Steppe Right Up: Central Oregon Golf Beckons

By Tony Dear

Each sport’s playing arenas tend to be generic with little to distinguish one pitch, field, diamond or court from another. Every football field is flat and has the same dimensions as the next. Same with basketball courts and tennis courts. The surfaces may be different – grass, clay, synthetic, maple, acrylic, etc. but that’s where the differences begin and end. Soccer pitches and baseball fields are also flat and, though not exactly the same dimensions as each other (there is no standard size for a soccer pitch or baseball field), as similar in length and width as makes no difference.
Golfers play a sport so singular in so many ways. The game’s etiquette marks it out as special, but so too does the immense variety in its playing arenas. Golf courses are so vastly different from one another they add intrigue and curiosity to every round we play. Long, short, undulating, flat, green, brown, firm, soft, difficult, straightforward, bordered by forests, bordered by oceans, clifftop, parkland, meadowland, heathland, downland, prairie, desert – the assortment of challenges and vistas is intoxicating.
Naturally, every golfer has a ‘type’ of course he prefers. Like many others, I enjoy the game best beside the seaside on firm, sandy turf and with a decent breeze in the air. But if I can’t be on the coast, give me the firm, sandy turf of the high desert – specifically Central Oregon’s high desert – instead.
Central Oregon – a region traditionally made up of Deschutes, Jefferson, and Crook counties, but for our purposes the area around and between the cities of Bend, Sisters, Redmond, Prineville, and La Pine – sits roughly 4,000ft above sea level and is almost as perfectly-suited to golf as the linksland of Britain and Ireland. The only thing it lacks really is a steady 15-20mph breeze that, on occasion, turns into a 40mph hooley. Otherwise, the firm turf, interesting undulations, terrific scenery, and scant, low-lying vegetation are all present and correct. Indeed, everything looks right, smells right, and, when you make crisp, ball-before-turf contact, it most definitely feels right.
The look includes the distant Cascade Mountains – Bachelor, Washington, Jefferson, Broken Top, and the Three Sisters – and a vast shrub-steppe that extends east further than the eye can see. The smell, meanwhile, is an invigorating mix of clean, fresh air, juniper, and sage wafting in from the countless Artemisia Nova (black sagebrush) bushes that almost blanket the ground. It’s a heady assembly of sensory triggers, but what really makes this prime golfing territory are beautiful lies on emerald fairways that give order, in the golfer’s mind anyway, to the random, rugged disorder of the landscape.
Take the Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn. In amongst all that seemingly untidy and unruly flora are 18 sublime golf holes that make up what is surely one of the Golden Bear’s finest creations. Opened in 2006, Pronghorn started life as a highly exclusive private club and community, but opened its doors to non-members in the summer of 2010 after home sales had gone into freefall due to the failing economy. Forty-eight high-end units were built for resort guests alongside the 18th hole of the Nicklaus Course which was also opened to the public, leaving the property’s other course, designed by Tom Fazio, to the members.

Pronghorn, Nicklaus Course. Image courtesy Pronghorn

Pronghorn, Nicklaus Course. Image courtesy Pronghorn

The Nicklaus Course starts relatively gently, but gets increasingly dramatic as the round progresses – the back nine one memorable after the other. Director of Agronomy David Freitag keeps the bentgrass tees and fairways, and A4 bentgrass greens in spectacular shape. Agronomy and golf course maintenance have come a long way in the last 15-20 years allowing more courses to achieve far better playing surfaces than ever before. Pronghorn’s surfaces are truly exceptional, however, and unless you’ve played Augusta National or any other course belonging to a private club with a big maintenance staff and bigger budget, it’s unlikely you will have encountered better conditions. The lies, in the mown areas at least, are invariably perfect, the greens as true as those at a major championship venue – better in some cases.
It’s true even in winter…almost, says Freitag, despite the fact his staff drops from a summer high of 42 (21 for each course) to just eight. “There was some extreme weather last winter,” he says. “We had record cold temps in early December of 27 degrees below zero, but fortunately there was a thin layer of snow for protection, so we did not see any damage to the golf course.” There were also several snowfall accumulations spread out through the winter, he adds, so the courses had a good amount of moisture to help them through. In the first week of February, the property received 18″ of snow – 12” more than any snowfall event of the previous 12 years. “During the week between Christmas and New Year’s,
in between the record-setting lows and equally extreme snowfall, we held a well-attended shotgun tournament with really good winter golf course conditions.”
The resort at Pronghorn has been owned by the Honolulu-based Resort Group since February 2012, and managed by boutique operator Auberge Resorts which manages seven luxury properties in California, Colorado, Oregon, and Mexico (soon to be eight with the addition of Malliouhana on the West Indian island of Anguilla) since May of that year. The golf courses and golf academy have been run by Troon Golf for nearly five years.
In 2015, Pronghorn will open the 105-room Huntington Lodge, further demonstrating how much it has evolved since its confined, restrictive early days. Named after the Huntington Trail, a wagon route first used in 1867 and which ran through Deschutes County, the lodge has been designed by San Francisco’s SB Architects in the style of National Park lodges, and is being constructed by local builder SunWest Builders which began work in April.
In addition to the new lodge, the spa is being doubled in size to 4,000sqft, and the fitness center is being updated.
General Manager Spencer Schaub told ‘Cascade Business News’ in September last year that Pronghorn was free of all debt and legal encumbrances, and that $3.2m in back taxes had been paid in order to set the resort in good standing with Deschutes County. The future is undoubtedly bright for Pronghorn which Schaub says has its sight set on becoming the premier residential community and resort in the Pacific Northwest.
Construction of new accommodations is obviously in the air in Central Oregon as Tetherow too has a new lodge (actually twin buildings) to offer visiting golfers this summer. Officially opened in April, Tetherow Lodges has 50 luxury rooms most with balconies and all with views of the Paulina Mountains or David McLay Kidd-designed golf course which opened to national raves in 2008.

Image courtesy Tetherow

Image courtesy Tetherow

Operations Manager Davis Smith says the Lodges is already doing good business with golf groups and visitors on golf packages (starting at $350 per person for two nights and two days’ unlimited golf). “In just the first two months, we saw a lot of local golfers and several from a little further afield come out,” he adds. “And I expect to see sellouts over the busy summer months and rolling into fall.”
Not content with 50 guest bedrooms, Tetherow will start construction of several 3-5 bedroom cabins in the fall, part of an ambitious expansion project undertaken by the resort’s owner – Velocity Capital BV, an investment company based in the Netherlands.
As for the course, Smith says that thanks to a fairly mild winter and thorough winter preparations, the fescue greened-up quickly in the spring and is now in tip-top condition. “The course is honestly in the best shape it has been in since it opened,” he insists.
That is music to Kidd’s ears. The Scotsmen has lived in Bend since 2006 and considers Tetherow his home course. “I absolutely love it here in Bend,” he says. “I try to limit myself to one international trip a month and so I can spend as much time as I can in Bend.”
Kidd has made numerous adjustments to Tetherow in the years since it opened, changes aimed at softening a few of its more severe edges. “I’ve had the chance to play it a lot myself and watch others playing it too,” he says. “I know there were playability issues when it opened so I tried to make it more forgiving for the high-handicapper. The landing areas are more generous now, and you rarely lose a ball. I also mad some of the bunkers less penal. To maintain the challenge for the good golfer, I extended some greens to find a few more pin locations.”
The course, where golfers can now rent a GolfBoard, is fundamentally unchanged, says Kidd who adds that Tetherow offers the only links experience in Central Oregon. “It’s wall-to-wall fescue and there are loads of contours to read and use. There are no flop shots here!”
Though significantly more lenient than when it first opened, Tetherow is still a wonderfully challenging course. “I think it’s a great test now,” says Kidd. “Resort golfers can certainly have a great time, but it’s a tough prospect for the low-handicapper wanting to match par. My 6.7 handicap travels very well from here.”
Though he plays Tetherow whenever he gets the chance, Kidd has become familiar with most of Bend’s courses in his eight years of residency. “This area has so much to offer the golfer,” he says. “There is almost every genre of golf here from a lot of the top architects.”
Another area property investing in its future, looking to retain loyal customers that have been coming to the resort for the last 45 years, is Sunriver, 15 miles south of Bend off Highway 97 and set more or less at the foot of the Cascades. Sunriver resort guests have access to four golf courses – the nine-hole Caldera Links designed by Bob Cupp and Jim Ramey and perfect for families, the John Fought-designed Meadows Course, the private and nationally-ranked Cupp-designed Crosswater Course which David Kidd says is his favorite in the area besides Tetherow of course, and Robert Trent Jones’s Woodlands Course which completed the five-year renovation of its greens recently.
“Rather than close the course for an extended period, we managed to remain open by doing a few greens every year,” says the resort’s Director of Golf Josh Willis, a native of Georgia who graduated from the PGA Professional Golf Management Program at Mississippi State University. “We sodded the greens with T1 Bent using turf grown in our own nursery.”
Willis says the greens were at their absolute best 90 days after completion of the project but were, in fact, perfectly playable after just 45. “You couldn’t see the seam lines between the sods,” he says, “and though they may not have been quite as quick as the other greens, they were already putting beautifully.”
Helping the course maintain its excellent putting surfaces was this past winter’s snow-cover which, says Willis, insulated the turf from cold temperature extremes and severe temperature fluctuations. The USGA Green Section says snow cover isn’t necessarily a bad thing for golf greens at all. “Snow cover also protects turf from winter wind desiccation,” it says. “In fact, snow coverage in and of itself is rarely a problem for turf because gas exchange between the soil and atmosphere is not completely restricted, as it would be with ice.”
Willis likens the T1 to a polar bear saying it absolutely loves it environment. “It just loves cool to cold temperatures, and is a hardier strain of bent than what we have seen before,” he says. “It does take some looking after in the hotter summer months, but it is also far more tolerant of heat than our previous turf.  I fully expect the Woodland Course’s greens to be some of the best in the Pacific Northwest.”
With the golf, two great pool areas, biking, boating and numerous other activities, excellent dining, plus very comfortable accommodations, Sunriver continues to be many people’s happy place. It’s been one of mine since my family and I first visited in 2009. New, pristine greens at one of its delightful quartet of courses will only help make it even more appealing.
Fifteen miles the other side of Bend, Brasada Ranch is another world-class Central Oregon resort that epitomizes what visitors to the region find so alluring. And, like so many others, it too went through an ownership change during the economic downturn when the original developer Jeld-Wen sold to Westport, Conn.-based company Northview Hotel Group and funds managed by Oaktree Capital Management in November 2010. The same consortium also purchased Running Y Ranch in Klamath Falls and Eagle Crest Redmond from the door and window manufacturer which never disclosed why it was offloading so many of its Oregon properties (also Ridgewater, Silver Mountain Ski Resort, and Yarrow housing development in Madras) at the same time.

