The Canadian Sand Hills

Last year around this time I posted a photo blog about the coastal sand dunes I had seen in Newfoundland and how spectacular that island's coast is for golf.  Whether such an endeavour is practical or not, it is always fun to explore and exercise the imagination regarding the possibilities.  This blog is along the same thread but takes us inland, away from the ocean, and into the heart of North America.

Located at the bottom of an ancient inland lake that dried up some 10,000 years ago lies the spectacular sand hills of Canada.   A vestige from the glacial period, what remains is nothing short of pure, sandy, inland linksland.  Unknown to many, this deposit of sandy soil is massive and stretches from one horizon of the landscape to the next, seemingly endless and inexhaustible.  In many areas the steep dunes are taller than the surrounding forest lending themselves to amazing canopy vistas and a unique 'boreal plateau' sensation.  I can only imagine what the place looks like on a clear starry night, or even better, during a display Northern Lights!

Endless waves of dunes in the Canadian sand hills.

Check out this natural par 3 hole elevated above the canopy below.

Imagine a topography with rolling dunes, meandering valleys, hidden lakes, and intersecting ridgelines intermingling with native grasslands and boreal forest as far as the eye can see.   In many areas the vegetation has a low-lying, stunted alpine feel to it which is rich in both colors and textures.  Isolated from much of the world, the Canadian sand hills is natures version of inland links and an ideal place for the game of golf - minus the cold winters of course!

Rich in vegetation and interesting topography, these dunes are full of natural variety.

Associate Dan Philcox and I had an opportunity to explore but a small sliver of this amazing landscape last Fall.  We were in awe of the sheer vastness of the place and could have explored it for days, even weeks.  Every dune we crested and every corner we turned had the potential for golf - and amazing golf at that.  The amount of natural variety in this place was astounding and something I had not seen with any of the other dune-scapes visited in my travels. 

Not unlike the sand hills in Nebraska to the south, the business feasibility for golf here is undeniably the biggest limiting factor.  However, one has to look no further than existing golf developments with similar isolation factors: Sandhills, Ballyneal, Dismal River, Sand Valley, etc.  That said, destination golf is becoming more and more popular among the hardcore and you just never know what the future might hold for Canada's sand hills....Boreal Dunes Golf Club,  Aurora Dunes Club.....

Nonetheless, enjoy the photos we took of our adventure through the Canadian sand hills.  Put on your golf course architecture spectacles and let the mind wander!

All the best in 2017,

Riley & Dan

Riley Johns