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Back to nature at the Harvest Golf Club

Joel ZuckermanBy Joel Zuckerman,

KELOWNA, BRITISH COLUMBIA - Canadian Len Andrews doesn't live in Kelowna, British Columbia. He comes to the area, located about four hours east of Vancouver, on an annual golf excursion from his home in Chilliwack, some two hours away. He loves many of the area's golf offerings, but has special words of praise for The Harvest Golf Club. "I like the setting, the conditions of the course, the challenge of dealing with thegreens," says Andrews, a 12-handicap. "I enjoy places like Gallagher's Canyon and Predator also, but Harvest is my single favorite."

It's easy to understand his sentiment. Harvest Golf Club has a number of fine attributes but the single greatest reason to play is the bucolic and pristine locale. This Graham Cooke design plays among the apple orchardsthat are endemic to the community, and within sight of the vineyards that have made the region a burgeoning wine Mecca. There are more than 80 acres of fruit orchards either surrounding or running through the property. Peaches, cherries and apricots grow alongside the apples and grapes. There are gorgeous views of Lake Okanagan, some modest elevation changes, and a mostly mellow playing field that will keep the ego intact. At least until you pull the putter out of the bag.

From tee to green, the Harvest Golf Club is a beautiful, but mostly benign test of golf. The greens are a different story. They are massive in scope, many with more levels than a parking garage. A persuasive argument can be made that they are over the top, that there are at least one too many knobs and platforms on each putting surface. But the water hazards are at a minimum, the fairways wide and with few forced carries on the property, the greens represent the best, and some might say the only, line of defense on this excellent resort course. The uphill par-3 sixth and long par-4 17th clearly showcase this questionable tactic. In both cases the green looks a bit like a monstrous staircase. If your ball is on the lower level and the flag is perched near the back, not only are you faced with the prospect of a 60- or 70-foot putt, but the ball needs to clamber over at least two distinct levels to reach pin-high. Unless the approach shot or the massive lag putt are the absolute strengths of one's game, most golfers can't help but to three-putt time and time again.

Gilles Dufort is the general manager and executive professional at Harvest Golf Club, and has been at the facility since it opened in 1994."There are a number of reasons why we're among the more popular choices in this region," Dufort says. "The setting is fantastic. Not only the lake itself but also the clouds that often hang below the mountain peaks in the town of Westbank make for a delightful vista. In particular, Mount Boucherie, a former volcano that seems to sit up behind the lake, draws your attention. The views are at a premium here."

The GM, who originally hails from Montreal, but has been in British Columbia for more than 20 years, realizes the view will bring you there once or twice but the golf experience needs to be compelling in its own right.

"Players love to hit the driver, and nobody wants to play a course where the driver has to be used judiciously. Here you can whale away all day long, because our fairways are welcoming and the trouble factor is somewhat minimal," Dufort says. "Where Harvest Golf Club challenges is on the approach shot and with the putter."

Customer comments have as much to do with depth perception as they dowith difficulty in reading the greens.

"We have a number of false fronts on our greens, and the fairways will morph into the putting surface in a manner that's hard to see from a distance. It creates a little bit of confusion, and many players will come up well short of the target. They'll either be on the green, but far from the cup, or in a chipping area short of the green itself," Dufort continues. "You need to trust the yardage, realize the color of the flags will give you accurate information as to the location of the pin and remember that there can be a two- or three-club difference in a hole, depending on that pin location."

Dufort believes Harvest Golf Club is the most representative course of the Okanagan region. "When people think of this area, they think of mountains, lakes and orchards. Well, here we are playing among the orchards, looking down at the beautiful lake, with mountains as the backdrop. It pretty much says it all."

There are hundreds of courses around the world that offer more thrills and challenge than Harvest Golf Club. But it's an extremely pleasant ramble, with a singular feature rarely seen in modern golf. You're not beholden to the cart girl for sustenance, nor do you need to wait for the snack shack at the turn. Just reach up to the fruit-bearing trees while making your way round, and grab a crisp McIntosh or Gala apple fresh off the vine. It's an experience to savor, in more ways than one.

Dining out

Dozens of worthwhile options exist. A small sampling would include Wild Apple Grill at the Manteo Resort for gourmet continental cuisine, Christopher's Steak & Seafood, The Teahouse for its orchard setting, Yamas Taverna for Greek specialties or The Vintage Room for seafood.

Don't fill up on fruit, because the Harvest Dining Room specializes in gourmet Pacific Northwest Cuisine

Joel Zuckerman is based in Savannah, Georgia and Park City, Utah. He is the author of five books, and his golf and travel stories have appeared in more than 100 publications around the world, including Sports Illustrated, Golfweek, Travel+Leisure Golf, Continental and Golf International.

Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.

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