The Rise of Golf in British Columbia
At 1,300 feet above Lake Okanagan, Fred Couples’ new signature Canadian layout, The Rise, is aptly named. Climbing rugged desert-ranchland terrain, the course meanders between tree and fescue lined fairways featuring an artistic bunkering style while yielding spectacular views of the landscape below.
Renowned for fresh water lakes, rolling hills, and its warming sun, The Okanagan Valley has long been recognized as an ideal landscape for orchards and vineyards. Now the region is in the midst of a boom that is proving it also pairs well with world-class golf.
With 39 new golf developments underway in the province, BC is not short of new course designs or signature architects. Courses are creeping up at every corner on every landscape. Jack Nicklaus’ Wyndansea will hug the wild shores of the Pacfic Ocean, Gary Player is signed on for two new courses in the foothills of the Rockies, and Annika Sorenstam is in the early stages of her first North American design at the ski hills in Rossland.
So what sets The Golf Club at The Rise apart from its counterparts?
Elevation. More than just a view that can’t be beat, as the name may hint, the course’s most significant design element is its varied, abrupt, and high-altitude topography. The climb begins at No. 2, ascending from tee to green. The elegant fairway bunkers on this slight dogleg left combine with a subtle and well-crafted green complex that, unprotected by sand, intelligently uses natural topography to dictate strategy, making this early hole one of the best on the course.
Lead architect, Gene Bates, was faced with the difficult task of routing on the side of a small mountain. Though it has resulted in a few questionable blind shots, especially on the short par-4’s No.4 and 5, the result has been a series of distinct and memorable golf holes. And while stretching to 7,000 yards from the back tees, also known as the boom-boom-boxes, many elevated shots make most holes as much or more a battle of control than length.
The back nine, which opened for play last year, plays noticeably more mature than the front. With softer topography to work with, the Bates-Couples team has created a more traditional feel on holes No. 10-15 before arriving at the signature par-3 16th. Playing over water that guards the front and left sides, this skinny green is framed by a natural outcropping and grouping of native conifers. As the round finishes, No. 17 and the par-5 18th fall down the southern slope, allowing free-swinging tee shots to find wide-open fairways before arriving at an 18th green that reminds you the course is as picturesque as it is challenging.
Positioned 30 minutes north of Kelowna, in Vernon, BC, The Rise is poised to become a Northern anchor on the Okanagan Golf Trail. The small town’s downtown buildings with their comfortable, quiet, and quaint feel are decorated with heritage murals while the surrounding countryside gives way to wineries, hiking trails, boating, and championship golf.
Looking up from the main street, it’s difficult to imagine the logistics required to build a house at the peak of one of Vernon’s highland hills, let alone an entire resort and 18 holes of golf. However, successfully, developer OHDC has done just that. Creating a secluded feel, the $1 billion master plan features Tuscan style villas arranged in friendly neighbourhood enclaves.
As plans for the development’s amenities come to fruition over the next few years the resort has plenty of promise to only ripen with age. Plans for a permanent clubhouse are being finalized, beginning in 2009 the resort intends to add an additional six acres to the vineyard, and future plans for a private lakeside beach club are also in the works. Most exciting for golfers though, is the potential for the anticipated practice facility to become the area’s most scenic range on which to practice hitting long, high drives against a backdrop of distant vineyards and sunny blue skies.
Closer to the fairways, the resort’s own grapes vines are now in the midst of their first harvest. Once fully complete, the vineyard will feature four grape varietals: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, and Riesling. Given that golf and wine are the area’s most popular attractions one would not expect the planned 25-acre winery to be a unique feature. However, The Rise is one of the area’s first well-thought-out developments to capitalize on the golf-wine combination.
Located in an enviable climate and beautiful landscape, with luxurious amenities, The Rise will no doubt mature as one of the Okanagan’s premier golf resorts.
The par-4, No.15 and par-3, No.16*
The green at par-5, No.18*
The par-5, No.12
(*Images courtesy of dHz Media, First image is the tee at the par-4, No.17,
for more information visit on the The Rise visit therise.ca/)