Okanagan Valley, Canada's Premier Wine Producing Region...
and, Golf Club

Story by: Ray Chatelin
Photos by: Toshi

It was only a few years ago that the Okanagan Valley, Canada’s premiere wine producing region, about 245 miles directly west of Vancouver, British Columbia, had only 12 golf courses. Today, there are 50 and counting. 

Okanagan, Canada
Okanagan Valley, Canada’s premiere wine producing region.

But, there’s more to the region than golf courses. Like Napa or Sonoma, in California, the combination of wine exploration and golf courses make a very nice lifestyle combination. Between the vacation town of Osoyoos in the south and Vernon in the north is one vineyard after another – a long, 300 km (186 mile) string of some 50 wineries that beckon locals and visitors alike to sample the region’s seductive products or to rest awhile in one of the cozy restaurants that overlook Lake Okanagan. 
 
Canada’s only true desert is located here, the northernmost tip of the Sonora desert that stretches all the way to Mexico. It provides the cactus, sagebrush and the occasional rattlesnake though they’re rarely seen on courses.

The southern desert also supplies the warm air that makes the valley the driest, hottest and sunniest spot in Canada each summer. Temperatures remain comfortably in the 70s and low 80s for May and June and then flirt with the 90s and 100 in July and August.  

The intriguing combination of resort and traditional styles - the Bear (top) and the Quail (bottom). Planned by Jack Nicklaus' Golden Bear Design

The south Okanagan region boasts well-tended fairways and greens carved out of the desert, Fairview Mountain Golf Club, and the Osoyoos Golf & Country Club are both challenging and always sunny. But there are many more coursed that demand your attention, with a variety of layouts that range in style from mountain courses to desert to links style.

But there are two side by side courses just north of Kelowna, midway up the valley, that offer an intriguing combination of resort and traditional styles - the Bear and the Quail. Planned by Jack Nicklaus' Golden Bear Design and built in 1998, the Bear is a 6,900 yard, par 72 course while the 6,891 yard, Par 72 Quail, is designed by Les Furber. They sit next to one another and it is an easy walk from the 18th green of one to the first tee box of the other.

Both courses are served by a clubhouse of exquisite Southwest Spanish design and décor that makes it the perfect place to hold a gala affair or to simply relax after your round of golf. Sarazen's Restaurant and The Player's Lounge & Grille offer à la carte dining, bistro and lounge facilities, and al fresco patio dining. 

The two courses at the Okanagan Golf Club are part of the GolfBC group of 14 courses that you’ll find near Vancouver, at Whistler Resort and in Hawaii on Maui and Kauai.

It doesn’t take long to get a feel for this Jack Nicklaus designed course in the heart of British Columbia’s wine country. The friendly opening hole is just 376 yards from the back tees and makes a three-wood the weapon of choice off the tee followed by a short iron approach to a fairly flat green.

The Quail is a wonderful test of course management, accuracy, length and the short game.

And as you play the course, you quickly understand that, unlike many other Nicklaus courses, this one isn’t meant to be a PGA layout. Instead, it’s one of the most user-friendly courses you’re likely to play – a resort course with open fairways, receptive greens and hazards that you have to work at entering. And it’s a walker’s course.

The Bear simply makes you feel good about your game. There’s nothing that’s hidden and the greens roll true and fast. Visually, the course meanders though the Jack Pines and then along the valley floor with its wide-open concept.

But, there are holes that bite. The Par 3 Sixth hole, for example, is the shortest par 3 at the Okanagan Golf Club at just 151 yards from the gold tees (back) and just 80 yards from the reds. But the green is narrow and behind it is nothing but trouble with trees and brush. In front are two waiting traps. 

The 18th, a long par 5 at 547 yards from the back, is fine finishing hole that again has plenty of room to let you hit a driver with abandon. A solid second shot will leave you a short approach to a green protected by a bunker at the front right and a grass collection area to the left.

Okanagan, Canada
Quail is a terrific par 72, 18-hole championship golf course that in the eight years since it first opened has become an Okanagan Valley favorite.

The Quail, on the other hand, is a wonderful test of course management, accuracy, length and the short game. It’s also a contrast to its sister course, the Bear layout.

The Quail is a terrific par 72, 18-hole championship golf course that in the eight years since it first opened has become an Okanagan Valley favorite. It dramatic elevation changes and breathtaking views as its multi-tiered fairways meander around a majestic rock bluff.

The opening hole is a straight-away par 4 of moderate length at 343 yards from the back tees and isn’t especially tough. It requires an accurately placed fairway wood or long iron off the tee and then a short iron approach to a narrow green.

Just when you think that you’re in for a relatively straight-forward round, the second hole, a 540 yard par-5, quickly brings you back to reality. A tight fairway with trees on both sides is reachable only by the longest of hitters and once you reach the two-tiered green, you’d better be on the right level or you’ll have a tough time two-putting.
 
The Quail has many signature holes and it’s difficult to determine which is the most dramatic. The view from the tee box at the 522 yard par-5 Sixth hole is absolutely spectacular as you look down onto a well-bunkered dog-leg right, tree lined fairway whose out-of-sight green sits at the base of a rising slab of rock.
 
And no hole in BC offers you the kind of dramatic finish as the 408 yard par-4 eighteenth. Here is the signature hole on the Quail Course - a picturesque par 4 that requires a long iron or fairway wood off the tee to a landing spot that hides the hazard.

Aim for the left hand side of the fairway and don’t hit the ball more than 220 yards or you’ll find yourself in the unplayable scruff at the edge of Bo’s Lake. Your second shot over the lake requires your best effort to an elevated green. Par is a good score here.

Ladies take a very different route on this hole with a tee box on the other side of the trees that define the men’s fairway. Their tee box lines up directly to the green, but the tee shot has to be accurate since Bo’s Lake follows the entire length of the fairway’s right hand side.
 
The Quail is the course that will most accurately test your game. It’s fair, tough and picturesque. And afterwards, you’ll remember each and every hole because you have to think your way through this course.

The pro shop has a wide selection of sportswear, outer wear, accessories, footwear, souvenirs and rental equipment. There’s a double-ended driving range with grass tees; practice putting green; chipping green; practice sand bunkers; power carts; rental clubs.


FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Okanagan Golf Club
Toll Free: 1-800-898-2449
Website: www.golfbc.com/find_a_course/okanagan