Mountains to maritimes: The five best golf trips in Canada

Bring your eh-game.

Welcome to Canada, where stickhandling is a desired skill on the ice but not such a positive term if you're talking about three- or four- or five-putting on the greens.

From places where you buck goes further to places where your ball goes further, there are a lot of great options for a golf getaway to the Great White North.

Here are the five best Canadian golf trips to take:

Alberta's Canadian Rockies

No. 3 is a long par 4 named "Signal Dip" at Jasper Park Lodge Golf Course.

MUST-PLAY MATERIAL: Separated by 185 miles of blacktop along the stunning Icefields Parkway, Fairmont Banff Springs and Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge (pictured) are co-stars of Alberta's Canadian Rockies. Admittedly, we can't decide which of Stanley Thompson's mountain masterpieces is better. Both are terrific.

MORE GOLF GOODNESS: All three golf courses in Canmore are worth a look, but Stewart Creek is the best of the bunch. If you're willing to drive a bit more, the signature hole at Greywolf in Panorama, B.C., is a doozy (go ahead and Google 'Cliffhanger'). The twin tracks at Kananaskis Country were ripped apart by a flood a few years ago but are slated to reopen in 2018.

WHY YOU SHOULD GO: Simply put, the scenery is spectacular. And just wait until you see how far your shots fly in the thin mountain air. You can expect nearly a 10-percent boost from your typical distance at sea level.

OFF THE COURSE: If you plan your trip in July, trade your soft-spikes for boots and check out the 10-day fair, rodeo and party that is the Calgary Stampede.

Cape Breton Island

The newest iconic par 3 in North America is the 16th hole at Cabot Cliffs on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia.

MUST-PLAY MATERIAL: The latest offering from Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, Cabot Cliffs (pictured) seemed to be a unanimous selection as the best new course on the globe for 2015. Cabot Links , the namesake for what is now a 36-hole hangout, is nearly as good. In fact, the tiny town of Inverness, Nova Scotia, already has two entries in Golf Digest's Top 100. This should be home-base for your trip.

MORE GOLF GOODNESS: Another of Thompson's national-park treasures, Highlands Links was once rated as Canada's marquee layout. Two hours and change from Cabot Links, it's absolutely worth the drive. If you have time, add Bell Bay to your list.

WHY YOU SHOULD GO: Thanks in part to the involvement of Mike Keiser, the Cabot Cliffs/Cabot Links combo has been called "Bandon East."

(Hey, where did you go? Are you packing already?)

OFF THE COURSE: They can't call it Scotch whisky on this side of the pond, but North America's first single malt is being produced at Glenora Inn & Distillery, just a 10-minute jaunt from Cabot Links Resort.

Muskoka

The elevated sixth tee reveals the beauty of Bigwin Island Golf Club in Muskoka.

MUST-PLAY MATERIAL: Bigwin Island is private for much of peak season, but don't miss out if they're offering public times while you're in Ontario's cottage country. Starting with a boat-ride to the island, this is a memorable experience. You’ll briefly become a pace-of-play problem on the sixth tee (pictured) as you text a photo to every golfer in your contact list.

MORE GOLF GOODNESS: Club-toting tourists will find a lot of top-notch tracks chiseled into the rugged terrain of the Canadian Shield. Rocky Crest is often near the top of the rankings, while some folks would make a case for Muskoka Bay Club instead. Frankly, you can't go wrong with either. Taboo is another favorite.

WHY YOU SHOULD GO: If you want to mix a golf getaway with some lake living, you get the best of both here.

OFF THE COURSE: Keep your eyes peeled for celebs. Hollywood stars Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg are sometimes spotted in Muskoka, while you could build an all-star team of NHLers who spend summers in this neck of the woods.

Prince Edward Island

Dundarave golf course on Prince Edward Island was designed by Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry.

MUST-PLAY MATERIAL: On my first trip to Canada's smallest province, relatives wondered why we were driving "all the way" to the Links at Crowbush Cove for a round of golf. The commute was no more than 45 minutes, and I probably would've walked back to play it again.

MORE GOLF GOODNESS: An intimidating track with distinctive red sand (and lots of it), Dundarave (pictured) is the next-best-thing on P.E.I.'s golf menu. Thing is, you shouldn't leave the property without also playing its sister setup, Brudenell River . Old-timers will grouse Green Gables isn't the same after the loss of four holes in the sand dunes, but it's still a solid addition to any trip itinerary.

WHY YOU SHOULD GO: This must be Canada's best golfing value. Crowbush Cove is the only course in the province with a high-season rack rate in triple digits -- and we're talking Canadian currency.

OFF THE COURSE: If you're headed home and you haven't sampled the Brown Bag Fish & Chips and Island Red Ale at The Gahan House in Charlottetown, you're doing it wrong.

Vancouver Island

The Mountain golf course at Bear Mountain is one of the must-plays of Vancouver Island.

MUST-PLAY MATERIAL: Named for You-Know-Who, Bear Mountain Resort is your best bet for both stay and play. The Mountain Course (pictured) -- a collaborative effort between Jack Nicklaus and son, Steve -- is a stern test, while the Valley is equally easy on the eyes but also a bit easier on the ego.

MORE GOLF GOODNESS: From the jagged rock outcroppings at Highland Pacific to the waterfalls at Olympic View , Victoria has some scenic setups to choose from. A.V. Macan designed many of the top private courses on Canada's west coast, but you don't need a membership to enjoy his work at Gorge Vale. If there's any way you can arrange a reciprocal at Victoria Golf Club , a private haunt with a handful of smack-dab-beside-the-ocean assignments, it's a treat.

WHY YOU SHOULD GO: This is the only year-round golf destination on this list. If you're planning a shoulder-season escape, conditions will be a clincher.

OFF THE COURSE: Victoria has a superb craft-beer scene, with a stellar lineup of local suds and some great pubs near the harbour.

Video: Ginella's favorite Canadian golf destinations

Wes Gilbertson covers the NHL’s Calgary Flames and writes golf features for Postmedia in Calgary, Alta. When the snow melts, he's living proof that thin mountain air doesn't turn everybody into a long-drive specialist. Follow Wes on Twitter at @WesGilbertson.
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Mountains to maritimes: The five best golf trips in Canada
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