Jerome Iginla is one of many NHL players who call Predator Ridge Home during the off season
For golfers planning a summer vacation, the Okanagan Valley has just about everything
Some of the best golf in Canada can be found between the southernmost towns of Oliver and Osoyoos, on through the bustling city of Kelowna and up to the northern region of the desert-like valley in Vernon.
The climate is ideal with hot summer days and very little rain. And that means ideal growing conditions in a region littered with golf courses. Here's what to include on your itinerary.
Vernon: Predator Ridge Resort
Leading the list, and considered one of the top golf destinations in North America is Vernon’s Predator Ridge Resort. Over the past two decades Predator Ridge has evolved from one 18-hole course designed by Les Furber to a residential golf community that includes a golf lodge and spa, and a development that covers more than 1,200 acres on a spectacular site above Lake Okanagan.
Designer Doug Carrick has done a masterful job creating a golf experience on the new Ridge Course that is unsurpassed in the Okanagan Valley. In 2010, The Ridge Course was named “Best New Course in Canada” by both Golf Digest and Score Golf magazines.
The rolling landscape runs from open grasslands to a wooded valley where elevation changes and rock outcroppings make The Ridge Course an unforgettable experience. The course takes you on a journey through holes that will challenge your nerve and test your skill yet leave ample room for error.
It’s hard to pick the best hole when every hole is a good one. The view of Okanagan Lake while standing on the sixth tee is breathtaking, but don’t miss the sight of the fairway below that starts from the edge of the cliff. The tee shot is intimidating; it runs through a narrow rock-walled canyon that drops down into a generous fairway and landing area that waits below like a big catcher’s mitt.
Carrick’s well-thought-out design often helps the golfer through the round with areas of containment that force the ball to bounce back in to play and occasionally back onto the green. With some of the best growing conditions in the country and a determined superintendent, this course looks and feels like it has been in play for years.
The resort recently announced the addition of former PGA Tour player and Canadian Golf Hall of Fame inductee Richard Zokol and former LPGA pro AJ Eathorne to the golf instructional team. Eathorne will also be conducting signature golf experience programs tailored to female golfers. The “Swing Like a Girl” series is designed as an informative and fun approach for beginner and intermediate golfers.
For many years Predator Ridge Resort has been the off-season home for many players in the National Hockey League, and it’s not uncommon to see an NHL superstar playing golf at the resort. Building on that relationship, Predator Ridge Resort recently announced a partnership with Hockey Canada designating the resort as Hockey Canada’s official summer home. A heritage cabin on the golf course was rebranded as the Hockey Log Cabin and will be available for corporate meetings and events.
Kelowna: Okanagan Golf Club
Moving south down the valley toward Kelowna and adjacent to the Kelowna airport is another popular stop on any golf trip: The Okanagan Golf Club. It features two courses - The Bear and The Quail - both worthy contenders for top experiences in BC. The Bear, a Nicklaus Design, is one of the longer courses in the area and plays to a par of 72 that can be stretched to 6,885 yards.
The Quail at Okanagan Golf Club is another Les Furber creation where the architect takes the golfer on an up-and-down journey through a number of elevation changes. Around every corner is a magnificent view of either Lake Okanagan, a dense evergreen forest or craggy rock bluffs.
Kelowna: Harvest Golf Club
The Harvest Golf Club in Kelowna plays through a working fruit orchard, where golfers are encouraged to sample the apples, cherries, peaches and pears that border the fairways.
Graham Cooke and Associates designed this local favourite with a gentle mix of holes built on the edge of a bluff overlooking Lake Okanagan and the city of Kelowna.
Osoyoos Golf and Country Club
The hottest days of summer at the Osoyoos Golf and Country Club will rival any of the sweltering scorchers in the Arizona desert. Osoyoos often boasts the hottest temperatures in Canada, and golfers are advised to cover up, drink plenty of water and enjoy desert golf on one of two enjoyable courses.
Osoyoos’ Desert Gold Course is built on a desert bench that overlooks Osoyoos Lake and the vineyards and orchards of the South Okanagan. Its sister course, Park Meadows, plays around and through a series of rolling mounds and hills with fairways lined with willow trees and rough areas thick with indigenous desert sagebrush, plants and other fauna.
Oliver: Nk’Mip and Fairview Mountain
The two best courses in the Oliver area are Nk’Mip Canyon Desert Golf Course, owned by the Osoyoos Indian Band, and Fairview Mountain Golf Club. These courses are in the heart of wine country with 20 or more estate wineries in the area that offer wonderful sampling opportunities as an after-golf activity.
Nk’Mip starts out with the first few holes skirting a vineyard and local estate winery, and continues into what is appropriately named The Canyon nine. These holes challenge the shotmaker as they meander through canyons to the grove back nine where more open fairways overlook a spectacular view of the vineyards and wineries of the South Okanagan.
Fairview Mountain is one of the must-play courses on any Okanagan Valley golf trip. The original design dates back to 1925, but in recent years it was redesigned and rebuilt by Les Furber and his Golf Design Services team. The course weaves its way over and through a mountainous layout that occasionally drops down to the valley floor. For the past 20 years, Fairview Mountain has been consistently and deservingly ranked among the Top 50 courses in the country.
Golf and Eat Fruit
A golfing trip to the Okanagan Valley can be timed to take advantage of fruit season: Bing cherries in July, peaches in August and apples in September.
With so many good courses in the region, it’s difficult to play them all in one trip. An effective approach is to divide the Okanagan Valley between north and south and make two trips this summer. There are certainly enough good courses in each region, and on each visit there should be a new, fresh crop of fruit to enjoy along the way.