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/)
Kingston Heath: The Hype is Real
We touched ground late in the afternoon at Melbourne Airport and checked in very, very late at hotel Grand Hyatt. Don’t ask about our driving and navigating skills. It shouldn’t have taken us as long as we did. Even with GPS we failed miserably, but our dear friend had been so kind to arrange a room with a magnificent view on the 32nd floor for us.
The skyline in Melbourne was amazing, and what a vibrant, multicultural city Melbourne turned out to be when we later visited the streets to catch a late dinner. The next morning, we headed out to one of the finest golf courses that you can find Down Under: Kingston Heath. We had heard so many great things about this course, and to be honest we were a bit worried it almost was too hyped up. Luckily, there were no disappointments.
Here’s the thing about Kingston Heath. You’re driving in the middle of a suburb in Melbourne and then suddenly you see the sign, “Kingston Heath.” Very shortly after the turn, you’re at the club. This is very different than the other golf courses we’ve visited on this trip Down Under, where we’ve had to drive for several miles to get from the front gates to the club house.
Nevertheless, this course and its wonderful turf danced in front of us from the very first minute of our arrival. With a perfect sunrise and a very picture friendly magic morning mist, we walked out on the course and captured a few photos. Well, hundreds to be honest. The shapes and details are so pure and well defined.
Kingston Heath was designed by Dan Soutar back in 1925 with help and guidance from the legendary golf architect Dr. Alister MacKenzie, who added to its excellent bunkering system. Dr. MacKenzie’s only design suggestion was to change Soutar’s 15th hole from a 222-yard par-4 (with a blind tee shot) to a par-3. Today, this hole is considered to be one the best par-3 holes Down Under, and I can understand why.
I am normally not a big fan of flat courses, but I will make a rare exception for Kingston Heath. It’s a course that’s both fun and puts your strategic skills to a serious test. Our experience is that you need to plan your shots carefully, and never forget to stay out of its deep bunkers. They’re not easy.
Kingston Heath is not super long in distance, but it will still give you a tough test. You definitely need to be straight to earn a good score. If you are in Melbourne, this is the golf course I would recommend above all others.
Next up: Metropolitan. Stay tuned!
Barnbougle Lost Farm: 20 Holes of Pure Joy
Another early day in Tasmania, and we were exploring the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw-design, Barnbougle Lost Farm. The course was completed in 2010, four years after the neighbor Barnbougle Dunes, resulting in much excitement in the world of golf upon opening.
Johan and I teed off at 10 a.m. to enjoy the course at our own pace in its full glory under clear blue skies. Barnbougle Lost Farm starts out quite easy, but it quickly turns into a true test of links golf. You will certainly need to bring some tactical and smart planning in order to get close to many of the pin positions.
The third hole is a prime example. With its sloping two-tiered green, it provides a fun challenge and makes you earn birdie — even if your tee and approach shots put you in a good position. This is one of the things I love about this course; it adds a welcome dimension to the game and something you probably don’t experience on most golf courses.
The 4th is an iconic signature hole called “Sals Point,” named after course owner Richard Sattler’s wife (she was hoping to build a summer home on the property before it was turned into a golf course). A strikingly beautiful par-3, this hole is short in distance but guarded with luring bunkers. When the prevailing northwesterly wind comes howling in from the ocean, the hole will leave you exposed and pulling out one of your long irons for the tee shot. We left No. 4 with two bogeys with a strong desire for revenge.
Later in the round, we notice our scorecard had a hole numbered “13A” just after the 13th. We then noticed there was also an “18A.” That’s because Barnbougle Lost Farm offers golfers 20 holes. The designers believed that 13A was “too good to leave out” of the main routing, and 18A acts as a final betting hole to help decide a winner if you’re left all square. And yes, we played both 13A and 18A.
I need to say I liked Lost Farm for many reasons; it feels fresh and has some quirky holes including the 5th and the breathtaking 4th. The fact that it balks tradition with 20 holes is something I love. It also feels like an (almost) flawless course, and you will find new things to enjoy every time you play it.