Image courtesy Brasada Ranch

Image courtesy Brasada Ranch

Northview spent $3.5m on upgrades with a view to making Brasada its flagship property but was careful to maintain the rustic charm of the place.
As well as what seems like a now standard list of terrific activities you can try your hand at – fly-fishing, horse-riding, rafting, mountain-biking, rock climbing – you’ll find great food prepared by Executive Chef Ryan Sturmer who recently arrived at Brasada Ranch from the Urban Farmer Restaurant at the Nines Hotel in Portland, and superb accommodations – eight elegant but comfortable Ranch House suites and 40 privately-owned luxury cabins that can be reserved by the night.
Then, of course, there’s the golf course. Brasada Canyons is a Peter Jacobsen/Jim Hardy collaboration that opened in 2008 and which might provide the best views from any golf course in Central Oregon. The course is restricted to members and resort guests so you’ll not have a problem finding a tee time. And yes, this course is worth booking a night at the resort to play. Guests receive complimentary Bushnell rangefinders for their round plus a yardage guide.
Superintendent Darren Klein, who worked on the construction crew, maintains the course in typically great condition, and says that he can’t remember a spring/early summer period when the course looked so good.
The same is true, says Superintendent Phil Lagao, of Black Butte Ranch’s two courses – Big Meadow and especially Glaze Meadow which just began its third full season since John Fought’s magnificent renovation/redesign that completely overhauled Gene Mason’s original course which had begun to look a little tired and dated. Lagao, the Oregon Golf Course Superintendent Association’s (OGCSA) Superintendent of the Year in 2012, says Glaze is now looking as good as it has done since it re-opened and that it has very nearly reached it potential. “It takes a new course, which Glaze Meadow essentially was, a few years to settle and Glaze Meadow is very nearly there,” he says. “What rough there is, is growing nicely now, and the greens are putting very well though I’d still like to see just a little more thatch.”
Thatch? Isn’t that a bad thing that superintendents want to do avoid?
Actually every green needs just a little thatch – the layer of living and dead organic matter that occurs between the green vegetation and soil surface, and which is composed primarily of turfgrass stems. “Without it, greens just have no give,” says Lagao. “There’s nothing to absorb the ball. So it’s very difficult to stop the ball on the green. That was the case when Glaze re-opened, but it’s getting much better now.”
The new Glaze Meadow has been a revelation with the men’s club and visitors who have gotten used to the new look. “The feedback is all positive now,” says Lagao. “It took some regular players a while to get used to it, but everyone loves it now.”

Black Butte Ranch Big Meadow Course. Image courtesy COVA

Black Butte Ranch Big Meadow Course. Image courtesy COVA

Black Butte Ranch’s two courses are more heavily forested than the other courses mentioned above despite Fought’s extensive tree removal which took out 3,500 of Glaze Meadow’s aspens and ponderosa pines. They may not be the quintessential Central Oregon high desert layouts, therefore, but the views of the Cascades are still fantastic and the golf every bit as enjoyable. There are over 120 vacation rentals – lodge rooms to cabins and condos to spacious homes – to choose from making a summer golf package at the 1,800-acre property (starting at just $139 per person) a bit of a no-brainer.
And speaking of no-brainers, how about this for a cracking deal…on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays in August, you can play both courses at Black Butte Ranch with a cart, range balls, and tournament coordination for just $125. And, as a bonus, every member of your group can earn $20-$40 in pro-shop credit if you book the midweek outing by July 20th (merchandise credit provided to groups of 16 players or more.)
There are plenty more courses worth a visit in Central Oregon – Aspen Lakes near Sisters, Eagle Crest near Redmond, Widgi Creek on the outskirts of Bend, Crooked River Ranch, Juniper in Redmond, Quail Run in La Pine, River’s Edge in Bend, and Bend’s Lost Tracks where if you book a tee time for between 10am and 1pm on a Sunday you automatically become eligible for the Million Dollar Shootout (see web site for details).
There really is no bad time to visit Central Oregon because if snow is preventing you from playing golf you could be skiing on Mt. Bachelor instead. But if it’s the golf you’re coming for, you might think about arranging your trip to coincide with one of Bend’s many summer festivals and events. “There really are too many to mention them all,” says the Central Oregon Visitor Association’s (COVA) Ted Taylor. “There’s the hot-air balloon festival, Balloons over Bend, July 18-20; the Cascade Cycling Classic in mid-late July which usually draws a crowd of 20,000 to the downtown area; free Munch and Music in downtown every Thursday night; a great July 4th parade (Travel + Leisure named Bend the No. 2 4th of July town in America); High Desert Classics showjumping in the last two weeks of July; and Bend Brewfest August 14-16 where one of the breweries in the line-up will be 10 Barrel whose Bend pub was the inspiration behind the clubhouse at the David Kidd-designed Gamble Sands in Central Washington which opens for play in August. “I don’t spend much time there personally because I don’t drink,” says Kidd. “But it’s a really cool place and a must-visit for anyone who likes their beer.”
Likewise, Central Oregon is a must-visit for anyone who likes their golf.
For more information, please visit www.visitcentraloregon.com

Semiahmoo Resort Kicks Off FootGolf

Semiahmoo

Semi-professional soccer team Bellingham United head coach Lance Calloway with players Tony Clark, Mo Marenah, and Colon Kifney. Images courtesy Brett Eaton

Semiahmoo Resort, Golf, & Spa kicked off FootGolf at Semiahmoo Golf & Country Club with the help of Ranger Gold, a girls soccer team from Bellingham, Wash., on June 3, 2014.

WFC U14 Ranger Gold girls soccer team, members of semi-professional soccer team Bellingham United FC, and other invited guests participated in the inaugural rounds of FootGolf

FootGolf will be available every Friday and Saturday evening this summer from 6 p.m. to dusk. FootGolf is $10 for nine holes ($8 for juniors) and $16 for 18 holes ($12 for juniors), as well a $3 soccer ball rental fee. Proper golf course attire and footwear is required. FootGolf will be played at Loomis Trail Golf Club on even days of the week and at Semiahmoo Golf & Country Club on odd days; providing two unique opportunities and challenges for players.

FootGolf, one of the fastest growing recreational activities in the United States, is played with a soccer ball on a golf course. It is scored by utilizing the rules of stroke or match play in golf as participants attempt to kick the ball from tee to green and into a 21 inch cup.

For more information about FootGolf or Semiahmoo Resort, Golf, & Spa visit www.semiahmoogolf.com/.

These Oregon Golf Packages Should Be On Your Radar

Stay & Play From $119+ Mid-Week Summer & Throughout The Fall

Central and southern Oregon golf courses have always been popular – thanks to their mild climate and 300 days of sunshine,  it’s possible to play some of the courses (like The Ridge Course at Eagle Crest Resort) year-round. Not only are these courses ranked among the best to play, their picturesque settings alone are worth the trip. Great for small and large golf groups, as well as family golf vacations (each property offers “Junior’s Play Free” deals), these three Oregon Golf Resorts should be on your radar.Brasada #18

Brasada Ranch | Reservations 855.426.6355

Designed by native Oregonian Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy, Brasada Canyons golf course and resort in Bend, Oregon is undeniably one of the most beautiful and enjoyable golf courses in the west. While the course is known as the best 18 views in Central Oregon, Brasada Canyons is also heralded for its privacy, as play is reserved for members and resort guests, and no two holes run parallel. Brasada Ranch offers tournament preparation, meal planning and banquet services, rounds at other top courses, activities throughout the area and more.

Eagle Crest Resort | Reservations 855.426.9673

When it comes to golf in central Oregon, challenge, variety and value are the top priorities at Eagle Crest Resort. With two championship golf courses, The Ridge Course and The Resort Courses, our tough 18-hole, par-63 Challenge Course and our popular 18-hole putting course, links lovers are never far from their favorite pastime. Four sets of tees on each course allow the more experienced golfers plenty of challenge, and the less experienced equally enjoyable rounds. Guests of the Resort enjoy all of the Resort amenities, including three sports centers, indoor and outdoor pools and tennis courts, hiking trails, equestrian center, day spa, and more.

Running Y Ranch | Reservations 855.427.2351

Consistently ranked among the top courses in the US, Running Y Ranch is home to the only Arnold Palmer designed course in Oregon, and golfers from around the globe are blown away by the challenge and jaw-dropping setting. Even Arnold Palmer includes his track at Running Y Ranch as one of his “Sweet 16.” If you’re looking for an Oregon golf resort that has it all along with value, you will find it here. Running Y Ranch also features a full-service golf shop, world-class instruction, practice facility, family favorite 18-hole Putting Course.

MID-WEEK SUMMER & FALL GOLF PACKAGES

ULTIMATE GOLF PACKAGE FROM $139 | RESERVATIONS 855.426.6355

BRASADA CANYONS AT BRASADA RANCH | BEND OREGON

Voted “Oregon’s Best Destination Resort” – The Oregonian

  • Stay in a Ranch House Suite or in a two, three or four bedroom Sage Canyon or Cascade Cabin
  • Receive one round of golf or a $75 spa credit for each guest, each night of stay
  • Play at Brasada Canyons or slip into Spa Brasada for a spa treatment, the choice is yours

UNLIMITED STAY & PLAY PACKAGE FROM $119 | RESERVATIONS 855.426.9673

THE RIDGE, RESORT & CHALLENGE COURSES AT EAGLE CREST RESORT | REDMOND OREGON

Voted “Best Place to Play” – Golf Digest

  • Stay in the Lodge at Eagle Crest Resort or in the two, three and four-bedroom Vacation Rentals
  • Play as much golf as you like on all three courses, for a truly customizable experience

ULTIMATE STAY & PLAY PACKAGE FROM $119 | RESERVATIONS 855.427.2351

THE ARNOLD PALMER SIGNATURE COURSE AT RUNNING Y RANCH | KLAMATH FALLS OREGON

Voted “Top 10 Courses in Oregon” – GolfWeek

  • Stay in the Lodge at Running Y Ranch or in the two, three and four-bedroom Vacation Rentals
  • For each night of your stay, play as much golf as you like.
  • Play additional rounds on your arrival or departure day at the “Palmer” rate of $40 per round

Click HERE for package details!

Columbia Valley Golf Trail: The East Kootenays are Callin’…Eh!

By Cameron Healey
My first foray golfing mountain-style was at the High Sierras in Nevada a few years back. Needless to say it was an experience I would not soon forget. Why? For starters, swinging the clubs in an alpine setting surrounded by awe-inspiring mountain ranges is breathtaking–quite literally. Whether you’re walking an uncrowded course in the cool invigorating alpine air or watching your mid-afternoon tee shot smoked off an elevated tee box, there is something special about playing golf in the mountains. I am now hooked and I want more.  That desire to hit the mountains was recently satiated with a four day trip north of the border to the Columbia Valley Golf Trail, in southeastern British Columbia.

