Okanagan Country, British Columbia
A Harvest of Sweet Fruit and Golf

By Bill Nestor

The Okanagan Valley is blessed with sunshine and scenic beauty. Okanagan is the fruit basket of Canada.

Okanagan Valley, the fruit basket of Canada, is a land of clear blue sky, dry and sunny weather, expansive countryside and a plethora of outdoor activities. East of Vancouver and west of the Rockies in south central British Columbia, the region has a century-old agricultural industry and a growing number of vineyards and wineries.

More than a third of Canada’s apples and an abundance of the nation’s soft fruits--pear, peach, nectarine, cherry, plum, grape, prune—come from the Valley’s 2,000 orchards on 22,000 acres utilizing high density planting.

The wealth of vegetable, fruit and wine harvests make Okanagan unique, as does its geographic setting at the northern end of a high desert plateau stretching from California’s Napa Valley. A surprising moderate climate creates an extended growing season, supporting farming as well as Okanagan’s 100 wineries and 50 golf resorts.

Predator Ridge Golf Resort has two eighteens, The Predator Course and The Ridge Course.
ABOVE: The Predator Course.
BELOW: The Ridge Course signature hole, #6.

Golf is an equally fertile industry here, with a crop of impressive resorts and courses surrounded by magnificent scenery, developed carefully and steadily over the last 20 years. On a recent trip to the area, I had a chance to stay and play at a few.

Predator Ridge Golf Resort in Vernon opened the Predator Course in 1991, designed by venerable Canadian golf architect Les Furber. Undulating fairways, wheatgrass meadows, lakes, streams and rocky pine-covered ridges define the layout that stretches to 7,000 yards from the tips. The setting--and its reputation as a difficult course--have attracted members, homeowners, players and a number of professional events--including the TELUS Skins Game in 2000 and 2008. The Predator course is perennially ranked as one of the best in Canada.

The Ridge Course, designed by renowned Canadian golf architect Doug Carrick, was added in 2010. It is considered tamer and more player-friendly than The Predator Course..

Carrick captured distinctive features of the site’s natural environs and integrated them into the course layout and routing.  A series of holes cascade down in elevation before leveling out, accentuating the scenic panorama of this dramatic location. The manicured bent grass greens, tees and fairways compliment the adjacent irregular landscape.

“It is spectacularly routed through Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir stands with views over the lake, valleys, and ridges that take you on a western golf adventure,” said Rod Cochrane, Predator Ridge’s GM.

At the time of my visit the 12,000-acre resort had 400 residences--1300 sq ft cottages, 1800 sq ft villas and larger single-family homes--with plans to increase the number to 2,100 by 2019.

The core amenities—spacious full-kitchen lodge suites, fitness and swimming center, tennis courts, salon, spa, restaurant, outdoor dining and miles of trails--have attracted an active upscale clientele. Man-made structures incorporating materials and features from nature help to create an ambiance that feels like it was laid gently on the site. www.PredatorRidge.com

Tobiano Golf Course -  Best New Canadian Golf Course by Golf Digest and Best New International Course by Links Magazine in 2008.
(L to R) Holes No.8, 11 and15.   Photos courtesy of Bob Huxtable - www.hux.net.

The Tobiano golf course in Kamloops burst onto the scene in 2008 and quickly garnished a rush of awards, among them Best New Canadian Course from Golf Digest and Score Golf magazines, and Best New International Course from Links Magazine.

“With five sets of tees, the golf course plays 7,367 yards from the back and 5,358 yards from the forward tees, providing a challenging layout for the better golfers and an enjoyable round for all,” said Miles Mortensen, GM and Director of Golf.

I played this breathtaking, devilishly delicious golf course late one afternoon as the sun was setting over sagebrush-covered canyons and hillside across the large expanse of Kamloops Lake, and I was awed. An enchanting scene is fashioned by the distinctive location of high desert topography defined by a routing over varied terrain with lush bent fairways and greens and fescue fringes running alongside shimmering water under the Hoodoo Range.

Canadian renowned modern golf architect Thomas McBroom created a masterful gem. “Tobiano is an almost seamless connection between the artistry of the course and the way it fits on the land,” said McBroom. “I had the perfect palette to lay out the golf course. Tobiano is the best site that I‘ve ever seen in terms of beauty and drama. It’s hard to describe just how powerful that landscape is.”

Plans call for a village, marina, boutique hotels, equestrian center, and vineyard as part of the 1,000-acre lakeside development with five fly-fishing lakes on an additional 17,000 acres of backcountry land. “It may be a bit out of town, but it will provide everything and be all you need,” said Mortensen.

