Kamloops a Haven for Top-End Tracks
- Category: Inside Golf
- Published: 2019-07-29
By GORD MONTGOMERY, Inside Golf
KAMLOOPS, British Columbia — In a province rich in golf gems you’ll feel you’ve struck the motherlode when you unpack your sticks for a swing, or several dozen, in the Kamloops, B.C., area.
Ranging from a well-known parkland design to a sweet tree-lined layout and then to one of the best courses in Canada year after year, there’s something to satisfy everyone’s hope of finding that diamond in the rough in this part of the country. And, with the great summer weather that the Kamloops area provides, there’s never a doubt about striking gold when you tee it up here.
Kamloops is a thriving community approaching the 100,000 population mark, so there’s no shortage of amenities in the area including one of the locals’ favourite events, Music in the Park, which is highlighted by food trucks and the sound of great B.C. talent on the stage. The small-town feel of the city is evident everywhere and flows through one’s visit no matter where your wanderlust takes you. There are numerous hotels here that partner with golf courses in order to make your stay as comfortable as possible. Top those off with numerous awesome eating establishments to satisfy your hunger and rehash your day’s round and plan to recoup some of those “lost shots” the next day, and you have the perfect stop to stay and play.
Set On The Little Shuswap Lake, Talking Rock GR Is One Truly Great Course Where The 18th Green Overlooks The Peaceful Waters. (Photo/Gord Montgomery)
The courses we toured with Golf Kamloops are situated on the outlying area around the city, with the exception of Talking Rock which is about 40 minutes away, so there is some driving involved. If you’re with a group, the use of a shuttle service such as TasteFull Excursions isn’t a bad idea and they can double up your enjoyment, if you want, by chipping in a tasting tour of the local wineries in order to help soothe your soul after a day on the links.
But let’s get to the amazing layouts in this area, starting with the beautiful Talking Rock Resort and Quaaout Lodge. This is eye candy from the word “Go”, with stunning mountainside vistas and downhill views of Little Shuswap Lake combining to make you almost sorry that this journey only lasts four hours.
The course conditions on this tree-lined layout are spectacular from tee box to green which is one of the reasons this design by Graham Cooke and Wayne Carlton, two acclaimed Canadian architects,is rated as the No. 1 track in B.C. as voted on by the playing public.
Speaking about what’s offered here, PGA of Canada assistant pro and host Harris Stoneman agreed that the peaceful setting here is what sets this design apart from so many others. “I’d say it’s the serenity,” he commented. “The only noise we heard today were some kids on eighteenth, and that’s because there’s a public beach close by!”
While you don’t want to stray over to that sand box on the final hole, what you get on the other 17 is enough to challenge anyone’s game. The tees range from 5,400 yards up to just over 7,100 and when you toss in elevation changes, twists and turns, and all those trees, you’re in for a great day. The architects left as much of the natural terrain as possible in play, making you think and challenging you to make use of every club in your bag.
And the great news here is there is another nine hole loop in the planning stages, meaning this great place is going to become even better down the road.For more on Talking Rock Resort and Quaaout Lodge, go to www.quaaoutlodge.com.
Set High On The Hills Above Kamloops, Eaglepoint GC Offers Up Some Dramatic Sceneery As Well As Two Styles Of Play Over Its 18 Holes. (Photo/Gord Montgomery)
Heading east back toward Kamloops, the next stop on this journey was at Eaglepoint Golf Resort, sitting high above the city on the sandy hills. Here, head pro Peter Kenneford explained that his track wasn’t quite what it used to be. You see, thousands of beautiful evergreen trees fell victim to the pine beetle plague of a few years ago and thus they had to be removed.
Refusing to submit to what nature threw at them, Eaglepoint made use of fescue grasses to put hazards back into play and in a way, maybe, made the course a bit more penal in places. You see, while you can generally get some distance on a recovery shot from amongst the pines, you’re essentially just getting out of jail by chipping back to the fairway when fescue’s involved.
Staying on the fairway here is imperative and when you do, the 6.300 yards (6.700 from the tips) opens up invitingly in front of you. A recent renovation has improved sight lines on several holes with greens that are large but provide some subtle breaks. There’s only one real large forced carry on this layout, on the back nine, meaning you don’t have to be a big hitter to succeed out here.
Kenneford noted there are “two styles of golf courses here with the fescues and natural grasslands on the front nine and the back nine being more of a shot-maker’s course.”
So even though they’re a few trees short of what used to be out here, the visuals of the area from high atop the hills, and the challenges thrown at you by this course, make up for the lack of wood. And believe me, the fescue that’s replaced it is hazard enough for anyone! For more, go to www.eaglepointgolfresort.com.
While It May Appear To Be Relatively Flat At The Dunes In Kamloops, Don't Let That Fool You Into Thinking There Aren't Any Humps And Bumps On This Links Style Layout.(Photo/Gord Montgomery)
As the newest course in the Kamloops area, The Dunes at Kamloops throws a curve of sorts at players with it’s flat and walkable design. It still offers up plenty of demands on one’s game though, especially with your wedges and flat stick.
At 6,900 yards off the most distant tee, winding down to 5,200 from the front box, this layout is a dramatic change from the usual in this area. Where the majority of courses call for a power buggy to move you from hole to hole, here foot traffic is a welcome sight for many. But even though the holes are of the flatter variety, they do impose some interesting twists along the way to make on pay attention to their next shot.