While there are regions in BC that are well known golf destinations such as Vancouver Island, Kamloops, or Whistler, the Columbia Valley Golf Trail comprised of eight golf courses anchored to the North by Radium Hot Springs, 36 holes, and The Fairmont Hot Springs a few miles to the south, also 36 holes, and include Eagle Ranch, Copper Point Golf Club & The Ridge, and Windermere Valley which is rapidly earning distinction as a must-visit golf destination for golfing aficionados. While you would expect the local golf community to be staunch cheerleaders for their region, I would soon discover that their bias is neither forced nor disingenuous. They know they have a little piece of golfing nirvana right in their own backyard and they’re more than willing to shout about it from their roof tops. Indeed, I’m willing to bet my well-worn pair of Ecco’s that the Valley and the Kootenay Rockies 25 championship golf courses will become the first choice for those of us looking for a world class mountain golf destination.

Radium Resort

Radium_Springs

Radium Resort, The Springs Course

After a short flight from Vancouver, BC into the quaint but modern Cranbrook airport, I picked up my rental car and weaved my way northward towards Invermere, a short drive of 90 minutes where my constant companion was the spectacular Canadian Rockies on my right and the Purcell Ranges on my left and views towards my destination ahead stretching as far as the eye could see. You can’t help but be mesmerized by the grandeur of the setting especially when the only interruption during the drive was an odd encounter with an angus bull also admiring the view from the shoulder of the highway coupled with a group of white tail deer and big horn sheep milling around closer to the town of Radium flashing their pearly whites to me as I sheepishly passed by (pun intended).   I felt that I was indeed entering a new and exciting world.

The 90 room Radium Resort was already buzzing with activity from fellow club-toting tourists either playing golf, tennis, squash, or racquetball at the indoor fitness center. After checking into my comfortable and spacious room located in the St. Andrews Wing overlooking The Resort Course, I quickly became acquainted with the lay of the land and learned that the second 18 hole championship course, The Springs Course, is a short 5 minute drive north.  Not to worry if you prefer not to drive; The Resort offers free shuttle rides to and from. With clubs in tow and an afternoon tee time, I made the leisurely drive via the quaint village of Radium, home to roughly 1000 year-round residents.

While the Resort Course has been a staple option for both locals and tourists for the better part of 60 years, golf course architect and Radium Resort president Bill Newis in 2012 modified three existing holes and added three new holes changing the par from 69 to 71 and pushing the length out to a manageable 6071 yards from the tips. Earmarked by tree-lined fairways and large greens, The Resort Course is considered the more forgiving of the two Championship Courses and is a solid option for Resort golfers wanting a taste of mountain golf that is high on fun.  I opted to play the highly regarded 6767 yard Les Furber-designed Springs Course, open since 1988 and recipient of multiple accolades including one of BC’s top public courses, home to a world-class golf academy, and co-host of the 2013 BC Amateur Golf Championship.

Offering four sets of tees, I opted to play the blues at 6273 yards and was greeted with a 380 yard par-4 dogleg left opening hole. Smart play off the tee is to favor the right fairway where the ball filters downhill and to the left leaving a manageable, but downhill, 150-yard approach into a relatively shallow but wide undulating green protected by a bunker ready to catch errant balls. With a solid par to start, the views from the front nine–particularly the routing of the first three holes perched high on the bluff–are magic with views of the expansive wetlands weaving its way through the Columbia Valley. The back nine routing hugs the mountainside to the south; however, the Valley views are especially evident as you approach the iconic 124-yard par-3 #17th. Short, yes, but with a massive ravine immediately in front, and a very shallow but wide green, the 124 yard shot is far from pedestrian and demands precise distance control. In fact, #17 caps a quartet of beguiling par-3s that demand the utmost respect–the most difficult being the 174 yard #14th, requiring all carry from the tee to a large sloping green. Depending on pin placement, the center of the green is best and the steep canyon in front less so. While The Springs par 5s are reachable, the 516 yard #9th requires an accurate tee shot and second shot placed short and left of the fairway bunkers but not so far left that the huge water pond comes into play. Stay dry and a par is a solid score here. If you’re unable to capitalize on some The Spring’s “risk-reward” par 4s such as the 330 yard, #8th that tempts the big hitters with a large green protected by a forgiving pond on the left, you can always book a lesson with Director of Golf Brent Taylor at the Springs Golf Academy to help fine tune your game. Ask Taylor which holes are his favorites and you’ll hear a quick but knowledgeable answer: #1 and #17.  “You couldn’t have a better par 3 as you approach the end of your round,” he says, “All the holes are unique and fun to play and in one of the most spectacular settings you could imagine.” Speaking of spectacular, why not follow your round with a Reuben and a beer while taking in views of the Purcell Range from the patio of The Springs Restaurant. Either way you play it, The Springs Course demands a return visit for another round.

Post-golf Mineral Pool therapy

radium_hot_pool_thumb

Radium Hot Springs Pools. Image courtesy Kootenay Rockies Tourism

After an enjoyable twilight experience swinging the sticks around the Springs Course, it was time to tackle a ‘Springs’ of a different nature. Another quick 5 minute drive east of Radium found myself at the iconic and historical Radium Hot Pools, whose hot mineral water has been around for as long as time, the product of geothermal activity producing a soothing mineral-rich warm 46 degree Celsius odorless water elixir just about guaranteed to sooth away the deepest aches and pains. Sharing the concrete pool with perhaps 10 other bathers and with the Rocky Mountain cliff face directly behind me and a setting sun, the two-footer that I missed earlier becomes a distant memory—even if just for a short time. If chilling in the hot pool is not your thing, the 25 meter 27 degree Celsius cool pool is a great option if you’re looking to pound out a few laps in one of the most serene settings you might ever experience.

Eagle Ranch Golf Course

Eagle Ranch

Eagle Ranch, image courtesy Kootenay Rockies Tourism

The next course on the schedule was at the Bill Robinson-designed Eagle Ranch Golf Course. Opening in May 2000 and located by the Columbia River with stellar views of Lake Windermere to the south and the wetlands to the west, Eagle Ranch can best be described as a heady mix of golf holes that both taunts and titillates. Robinson’s course, whose work might be familiar to Pacific Northwestern golfers who have played the likes of Ocean Dunes in Florence, OR,. or the OGA Course in Woodburn, offers golfers a true test of golf set amongst wide and accommodating tree-lined fairways with a hint of links-style play evident by an interesting mix of grassy knobs and knolls, swales, rolling fairways, and pot bunkers. Indeed, Eagle Ranch has earned its fair share of accolades including Golf Digest “Best Places to Play” – 4.5 stars and Score Golf – “Best Conditioned Course in B.C. The stunning rustic clubhouse and award-winning restaurants adds to the appeal of Eagle Ranch as one of the premier golf destinations in the Valley. Of course, their ‘service that is second to none’ mantra is not merely lip service either and makes the $100+ golf round even more palatable.

For those golfers short on time but wanting a satisfying golf experience, Eagle Ranch offers The Short Course, a par 58 course experience giving golfers a good opportunity to play a round of golf in less than 3 hours. The Short Course is essentially the addition of a fifth set of tees that offer a series of fourteen par 3s measuring a maximum of 150 yards and four par 4s measuring a maximum of 270 yards. This option is perfect for those golfers with young kids who want to swing the sticks with Mum & Dad or for golfers who want a quick fix of stellar golf in a short space of time.

For the full experience, Eagle stretches out to 6646 yards with a slope rating of 71.4/132 from the tips. The 392 yard (blues) par 4 opening hole stretches out along the Bluff towards the north and offers a slight dogleg left into long narrow green with a ridge in the center. A solid drive of 230-250 yards off the tee will keep the left fairway bunker and lone spruce tree jutting out into the fairway out of play. A pin placement on the lower half of the back to front sloping green will make for a delicate downhill putt.

The opener gives way to a fun and eclectic mix of testy par 4s like the #1 handicapped 379 yard par 4 fourth demanding accuracy off the tee to avoid the right side fairway bunkers with a two-tiered green protected by the water hazard. Or, you might enjoy the classic “risk reward” 307 yard par 4 seventh with three strategically placed pot bunkers protecting a large elevated green that slopes from front to back.  My favorite hole at Eagle, perhaps predictably, is the signature hole; the 159 yard par 3 16th   Teeing off from an elevated tee box, your target is a 30 foot deep two-tiered green that slopes from back to front snuggled in tight between the surrounding woodlands. Left, long or short off the tee are not good options as the latter will definitely require a dropped shot. This may not be a bad option; however, as the ravine is considered environmentally sensitive given the rumor it contains a bear den. Hmm, best place it safe.

In need of a little self-medicating to calm the nerves after playing #16?  Make a beeline for either the award winning fine dining Rustica or more relaxed and casual Traders Lounge. I highly recommend sitting out on the massive patio while smacking down on the Merguez Mussels starter with African Sausage, Tomato, Arugula and pair that with the Arrowhead Bombshell Blonde Beer brewed just a few miles down the road at the local boutique Arrowhead Brewery. Go on have another! I did.

Copper Point Golf Club

Copper Point_

Copper Point Golf Course. Image courtesy Kootenay Rockies

Copper Point Golf Club is one of the newest championship golf courses in the Valley offering golfers two distinctive golf courses that feature lush Kentucky Blue fairways, challenging bent grass greens and hand-carved bunkers. The par-70 6807 yard Point Course opened in the fall of 2003 and is celebrating its 10th full year anniversary this year while The Ridge at Copper Point featuring full length par 3 and par 4 holes and considered a master’s- not executive-style course, opened in 2008. A Gary Browning/Wade Horrick design, and co-host of the 2013 BC Amateur Championship won by ex-University of Washington Husky graduate Charlie Hughes in a playoff, The Point course is also another example of a diverse mix of golf holes where no two holes are the same nor do you feel you are going through the motions. This was no more evident that the opening trio of holes. The opening 391 yard par 4 is relatively benign with the only trouble being the large C-shaped fairway bunker on the right; in fact, you have to try really hard to hook or slice your ball into the woods on this hole. A solid tee shot left fairway will filter into the middle leaving a short to mid-iron into a guitar pick-shaped green with bail out room to the right. After feeling good with a par under your belt, the challenge is intensified with the 164 yard par 3 Second. Now, I should mention that if you are a mid to high-handicapper who feels that the blues might be a stretch, Copper Point has you covered with the green tees, a combination set of tees that offer golfers yet another choice set between the whites and blues. Now, back to the second hole, which while not overly long does require an accurate shot into a shallow but wide two tiered sloping green. Try and avoid the left side as you’ll be left with a nasty and long breaking putt into a front right hole location. Equally if you bail out to the right you’ll need to pitch out of a grassy swale collection area. Left is bunker trouble. The final hole of the opening trio offers a stunning vista of the Purcell Ranges to the west as you tee off from an elevated tee that just begs for the big stick to come out of the bag. Just as the playing notes in the handy golf course guide suggests avoid the five sets of fairway and greenside bunkers and par is gettable. Avoid left fairway behind the 1st set of bunkers as you are left with a blind shot into never-never land. I can’t imagine why it’s the #1 handicapped hole on the course!

