We just finished our fourth of five rounds on a 3-night golf excursion to Vernon, British Columbia, and the eight of us found ourselves gathered around a large table in the cozy, warmly lit tasting room at Okanagan Spirits.
Tyler, the son in the local family-run craft distillery was talking about his whisky collection at home, which his wife deems excessive, but which he deems perfectly acceptable. He went on to explain how each whiskey in his cabinet is more than just a unique flavor profile, but serves as a collection of memories and experiences that go much deeper than the flavors themselves.
As Tyler was talking about this, I got to thinking about how golf experiences can be similar. Each course has it’s own “flavor profile”, which includes the land it’s on, the architectural design, and how the course is maintained. But what each person gets out of the experience and the way in which they remember it can be vastly unique.
Every great golf destination, in addition to courses with good “flavor profiles”, has a distinct sense of place which helps elevate the experience into a uniquely memorable one. Located in the beautiful Okanagan Valley with five golf courses, sprawling orchards, wineries, brew pubs, beautiful lakes, beaches, and a longer golf season than much of Canada, Vernon has that sense of place.
Vernon has three stand-alone courses — Spallumcheen Golf and Country Club, Vernon Golf and County Club, and The Rise Golf Course, in addition to one golf resort, Predator Ridge, which features two courses, accommodations, dining, bike trails, etc.
I recently had the pleasure of being part of an 8-man golf trip to Vernon, which was not my first experience golfing in Vernon. I spent the summer of 2006 working on the grounds crew at Spallumcheen Golf and Country Club, however, I didn’t really stray from Spallumcheen to play golf because I was a poor student and wanted to take advantage of the free golf that came with working on the grounds crew. So it was nice to head back and experience the full spectrum of what golf in Vernon has to offer.
It was cool to rekindle some old memories, such as teeing it up with Spallumcheen Head Pro, Myles Johnson, who has worked at Spallumcheen for 20 years and still makes birdies like they’re going to solve the world’s problems. Born and raised in Vernon, Myles’ commitment to his club and golf in Vernon is a testament to the area – when you’re already in paradise, why would you leave?
Vernon’s five golf courses are all located less than 30 minutes from each other, with a spectrum of variety almost as wide as you can get. From the fiery fescue and rolling terrain on the Les Furber designed Predator Course at Predator Ridge, where they recently renovated four holes to enhance fun and playability of the layout.
To the stunning variety of the rugged Doug Carrick designed Ridge Course at Predator Ridge, where you’ll find some of the best vistas on the property and a lot of interesting holes.
To the insane views and challenging mountain golf 1100 feet above Vernon up at a Fred Couples/Gene Bates collaboration called The Rise Golf Course.
To the down-to-earth, walkable Les Furber designed Spallumcheen Golf and Country Club featuring an interesting and varied layout, beautiful green complexes, and an additional 9-hole executive course to compliment their 18-hole layout.
And last but not least, to the old-school charm and open parkland layout of Vernon Golf and Country Club with trickier-than-they-look greens that are impossible not to have fun on. Another walkable layout, which always scores extra points in my books.
Most golf destinations spark a lot of conversation and debate — “the best course is…”, “the most overrated/underrated course is….”, etc. That’s one of the great things about our game and the courses we play — a lot of it is subjective. So rather than forcing my super specific opinions on you, I put together a few ways to tackle a Vernon golf trip depending on your budget or taste, to give you a better idea of what the area has to offer. Of course, your options aren’t exclusive to my ideas, so feel free to ignore me and come up with your own itinerary.
If you’ve got the time and the money….
Then it’s a no-brainer to play all five courses and get the full range of experiences from walkable parkland golf to mountain golf. Grab a room at Predator Ridge for a few nights (or more) as your home base, where you’ll have two golf courses out your front door, and the other three within 30 minutes. Go wine or whiskey tasting after golf, check out Vernon’s dining scene, as well as the great restaurant at your home base of Predator Ridge. Predator also offers a daily breakfast buffet starting early in the morning to make it quick and easy to get your day started, whether you’re dew sweeping there or venturing elsewhere that day.
If your budget is tight….
Grab a motel in Vernon that suits your budget and book yourself some golf at Spallumcheen Golf and Country Club and Vernon Golf and Country Club. These courses aren’t just reasonably priced, they’re fun, walkable, and strategic golf courses that can challenge good golfers but remain playable for all.
After golf, hit up Taco Tuesday or other weekly specials at the Marten Brew Pub, or unwind on a beach and take a dip in Okanagan Lake or Lake Kalamalka if you’re there in the summer heat. If your budget allows for it, throw in a mid-priced round at The Rise.
To stack your Instagram page with the most stunning Okanagan vistas…
It’s hard to beat the incredible photo ops at The Rise. The course is a stern challenge and has several blind and unforgiving shots, so show up prepared for that, but your camera will be stacked with beautiful photos of the Okanagan Valley that you can’t capture anywhere else.
The Ridge Course at Predator Ridge is not far behind when it comes to Okanagan vistas, which elevates the already interesting Doug Carrick design. I’m also a big fan of how the fiery fescue of the Predator Courses jumps out on camera.
If you like to chill in one place…
Then Predator Ridge has you covered. Whether you show up by car and want to park it for a few days, or want to take a shuttle or taxi from the airport and have everything in one spot, you can do that at Predator. With beautiful accommodations, 2 courses, dining, cycling, yoga, etc, you can simply bask in the resort experience if that’s your cup of tea.
My point is…
There is something for everyone in Vernon, regardless of what combination of time, budget, and tastes you have. The town is the perfect size for a golf trip, offering all the amenities you’ll ever need, while maintaining a chill vibe and avoiding the traffic jams which you may find in nearby Kelowna.
Maybe I’m biased because I have spent a lot of time in Vernon, or perhaps I just have great taste. I like to believe it’s the latter.
P.S. Stay tuned for some course write-ups coming soon which will dive into each track a little deeper. If you’re craving more information and history on the golf courses in Vernon, here are a couple more great pieces by some talented chaps I had the pleasure of teeing it up with on this trip:
Long Haul – Vernon Golf on the Rise by Tony Dear
Vernon Steps Out of the Golfing Shadows by Brad Ziemer
Thanks to Vernon Tourism for having me out to experience the full spectrum of golf and shenanigans in Vernon, BC, and helping me continue to spread the word about all things awesome in golf.
Golf isn't just a game, it's a lifestyle.
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