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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Cranbrook-area golf courses offer an easy getaway in Canadian Rocky Mountains

CRANBROOK, British Columbia – I collect ideas for our annual Golf Guide as often as I three-putt greens.

Don’t mention it to the boss but I have one, headline-ready, in subconscious storage: “Bucket List Golf.” Yes, it’s Pebble Beach and a couple others on the Monterey Peninsula. Yes, I’ll need every bit of luck/ingenuity to pull it off. My decision usually comes down to what many are looking for when they phone a buddy or three to plan a quick golf getaway: A reasonably short drive to sample interesting, challenging courses that perhaps they haven’t played before or heard about from a friend.

That’s what prompted me to type “Cranbrook golf” into the search engine on my computer. A little over three hours’ drive from my doorstep, maybe another 25 minutes from downtown Spokane? Doable. Scenic? Try gorgeous. Affordable? Check, particularly with the favorable exchange rate.

So, what courses? Until last month, I’d never heard of Wildstone or Shadow Mountain. I vaguely remember seeing a sign for St. Eugene golf/resort/casino a decade ago when I visited Canada for a few days of golf and relaxation in nearby Kimberley.

I did some research and discovered that Wildstone and Shadow Mountain are only 5-6 years old and St. Eugene opened in 2000. With invaluable help from kootenayrockies.com and the three courses, I invited brother Jack along for a three-round, two-night stay and he showed his appreciation by beating me in every round.

We drove up on a Tuesday morning in late April and played St. Eugene, hit Wildstone the next day and finished up at Shadow Mountain on Thursday. The courses are close enough that you can see St. Eugene from Shadow Mountain’s sixth tee box.

Temperatures were around 60 and we never needed to haul out the rain gear. None of the rounds required three hours, less time than the original drive.

“We have three resort-style courses right here,” St. Eugene pro Max Sherwood said. “The value of this area, the playability, the choices of golf and the access to tee times is really good. We’re attracting more and more people, never as many as we’d like but now that the exchange rate is certainly strongly in your favor it only makes sense we’ll see more people from the Spokane area.”

The courses are in terrific condition thanks to nice spring weather.

“We probably could have opened in early April but we just wanted to make sure the course was in really good shape,” said John Swanson, Shadow Mountain general manager and director of golf. “The other day I said to our superintendent the 17th and 18th fairways look like they’re in July condition.”

Beyond sharing similar geography and dazzling views of the Rocky Mountains, each course is unique, a drawing card in a competitive region featuring seven courses within a 20-minute drive and 17 within an hour.

“The three courses are 10 minutes apart or less, which makes it a phenomenal destination,” Wildstone general manager Chris Andrews said. “They are all different courses, different types of grasses, three totally different architects that build in different ways, using all the elements differently. You kind of walk away going, ‘Wow, this isn’t cookie-cutter golf.’ ”

No, it’s Cranbrook golf, and it’s worth the drive.

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