Canadian Rockies Golf Veteran Director of Golf Provides the Inside Scoop on One of the World’s Most Famous Holes
Opening Day was more nearly three weeks ago at The Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course in the Canadian Rockies, but it wasn’t until today that all 18 holes of the hallowed Stanley Thompson course opened for play.
Because of its location at the very bottom of Rundle Mountain, The Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course’s dramatic par-3, 4th hole – aka “Devil’s Cauldron” – is not playable until late May each year. But those who play it will most likely agree that it’s well worth the wait. With an elevated tee that features stunning views of the Rocky Mountain forest, golfers face a tee shot that carries over a glacial lake to a sloping, bowl-shaped and heavily bunkered green.
Director of Golf Steven Young, who just started his ninth season at the course, explains why there is an annual delay in opening Devil’s Cauldron, what first-timers experience when playing the hole and how best to attack it when you tee it up at The Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course this year.
Why does Devil’s Cauldron remain closed until late May each year?
It’s all about location. The green is tucked right against the bottom of the mountain so it has more days without sunlight each year than it does with sunlight. We have to wait until it gets three hours or so of sunlight a day so the root system can take hold and it can handle the stress of players walking on it and balls landing on it all day.
Because this is one of the most famous holes in the world, people don’t typically take just one shot, so in essence, it gets a lot more play than a typical hole.
Does that slow down the pace of play?
No, because we allocated that into our time rating. In fact, we allocate more time to play this hole than we do on most par 4s. We realize that everyone is going to not only want to take another shot if their first tee shot lands in the water, but it’s also a spot where they’ll take a group picture, or just stand there for a moment and take in the scenery.
And that’s OK with us. We want everyone to have a picture of this hole in their office or on their Facebook page. It’s a way for us to share the hole with more people each year.
What is the most common feedback you hear from golfers after they play the hole for the first time?
Most people tell us that it’s even more spectacular than they thought it was going to be. I went to the Masters this year and it’s very similar in that you can see a hole or a course on TV or in pictures, but until you’re actually there in person you can’t appreciate how stunning or beautiful it is.
There’s just something special about coming off the third green and driving to the tee box. The anticipation is phenomenal. You see the clouds and mist hanging off the mountains. You see the sun peaking around the bend. Sometimes – as we have seen the last few days – there will be grizzly bears on the green or an elk walking across the hole. Those are the type of things that a picture just can’t do justice.
What’s your best advice for success when playing Devil’s Cauldron?
Don’t be short. The green is a bowl so if you‘re short, it’s hard to stay on. If you go a little long, the ball will trickle back for you. In fact, this is a very good birdie hole if you play it right. And we usually get three or four holes-in-one each season. So if you’re debating on what to use off the tee, definitely play the extra club. There’s no love on this hole for a shot that falls short.
Have you played Devil’s Cauldron at The Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course? We encourage you to post your photos and comments about your experience on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/canadianrockiesgolf) or on Twitter @CanRockies.