Thompson Okanagan Offers World Class Golf Part 1
by Scott A. Sumner
My last visit to the Kelowna/Vernon/Kamloops area of British Columbia was in the summer of 2004. It was great to see the area and play some excellent golf on their exceptional courses. I was particularly excited about playing and visiting the new courses that had come on stream since my last time here. The quality and world class nature of these new courses have only helped in making the Thompson Okanagan area a must golf visit for every golfer!
Chris Currie Sales and Marketing Manager with Golf BC Okanagan
My first golf course play was the Gallagers Canyon course located in Kelowna. I had played this course before and remembered it as an outstanding day. “Gallagers has a fantastic design and is well known. It is a great golf course and we have an amazing team of people here to serve you. It was designed in 1980 by Bill Robinson and this season is our 30th anniversary,” said Chris Currie Sales and Marketing Manager with Golf BC Okanagan, representing The Okanagan Golf Club, the Bear and Quail and Gallagers Canyon along with the 9 hole Pinnacle course. “Normally we shut down near the end of October and start in the spring. This year we
opened early April while last year we opened in Mid May. We had a mild winter.” The weather was 80 degrees on April 19th for our first day of golf and I really enjoyed the great views from Gallagers Canyon! After the golf it was off to our hotel The Coast Capri Hotel for a
nights rest before our next day of golf at the Okanagan Golf Club- the Bear course.
Another bright sunny warm day awaited us as we arrived at the Bear course located on a ridge overlooking the Kelowna Airport. The Bear is a Nicklaus design and the Quail, its sister course a Furber design and they compliment each other well. “The Bear at Okanagan suits all levels of golfers with 5 tee boxes. The fairways are wide and I like the wider tee shot landing areas. The greens are very challenging,” said Chris Currie who is originally from PEI and
just spent three years working at Quail Lodge in Carmel California. “The Okanagan itself is a fantastic golf destination. We offer a great variety of high quality courses to play.” I have always been a fan of Jack Nicklaus designed golf courses. It was exciting to play the Bear, especially after having just met Jack Nicklaus for the first time in January at the Wendy’s Champion’s Skin Game at Maui!
Brian Reilly, General Manager of The Club at Tower Ranch
Our next course would be The Club at Tower Ranch located in Kelowna and offering some spectacular views of the city from its perch on the mountains surrounding the urban downtown. This would be my first time playing this new course. “We are in our second full season after opening halfway through 2008. The Club at Tower Ranch was designed by Tom McBroom and our owner Aberdeen Construction does a lot of work with Tom. Aberdeen Golf Construction liked the design so much they decided to keep the property. We are partners with Intrawest for the housing development and when complete there will be 800 doors here. They are selling the lots off to builders,” said Brian Reilly, General Manager of The Club at Tower Ranch.
The Club at Tower Ranch is a semi private golf course with 68 members that paid a $10,000 life time initiation fee. Annual dues are $2400 including cart and there is no food requirement. The course has won three major awards including one of the top ten new courses in the world by Travel & Leisure magazine and last year a top 3 new Canadian golf course by both Score and Golf Digest magazines. The Club at Tower Ranch is called a mountain course as it off the side of a mountain where trees come into play on the 11th hole only. The elevation changes to 650 feet but here is really only 1 uphill hole. The course is 7200 yards from the back tee and has bent grass on the fairways.
“The course has weathered really well over the winter. We are expecting 25,000 to 27,000 rounds this season. The green fee is $70 including cart now and after April 30, $85 with booking outside 7 days $110. I feel we have good value here, “said Reilly. “ I have found on Tom McBroom courses that if your shots leak the course they will help bring your ball back. It is player friendly if you keep it relatively straight. Tower Ranch is a challenging course but I found it to be fair. We have worked hard to chase the word fair and strive for return guests. It has been very well received. This year we opened March 25th with fine weather. The weather has now turned.
After watching the Masters, people typically want to play the game.”
Kelowna in the summer is hot, with the least amount of rain days of any city in Canada and typically 36 to 39 degrees Celsius temperatures. If you want to play a great conditioned golf course with exceptional views then the Club at Tower Ranch is for you. I especially enjoyed the course and am a great fan of Tom McBroom designs. The clubhouse includes a fitness club and is very well done. Houses there are available from $550,000 to $1.2 million.
After our day of golf it was off for a tour and wine tasting at Gray Monk Vineyards located at Okanogan Centre. They have been crafting fine wines since 1982 in a 50 acre spectacular setting overlooking Okanagan Lake. The facility includes a 5 star restaurant with a deck overlooking the ideal setting.
“Mom and Dad started growing grapes here as we are on the same latitude as northern France and southern Germany. The grapes do well because we have the big lake so we don’t get the high swings in temperatures. The soil that the glaciers left behind is what allows great draining. Grapes don’t like to be wet all the time. The grapes will bud out in few weeks and then we can harvest them from the end of September to the end of October.” said Bob Heiss of Gray Monk Estae Winery & Vineyards.