What are the key ingredients that comprise a great golf destination? Obviously having a collection of outstanding golf courses starts the process; however, as the demands of the avid golf consumer intensify much more is required if you want to compete with the likes of Arizona, South Carolina or Florida.  Offering a variety of good restaurants and comfortable accommodations in close proximity to airports and highways adds to the mix. But it is the non-golf activities and amenities such as wine-tasting tours, boat cruises, spectacular scenery, beaches and perfect weather that complete all that’s needed to say you have what it takes to attract the most discriminating golfer to your part of the world.

In Canada, we have such a place and it’s not the usual suspects of PEI, Tremblant, Muskoka or Whistler. Where you ask? Kelowna, British Columbia. Located in the heart of the province along the winding shoreline of Okanagan Lake, Kelowna is one of Canada’s charming small cities that has experienced rapid growth over the past decade. With a population of 115,000, Kelowna is the ideal golf destination. Although not immune to the effects of a typical Canadian winter, Kelowna’s weather may be the best in the country between April and November where blue skies and comfortable temperatures are the norm. With 19 golf courses within the greater Kelowna area, it’s no surprise that Score Golf recently selected Kelowna as the Best Canadian Golf City in Canada.

Kelowna, BC

Under the banner of www.golfkelowna.com the best golf courses in the region have banded together to form a one-stop shopping website that makes it as easy as a tap-in putt to book a flight, hotel, restaurant reservation, tee time and wine tour within Canada’s newest golf destination. From Toronto there are daily direct flights via Air Canada and Westjet to Kelowna. Given the three hour time change you can leave your house and be on the first tee before noon local time at neighbouring Predator Ridge, Tower Ranch or the Okanagan Golf Club.

I recently visited Canada’s hottest golf destination and was thoroughly impressed with the quality of the courses within a 30 minute drive from the downtown core. I can’t think of too many places in Canada – or anywhere else for that matter – that can boast a collection of championship golf courses designed by Doug Carrick (Predator Ridge), Graham Cooke (The Harvest), Thomas McBroom (Tower Ranch), Les Furber (Predator Ridge and Okanagan Golf Club), Jack Nicklaus (Bear Course, Okanagan Golf Club) and the region’s newest addition, Greg Norman’s totally redesigned Ponderosa Golf Club.

Panoramic Predator Course

Of the 19 golf courses in the area, I would characterize a dozen of them as A-list venues. Arguably the top of the class are the two courses at Predator Ridge. Located on the outskirts of Vernon, along the Trans Canada Highway thirty-five minutes from Kelowna, Predator Ridge is a 5-star golf resort that features two exceptional golf courses and 5-star accommodations. The two courses – the 7,090-yard Predator and the 7,123-yard Ridge – are both demanding tests that provide unparalleled vistas overlooking the Thompson-Okanagan Valley. Designed by Les Furber, the Predator Course is best described as a links-inspired golf course. Host of the 2008, Telus Skins Game, Predator is an enjoyable experience despite the few wildly undulating greens that are in need of some gentle re-leveling and contouring.

Rainbow over Predator Course

It is Carrick’s Ridge Course that truly puts the resort on the world’s golf map. Having built on Furber’s original design, the end product may be Carrick’s finest work to date. I’ve played many of Carrick’s best courses in Canada including Muskoka Bay and Bigwin Island in Ontario and Humber Valley in Newfoundland but I’d have to say that the Ridge Course at Predator Ridge may be the best of the bunch. “Breathtaking views” and “dramatic elevation changes” are phrases too commonly used in golf journalism but when describing The Ridge both are appropriate and totally accurate. In fact, to put things in perspective, the sign you will see most often on the golf course is “Caution Steep Hill” warning you to slowly make your descent from every one of the precipitous tee decks.

Ridge Course

Another outstanding golf course in the area is Tower Ranch. The brainchild of Thomas McBroom, Tower Ranch is both a links and mountain course all rolled into one great golf experience. Measuring 7,212 yards, Tower Ranch is carved along the side of the Interior Plateau Mountain range providing breathtaking views overlooking Kelowna and Okanagan Lake. Fescue covered hills and swales provide the links-inspired feel and like any true links design, the course can change without warning depending on what the winds and weather decide to do.

Tower Ranch Clubhouse

Perhaps the most player-friendly course on my Kelowna golf course A-list is the Harvest. Designed by Graham Cooke, the Harvest is forgiving off the tee but more than a good challenge thereafter. It doesn’t matter if you are a mid to high handicap player or break 80 consistently, you’ll enjoy the Harvest. A variety of fruit trees including apple, cherry, wine-grape, peach, apricot and pear line the fairways from start to finish. The best time to play is in mid May and September when the trees are in full bloom and the fruit is ready for harvest.

Two other golf courses worthy of note are Gallagher’s Canyon and the Okanagan Golf Club. Carved through Ponderosa Pine forests adjacent to steep, rocky canyons, the 6,802-yard Canyon Course at Gallagher’s Canyon was one of Kelowna’s first championship golf courses. Designed by Bill Robinson and Les Furber, Gallagher’s Canyon is best described as a shot makers’ course as the tight, tree-lined fairways demand pin point accuracy from tee to green.

Gallagher’s Canyon

The Okanagan Club is conveniently located across the highway from the Kelowna Airport and features two 18-hole championship golf courses. The 6,885-yard Bear Course, designed by Jack Nicklaus, and the 6,785-yard Quail Course, designed by Les Furber, equally provide an authentic Kelowna golf experience as secluded tree-lined fairways and dramatic elevation changes are commonplace on both golf courses.

Okanagan Bear & Quail Course

No trip to Kelowna would be complete without touring at least one of the area’s world-class vineyards. For oenophiles with discriminating taste, Kelowna and the Okanagan Valley have established a reputation for their world-class wineries. In 2011, five distinct wine trails were created which include 25 different and eclectic wineries all within twenty-five minutes of downtown Kelowna.  What makes the area so intriguing is the diversity of the vineyards and their associated wines. Mission Hill is the largest and arguably the most famous; however, there are many small, specialized wineries that grow their own grapes and produce their own wine under their own special label. The View and Spierhead wineries are two in particular I had the pleasure of visiting that produce their own splendid red and white varieties.

While golf may be played in foursomes, savouring the good life in Kelowna is best done in pairs. By adding a sumptuous bottle of wine to a fantastic round of golf you have the perfect pairings – Kelowna style.

Fast Facts

Getting There
Direct flights are available from Toronto to Kelowna on Air Canada and Westjet

Where to Play 
With 19 golf courses to choose from, Kelowna has something for every caliber of player. Reservations can be made by visiting www.golfkelowna.com

Great Places to Stay

Delta Grand Okanagan Lakefront Resort – (250) 868-5614, www.deltahotels.com
The Marriott Fairfield Inn & Suites – (250) 763-2800, www.marriott.com
Predator Ridge Resort – (250) 503-3551, www.predatorridge.com

Great Places to Eat
Lake Lounge Houseboat Dinner & Cruise – www.thelakelounge.com
Bouchons Bistro – www.bouchonbistro.com
Cabana Grille – www.cabanagrille.com
Sunset Organic Bistro – www.summerhill.bc.ca

General Information
For more information about all of the great outdoor activities, wineries, and restaurants Kelowna has to offer visit Tourism Kelowna at www.tourismkelowna.com