KELOWNA, BRITISH COLUMBIA – Chances are Kelowna, the central city in the Okanagan Valley located in the western Canadian province of British Columbia, has not entered into your mindset as a place to travel to for a golf vacation in Canada. Chances are that is because you have never heard of Kelowna or the Okanagan Valley. If the previous statements are true, then what a shame because this region of BC boasts delightful courses and is on the cusp of becoming the next great up-and-coming hot golf destination in North America.
Kelowna, a small city of 100,000 located four hours inland from Vancouver and two hours north of the US border in central Washington State, boasts an abundance of lakes, mountains, vineyards and orchards. This Okanagan Valley city is also home to an excellent collection of golf courses well worth exploring.
One could vacation in Kelowna for weeks and never play the same hole twice. What follows is a sample of some of the best the region has to offer golf-wise.
Okanagan Valley’s Fantastic Four Golf Courses
Predator Ridge is different than the other golf course offerings in Okanagan Valley.
Located about 30 minutes north of Kelowna, BC in the town of Vernon, this 27-hole Les Furber design has been created on a massive scale. Built in an enormous valley, the 1,200-acre property is a mile wide and two miles long. Two of the three nines, Osprey and Red Tail, are heath-land style courses bereft of trees, full of mounding and covered in wheatgrass.
Peregrine is the nine that winds through the trees, with a few holes near the upscale condominiums built on the property. The real estate development has attracted buyers from well beyond Canada, including dozens of different US states and foreign countries.
Emboldened by the success of the Canadian Skins Game that was contested there a few years ago visitors keep arriving and discovering this remote course and want to own a little piece. A brand-new spa called Rituals opened in recent years. The fourth nine is slated to open soon and will complement Peregrine, so there will be one wooded and one heath-land course on property. Predator Ridge is a great facility already but will improve and expand in the years to come.
Gallagher’s Canyon is a golfer’s version of a roller coaster, the most exciting of Okanagan Valley’s many fine golf courses. This Bill Robinson and Les Furber design is located on a bench of land near Gallagher’s Canyon. It is crucial to remember that “bench” in this instance is a geographic term and, unlike a perfectly flat park or picnic bench, this “bench” bends uphill, downhill and side-hill, sometimes concurrently.
Gallagher’s Canyon golf course varies and the best example of this fact is the quartet of par 3 holes.
“Over chasms, severely uphill, plunging downward from nosebleed distance, every one-shot hole on the course has its own story,” said Paul Dalley, a Canada golf expert. “Beyond the canyon, which is just adjacent to the seventh tee, are Black Mountain and Layer Cake Mountain, offering even more memorable viewing opportunities to a facility that has no shortage.”
The canyon is a Crown Property, meaning it is property of the Canadian government.
This area north of the golf course proper is agricultural in nature and contains the orchards that are endemic to the region, hiking trails and streams. Tradition has it that players will often launch a ball into the canyon for good luck but that practice has been discouraged as more and more hikers take to the trails below.
More Golf Courses in BC’s Okanagan Valley
British Columbia’s Okanagan Golf Club offers 36 unique holes of golf and is literally five minutes from the airport.
“The Les Furber-designed Quail Course is all about placement. Power is of secondary concern, as from the middle tee box the distances on the par 4 holes are mostly in the 330-yard range,” said Daley. “Even the championship markers at 6,800 yards feature a quartet of par 4s that are 340 yards or less.”
Meanwhile, the Bear Course by contrast is more driver friendly. This Nicklaus Design Company creation is roomier, a bit flatter and offers several different looks throughout the round. Like the Quail Course, it’s also routed predominantly through a wooded hillside and in typical mountain golf fashion, tee shots need to find their way between imposing stands of hardwoods.
Tough Greens at Harvest Golf Club
Okanagan Valley’s Harvest Golf Club’s most endearing attribute is that it winds through 80 acres of British Columbia fruit orchards and vineyards. Beyond standard birdies and bogeys, here peaches, cherries, apricots, apples and grapes grow alongside or close by the manicured fairways. From tee to green, the Graham Cooke-designed course is a beautiful but mostly benign test of golf. The greens are a different story. They are massive in scope, many with more levels than a parking garage.
“There are a number of reasons why we’re among the more popular choices in this region, besides this wonderfully pristine setting,” said Barry Cox, a Canadian Rockies golf expert and resident in of the Okanagan Valley region in BC. “When people think of Okanagan Valley, they think of mountains, lakes and orchards. Well, here we are playing among the orchards, looking down at the beautiful lake, with mountains as the backdrop.”
Harvest Golf Club is an extremely pleasant ramble, with a singular feature rarely seen in modern golf. You’re not beholden to the cart girl for sustenance, nor do you need to wait for the snack shack at the turn. Just reach up to the fruit-bearing trees that live in the Okanagan Valley region here in BC while making your way round and snag a crisp McIntosh or Gala apple fresh off the vine. It’s an experience to savor that will add to your golf vacation to British Columbia.
Fun off the Golf Course in Canada’s Okanagan Valley region in BC
If your love of golf precludes all extraneous activities save one, be sure to make an excursion to Mission Hill Winery.
The owner has funneled much of the profits he’s made as the inventor of Mike’s Hard Lemonade into this impressive endeavor, complete with an authentic bell tower on a high bluff overlooking Lake Okanagan. It is not to be missed.
Places to Eat after Golf in Okanagan Valley, BC
A lot of worthwhile restaurants exist in the Okanagan Valley. Wild Apple Grill at the Manteo Resort is a nice selection for gourmet continental cuisine. Also dine at Christopher’s Steak and Seafood, The Teahouse for its orchard setting, Yamas Taverna for Greek specialties or The Vintage Room for seafood.
Spa and Resorts in BC’s Okanagan Valley region
The best full-service choices are Manteo Resort, with nice lake views, a swimming pool, a health club and a variety of other accommodations. Thirty minutes away in the town of Vernon is rustic Predator’s Ridge, with a lodge, stand-alone condominiums and brand-new Rituals spa.
No matter where you choose to go while on a golf vacation to Okanagan Valley, BC, golfers are sure to experience something new and delightful. Always remember to book a tee time in advance, because even though the Okanagan Valley region – the best kept secret outside of British Columbia – many people in Canada are in the loop.
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.