hole around and starts a pattern of having the par 5’s tackle the uphill portions of the routing. In reality, most golfers already see par 5’s as a big golf hole, and compounding that with severe uphill’s to climb only adds to the matter. Design characteristics aside, this can really affect pace of play.
The fourth is certainly no slouch either measuring 558 yards over a pond (which hopefully is not in play) with bunkers to the left. Once the golfer avoids that, they turn straight up the hill, where a rock outcropping on the left could potentially complicate the second shot.
The third approach shot is still dramatically uphill, but I would be remiss if I did not mention the beautiful rock outcropping up the left.
I found the shaping here to be a quite heavy-handed as well. As opposed to gently perching it into the hillside and having a harsh fall off on the right, the green is perched high above, with “steps” cut into the side to blend the upper and lower areas together.
The green is fairly contrived. The angle below is looking back down.
The fifth is an enjoyable golf hole, but stern. At 434 yards playing slightly over a small ridge, the landing area will be hidden, but the golfer should know where to go.
The approach shot reminded me of a lot of nice golf holes I have seen, with the green perched above the short right depression area and the hillside running to the right, eventually merging with the green.
The 6th is a bit of an odd golf hole, but I appreciate the risks it took to try and produce an interesting par 4. A big bunker is cut nicely into the hill on the left with the rolling topography being rather appealing to the eye.
From there, the golfer will more than likely have a short club into this 368 yarder. This downhill approach shot is a bit touchy.
The 7th is an interesting golf hole. Not overly long at 401 yards from the back deck, but playing severely uphill. I suspect a lot of long clubs will be hit into the green here. The first swing, however, must avoid the rock on the left.
As stated, the approach shot is dramatically up the hillside.
The uphill climb makes way for the 220-yard downhill par 3, 8th. Elements of this hole have potential, like the green being in a depression area (think Punchbowl-esque), but the shaping does not find the vision the drawing board likely was looking for.
You can see the contours below, as well as the odd railway ties bunker face which does not really fit with the rest of the golf course.
The ninth ends the outward nine with a gentle 419-yard dogleg right par 4. Two bunkers to avoid, but after the tight opening eight holes, this may be the first time the golfer feels inclined to hit a driver hard.
The approach shot is fairly typical, but the green complex itself has some nice movement.
Kicking off the inward nine is a 337-yard par 4 working down the hill. The tee shot is visually difficult, but for those who go, less than driver is advised no matter the tee you choose.
With the green wrapped in water (except for the back), the short iron in asks for complete precision.
The 11th is a par 4 at 412 yards.
I found the approach shot to be enjoyable but a bit strange with the bunkering on the right bleeding into the tree line and out of play.
The slightly uphill par 3, 12th (190 yards) has what I might claim to be the best view on the golf course in the off-season. Particularly, the mountain drizzled in white snow as you play golf is something unique to the area (at least in my travels).
At 322 yards on the card, the 13th is a gentle little golf hole that packs a wicked punch in the latter half. Off the tee, the strategies are all about picking where you want to play from going into the green, which is tucked into the left of the hole.
The contouring on this green is an absolute roller coaster and really challenges the wedges coming in. Three real distinct levels, compounding with the front-to-back slope requires quite a bit of thought.
A closer look below.
Playing behind the green on the 11th and tee on the 12th, the downhill par 3, 14th is 194 yards probably a half club downhill.
Among the greens at Northlands, this is the simplest in concept, yet most enjoyable in execution. Sometimes, architecture does not need to be complicated to be interesting.
The uphill par 5, 15th, clocking in at 547 yards, is a bit of an odd golf hole.
After the rather traditional tee shot, the golfer plays over a creek, and really seems to share characteristics with Tillinghast’s “Great Hazard.”
The concept of uphill par 5’s are not unappealing in itself, but I find the three uphill par 5’s to be a bit much for me. On the 15th here, two thirds of the golf hole does not have an issue (and you could argue have some character jammed in), but the approach shot, playing so severely uphill to a forced green site really makes the hole tough to like. If the green was cut naturally into the hillside, with a bit of a softer eye for shaping, this may really be a standout hole. For now, it really feels like Furber got stuck at the bottom of the property and had to climb out.
After climbing up, the golfer tumbles back down with the 168 yard par 3, 16th.
Heading into the penultimate hole, the gentle dogleg right 491-yard par 5 is a good tee shot.
For most golfers, the choice will be given: go for it, or lay back? The green is well-guarded with a bunker and hazard left, as well as some gnarly contouring.
The 18th is unique. Another par 5—makes three in the final four holes—and short as well at 508 yards, long hitters will likely be better suited with less than driver as a creek bisects the fairway.
After the tee ball is in play, the golfer plays directly back uphill, with a fairway so steep the team needed to contour the fairway to avoid balls rolling all the way back. This is more common than some might assume, but here it looks fairly obvious.
It’s a bit of strange way to end the golf course.
Going into Northlands I had high expectations with a few locals saying it may be among Furber’s better golf courses. Though I do not agree, Furber still did a good job with a property this severe lacking benefits of Capilano or Seymour further down the mountainside. There are elements of Westwood Plateau and Silvertip here, and for some, that will be a great thing.
My inclination is for a different style of golf course, but some of the views across the Lower Mainland make a round here worth it.