The back nine also offers a ton of interesting and challenging golf holes no more so than holes 10 through 13. Ten offers one of the toughest tee shots requiring an accurate drive to avoid the two large fairway bunkers and OB on the right not to mention a narrowing fairway into a shallow oval shaped green. Eleven is a long 409 yard par 4 with a huge swale on the right side of the fairway that gobbles up tee shots; twelve offers golfers a nifty 192 yard par 3 into a green that slopes from front to back and left to right. Try and avoid the deep bunkers on the right as an up and down from there is no cinch. Finally, hole 13 is a 463 yard par 4 dogleg to the right featuring a deep ravine, approximately 110 yards out. If you have the game, you can take on the corner taking the ravine out of play leaving a manageable short iron or another approach as Director of Instruction of The Copper Point Academy Casey Johnson puts it, “Make sure your tee shot is as accurate and as close to the slope as possible in order to have the least yardage in as possible.” He adds that the approach demands a solidly struck mid-long iron or even hybrid into an elevated two tiered green where par is quite the achievement.

While I did not have time to play the par-62 Ridge Course located east of Copper Point, unusual as it is accessed via a tunnel that runs under Highway 93/95, I did have an opportunity to see it first hand and it is genuinely stunning. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re playing a pitch and putt or your average Executive Course here folks, this sister course will test the best sticks and then some. Just ask long time head golf professional Scott McClain who also happens to be an A.C.M.G. Apprentice Ski Guide, Avalanche Forecaster plus a year round SAR volunteer. “Holes 12 through14 on the Ridge Course offer outstanding views and a legitimate risk/reward element. This is not a pitch and putt or Executive course; it’s a Masters-style at its best.  You will not be disappointed,” he explains.

Image courtesy Kootenay Rockies Tourism

Image courtesy Kootenay Rockies Tourism

Copper Point Golf Club offers stay and play packages with the nearby luxury Copper Point Resort, a 173 room upscale Resort located adjacent The Ridge Course. With hardwood and slate flooring, in-room fireplaces, both indoor and outdoor pools, fitness center and an in-house concierge available to either offer golf tips on how to the play the Valley’s golf courses or make your tee times for you, chances are you’ll feel right at home in this swanky but elegant mountain resort. Just make sure you visit the Elements Grill Restaurant & Lounge open 7 days a week for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Executive Chef Jeffrey Hicks has developed an eclectic menu easily enjoyed while watching golf on the flat screen TV on the patio or poolside. Why not try the Rocky Mountain Burger, a scrumptious blend of Canadian elk, caramelized onion and bell peppers. Amazing.

Fairmont Hot Springs Resort

The iconic Fairmont Hot Springs Resort celebrates its 50 year anniversary in 2014 and offers golfers three distinctive golfing experiences: Two 18-hole championship courses: Mountainside and Riverside and Creekside, a nine hole, par 3 course.  Mountainside Golf Course is an 18-hole par 72 course offering three sets of tees measuring 6,552 yards, 6,212 yards, and 5,189 yards. Designed by the original resort developers, the Wilder family, it is one of the original courses in the Columbia Valley and has been welcoming golfers since the late 1960’s. Earmarked by tree-lined fairways that weave in and out of the natural landscape plus awe-inspiring views, Mountainside truly represents ‘mountainside’ golf complete with uneven lies and squirrely winds. Creekside Golf Course is a 9-hole par three course which was designed by Bill Newis and opened in 2001. Measuring just over a thousand yards, Creekside is popular with all levels of golfers – particularly families; in fact, you will find golf rules are a little more relaxed at Creekside.  The other Bill Newis design is the par 71 Riverside Golf Course, which follows the Columbia River and is considered a more classical golf layout opening in 1988. It also usually opens a month earlier due to its lower elevation compared to its sister course.  Given my time constraints, I opted to tackle the Mountainside Course for an early morning tee time and while I teed it up under blue skies framing the majestic Canadian Rocky Mountains, it should be noted that just 20 months or so before, the course was almost swept off the mountain.

Fairmont Resort, Riverside Course. Courtesy Kootenay Rockies Tourism

Fairmont Resort, Riverside Course. Photo credit: Don Weixl Photography

On, Sunday July 15, 2012 a huge debris slide traveled down Fairmont Creek obliterating and burying seven holes under seventy thousand cubic feet of debris. Closed for only 46 days, Canadian Golf Course Architect, Doug Carrick, was brought in to assess and give his advice.  The plan involved using all the material that was deposited on the golf course to improve the impacted holes. New tees were created, bunkers were removed or re-located, severe slopes were softened, and Fairmont Creek was lined with boulders.  Only three of the greens from the seven affected holes had debris deposits. “Thanks to the quick work from the course maintenance team the debris was removed by hand and only one third of one green had to be replaced from the Riverside Golf Courses bent grass nursery,” says Peter Smith, Executive VP of Fairmont Hot springs Resort. Fortunately the nearby Riverside Course was available for immediate bookings including member play. According to Smith, golfers who have played the course post-flood all agree that the seven holes are much improved. Of course, I would soon discover that Mountainside is a very interesting golf course with some of the best course conditioning I had experienced thus far. The Poa Annua greens were consistently in great shape, no small feat given how early in the season it was, and the fairways neatly manicured.

The opening hole is a straightforward tree-lined 495 yard par 5 offering generous landing areas and a good sized green that encourages a solid par to start, although any boost in golfing confidence is soon tested with the 600 yard (blues) par 5 fourth dubbed “The Fairmonster” and the #1 handicapped hole. How so, you might ask? While the beautiful Lake Windermere serves as the backdrop, the real test, especially when the winds pick up from the south, is getting to the green in three and avoiding fairway bunkers.  The two tiered green is no walk in the park either. With my tail between my legs I limped off with bogey in the books ready for my next lofty challenge, the 425 yard uphill par 4 sixth, which just so happens tees off right next door to the historical Geary Homestead. George Geary was an Englishman and the first homesteader who arrived in the area in 1887. His home is still well preserved and in remarkably good shape given its exposure to over 100 Canadian winters! An accurate tee shot right fairway is optimal to allow a long iron or hybrid into a protected green that doesn’t yield too many birdies.

Fairmont Mountainside Course

Fairmont Mountainside Course

The back nine offers up some interesting holes, one of which had me raising my eyebrows as I surveyed what lay ahead. The short 323 yard par 4 15th is not what I would term a traditional risk-reward hole given the green is almost completely hidden by a valley wall that significantly narrows requiring a mid to long iron off the tee in order to ensure the best position on the fairway. There is no real “going for it” on this one, but rather hugging the right side is the best play leaving a short iron into a slightly elevated green. Stray left into the rough and you’re left with a downhill lie requiring an approach that is as close to threading a needle as you can imagine. I sure wish the routing allowed for more options off the tee, but that, of course, is sometimes what makes alpine golf so appealing. Encountering the unconventional or unpredictable is half the fun.

The best birdie opportunity on Mountainside may well be the downhill 480 yard par 5 thirteenth, one of the easier holes on the course offering a wide open fairway with minimal trouble off the tee once you advance past the first 100 yards or so. With a large green that is blissfully missing any form of sand trap, the two large fir trees on either side of the fairway just short of the green frame the approach.

Of course, the finishing hole may well be my favorite. A 395 yard par 4 requiring an accurate tee shot from an elevated tee box surrounded by mature pine and spruce trees. Addressing the ball on the tee box is special as you take in the terrific views up the valley to the North. With a water hazard running down the left of fairway, center right is a perfect play into a large green with a large bail out area. Big hitters might want to peg it back a notch off the tee to ensure the ball stays dry!

Ask Head professional Jeremy Johnson what makes Mountainside a special place to tee it up and he reflects on the positive outcome of the 2012 landslide. “I believe the visual grouping of holes 1,9,10, and 18 from the clubhouse best represent Mountainside, says Johnson,  “These holes were untouched by the debris slide in 2012 and falsely (but proudly) stood out as the unblemished Mountainside while the ‘internal’ seven holes were reworked,” he says. He also believes these same holes best represent the Mountainside style of golf with elevation changes from the mountains down to the lower side of the course to the west.

Vacationing with the little ones and want to introduce them to golf? Why not enroll them in the Little Fairmonsters Golf Clinics that run every Sunday from early May to early October. With a focus on teaching kids how to have fun with golf, these clinics are suitable for children ages 3 – 6 years and only run $15 Canadian per day per child. With the kids busy tearing up the course why not head to Fairmont’s hot mineral springs for a soothing soak. A firm fixture since the 1880s, you can revel in the restorative powers of the mineral waters kept toasty at 40 centigrade (104 Fahrenheit). If soaking too long has given you a case of the wrinkles, and hunger pangs too much to bare, I’d recommend checking out the Bear’s Paw Bar and Grill located in the main Lodge. Offering awesome burgers, a wide selection of beers on tap, BC wines, and cocktails, the Bear’s Paw also features a scenic outdoor patio overlooking the guest hot pool. Even the kids are welcome until 8:00 pm.

With four courses in as many days under my belt it was time to head home despite not experiencing Windermere Valley or the other sister courses of Radium and Fairmont. Rest assured I will be back to enjoy the full Columbia Valley Golf Trail, which is simply too much fun and represents terrific value for your golfing dollar. My parting advice: bring the kids, clubs, sunscreen, bear spray, and stay at least a week to enjoy and appreciate all that the Columbia Valley has to offer.

How to get there

For golfers living in the Pacific Northwest there are multiple daily flights out of SeaTac, Portland, or Spokane into Vancouver or Calgary where you can pick up a rental car and take a leisurely drive through the Canadian Rockies. If you live in the Inland Northwest, take the car and drive North for 3 hours and you’re in Kootenay country ready to play.

For more information, please visit www.kootenayrockies.com.

Drive Your Way To Awesome Carson Valley, Nevada

6th-Hole Genoa Lakes

Genoa Lakes. Courtesy Carson Valley Visitors Authority

The Carson Valley’s golf courses and lodging properties work together to offer packages perfect for a getaway to this incredibly scenic area. One highly popular option is a small-group package available at the recently-remodeled Carson Valley Inn which includes three nights in the hotel, three rounds of golf (both Genoa Lakes Courses and the Carson Valley Golf Course) and a group dinner in CV Steak, the Inn’s Nevada-style steakhouse. Other nights are open for optional dining “on your own” or as a group at one of the area’s Basque or other restaurants or a special dinner and tasting at the Tahoe Ridge Winery & Bistro. The package is available for 8 – 16 people at just $309 per person, double occupancy for Sunday through Tuesday arrivals. Call 775-783-6624 for more information.

