Highwood Golf Is A Playground For Golfers Of All Levels

By Gord Montgomery, Senior Writer, Inside Golf

HIGH RIVER, Alberta — The one noticeable thing about the Highwood Golf facility in High River is that it’s a place for everyone to tee it up. There’s an 18-hole layout that can test the very best players the province can chip its way, but at the same time, it offers a nine-hole loop where anyone and everyone can enjoy their outing.

Sitting about 30 minutes south of Calgary, this is a popular spot to test or hone your skills in the game. Speaking to the big 18, the course’s Head Professional Dan Warwaruk, noted that while part of this configuration isn’t long at just over 6,500 yards from the rear deck, it is challenging as you wander about the Heritage and Mountain View nines.

“Definitely. If you were to look at the results of the provincial Mid-Am championship we hosted a couple of years ago, not many guys were under par. These are 20-something-year-olds, 30-something-year-olds, highly skilled golfers with today’s tech and the scores were not like ‘Oh, they shot 61, 62.’ No, they were barely scraping it around.”

What stands out here is the protection that is offered by trees. Lots of trees on the front nine. Some water. Lots of water on the back nine. Some tight fairways to kick things off.

“There’s water on seven of the nine holes on the back nine,” Warwaruk said, adding with a chuckle. “We do very well on golf ball sales! It’s a firm but fair test of golf. While it isn’t overly long, it also doesn’t exclude some older players who might still be playing against the young guys and feeling like it’s a wide-open battleground and giving up 60 yards on every tee shot. You have to plan your way around,” on this par-71 design.

Along with all that water on the back side, trees come into play on the front in a big way meaning this is essentially two different layouts back-to-back.

"In 2013, we had a massive flood and it changed the face of the property,” explained Warwaruk, who was there at the time. “As we sit today, the two nines on the 18-hole course are quite different. We’ve got a very tree-lined front. It’s what you’d expect, tight, tree-lined, a traditional golf course,” built in the late 1950s. “There’s quite a difference between the nines, both in looks and playability,” where you want to stay on the fairway on the front to avoid the trees and then just let things fly on the back, reconstructed in 2014, where there is more room given the lack of trees back there to hinder progress.

So while that portion of this facility offers a good challenge there is another nine here, the Spitzee loop, which offers a more relaxing style of play. It’s a nine-hole Executive style of layout playing to a par of 33.

“We were a 27-hole championship course when we were flooded and then as we started to rebuild, it just made sense,” to downsize a bit. “We were able to cobble together another nine holes, which is a separate golf course with its separate tee sheet. It has four par-3s, four par-4s, and one par-5. It shares a lot of the treed features that our front nine (on the large course) has. This is basically on the piece of the property closest to the area that got devastated the most so it’s got new holes. It’s a very nice piece of property.”

Sitting so close to Calgary and with the completion of the ing-road in the big city, the commute to High River and Highwood Golf is not all that far meaning golfers from the central and northern areas of Calgary, who avoided driving to this area, now have easy access. “We’re getting a lot of new players from those never before tested areas,” said Warwaruk.

As for amenities at Highwood Golf, there is no shortage of those at all. The club offers a grassed tee driving range (and mats before the grass is ready); a short wedge range of about 130 yards; and a short game green with bunkers. By the clubhouse, a putting green and a hitting net for those who only need a couple of swings to be ready to head out and take on the many challenges of the big course or the fun of the shorter nine at this popular golf hangout.

“We’ve got something for everyone,” Warwaruk ended.