When I say high I mean 4,000 feet above sea level high and still climbing! Perched atop a downhill 145 yard par 3 at Sun Peaks with a daunting wooded river valley below and panoramic views of an alpine wonderland in the background my playing partner Wayne commented that “wouldn’t a hole-in-one now make a great story?” What came next was a moment in time that I will clearly remember for years to come.
As my ball began dropping from the sky we both knew it was going to be close. Unfortunately it was not an ace but did hit seven inches behind the hole and spun up to within a foot. Nice try! Then it was Wayne’s turn! Another great iron shot! As I was watching his ball’s flight Wayne yelled out “a little red fox just stole your ball”. I immediately focused back on the green where indeed I witness that damn critter confiscating my ball. Just then Wayne’s ball bounced down about three feet from mine and that fox politely dropped mine and took off with his. In unison we both shouted out “You’ve stolen my glory”! What a day! What a week! And this was only the beginning!
Sun Peaks Resort boasts that it is the highest elevation golf course and the #2 best Ski Resort in British Columbia. This majestic 18-hole par 72 Graham Cooke design offers great elevation changes where every hole is picturesque you just have to bring your camera. There are a number of risk/reward shots here so I would highly recommend that you purchase a yardage book to make your decisions a little easier.
The front nine is very tight – target golf at its finest and the first hole epitomizes what you will have to contend with during the first half of your round. At just under 350 yards, I would not suggest hitting your driver since you only need a maximum 200 yard tee shot to come up short of the river valley that crosses your path at the 140 yard mark.
Hole #8 is only 361 yards but plays as the toughest one on the course. You cannot hit a driver off this tee here as you will run out of fairway. A fairway wood or utility club will leave you with a 150 to 175 yard approach over a river valley to a two tiered green that is protected by bunkers short and right. Daunting indeed but take heart the back nine is more wide open and a little more forgiving!
At Sun Peaks Resort there is plenty to do après golf including fine and casual dining, hiking, mountain biking, canoeing, fishing and horseback riding plus a number of bars to quench you’re thirst. It reminds me of Whistler but I think it’s much quainter and less commercialized. Located about a 45 minute drive northeast of Kamloops, Sun Peaks is open from June 1st until Canadian Thanksgiving Monday (around October 8th). 18-Hole Green Fee with power cart is $65CAD for weekdays and $80 on weekends. 2012 Golf and Stay packages start as low as $104CAD per person per night.
Talking Rock Resort motto suggests “Hear the legend…Feel the spirit…” Nestled along the shores of Little Shuswap Lake, this spectacular piece property is steeped in the native traditions that soothe the soul. This Cooke Carleton International design is well forested and offers tremendous elevation changes, large greens, and wide fairways with lots of bunkers. Fortunately for me, the sand is extremely consistent.
Hole # 7 is Talking Rock’s signature hole, a downhill double dogleg par 5 with a bear-shaped grass inset carved into the fairway bunker. Holes #14 and 15 offer the best views of Little Shuswap Lake. The 14th is an uphill par 4 with an awesome view from the green while the 15th is a downhill par 3 with the lake in the background. Hole #18 is a tight par 4 that plays all along the lake with the sandy beach as your lateral hazard.
Talking Rock is located 45 minutes east of Kamloops. 18-hole green fees range from $67 to $72CAD plus $17 each for a power cart depending on the season. 2012 Stay and Play rates at Quaaout Lodge start from $272 for two people including 18 holes of golf and cart.
Rivershore Golf Links is one of Robert Trent Jones Sr.’s last signature designs and has hosted many national golf events including the inaugural Canadian Tour’s Western Championship and the 2011 BC PGA Championship. Built in the late ‘70’s, this par 72 was definitely ahead of its time. Stretching out to over 7,000 yards with a rating of 73.2 and a slope of 135 this course definitely has some bite.
Rivershore sits along the northern bank of the South Thompson River with sagebrush-covered hills as its backdrop. Even though the property is relatively flat, the combination of fast greens and 95 sharp cut, well defined bunkers will definitely test your skills.
My favourite holes are probably #10 – a tight par 4 with water down the entire left side and in front of the green forcing you to cross it on your approach shot, #16 – a downhill par 4 with a very difficult shallow green protected by a pond in front and the 18th – a long par 5 that plays all along the river.
18-hole green fees are $68CAD seven days a week and include use of their driving range. Add $16.75 each for a shared power cart.
Tobiano Golf was voted “Best New Canadian Golf Course” in 2008 by both Golf Digest and ScoreGolf Magazine and I can see why. This Thomas McBroom design is one of the most unique and challenging golf courses you will ever play. With five sets of tee blocks to choose from, ranging from 5,358 to 7,367 yards, my guidance is to play forward on the tees or you will be faced with long carries over fissures and gullies surrounded by untouched areas filled with natural grasses and cacti. Owner Mike Grenier says he often hears his guests comment that “I lost a lot of golf balls but I want to come back”, so be forewarned.
The greens are amazing and in mint condition and the bunkers are filled with white silica sand. It’s just about impossible to pick a “signature hole” at Tobiano since so many feature awesome views of Kamloops Lake but if I had to choose I’d say #5 and #8 were my favourites because of their intimidating drives and #14 for view of this infinity-like green.
Tobiano is located about a 20 minute drive west of Kamloops along the TransCanada Highway. Rates for 18-holes green fees range from $80-130 depending on the season and how far in advance that you book but includes a GPS equipped power cart, practice facility and bottled water.
If you are looking for quiet place to stay that is only a 15 minute drive to Kamloops, I would suggest the South Thompson Inn & Conference Centre adjacent to the Rivershore Golf Club. They offer Stay and Play Packages that range from $125 to $145CAD per person per night with 12 courses to pick from.
For more information on the area you can visit Tourism Kamloops or Golf Kamloops for details of some of the other award-winning golf courses in the area that I did not get a chance to play – this trip including:
Kamloops is actually the northern-most part of the Sonoma Desert, about a four hour drive from Banff, Vancouver or Seattle. The semi-arid desert climate is perfect for golfers who want to play from early April until late October, plus the topography changes dramatically with in a 40 minute drive offering a tremendous diversity of golfing experiences.
If you like fine wines, great golf and superb weather, Kamloops and the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia will steal your heart away. And by the way, my golfing buddy lost his ball to that little red fox, so keep your head up when you visit!