The biggest thing here is this mid-90s design by Wayne Carlton doesn't present a whole lot of flat lies on the fairways. And when you get to the putting surface, a careful study from both sides of the hole is often a recommendation not to be ignored, given the subtle breaks throughout. The greens are smooth though, and roll true, so once you have your line picked out there shouldn’t be any hesitation about charging the hole.
Even though this is a generally flat layout don’t assume it’s a walk in the park. It’s not, and that’s proven by Hole No. 7, a huge 583-yarder off the Blue tee. It features a second shot that has to land between two fairway-encroaching water hazards around the 150-yard marker, making you pay strict attention to that shot. The back nine also offers a doozy of a par-5, the 10th, that stretches out to 572-yards with some tree trouble looming on your second, and perhaps even your third, shot.
While there are plenty of fairway bunkers here to add to the difficulty, the one real issue may be that the fairways and rough are cut in the same pattern, and since they have the same colouration it can bet difficult to pick out an appropriate landing spot for long shots. Other than that though, The Dunes is a nice walk on a fun golf course. For more, go to golfthedunes.com.
While Getting To The Greens At Tobiano Can Provide Plenty Of Challenge, Your Work Certainly Isn't Done Once You Arrive There, Given The Size And Slopes You'll Be Facing. (Photo/Gord Montgomery)
And then there’s the one course everyone comes to Kamloops to play and rightfully so. From start to finish, Tobiano is rightfully recognized as one of this country’s best layouts.
Perhaps head pro Shannon McGeady uttered the most profound statement about this Thomas McBroom masterpiece when she noted, “There’s nothing else like this in B.C.” In fact, truth be told, there’s nothing else like this anywhere in Western Canada.
Here, it is imperative you get on the right tee given some of the forced carries you’ll encounter and let me offer a word of advice — take the suggested handicap teeing areas with a grain of salt … as in you may want to move up a box if you’re hovering around the top end of a number … and then pay attention to the advice the GPS unit and scorecard tell you.
Other than that, there’s little to fault at this wonderful, winding, roller coaster thrill ride set high above Kamloops Lake. This is one place you may well as many shots with your camera as with your sticks. But don’t become too enamoured with the photos — nobody’s adding those up at the end of the day.
Here, from the tough opening par-5 to the snaking par-5 eighth, you need to be aware of where you’re shot is going to end up. Hit into the wrong area and there’s fescue grass aplenty, plus sidehill and downhill lies, to quickly put your golf ego on hold.
The greens are true and fast all year round as they’re never punched during the primetime playing season. Of course, getting to those greens can be an adventure as there are several blind shots, both from the tees and the fairways, so be prepared for a bit of a scouting run before you whack away in order to have a true idea of where you want to end up.
This is a test not to be missed but just be prepared for what lies ahead because Tobiano comes at you with all it has to offer and maybe even a bit extra giving you a game you’ll long remember. For more, go to tobianagolf.com.
Even Though The Kamloops Golf & Country Club Is Quite Flat In Its Design, It's Offered Lots Of Protection By Huge Trees And Penal Hazard Areas. (Photo/Gord Montgomery)
The final stop on this golf marathon was at the stately Kamloops Golf & Country Club, where host pro Ian Henson pointed out it is, by far, the oldest layout in the area. Now over 100 years old, it has had a bit of cosmetic work done, as many venerable ladies do, to stay looking good.
At the same time though this beauty continues to wear the older make-up in fine style making for a journey over this layout. While it’s rich in history and tradition, it was brought up to today’s standards by Ted Locke in 2010 with some rerouting of fairways, redesigning some greens and and implementing an improved irrigation system. Even so, the course retains one element often missing from today’s game — the ability for players to easily walk the course.
In fact, Kamloops Golf & Country Club is so prime for walking, their oldest member, a 94-year-old, hoofs it around this property at least five times a week. But, in keeping up to today’s game demands, there are power carts and golf boards available.
The Kamloops Golf & CC plays to a yardage of 6,700 from the back tees and 2,300 yards shorter from the front box. However, with it’s massive tree-lined fairways and smooth, large greens with subtle breaks this is a challenge one doesn’t want to pass up when in Kamloops, if for no other reason than to talk to the pro shop staff about that 94-year-old guy who continues to patrol its green grass on foot almost every day. For more, go to kamloopsgolfclub.com.
Where to Stay
When you’re at Talking Rock, it’s a great idea to stay for one night at least at the newly renovated Quaaout Lodge. Inside, you’ll not only find the golf course pro shop but an amazing amount of history about the local Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band and how they’ve put this amazing property together, with more to come in the future, including another nine-hole course. For more, go to quaatlodge.com.
In Kamloops, the place of choice was the Wingate by Wyndham hotel, located centrally in the city. This is a relatively new property and is clean, quiet, and the staff are more than accommodating. There is a complimentary breakfast every day of the week. For more, go to wyndhamhotels.com.
The Final Putt
The thing is, whether you’re from B.C. or any other province, or the Western U.S., the Kamloops area is a great golf destination. The summer weather here is spectacular, warm and sunny, as it sits on the edge of a desert area making for great golf conditions no matter what time of day you play. It’s also accessible by the TransCanada Highway and other roadways from Alberta and beyond, and is also home to an airport. The city itself has a population of under 100,000 making it a nice place to visit without the hectic pace of larger cities and offers relaxation in so many ways, including hiking, biking, fishing and of course, tours of the wineries that abound in this part of the province.
So if you want to strike it rich in golfing gems on your next vacation, make sure you mine the rich territory around Kamloops. You won’t be disappointed.
About the Writer