Genoa Lakes Golf Course (36 holes of championship golf)

Total Acreage:  586 (including practice facilities and clubhouse)

The Lakes Golf Course:

  • Yardage: Gold, 7359; Green, 6774; Blue, 6050; Forward, 5078
  • Amenities: Event Center 13,000 sq.ft. with a banquet pavilion that will seat up to 250 people and a private dining area with two full service bars. The clubhouse is approx. 12,500 sq. ft. with a golf pro shop, grill that has a full service bar and kitchen.  Men’s and women’s locker room facilities, club, and golf cart storage are available.

The Ranch Course:

  • Yardage: Gold, 7290; Green, 6797; Blue, 6277; Forward, 5249
  • Amenities: The Clubhouse is approx. 14,000 sq. ft. with a golf pro shop, a players grill, and bar with two banquet rooms that include two full service bars.

17th-Green-and-Bunkers-2 Genoa LakesSunridge Golf Course:

  • Yardages: Gold, 6914; Blue, 6482; White, 5947; Green, 5357; Red, 4814; Orange (9 hole Jr. tees) 946
  • Total Acreage: 160 (including practice facilities, and clubhouse)
  • Amenities:  Fully stocked pro shop, including outside grill, snack bar, and full service bar.

Carson Valley Golf Course

• Yardages:  Blue, 6,020; White, 5,499; Red, 4,677

• Total Acreage: 130 (including practice area, practice green and clubhouse)

• Amenities: The clubhouse includes a fully stocked pro shop, grill serving breakfast and lunch and a full service bar.

Firm, Fast Fun: Welcome to the new Poppy Hills Golf Course

June 2, 2014 by  
Filed under Northwest Course Reviews

Poppy Hills co-hosted the PGA Tour’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am from 1991 through 2009, as well as the Spalding Pebble Beach Invitational for four years, plus the 1991 NCAA Men’s Championships.

But when the Northern California Golf Association (NCGA) realized it needed to overhaul the irrigation and drainage at Poppy Hills, it took a step back and studied what else it could improve.

_DSC1369-PH_10

Photo credit: Terry Vanderheiden

Five years of planning set in motion a $13 million renovation project that closed the course down for 13 months. The NCGA brought back original architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. to reinvigorate his popular layout, and the result is a firm, fast and fun course that unfolds seamlessly through the stunning Del Monte Forest in Pebble Beach – golf’s greatest zip code.

Poppy Hills even has a little Chambers Bay in it.

“If you’re going to rip up the course to put in irrigation and install this new way of thinking, it was time to rethink the entire course,” Jones said. “This was a remarkable opportunity to rejuvenate this world-class venue.”

Jones and his team eliminated rough, which promotes a fun and imaginative style where shots can be played both through the air and on the ground on nearly every hole. It is the same style of play they embraced at Chambers Bay in Washington, site of the 2015 U.S. Open.

“The firm and fast conditions are huge, Charlton said. “You don’t have to hit the ball in the air to get it close to the hole.

“I’d say about eight or nine years ago, we went away from every green complex being so well guarded that you had to attack it by air. In the past five or six years, we’ve taken the open entry concept – take away some of those bunkers and use short grass as defense.

“I’m really excited about the fun factor. A player with a lot of imagination is going to have a lot of fun out here.”

Poppy Hills shut down in March of 2013 and reopened April 4, 2014 to rave reviews. The overwhelming sentiment? When planning your next golf trip to Pebble Beach, a tee time at the new Poppy Hills is a must.

As The Golf Channel’s Matt Ginella put it, “I can’t tell you how excited I am that this is back. … This is definitely a part of anybody’s itinerary going to the Monterey Peninsula.”

Tucked deep inside a quiet corner of the towering Del Monte Forest in Pebble Beach, Poppy Hills inhabits some of the most beautiful golf real estate in the United States. Located two miles inland from the rugged and breath-taking central coast of California, Poppy Hills shares Pebble Beach with six of the best golf courses in the world: Pebble Beach, Cypress Point, Spyglass Hill, Monterey Peninsula’s Dunes and Shore courses, and Spanish Bay.

And this latest renovation has Poppy Hills on equal footing with all of its neighbors, while delivering a uniquely different experience.

_DSC1392_PH_18

Photo credit: Terry Vanderheiden

Jones reinvented the tournament home of the NCGA architecturally, restoring each hole to its natural elevation along the forest floor, softening doglegs and contours, redesigning all 18 greens with bentgrass, eliminating rough and introducing native waste areas that help reduce irrigated turf by nearly 25%.

“We originally built this course on top of the land – we imposed our will on the land,” said Bruce Charlton, president of Jones’ golf architecture firm RTJ II. “The new Poppy says, ‘Let’s take it back to what the land has given us and let the course flow with the land much more.’

“The way the holes are tied in, you don’t see the big mounds as much. The tee complexes are not lifted in the air. That gives the course the impression of much more width. It just feels so much bigger. You squish the mounds and take out the contours.”

Poppy Hills is able to achieve the unthinkable – firm and fast conditions year-round in notoriously wet Pebble Beach – through sand capping. Every yard of irrigated turf sits on top of a 5-inch layer of sand, changing the soil profile and promoting a dry setup.

“It’s a completely different experience,” said Mike Gorman, project architect for RTJ II. “Sand capping is definitely a cornerstone for the entire project.

“With our shaping philosophy, we want to bring our fairway up to the green, and we want to treat the fairway as a form of hazard and a form of defense. We utilize the sand cap to achieve those fairway and tight-lie conditions.”

The unique golf experience at Poppy Hills is just $215, the best deal in Pebble Beach. But Golf Today Northwest readers can mention this story and receive an additional $50 off, making a round at Poppy Hills just $165. Call 831-622-8239 to reserve a tee time, or visit www.PoppyHillsGolf.com to learn more.

For those returning to play the new Poppy Hills, a few design changes will stand out:

  • A lake fronting the fifth green was transformed into a fescue-filled natural sandy area
  • A seasonal creek that cuts in front of the ninth green was revitalized, creating exciting risk-reward choices and shots
  • A brand-new 11th hole was built, creating the shortest and most precise hole at Poppy Hills
  • The sharp dog-leg left par 5 12th hole was converted into a spectacular straightaway par 4 with a stunning vista of the Monterey Bay and Santa Cruz Mountains

Poppy Hills now plays as a par 71 (it was formerly a par 72), but it managed to gain yardage, even though it lost 20 acres of irrigated turf. Its five sets of tees range from 5,215 to 7,002 yards. Poppy Hills previously played between 5,421 and 6,861 yards.

The renovation also includes a remodeled driving range, clubhouse and restaurant, which is run by executive chef Johnny De Vivo, formerly of the popular Casanova and La Bicyclette in Carmel.

The practice facility now features instruction from Golf Digest Best Young Teacher Jeff Ritter, the founder and CEO of MTT Performance, a high-performance coaching brand for dedicated golfers to unlock their potential, while dramatically elevating their enjoyment for the game. The attitude behind the mission is to create an environment that embraces possibility and increases expectations, while delivering lasting results. For more information visit www.mttperformance.com

Spokane, it’s Calling Your Name

By Tony Dear

For many golfers in Seattle, confined to their suburban cages during the long winter months, the promise of a summer trip to Spokane for quality, affordable golf they can play long into the evening is simply tantalizing, too good for words almost.

Western Washington golfers fuelled by winter-weary wanderlust regard Spokane as the City Over the Mountains, a mystical almost mythical place where the city is buzzing with activities and special events; the wineries, restaurants, cafés and bars are bursting with delicious food and drink produced in one of the world’s most fertile and bountiful growing regions, and the golf courses reach peak condition with fast, firm greens.

One person who couldn’t resist this heady combination, especially the golf part, was Kris Crocker – head meteorologist at Spokane’s ABC affiliate KXLY. Crocker, a native of Idaho Falls, ID who has played the game ever since she was strong enough to hold a club, came to the Lilac City 16 years ago, and now heads to the course as often as her job and family duties (she is married with three young daughters) allow. “Because of all the other stuff going on, I have to be quite creative to find time for golf,” she says. “I play once a week in a women’s league, and love playing in scrambles. And I try to find time to take the kids to the range or the local par three course. I think that all adds up to be about three or four times a week.”

Crocker won’t be pressured into naming her favorite course because she genuinely loves them all. “I can honestly say my favorite Spokane course is whichever one I’m playing at that moment,” she says. “I play Hangman Valley once a week, and I also love Indian Canyon. Meadowwood and Liberty Lake are in amazing shape and very enjoyable rounds. Once a year I treat myself to a trip over the Idaho border to play The Coeur d’Alene Resort and Circling Raven. But right now, I’m in love with the Creek at Qualchan. I’ve had some great rounds there recently, and the staff is absolutely top notch.”

The Creek at Qualchan - Spokane, WA

Qualchan Golf Course. Photo courtesy Rob Perry/VisitSpokane.com

Mark Gardner, the head professional and General Manager at Qualchan, has been at the course for over 21 years. He is joined by much-admired instructor Derek Siesser who was named the Pacific Northwest Section Assistant Golf Professional of the Year in 2013, and also a golfer that has earned almost $5m in tournament earnings during a glittering career that saw her accumulate 50 top-ten finishes and four victories on the LPGA Tour – Wendy Ward. Forty-one year-old Ward has cut her LPGA playing schedule in recent years but still tees it up in a handful of events each season – 15 last year and, she hopes, ten this year.

Besides competing against the best female golfers in the world, Ward helps husband Nate Hair on their 300-acre cattle ranch in Edwall, about 35 miles south-west of Spokane, and does shifts in the pro shop at Qualchan where she is an official employee, giving about   lessons a week during the summer.

“I absolutely love it,” she says. “I enjoy being able to pass on a little bit of my knowledge and experience. It has helped me become part of the club and the community, and I get to meet so many interesting and wonderful people.”

Ward grew up part of a military family in San Antonio, TX. She has lived in Washington State for 15 years and got one of her earliest experiences of golf in Spokane when she agreed to donate her time to the local First Tee chapter. “I remember Alex Prugh and I each donated a round of golf,” she says. “I was ‘bought’ for $500 by a gentleman named Bob Witte. Bob and I have been great friends for years now. He is part of a men’s group at Qualchan which very kindly invited me to join them whenever I was looking for a game.”

Ward, like Crocker, is a big fan of Qualchan but enjoys just about everywhere she plays in town. “Indian Canyon is a very special course,” she says. “I love Liberty Lake and Meadowwood out in the county. And I really enjoy the tree-lined Downriver course. They’re all very beautiful and the green fees are so affordable too. I used to play courses in Texas and Arizona that were similar to those in Spokane but which cost four or five times more to play. Spokane golfers really are spoiled. Every course is walkable, the people are always friendly, and there is great variety here.”