Finishing the round at sunset, followed by a delicious meal prepared by Chef George Moutsos on the restaurant patio under a nearly full moon was all I needed for a touch of perfection. www.Tobianogolf.com

The 15th hole at The Rise Golf Club
Photo courtesy of Bob Huxtable - www.hux.net

The Rise Golf Club, sited 1,200 feet above Okanagan Lake, opened in 2009. The Fred Couples signature course was fashioned in conjunction with veteran designer Gene Bates.

Spectacular vistas are expected after climbing the steep switchback access road to the course. “There are literally 15 different views of the valleys, mountains, and vineyards from individual holes on the course,” said Terry Yacyshen, GM at The Rise.

The course, cut from nature, proffers distant and close ridge line views that reach to the sky.  It plays among wind-blocking spruce and fir, scattered bogs, ponds and streams, fields of wild flowers and thick sage brush hillsides. Mule deer, coyotes and other wildlife are plentiful. Five sets of tees from 6,884 yards to 4,638 yards accommodate all skill levels. Bent grass greens and tee boxes, Kentucky blue grass and annual rye fairways add profiled and shaped surfaces that accent the rustic naturalness of The Rise’s abutting landscape.

A view of The Rise hole No. 15 with a wide and inviting fairway.

“Looking back on most holes, from green to tee, can be especially pleasing. Undulating fairways create a magical view with the lake, deep valleys and mountain ranges as background,” added Yacyshen.

An expansive new clubhouse, scheduled to open in 2011, will sit between holes one, nine and ten, overlooking the valley and its 60-mile long lake.  Upscale housing, a vineyard, boathouse on the lake and hotel are also planned.

The Rise community is intended as a place to live, play, and preserve- 1/3 of the landscape will be kept in its natural state, 1/3 will contain housing and 1/3 will provide opportunities for play and recreation. Membership is open to land owners only. www.TheRise.com

Sun Peaks Golf Course designed by Graham Cooke.  Above: The 13th fairway.  Below: The 7th green. 
Photos courtesy of Bob Huxtable - www.hux.net

Sun Peaks Resort, a quintessential mountain village venue, caters to a winter sports’ market and offers four-season visitors an enjoyable place to explore and play. Sun Peaks Golf Course, the 6,321-yard design of prominent Canadian golf architect Graham Cooke, greatly enhances a summer stay.

The routing ambles down the valley floor along McGillivray Creek, amid thick evergreens set against an alpine backdrop of three mountains - Tod, Sundance, and Morrisey. The back nine, added in 2005, expanded the course in length and breadth from the original 1996 layout. Although still not long, the course’s narrow fairways and many hazards make players think about laying up rather than going for the green, particularly on the front side. Balls fly farther at Sun Peaks, the highest golf course in British Columbia. The 16th tee box reaches 4,353 feet in elevation, making the green a tempting target even at 364 yards away.

“The lushness and condition of the course are improved with only 6,000 rounds played annually,” said Ian Thorley, Delta Hotel Executive.

A number of the holes are lined with townhouses and cottages, many available for rent. Accommodations at the in-village upscale Delta Hotel are spaciously comfortable. Service and dining on premises offers a self-contained option from which to golf, fish, hike or mountain bike.

Sun Peaks offers many resort amenities and a variety of village lodging and vacation home options with a range of pricing from which to choose. www.sunpeaksresort.com

Kamloops is a majestic place, rich and diverse in nature, people and landforms.

Western Canada is a majestic place, rich and diverse in nature and landforms. The vastness of its mountain, valley, and glacial landscape, as well as the expansiveness of the countryside and plentiful wildlife are awesome. Sculptured golf layouts in places that capture the essence of the territory and its beauty form a grand setting. Somehow the challenge of play and distraction of grandeur are swept away, while the calming serenity takes you to a peaceful place.

Every journey I’ve made in Canada has brought memorable encounters, whether the focus of travel was nature, cuisine, fishing, golf or exploring lifestyles of distinctive people. Each venture brought new discoveries--tasty food, foot-stomping music, majestic settings and cultural nuances. Travel in Canada is a gift that keeps on giving, and my time in Okanagan Valley was no different, except that the harvest was a lot sweeter. It is a place that begs my return, which I’m eager to do.

Bill Nestor writes about travel, golf and lifestyle from his home in Vermont.

For more information on where to go, stay, play, dine and things to do visit: