Airplane golf, anyone? Rowena’s Inn & Sandpiper Golf Course, B.C.

Located about 2 hours’ drive from Vancouver, the Sandpiper golf course is a beautiful little fly-in destination, with the magnificent Harrison River lapping upon the shores of the immaculate fairway.  Several copses of towering cedars and hemlocks onsite provide nesting shelter for bald eagles, and the clubhouse restaurant has a large screen TV discretely blending into the décor, hooked up to a webcam offering close-up, live-time views of one of the eagle’s nests (visiting in the spring when the eaglets are hatching is very cool).  ViewIn the autumn, the creeks and marshes near the golf course’s riverside gazebo (north of runway 02) are chock full of spawning salmon, which is another great draw for the kids.  We’ve often picnicked in the gazebo on hot summer days, and after nesting season is over, we’ve swum in the river near the gazebo, too.The GazeboKnown by some as `Rowena’s’ for the Inn and as `Sandpiper’s’ for the golf course, this spot is popular for weddings, golfers, tourists, & pilots, so if you’re thinking of booking an overnight stay in the resort, book well in advance. Rowena's Inn The inn is full of historical pieces, such as a bed which was handmade for the renowned opera singer Dame Melba, a Hepplewhite dining set made for General McRae, and a Steinway Grand piano once played by Jimmy Durante.img_5941We’ve flown into Rowena’s with our little dog and kids many times over the years, and the resort-style restaurant has always accommodated Zeus by seating us outside on the patio in a tucked-away corner, so that the dog isn’t exactly in the restaurant, but feels confident that he will be the recipient of scraps from his pack.  Not that there’s ever many scraps—the food is classy and fantastic, with several options for vegetarians, gluten-free folks, carnivores, and kids.Garden's from the restaurant terrace The view from the restaurant patio is spectacular: the green golf course, the resort roses and splashing fountain, the Harrison River, the surrounding rugged mountains… all great for impressing visiting relatives!  There’s also the stunning Harrison Hot Springs and Harrison Lake to overfly on the way in or out, with its glacial green and turquoise waters.

looking northeast up the Harrison Rivera
The confluence of the muddy Fraser River meeting the glacial blue of the Harrison River (the arrow indicates Rowena’s)

The gravel runway 02/20 runs alongside the edge of the golf course.  Due to power lines and tall trees at the end of runway 20, and the wonderful tree-less final approach for 20, we always land on 20 and take off on 02.

Final 20
Short Final, runway 20

Often times, a golf cart will zip down from the resort to pick us up when we land, but we always walk the pathways to the clubhouse, dog on leash, to enjoy the views and get a modicum of exercise.

Runway 02
The kids walking back to the plane on the runway in the autumn

We know a few pilots who cross mid-field overhead the fairway to alert golfers of an incoming plane.  We also know a bunch of pilots who don’t (forests, terrain, tight turning space, & power lines being the deterrents).  Due to signage, all golfers are aware of the runway and seem to know that the sound of a plane on downwind means to stay off the gravel airstrip running alongside hole #17.

 

It is an active golf course, so pilots park at their own risk of golf-ball damage.  We’ve never had a problem from golf balls meeting Cessna fuselage, but while walking to the clubhouse, we have almost been struck by a wild golf-ball hit by a florid, weaving, blood-shot-eyed fellow who’d possibly had too much to drink….View of the gazebo while wading in Harrison RiverGPS coordinates for Sandpiper/Rowena’s: 49.253, -121.945

Of note for visiting pilots is the frequency/frequencies used for this airstrip.  Rowena/Sandpiper airport is not listed in the Canadian Flight Supplement (CFS). Some pilots who fly into Rowena’s swear you should use 122.70, the frequency for nearby Chilliwack airport.  Other pilots swear you should use 122.77 (locally known as the Sumas frequency, for nearby Sumas mountain).  However, the AIP (Aeronautical Information Publication) states that 123.20 should be used for an airstrip such as Rowena’s.  We’ve flown into Rowena’s with other planes in the circuit… each pilot on a different frequency….  We always use 123.20, and monitor 122.77 and 122.70, and make broadcasts on all three when first entering the circuit and on take-off.  It makes for a lot of broadcasts, but it’s paid off for us a couple of times over the years.

 

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