Golf and Wine in Canada’s Okanagan Region

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Written by Tim Montana, Golf Writer/CanadaGolf.com posted on Tue, Feb 15th, 2011

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KELOWNA, BRITISH COLUMBIA – There might be monsters in Lake Okanagan – a fact disputed by many observers, though priests and police officers have claimed to see the beasts. Regardless of your opinion on that, there is some monster golf to be played on your golf vacation. And it could be especially good advice to keep your ball clear of the water in Kelowna, BC.

Even the scientists have gotten into the act, labeling the creature either a living relic of the dinosaur age, “Elasmosaurus,” or a primitive whale, “Basilosaurus cetoides.” Lake Okanagan, which stretches 80 miles from Vernon in the south to Penticton in the north (Kelowna is in the middle), is similar in many ways to Scotland’s Loch Ness, which also claims a sea serpent of some renown – both are long, deep, narrow, and at about the same latitude.

Golf and Wine in Canada’s Okanagan Region

Coincidentally, BC, Canada’s Okanagan Region also lies on the same latitude as the northern German and French vineyards. Distinct microclimates occur throughout the Okanagan Valley, from the hot, sandy, desert soils in the south to the cooler vineyard sites in the north, with their deep topsoil and clay. Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir grow in the south, while Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer are grown in the mid and northern regions, some left to freeze on the vine for the region’s famed ice wines.

The same climate that gives birth to these succulent wines in BC also provides sustenance for fruit orchards and great turf-growing conditions. As a result, the region, just four hours from the U.S.-Canada border or Vancouver, has experienced a golf boom.

The Harvest Golf Club in Okanagan combines a couple of those themes. The 7,100-yard Graham Cooke design is located on 287 acres in East Kelowna, 10 of which are dedicated to the growing of wine grapes. Eighty-seven more are planted with fruit trees such as apples, peaches and pears.

The Okanagan Region’s Harvest Golf Club has been named “best central Okanagan golf course” by Okanagan Life magazine five times, and has received a bunch of other accolades, including a platinum award from Canada’s Golf Course Ranking Magazine, Four Star Award from Golf Digest (Places to Play 2000-2002), and Golf Facility of the Year by the provincial PGA.

The Okanagan Life readers’ choice list also included Gallagher’s Canyon and Kelowna Golf and Country Club in the central region; Predator Ridge, Spallumcheen and Salmon Arm in the north; and Penticton, Fairview and Summerland in the south. While this is obviously a subjective list, let’s allow the people to speak.

“For years, BC’s Gallagher’s Canyon was just about the only course whose named was recognizable to anyone from outside the region,” said Jake Barry, a Canada golf expert. “The course opened in 1980 and the Bill Robinson design overlooks a ravine that cuts through massive sand hills and dunes, providing some exciting views.”

The Kelowna Golf and Country Club, which recently underwent renovations by Cooke, is most notable as the place where Dave Barr learned the game. In February, Barr became the first Canadian to win on the Champions Tour (formerly Senior PGA Tour.)

In 2000, golf fans in British Columbia had a chance to appreciate the unique qualities of Predator Ridge during the Canadian Skins Game featuring Mike Weir, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Fred Couples. At the time of its opening in 1991, “target golf” was unheard of in this country and architect Les Furber of Canmore, Alberta, heard some mixed reviews. But those quickly died away, and the 27-hole facility eventually was rated 16th in the country according to ScoreGolf’s Top 100 list in 2002. Golf Digest gave it 4.5 stars in its Places to Play listing. Each nine stretches from 2,600 to more than 3,500 yards, and the golf academy offers individual or group sessions, including multi-day packages.

BC’s Spallumcheen Golf and Country Club’s 27 holes are located across the round from the historic O’Keefe Ranch (which Okanagan Life’s readers rated as the best tourist attraction in the northern Okanagan, by the way).

“The nine-hole executive and the shortish but picturesque 18-main course were recently overhauled, with three new lakes, added bunkers and mounding framing the fairways,” said Barry.

Furber, who brought water into play on more than half the holes and created some new tees, has also reworked the Penticton Golf and Country Club. Originally founded in 1925, Fairview Mountain Golf Course in Oliver, BC has been rated as high as No. 18 on ScoreGolf’s listing of courses in Canada.

Summerland Golf and Country Club is perched some 300 yards above BC’s Lake Okanagan – perhaps offering a chance peek at Ogopogo – with two very different nines.

Plan a Golf Vacation to BC’s Okanagan Region

Do not be scared off by our earlier mention of sea monsters that might steal your golf ball while on a trip to Okanagan, BC. You have nothing to worry about – probably. And if you do see something lurking in the waters, this will be one golf vacation to Canada that you will not forget any time soon.

Golf Canada’s West is the official golf course, tee time and golf packaging company of Vancouver and the Canadian Rockies. Call them at 877-323-3633. For additional information be sure to check out GolfTheRockies.net. For more BC and Alberta vacation and tourism information, please visit Banff National Park.com and Banff Travel.com.

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