Though certainly enjoyable, Ward considers them excellent places at which to keep her game in tune as well. “None of the Spokane courses are easy” she says. “You can always find a good challenge by going back a set of tees. I think my next LPGA Tour start will be the Manulife Financial Classic in Waterloo Ontario in a couple of weeks. I shall prepare for it at Qualchan.”

She’ll likely see Kris Crocker out there who says she loves to be at Qualchan on the rare occasion it’s slow and listen to Ward’s tales from the tour. “I’m especially excited to point her out to my three golfing daughters (7, 7 and 11),” says Crocker. “She’s an excellent role model. And she also helped me pick out some cute golf clothes in a color she called the ‘latest thing on the tour’. It’s really exciting to follow her career now that I know firsthand the great golfer is also a great person.”

Talking of great people, great female role models, and great instructors, Indian Canyon’s Kathy Gildersleeve-Jensen, a contributor to this publication, has just been named one of this year’s finalists for the PGA National Teacher of the Year Award making her one of the top three PGA teachers in the nation…out of 27,000!

Indian Canyon #18

Indian Canyon #18. Courtesy VisitSpokane.com

Gildersleeve-Jensen, or KGJ for short, has spread her gospel during a career that has taken in stops in Idaho, Arizona and Washington State. She was the professional at Deer Park GC before leaving for Indian Canyon in 2010. There she co-founded the Jensen-Lindeblad Impact Golf Academy alongside Indian Canyon‘s General Manager and Head Professional Gary Lindeblad. “Gary and I turned a disused building on the driving range into a teaching studio in which I give golf lessons year round,” says KGJ. “Gary has given me so much freedom to try to grow the game. I thank him every day. He is a real rock star at Indian Canyon GC.”

You’d be hard-pressed to visit the course and not catch KGJ at work. She gives individual lessons to seniors, adult men and women, and juniors. She does corporate clinics, Spokane City group lessons, PGA Get Golf Ready programs, PGA Junior leagues, men’s and ladies’ club outings, Canyon Kids, Family Time, special game improvement classes, golf fitness classes, club repair and custom club fittings. She gets involved with ‘Wine & Wedges’ a special event at the course which she describes as ‘a blast for all’. And she gives lessons over the internet through a program called Golf Coach Direct which allows her to keep up with clients from around the world.

KGJ was born to teach golf and could do it effectively from just about anywhere. But she prefers to do it at Indian Canyon. “I just love everything about the place,” she says. “Every day when I arrive at the top of the hill and walk out onto the veranda at the clubhouse, I take a deep breath and enjoy the spectacular view of the city. It allows me to start the day in the right frame of mind. It’s just so beautiful. And there’s a lot of wildlife too – eagles, wild turkeys, coyotes, foxes, deer, marmots.”

KGJ appreciates the course’s history too. “It’s amazing to think the ground on which the course sits was once a battlefield,” she says. “I love hearing stories about the 1941 and 1984 US Public Links Championship and 1989 US Women’s Public Links from golfers who have played here for decades. We have had some amazing head professionals – Jim Shriver, Pat Welch and Gary Lindeblad. And, of course, the holes were laid out by one of the Northwest’s greatest golf course architects and players – Chandler Egan who began designing the course in 1930.”

Indian Canyon has received numerous accolades from national publications down the years. Golf Digest once put Indian Canyon among the nation’s top 25 public courses, and Golfweek has ranked it as high as No. 18.

KGJ names the 1st and 10th as her favorite holes. “They are both terribly scenic and because they play downhill, they allow golfers to feel confident and get off to a good start with a long drive down the fairway.”

Indian Canyon, like its city neighbors – Qualchan, Downriver, and the ever-popular Esmeralda – are back in good shape now, but they all endured significant winter-kill after one of the coldest winters in years. Because of the harsh temperatures, the City of Spokane’s golf courses suffered a 21% drop in rounds played during the winter. That’s a dramatic decline which the City will spend the rest of the year trying to claw back (an ideal end to spring/start of summer is certainly helping the courses recover some ground). Fortunate to be spared the worst of the conditions though were Liberty Lake and Meadowwood, both about 18 miles due east of Downtown Spokane.

Hangman Valley - Spokane, WA

Hangman Valley. Courtesy VisitSpokane.com

Nautice Pham, Finance Manager for Spokane County Parks, Recreation & Golf, basically the man in charge of the county’s golf courses, says both courses came out of winter ‘unscathed’. So unaffected by the winter weather were they in fact, both recorded an increase in rounds played. Liberty Lake, which benefited from a $6m renovation by Phelps-Atkinson Golf Course Design in 2010, enjoyed a 10% increase over last year, while Meadowwood had 3% more rounds. “We did get very fortunate with the weather,” says Pham, ‘but we mustn’t forget the magnificent job superintendents Todd Harper (Liberty Lake) and Mike Kingsley (Meadowwood) did. We definitely had the best courses in the area this winter.” Add Hangman Valley, ten miles south of town, to the list, throw in weekend rates of just $31, and you can bet the summer months are going to be just as busy at Spokane County’s facilities.

But then summer is always busy in Spokane. The world’s biggest 3-on-3 basketball tournament, Hoopfest, comes to town at the end of June; Swirl – a new wine event in the Davenport Hotel will attract oenophiles from all over the region on June 15th; the Volume Music Festival will feature 85 bands over two days on the weekend of May 30/31; SkyFest – a demonstration by the US Air Force Thunderbirds  takes place May 31/June 1st; ArtFest from May 30/June 1 gives you the opportunity to see over 160 artisans, and enjoy food booths, live music, a wine and beer garden, and an art-making tent for kids of all ages; a series of Arbor Crest Sunday concerts on the Cliff runs all summer long; Green Bluff, an association of small family farms and food stands on 500 acres 15 minutes north of town is a visit the whole family will enjoy; and much much more.

If all that doesn’t do it for you, remember Spokane’s summer climate is just about perfect for enjoying everything the city and surrounding area has to offer, especially golf. “I think Spokane has the perfect climate for golf,” says Kris Crocker. “It rarely gets uncomfortably hot, and we only get 16” of rain a year.”

Have you booked your tee-times yet?

 

Useful web sites
visitspokane.com
beta.spokanecity.org/golf
spokanecity.org/golf

Point Roberts Golf & Country Club

April 30, 2014 by  
Filed under Golf Tips, Northwest Course Reviews

“Big City Golf…Small Town Attitude”

By Cameron Healey

DSCN8395When I informed a few of my golf buddies that I was headed to the Point Roberts Golf & Country Club to play golf they all responded “Where’s that?” with somewhat befuddled expressions on their faces. To be honest, I had presumed that Point Roberts Golf & Country Club was an exclusive private golf club located somewhere near the Canadian border where residents probably consume Kokanee rather than Budweiser (can’t blame them really) and that the only way to get there was via boat! OK, I did say it was a mindset and the danger with all assumptions is that they are the “mother of all____”, right? The reality: Point Roberts, located in Washington’s Whatcom County, is a geographical oddity; in fact, it is actually a peninsula barely 5 square miles that is surrounded by sea on three sides and home to around 1100 residents. The fact that it remains U.S. territory and is not part of the commonwealth is largely owed to the 1846 Oregon Treaty, which in simple terms split the Pacific Northwest along the 49th Parallel (with the exception of Vancouver Island). Go figure. The good news is the golf course did not share a similar fate? All 18 holes are located and playable on the U.S. side!

What to expect?

Point Roberts Golf & Country Club is a par-72 18 hole public track offering golfers a challenging 6,868 yards of golf from the tips. Designed by Graham Cooke & Associates, the course, opened in 2001, is open for public play and will test both the good sticks and weekend hacks to boot with a course rating of 73.5 and a slope rating of 136 from the gold tees. Just be sure to pick the right set of tees from the four available and you’ll have a pleasant and enjoyable round of golf. Golfers will also appreciate the first class practice facility including full blown driving range.

How do you get to Point Roberts? Two options: If you prefer a road trip, you can cross the border at Blaine and continue your way west for a 45 minute drive; however, be prepared to show your identification (passport, nexus, fast, sentri, enhanced driver’s license to immigration officials on more than one occasion. My recommendation? Take the faster and infinitely more scenic option of ‘flightpooling’ with the highly professional pilots of Northwest Sky Ferry (at time of writing, merging to become San Juan Airlines) located at Bellingham airport. Park your car in the adjacent car park, throw your clubs in the back of their light aircraft, buckle up, and enjoy the quick 20 min flight to Point Roberts airfield. The fun factor is ridiculous and the convenience of avoiding customs cannot be understated. Do have your passport handy—just in case. Split the price between three other golfing friends and the flight pooling is a no-brainer!

Course Highlights:

PRGCCThe meandering drive from the entrance of the golf course to the car park sets the stage of what lies ahead: a journey into a peaceful, almost idyllic natural setting with a golf course set amongst a natural wonderland dominated by a diverse mix of mature Red Alder, Douglas Fir and Big-Leaf Maple trees and numerous ponds and creeks, and wetlands that come into play. Smart course management and shot making—both of which it would turn out to be in short supply during my round! Of course, let’s not forget the allure of the abundant wildlife, which includes regular sightings of the American Bald Eagle and 150+ species of birds that live in or migrate through the area.  Upon arrival you are greeted by a modest rustic clubhouse that is designed with the surrounding natural environment in mind offering golfers a well-equipped pro shop and The Eagle’s Roost restaurant ready to take care of those post-round munchies. The BLTs are as generous as some of Point Robert’s fairways and highly recommended.

The opening hole is a relatively benign 372 yard (from the whites) par-4 characterized by a wide tree-lined fairway inviting a prodigious drive off the tee, but beware the audacious fairway bunkers lurking left and right. Expect an approach shot into an amenable but average sized green but try and avoid hitting long. Most memorable hole according to general manager Tad Nose is the 166 yard (tips) par-3 #8, which is a sterling par 3 hole. While not overly long, your tee shot must avoid the huge water hazard that lies in front and land beyond the three wall-like bunkers that protect a narrow but wide multiple-tiered green. Forced carry anyone? All par-5s at Point Roberts offer birdie opportunities; however, the 508 yard #5 just happens to be the number one handicapped hole on the card and a par here is a solid score. Advice: Keep the ball in the fairway and out of the thick stuff and par can be had!

What say you?

Playing golf at Point Roberts is simply a ton of fun based, in no small measure, to the appeal of the natural surroundings. If walking amongst a natural environment teeming with wildlife and tree-lined fairways that invite shot-making is high on your wish list, Point Roberts is a must-visit and must-play. Stay overnight and really explore what makes this rather interesting part of the world special.  Golf rates are reasonable at the modest sum of $40 weekday and only $50 on the weekends (power cart extra). During summer, sunset rates start at 3pm and you’ll pay only $25. Prices do not include tax 8.5% Washington State Tax. Early bird, Twilight and Sunset times are subject to change with the season. Please contact the Golf Shop for inquiries, 604.694.0222.

*Photos courtesy Point Roberts Golf & Country Club.

www.pointrobertsgolfcourse.com

 

BC Golf at its Best!