The big question after trying both courses at Barnbougle is which course I liked best. I would go for Barnbougle Dunes in front of Barnbougle Lost Farm, mostly because I felt it was more fun and offered a bigger variation on how to play the holes. Both courses are great, however, offering really fun golf. And as I wrote in the first part of this Barnbougle-story, this is a top destination to visit and something you definitely need to experience with your golf friends if you can. It’s a golfing heaven.
Next course up: Kingston Heath in Melbourne.
Barnbougle Dunes: World Class Golf
We arrived to Launceston Airport in Tasmania just before sunset. Located on the Northeast Coast of Australia’s island state, Tasmania, Barnbougle is almost as far from Sweden as it gets… yet it immediately felt like home when we arrived.
The drive from the airport was just over an hour, taking us through deep forests and rolling hills before we arrived to Barnbougle Golf Resort, which consists of two courses — The Dunes and Lost Farm — a lodge, two restaurants, a sports bar and a spa. Unfortunately, it was pitch black outside and we couldn’t see much of the two courses on our arrival. I would like to add that both Johan and I were extremely excited about visiting this golf mecca. We later enjoyed a tasty dinner at the Barnbougle Lost Farm Restaurant before we called it a day.
The next day, we woke up early and got out to The Dunes Course as very first guests out. Well, to be quite honest, we weren’t actually the first out. There were a few locals — Wallabies, lots of them — already out on the course. The natural landscape at Barnbougle is fantastic and my cameras almost overheated with the photo opportunities. After two intense hours of recording videos and producing photos both from ground, we headed back to Lost Farm for a wonderful breakfast (and view). After our breakfast, it was time to try our luck.
Before describing our experience playing the courses, I would like to mention about Richard Sattler, a potato farmer and owner of Barnbougle. In the early 2000’s, Richard was introduced to U.S. golfing visionary Mike Keiser, who had heard about his amazing stretch of farmland in Tasmania and came down to visit. Mike convinced Richard that Barnbougle (which at that stage was a potato farm and still grows potatoes and raises cattle today) might be perfect for creating a top quality golf course.
After an introduction to well renowned golf architect Tom Doak and the formation of a partnership with former Australian golf pro and golf architect Mike Clayton, the development of the Barnbougle Dunes Course commenced.
Featuring large bunkers dotted between fun rolling fairways shaped from the coastal dunes, Barnbougle Dunes offers the golfer some tough challenges, in particular on the first nine. This is indeed a course that will entertain all kinds of golfers.
After our round, we looked back at some fantastic highlights such as playing the iconic 7th hole, a short par-3 called ”Tom’s Little Devil,” as well as the beautiful par-4 15th. We were just two big walking smiles sitting there in the restaurant to be honest. Lets also not forget one of the biggest (and deepest) bunkers I’ve seen at the 4th hole. The name of the bunker is “Jaws.” Good times!
As a small surprise for Johan, I had arranged a meeting after our round with Richard Sattler. Richard, ever the farmer, entered the car parking just in front of the clubhouse in a white pick-up van with a big smile un his face. We talked to Richard for almost 30 minutes. He is an extremely humble man and left such a warm impression on us. Richard explained the Barnbougle story: how it all began and the property today.
To me, this is a high-end golf destination offering something very unique with two world-class courses in Barnbougle Dunes and Barnbougle Lost Farm, both ranked in the top-100 greatest golf courses by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine (U.S.). With the courses located just next to each other, it’s probably one of the best golf resorts you can find down under and a golf resort that I would like bring my hardcore golfing friends to visit. Everything here is exceptional with the resort providing spacious rooms, comfy beds, good food and spectacular views.
Barnbougle Dunes is a real treat to play for any golfer and will leave you with a sweet golfing memory. Compared to the golf courses available on the more remote King Island, Barnbougle is accessible (given Tasmania is connected by better flight connections) and the hospitality and service at is much more refined.
The golf resort is one of the absolute best I’ve been to. I can also highly recommend playing Barnbougle Dunes; I had great fun and you can play it in many ways. Tomorrow, we will be playing and experiencing the other course at Barnbougle: Barnbougle Lost Farm, a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw course with 20 (!) holes.
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