Check into the warm and welcoming lobby of The Westin Bear Mountain Golf Resort and Spa in Victoria and bound downstairs to the clubhouse where the Pacific Links Champions tour just played out on the Mountain Course with 29k in attendance.
Bernhard Langer’s caddie took a lot of time rolling balls, testing different angles of the greens before competition. It’s a good thing they didn’t play the Valley Course or that task
would have taken months. Jack Nicklaus outdid himself with undulations on the Valley’s sizeable greens akin to his Dove Mountain design near Tucson. Though it is called the Valley Course, the varied elevations seem mountainous. Number 8 has a salmon habitat sign and a ravine full of berries. Cue the bear – no, not today. Actually there is more concern by director of golf Jordan, about a cougar that has been sited in the area. When one encountered a local gal walking her little dog, it sized them both up and then snatched the pooch right off the leash. It’s wild on Bear Mountain! That is not stopping the full tee sheets on these amazing courses nor the hikers. Friendly deer were the prevalent mammals throughout our rounds, even waiting on a tee box for close-ups before sauntering off.
The Mountain Course has truer, not tricked out greens. Josh Miller shared that number 5’s green is new, having been moved up to make room for more development. The area like much of super, natural British Columbia is becoming ever
more popular. Behind the homes a road is under construction to connect with Trans Canada Highway for residents’ convenience.
The original owner of Bear Mountain was a Hockey player and team owner. He sunk the bucks from the pucks into the resort but did not have enough to weather the economic storm of “08. EcoAsis came in with the finances and expertise and changed the focus.
At the turn of the Mountain Course a fob key on the golf cart opens a room full of treats. It’s a nice intro the back nine full of breath taking scenic surprises. Number ten’s peninsula green is surrounded by water supplied by tall falls and springs. Number 13 was
dotted with deer ascending uphill to a green, which unveiled the wide-open ocean view of Olympic Peninsula and on a clear day Mt. Ranier and Mt. Baker. Number 14 requires precision shots to the challenging par 3 green, which is made difficult by stretching parallel to this distracting vista. Originally designed solely for the owner’s practice that lived above the hole, the forward tee box at 70 yards is not the least bit advantageous. The cliff side green straddles two ravines with a short bunker behind that might catch herculean shots. Jack can make a hack out of a pro on some of his meaner greens.
Just to demonstrate the well-deserved Audubon certification, a bright red headed pileated woodpecker appeared on the Mountain Course. This Woody didn’t laugh, “hehehehe” but
he did move in cartoonish fashion around the bottom of the cedar tree trunk as if playing hide and seek after posing majestically for posterity.
Fine dining with Michelle at the Westin’s Bella included a cellar tour with Andrew Rolston, the sommelier who received his advanced level certification from the Toronto Sommelier Factory. This is where Friday night flights are held and 2000 bottles are stored. Andrew’s favorite reds are Tantalus and Burrowing Owl while Michelle enjoys Quail’s Gate. All are from the Okanagan Valley, which is coming up on our itinerary. Andrew shared how the palate is like a muscle. The more you taste the more you know. The palate hones or tones with time and practice. We were happy to work out our palates while savoring the local beef. The mouth watering balsamic reduction on the steak is duplicated on the steak sandwich in the Master’s Room, a more casual venue across the hall.
The Westin Bear Mountain is very comfortable, with all the amenities in room and out. The fitness center is complete with pool and Jacuzzi. Trails serve hikers and bikers and the dining options delightfully fulfill all hunger pangs. Day trips to the BC capital Victoria deliver endless options for vacation fun. Stay tuned.