By: Gayle Moss

I have yet to meet a golfer who doesn’t have a bucket list as long as his/her armful of golf courses they can only dream of playing, either because they’re too far away or too far above the budgets of most of us weekend warriors.

I was guilty of that, always looking for that next exotic destination to visit and play a course I’d only read about or seen on TV.  But then I became a volunteer for British Columbia Golf and learned firsthand why so many people call my home province, “Canada’s Golf Capital.”

From lush coastal rainforests to majestic mountains, semi-arid deserts, vineyard-striped valleys and ocean playgrounds, BC’s spectacular natural scenery makes the perfect canvas for some of the greatest golf course architects in the world.  Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Robert Trent Jones Jr., Les Furber, Thomas McBroom and the Pacific Northwest’s own Freddie Couples are among the many who have worked their magic on BC’s landscapes.

In the past few years, I have played dozens of BC courses, but only scratched the surface of the 300 golf destinations British Columbia has to offer – many of which have received world-class distinction and prestigious awards.

Let me take you on a journey of some of the best golf in North America.  I guarantee a number of these BC courses will replace those “impossible dreams” in your bucket list and you’ll be planning your next golf vacation north of the border.

Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley

Morgan Creek (Thomas McBroom)

Only a few miles north of the Washington state border, the award-winning, 7,001 yard Morgan Creek Golf Course in South Surrey is a semi-private club open to the public year round.

Despite its name and the fact that water comes into play on at least 12 holes, it is one of the driest golf courses in the region and is always kept in pristine condition.

The walkable fairways are wide, lush and well-manicured and afford beautiful views of the mountains north of Vancouver.  The greens are peppered with bunkers, often elevated and immaculately maintained – i.e. they are fast!

There are a number of forced carries, so it’s not a course for the faint of heart. However, with forward tees at only 5,208 yards, it’s still a fun course to play by golfers of all skill levels.

Sandpiper (Russ Olsen)

Less than 2 hours from Vancouver in the Fraser Valley, Sandpiper is a wonderful resort-style 18-hole golf course on the Harrison River that is considered one of BC’s best resort courses and voted the #1 golf course in the Fraser Valley.

sandpiper 11th hole

Sandpiper #11 Credit: Gayle Moss

The easily walkable par 72 course is 6,500 yards from the tips and offers vista views of the river and mountains throughout its 18 pristine holes.

Regardless of skill level, every golfer who tees it up on this work of art will be awed by its rugged beauty, while experiencing 4 hours of risk/reward shots that will make them want to return the next day to play it all over again.

The final 3 holes run along the river and provide stunning views of the water and Rowena’s Inn, which offers a gourmet kitchen and first-rate B&B and cabins for romantic getaways, golf vacations, weddings and corporate retreats.

Sandpiper is a golfer’s paradise.  No houses mar the landscape and no sounds disturb your pre-shot routine, other than those made my Mother Nature and the 140 varieties of birds and 2,000+ eagles that inhabit the forest.

It’s a delightful trek I urge you to book a stay and play weekend.  I head back every year for the great golf, awesome accommodation and delicious food, which includes big and juicy, BBQ’d dogs hot off the grill at the 11th hole.

Whistler

Whistler may be a winter wonderland for skiers, but it’s no hacker when it comes to world-class golf. It boasts of five fantastic golf courses, three of which are considered in the top 50 in all of Canada. Playing golf with a 360 degree view of mountains makes you feel like you’re in God’s Country.

Although all 5 courses are worth playing, if you had to pick just one, I’d go with Big Sky.

Big Sky (Robert Cupp)

Twenty-five miles north of Whistler is perhaps my favorite golf course in all of BC.  Rated 4.5 stars by Golf Digest and ranked the Best Public Course in BC, Big Sky is all about big fairways, big uninterrupted mountain views and big adventure.

I’ve played this course many times and it never ceases to amaze me how small I feel standing in the valley looking up at the snow-capped peaks of Mount Currie.  You really do feel like you are communing with Mother Nature here.

No houses, no crowds and no traffic, but lots of groomed fairways, fast greens, stunning views and wildlife make Big Sky the perfect escape for golfers looking for challenging golf that tests their game, but doesn’t drive them to dump their clubs into the ever present water hazards – except perhaps for the #1 handicap par 4 hole: Purgatory.

With a creek that crosses the fairway 4 different times, this hellish hole requires some serious talent in “target golf,” resulting in every player I know swapping his/her Pro V1 for a shag ball when stepping up to this tee.

But don’t let this hole intimidate you; wait until you reach the infamous 19th.  Big Sky’s “Heli Golf” will take you to much edgier heights on a driving range on the peak of Mount Currie.  Here you’ll experience golf as it was never meant to be played, where the phrase “longest drive” will take on a whole new meaning.

Sea To Sky

If you have time to make a stop on your way from Vancouver to Whistler, I highly recommend you take a few hours to enjoy a unique adventure in golf.

Furry Creek (Robert Muir Graves)

Furry Creek has been described in many ways by those who have had the pleasure to play it including awesome, unconventional, memorable, gorgeous, challenging, “a golfer’s amusement park” and even quirky.  It truly is a unique golfing experience where “play” is the operative word.  If you take yourself too seriously and try to beat the course, the course will beat you up.

urry creek hole 1

Furry Creek #1: Photo credit: Gayle Moss

Cleverly carved into the side of a mountain Furry Creek isn’t long, but it’s tricky to par with its severe elevation changes, narrow fairways, small greens and ball-sucking ravines.

The panoramic views of the ocean are so breathtaking you’ll find yourself not really caring about your score.

Just bring extra balls so you can continue to play; more than one golfer has had to beg for balls from his buddies on this very challenging, target golf course.

Thompson – Shuswap

Thompson-Shuswap is one of BC’s newest golf destinations, but its youth should be no deterrent when prioritizing your play list in BC.  I have played many courses in this region, and although there are some real treasures in the Kamloops area, nothing can really compare to these two masterpieces.

Tobiano (Thomas McBroom)

A few years ago I gave friend a trip to Tobiano as a gift.  Having travelled a lot already that year, he wasn’t too thrilled making the 4 hour drive to play golf, but when he arrived at the golf course, his jaw dropped and my man of many words became speechless.

Tobiano9th hole green to lake-0021

Courtesy Tobiano

Tobiano is nothing short of breathtaking!

As it meanders along a bluff above Kamloops Lake, 2008’s Best New Course in Canada takes golfers on a journey they will never forget.  If I can give one piece of advice on this course, it is this – forget your score and just enjoy every shot because every shot requires your full attention on this challenging Thomas McBroom masterpiece. But between shots, hold your head high as you walk to your ball to truly appreciate the splendour all around you.

The winds can play havoc with your balls here, so don’t be surprised if a few end up in the canyon.  I remember on the par 3, all carry, 7th hole playing with some giddy Tobiano Virgins. The winds picked up and all our tee shots ended in no man’s land.  None of us started walking to the drop zone.  “Hit ‘til you’re happy” was how we played that hole; score didn’t matter – pride did.

Sagebrush (Rod Whitman)

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to play a round of golf the way Old Tom Morris did back in the 1800s, look no further than Sagebrush Golf & Sporting Club.

2nd hole sagebrush

Sagebrush #2: Photo credit: Gayle Moss

Nestled in the Nikola Valley a few hours north east of Vancouver, this minimalist-designed, links-style golf course will make you feel like you’ve been transported back to the Old Course at St. Andrews in the 19th century.

Although the course is first rate, what makes Sagebrush so unique is the freedom you feel when you play it.  The club maxes out at 80 players per day which means you can play the course “your way”.

There are no tee markers (whoever has the honors decides where to tee up the ball on the 4 choices of tee boxes), no yardage markers other than a rock on each hole designating 150 yards, no rakes in bunkers, no multi-colored flags or front/middle/back pattern to their placement.

There are no marshals chasing you around the course, so if you don’t like the way you played that last hole, go back and play it again.

You can even take a break in the middle of your round at their Mongolian-style yurt to have a bite to eat and maybe do a little fly-fishing before heading out for a few more holes.

I really believe that this is how golf was meant to be played.

Okanagan Valley

The Okanagan Valley is probably BC’s best known summer destination for tourists looking for sand, sun, sailing, swimming, sumptuous sips (AKA wine) and sensational golf.  You could spend a month here and never play the same course twice.  But if you’re stretched for time, here are two “must plays” you don’t want to miss.

Predator Ridge (Les Furber, Doug Carrick)

I can never get enough of this simply amazing golf resort.  The two golf courses are so different and yet both so delightful.  I guarantee that once you play them, years later you’ll still remember these 36 holes as one of your most unforgettable golf experiences.

PredatorRidge Course - Hole #5 - new

Ridge course #5: Courtesy Predator Ridge Resort

The original course, Predator designed by Les Furber in 1991, has a 4.5 star rating from Golf Digest, was voted best public golf course in all of Canada by ScoreGolf Magazine and sits in the top 1,000 courses in the world according to Rolex rankings.

A challenging links-style course with rolling fairways, undulating greens and ball-eating fescue, the Predator is aptly named.  It looks so tame from the first tee, but don’t let the first shot fool you.  This 7,090 yard course is no walk in the park.

The newer of the two courses, the 7,123 yard Ridge, is more like a mountain trek offering winding fairways carved out of the side of the rock, flatter greens and elevated tees with panoramic views of Lake Okanagan.

There are times you just want to stop and take in all the breathtaking scenery.  One day a group in front of me finished putting and ran to their golf carts.  I thought they were just concerned about pace of play, only to discover they were running for their cameras so they could return to the hole to snap some shots of the views from the flag.

The Ridge has a reputation for being a bit more playable and score-able than the Predator course, especially for recreational golfers, but I’ve played both a number of times and still can’t tell you which one I love the best – it all depends on which golfer in me showed up to play that day.

When scheduling your trip to this golf mecca, you must plan an overnight stay at a luxury spa resort only a few minutes up the hill from Predator Ridge called Sparking Hill.  Opened in 2010, this spa hotel is simply brilliant – hosting over 3.5 million Swarovski Crystals in the public areas, rooms and award-winning gourmet restaurant.

Its 40,000 square foot European-inspired spa, clinic and wellness center is the largest spa in Canada and the perfect escape for companions who may want to skip a round and lie around being pampered.  While you’re off golfing in the Okanagan heat, suggest they try the Cryotherapy Spa – the only cold sauna (where the thermometer registers -166°F) in North America. Brrrr!

Fairview Mountain (Les Furber)

Now here’s a golf course I love to hate and hate to leave.  Fairview Mountain, located in Oliver, BC is an award-winning golf facility with a 4 star rating from Golf Digest.

Nestled on a desert mountainside the course offers beautiful views of wineries and generous fairways that encourage you to grip it and rip it off the tee.  But aggressive play needs to reign itself in when you hit the elevated, lightning fast, undulating and sloping greens guarded by notorious pot bunkers that will make you wonder why you play this blasted game!

