Spallumcheen Golf and Country Club’s website describes the course as “The Gem of the North Okanagan” — I can’t help but agree.
It’s located in beautiful Vernon, British Columbia, Canada just off of Highway 97N and offers 27 holes of golfing heaven. An 18 hole championship course and a 9 hole executive course provides something for everyone. The Okanagan area is littered with orchards, vineyards, lakes, beaches, and most importantly, great golf courses. Spallumcheen Golf and Country Club happens to be one of my favorites, and it holds a special place in my golfing heart.
Approaching the summer of 2006 I had some big decisions (or what I perceived to be big at the time) to make. I was a third year engineering student at the University of Alberta. A lot of my fellow engineering students were frantically applying for summer internships at engineering firms. I applied for some as well, but as usual I couldn’t get golf off my mind so I also sent an application to Spallumcheen Golf and Country Club on a whim. My Mom and step-dad were living in Vernon at the time so I figured it might be a great way to spend a summer in the sunny Okanagan valley and be a golf bum. My sparkling resume with five years of golf course maintenance experience made me a good candidate for a position. Jim, the head greenskeeper, called me up immediately and asked me when I could start. I took the offer on the spot. To this day I am very glad that I did. It’s still the best job I’ve ever had.
I’ve played Spall (what the locals call it) probably 50 times now. I’ve been back to play there a few times since the glorious summer of 2006 and it never disappoints me. At 6423 yards from the back tees it’s not an overly long course, but the par 71 track is certainly no pushover. Towering trees line the fairways, water hazards and creeks lurk, while the gently rolling hills and lush grass lulls you into a sense of euphoria. The greens always roll true and the fairways are always in great shape. Jim and his staff do an impeccable job of maintaining all 27 holes year in and year out. Here’s a view from above at the double green of the 13th and 16th holes.
The layout at Spallumcheen is pretty clever, in my opinion. The short holes are more strategic and tend to punish a missed shot more severely while the longer holes give you a bit more room to play with.
There are several risk-reward opportunities throughout your round which make it a lot of fun to play, starting right at the 1st hole. The tree lined par 4 starting hole reads 351 yards on the card and bends sharply to the right so you’ll have to make a decision on how much you want to cut off. You can play conservatively with an iron to around the 150 yard marker, or if you’re feeling aggressive you can try bend it around the corner and have a short pitch into the green. Out of bounds down the left side of the hole makes you think twice about taking more club.
Before Beth and I played Spallumcheen during our August 2013 BC road trip, she was giving me the gears that I should give her some additional strokes for our match because of my experience on the course. We get to the first hole and she stripes her tee shot down the middle of the fairway to the 150 yard marker, and then what does she do? She holes her second shot for an eagle! I got up and down for par and it felt like I made double. So much for local knowledge being a factor.
The 4th hole is one of my favorites, a par 4 measuring 386 yards from the back tee with a gentle dogleg right and an uphill approach shot to a two tiered green. Hit it on the wrong tier and you’ll gladly take two putts and run to the next tee. You want to keep your tee ball down the left side of the fairway as the tree on the right can block your shot to the green, but you better stay committed to the shot with out of bounds left.
There are plenty more risk-reward opportunities. The 5th hole, a par 5 measuring 517 yards from the back tee can definitely be reached in two shots with a good drive. However, there is a lot to consider with a creek running down the entire right side and in front of the green. Oh, and there’s out of bounds left! Don’t think about that though. If you do find yourself in that field, the ProV1’s with blue circles are mine. Thank you.
The 6th hole shown below measuring 358 yards from the back tee is a great short hole. Picking the right yardage is key off of the tee so you don’t bring the pond into play. There is also a creek on the right and trees on the left that can block your view of the green. If you’re really aggressive you can try hit it up the neck on the right side of the pond, but I don’t recommend it. Looks like a tame hole on the card, but always very happy to walk off with par here.
The 10th is another great risk reward hole. A driveable par 4 that measures 324 yards on the card that plays slightly downhill. It is a blind tee shot that doglegs to the right around a pond. You can hit a driver over the pond on the right and have a chance to get on the green, if you don’t hit the towering tree in your way. Or catch one of the large bunkers guarding the green. If you’re the lay up type keeping it well left of the pond with less club is a good line but will likely leave you with a downhill lie for your wedge shot. A hole that always feels like a great chance to get a shot back has far too often jumped up to bite me in the groin region.
The 11th hole shown below is a great scoring opportunity to keep your momentum going on the back. A par 5 that measures 548 yards with a blind tee shot that is somewhat forgiving, but left or right of the fairway and you can be blocked out from having a chance to get home in two. If you can get it over the crest of the hill you’ll get some extra roll and the second shot plays slightly downhill to the green, shortening the hole a bit. This hole capped off the best run I’ve ever had at Spall when I birdied the 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th holes in a row. So what I meant to say is that you have to be really awesome to birdie this hole.
I also love the finishing hole. A meaty par 5 that measures 567 yards from the back tees. If you’re a long hitter you might get there in two with a good drive. The hole bends gently to the left and requires a longer hitter to shape his tee shot to keep it in the fairway and avoid the bunker on the right. I visited that bunker so much there should be a plaque in there with my name on it. For many people it ends up being a three shot hole, but the water hazard on the left is conveniently placed near the typical layup zone which forces you to make a risk-reward decision, like many holes at Spallumcheen. Layup further back and have a longer third shot, or bring the water into play for a chance to play a wedge into the green and get it close for birdie.
You get a little bit of everything out at Spallumcheen. They have a large full sized driving range, several putting/chipping greens, 27 great golf holes, a snack shack, a full service restaurant with 2 different patios, great instructors, and friendly staff. Everyone is so nice and welcoming there, they make it feel like your home course away from home. Their two golf professionals, Al Pisch and Myles Johnson are two of the classiest guys in the business. Back in 2006 I was too stubborn to get any structured lessons, but out of the goodness of his heart Myles quickly cured me when I came down with the shanks one round.
I got to play with Al once during mens night. I had never played with a head professional before so I was a bit nervous. I birdied the first two holes and Al was pumped and very encouraging. Things went a bit downhill from there, but I’ll always remember how much fun it was to play with Al. I’m just glad we didn’t play for money, I didn’t have much left after playing with Myles, who I’m pretty sure eats birdies for breakfast.
Whether you’re a local looking for a regular place to play or you’re planning a vacation and looking to get a round in, don’t overlook Spallumcheen Golf and Country Club as a fun and affordable golfing option. It will always be a regular stop for me when I’m in the area.