Lakeside Golf in the Thompson Okanagan
By Andrew Penner / SaskGolfer Featured Travel Contributor
Featured Image: Talking Rock Golf Course ~ Par 3 15th Hole ~ Image Credit: Andrew Penner
Be it a shimmering sea, a raging river, or a lovely little lake, the best golf courses almost always boast a body of water that provides the ambiance – “the stage” – for an awesome golf experience. Besides great golf course design, “water” seems to be the common denominator of the world’s great golf courses. And, without question, the stunning golf courses in the Thompson Okanagan are a perfect example of this.
True, unlike the famous links courses in the “old world,” there is no ocean in the Thompson Okanagan. But there are lakes. Lots of them. Kalamalka, Kamloops, Osoyoos, Okanagan, Skaha, Little Shuswap; the list goes on and on.
Not surprisingly, most of the region’s top golf courses – many which sit high in the hills well above these beautiful bodies of water – incorporate stunning lake and mountain views and take full advantage of their water-side settings.
In the deep south, for example, the Osoyoos Golf Club, which boasts two scenic courses, is perched high above Osoyoos Lake. And it doesn’t take long for the panoramic views to distract the golfer! The second hole on the Desert Course, a downhill par-4 that requires two laser-straight shots, careens down the hill and serves up scintillating views of Osoyoos Lake. And it just gets better from there. Swerving high on the bluff – with plenty of perched tees, rocky outcrops, and dramatic desert terrain – the Osoyoos Golf Club is, unquestionably, an underrated gem in the region.
But, as good as the Osoyoos Golf Club is, it certainly doesn’t hold the patent on dramatic golf holes with majestic lake and mountain views. Tower Ranch, The Harvest Club, and Gallagher’s Canyon in Kelowna epitomize the beauty of golf in the Thompson Okanagan. And at each of these courses stunning views are a key component of the experience.
And, in Vernon, The Rise and Predator Ridge also serve up postcard-worthy scenes of lush-green golf holes that tumble and roll along the arid hillsides high above the lakes. Although it’s tough to nail down the best of the best, the Ridge Course at Predator Ridge – a bold Doug Carrick design – is, hands down, my personal favourite in the Thompson Okanagan. Its wide, user-friendly corridors, sublime shaping, and numerous elevated tees make for an exceptional resort golf experience that even mid to high handicappers will relish.
Of course, for sheer lakeside drama, Tobiano in Kamloops cannot be beat. Here, architect Thomas McBroom fashioned 18 challenging lakeside holes that yield an edge-of-your-cart-seat experience. From start to finish, spine-tingling views and challenging shot requirements are found on every twist and turn.
Although the lake views come late in the round, the Talking Rock Golf Course at the Quaaout Lodge & Spa near Chase is also a Thompson Okanagan charmer that never disappoints. The cozy lodge, which sits tight along the shore of Little Shuswap Lake, is also a great place to relax for a couple glorious days in the region. The riveting finishing run – bolstered by the downhill 15th, one of the best par-3s you’ll ever play – is as good as it gets in the Okanagan. From the tee, a mid to short iron is required to reach the sand-guarded putting green, which hangs above the shimmering surface of the lake.
Perhaps the best part? Like all the lakeside courses in the Thompson Okanagan, the short-lived pain of making double bogeys can be quickly washed away via a cool, refreshing swim after a round.
Andrew Penner is a freelance golf writer and professional photographer based in Calgary, Alberta. His work appears regularly in publications such as SCOREGolf Magazine, Golf Canada, Inside Golf, The Calgary Herald, SWERVE Magazine, Westworld, and others. He and his wife, Dawn, are the proud parents of four boys and they love hitting the links together as a family.