Yes, it’s a tough test of golf, but it’s one no real golfer should miss.

Vancouver Island

Storey Creek (Les Furber)

Rated the best public course on Vancouver Island and 3rd in the province, with 4.5 stars from Golf Digest, Storey Creek is called a “Course in Nature” for good reason.

Carved out of a 2nd growth forest just south of Campbell River in the middle of Vancouver Island, this 6,699 yard trek is a good workout for those who choose to walk the narrow and very challenging fairways that are home to bears, bald eagles and lots of bambis.

Each hole is isolated and different from the next making every tee shot a new adventure in this wooded cathedral that is Audubon Certified for Environmental Planning and Preservation.

No planes, trains or automobiles disrupt the serene songs of Mother Nature, allowing you to focus on every shot, which is fundamental for a good round here.

This tranquil championship course is all about good golf at a good price.  At peak season Storey Creek green fees max out at $69 if you’re footing it, so step right up and play one of BC’s best hidden gems as soon as you can.

Crown Isle (Graham Cooke)

Less than an hour from Storey Creek nestled under the shadows of the colossal Comox Glacier is one of the island’s most luxurious golf resorts.

Awarded “Most Romantic Accommodations in Western Canada” by Golf Course Ranking Magazine, Crown Isle showcases an impeccably maintained, championship golf course that is adorned yearly with 10,000 annuals, and offers gorgeous views of the Beaufort Mountains.

The course is forgiving off its many tee positions and hosts large greens, making it very playable for golfers of all skill levels.  It also boasts an excellent driving range, complete with chipping areas, putting greens and practice bunkers.

Crown Isle also has a massive clubhouse with a pro shop, pub, steak house, banquet rooms, a classic car museum, and a cigar and cognac room.

So if you are looking to be pampered this summer with more than just a great round of golf, you really should check in at this platinum-rated golf resort.

Kootenay – Rockies

Snuggled up on the sunny side of the Rocky Mountains is Canada’s mountain golf paradise.  It’s a bit of a trek to get there, but it is most definitely worth the drive.

Greywolf (Doug Carrick)

If you love mountain golf, then you must play Greywolf at Panorama, located 11 miles west of Invermere-on-the-Lake on BC’s eastern frontier.

Greywolf 16_letter

Greywolf: Courtesy KootenayRockies.com

Recognized as one of the best golf courses in all of Canada, this alpine masterpiece delivers a golfing experience you will never forget.  Greywolf offers lush fairways, meandering creeks, manicured greens and dramatic elevation changes with views that will leave you breathless.

It is a course that presents a great test of golf for even the most accomplished player, but it’s also designed to delight high handicap golfers as well.

The signature #6 Cliff-hanger par 3 is probably one of the most photographed holes in the world, so bring your camera. Hitting to an island green across “Hopeful Canyon” will have you giddy with the thrill of hitting such a daunting target 150 yards away.

And the 4th hole, aptly named “Descent” drops over 200 feet from the tee to green giving you an opportunity to record the longest drive of your life.

Greywolf is truly a spectacular golf course you don’t want to miss.

 

 

Wildstone (Gary Player)

The only Black Knight-designed golf course in Canada, Wildstone was awarded the Regional Golf Facility of the Year in 2012 by the BC PGA.

Wildstone

Wildstone. Photo by Chris Andrews. Courtesy KootenayRockies.com

Player says Wildstone is the most beautiful site that he’d ever had the privilege to design a golf course on, which says a lot since he’s designed more than 300 courses worldwide.

Measuring over 7,100 yards, the course plays long, but doesn’t waste a yard as it showcases the majestic Rocky Mountains from the moment you step up on the first tee until you putt out on 18.

As you navigate your way through the fairways, water features, dramatic bunkering and undulating greens, you’ll face a number of demanding shots that require accuracy, others that require a bit of magic and some risk and reward opportunities that will make you think twice.

However you play this wonderful course, I guarantee you that the whole experience will be fun and memorable in keeping with Gary Player’s brand.

Ready to Book? Click for more information

Morgan Creek

www.morgancreekgolf.com

Sandpiper

http://www.prettyestateresort.com/sandpipergolfcourse

Big Sky

http://www.bigskygolf.ca/

Furry Creek

http://www.golfbc.com/courses/furry_creek

Tobiano

www.tobiano.ca

Sagebrush

www.sagebrushclub.com

Predator Ridge

www.predatorridge.com

Fairview Mountain

www.fairviewmountain.com

Storey Creek

www.storeycreek.bc.ca

Crown Isle

www.crownisle.com

GreyWolf

www.greywolfgolf.com

Wildstone

www.wildstonegolf.com

 

Gayle Moss is a passionate golfer and prolific writer about “all things golf”. She’s written numerous articles for both US and Canadian golf publications including daily blog posts for Golf for Women Magazine. Between writing assignments and consulting to businesses in the golf industry she provides golf news and commentary from a business woman’s on http://www.golfgal-blog.com/

Vive la France! Vive la wine! Vive la golf!

By Charlie Thurston, PGA

Relais de Margaux Resort

Photo courtesy Relais de Margaux Resort

I distinctly remember as a young junior golfer, watching the British Open on television in the early seventies and asking my father (an accomplished amateur golfer) what the winner of the British Open received for winning the tournament.  My father explained that along with the prize money and a medal awarded by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, the winner received possession of the coveted Claret Jug for the whole year until the next playing of the tournament.  Dear old Dad explained that it was one of the four most important trophies to win in the world of golf.  Being an inquisitive young lad, my first question upon receiving this information was, “what is claret?”  With a puzzled look on his face, my father said, “I think it is a type of wine.”

My father was correct and as I grew into adulthood I learned that claret is actually the British name for the wines produced in the famous Bordeaux region of France.  Was there a link between Bordeaux, France and the game of golf?  Absolutely!

Despite centuries of war and animosity there occurred an important cultural exchange between the two countries.  The French introduced the British to the incredible wine from Bordeaux thus giving them their “claret” and the British in return brought golf to that part of the continent.  I have wondered if this is what finally paved the way to Anglo-Franco alliances that played a huge role in both world wars.  Regardless of history, the fact remains, with four of the Top 100 golf courses in Continental Europe and 5 of the Top 40 golf courses in France, Bordeaux is one wine region worth taking your golf clubs along.

Philippine de Rothschild

Photo credit Emanuele Scorcellatti

First let us talk a bit about the wine.  Bordeaux is widely considered the most prestigious wine producing region in the world.  The region has over 13,000 growers and there is no shortage of Chateaus to visit and tour.  In fact even the most famous such as Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Latour, Chateau Mouton-Rothchild (including their Museum of Wine in Art) and Chateau Margaux offer free tours.  Some even offer free tastings.  Then there are the hundreds of Chateaus that even the most knowledgeable wine connoisseur may not have heard of, yet produces world class wines in a sublime setting.  In Bordeaux, the wine touring and tasting options are abundant.   Be forewarned, just like in golf, plan on making arrangements ahead of time for tours and tastings.  Many of the Chateaus accommodate guests but do not always have full time staff to handle the drop in visit.

So what about the golf component when touring the region?  A fine place to start is with Chateau des Vigiers Golf and Country Club.  Designed by Donald Steel and featuring 27 holes, the course winds its way through scenic vineyards.  Although the golf course is fairly new, the Chateau itself dates back hundreds of years, lending an historic quality to the property.  Golf du Medoc features two eighteen hole layouts.  The Les Chateaux course, a French Open host, has been ranked #50 in the Top 100 courses in Continental Europe.  This Bill Coore design features the feel of a Scottish links.  Although inland from the Atlantic coast of France, the fairways bordered by heather and gorse remind many players of the British Isles.  The Les Vignes Course at Medoc is routed through the interesting landscape or moorland and pine trees and serves as a worthy compliment to the Chateaux course.  Golf du Medoc has onsite lodging and a spa to help relax and recharge after a taxing day of playing golf and wine tasting in the Medoc region of Bordeaux.  The Relais de Margaux resort complex features a new course routed through some of the most ancient and highly regarded vineyards in all of Bordeaux.  Again new meets old to create a beautiful blend.

Relais de Margaux ResortA

Photo courtesy Relais de Margaux Resort

Travel slightly south of Bordeaux and toward the border with Spain and you will be rewarded with a quartet of highly regarded golf courses that includes Seignosse.  Ranked 53rd in Continental Europe and at one time considered a Top 100 in the world course, Seignosse features a mixture of pine trees, cork oak trees and sand dunes that lend a linksy feel that seems to fit its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.  The Chiberta Golf Club (Golf de Chiberta) was established in the 1920’s and designed by the famous British course designer, Tom Simpson.  Ranked 90th in Continental Europe, Chiberta is also close to the Atlantic and is considered by many to be a true links golf course, albeit with some tree lined holes.  It was the Duke of Windsor who commissioned Simpson to create the links at Chiberta.  The Golf Club d’Hossegor, established in 1930 and ranked 78th in Continental Europe, features sandy subsoil, heather and routing through a pine forest reminiscent of the classic heathland courses of Surrey just outside London.  Again, the British influence is felt on this French golfing ground.  The last but certainly not least of this stellar quartet in southwest France is Golf du Moliets.  A Robert Trent Jones design from the late 1980’s, Moliets has been rated as high as 25th in Europe.  The course is mainly routed through an inland forest but Mr. Jones saw fit to include some seaside holes to close out the round.  The course has been frequently used by the European Challenge Tour and continues to be held in high regard among the European professionals.

Still want more golf to go with your wine?  The Bordeaux region has you covered.  For the golfing wine lover there is Golf du Bordelais, established in 1900, Golf de Bordeaux – Lac with two eighteen hole layouts and Golf de Bordeaux – Pessac with twenty seven holes.  More options include Golf de Teynac, Golf des Graves et du Santernais, Golf de Gujan – Mestras with twenty seven holes, Golf International de Lacanau and Golf d’Arachan which was established in 1952.

Just as there is no shortage of wine in this most famous of wine regions, so it goes with the golf opportunity for the savvy traveler who hauls their golf clubs across the Atlantic.  It is lucky for us that the British and the French finally became friendly enough to exchange these two important cultural contributions to the world.  The abundance of wine and golf make for a perfect pairing when in Bordeaux.  Vive la France!  Vive la wine!  Vive la golf!  Vive la Bordeaux!

Charlie Thurston is a Certified PGA Professional based in Spokane, Wash. and is the CEO and Founder of Pacific Northwest Golf And Wine Tours LLC.  Charlie is the author of two golf related ebooks, “The Pilgrimage:  A Father and Son at the Home of Golf” and “The First Steps of a Lifetime in Golf:  A Guide to Basic Golf Fundamentals”.  Charlie is a lifelong resident of Washington State. He can be reached at csnsthurston@hotmail.com

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