|Swinging at an apple in a tree is par for the course at Harvest Golf Club. (GolfPublisher.com)|
KELOWNA, B.C. - At one point you don't know whether you need a 5-iron or a wicker basket. Such is life playing golf through an orchard.
Fruit trees are everywhere and you've been urged to pick at your fancy. Of course, there's also that dogleg-right green you need to plant a Pro V1 on.
Pick and swing. Munch and swing. Gawk and swing.
Just another day at Harvest. This relaxing golf course plays through 1,000 apple trees. Not to mention peach, nectarine, apricot, pear and cherry trees and three varieties of grapevines.
"The first time I played it, I thought it was a little ridiculous, no?" visiting golfer Jean Bouley said.
Wife/girlfriend/potential flame been bugging you to go fruit-picking one Saturday morning? Voila. Just bring her to Harvest. Problem solved: You get to pick fruit together while still playing golf.
"Harvest is my personal favorite course in the Okanagan," said Kelley Robbins, a knowledgeable golfer who books packages for the Okanagan Golf Alliance.
"It depends on what you're looking for. Are you looking for a course that beats you up? Or are you looking for the whole experience?"
Harvest delivers the experience, one that many golfers didn't know was possible. When Robbins told me about the club's orchard-weaving wonders, skepticism automatically kicked in.
The word "unique" gets tossed around a lot in the golf business; Harvest is that rare course where it really fits. Where else can you try and fly an apple orchard on dogleg turns? Where else does your pitching wedge also substitute as a picking wedge?
Can't reach that big Fuji apple? Extend the wedge and pluck.
"We encourage our guests to sample," Head Professional Rob Anderson said, smiling. "Hopefully, they're not filling their bag."
As manically happy as General Manager Gilles Dufort seems to be, offenders who cram their bags full of Pinot Noir grapes probably get chased off with a free bottle of the stuff. Trying to stay stressed here is like attempting to avert your eyes if Jessica Simpson drops her towel in front of you. It's just not happening.
Maybe it's the orchards. Maybe it's the cascading waterfall behind the clubhouse, or the cute red bridge commissioned by Harvest's owners to span it. Maybe it's a staff that seems ready to invite you to dinner at their house.
The fruit may be ubiquitous, but what Harvest raises most effectively is relaxation.
The group behind an increasingly pokey progression of golf writers didn't send as much as a dirty look up the fairways. Apologies were greeted with a "No problem, mate."
The course itself plays right into the vibe. The fairways are open, drivers are never taken out of your hand and pars are there to be had for the average golfer.
Architect Graham Cooke did a good job of keeping play interesting by breaking up the fairways with areas of taller grass (though nothing too wild). You need to think about the landing area you're going for.
But the biggest obstacle here is visual distraction. Several holes offer postcard views of Lake Okanagan, notably No. 5. Mountains loom in the background, and the orchard trees are low enough that you can see pretty much everything. On the 378-yard, par-4 eighth, golfers get a stunning view of Kelowna and the lake to the left of the tees. So much for that laser-like drive focus.
Time to pick an apple and regroup.
Don't go to the Okanagan Valley and miss this orchard-vineyard delight. A round at Harvest is one of those golf days you'll be talking about for a long time.
It's not any one hole (though the 414-yard, par-4 15th cuts a particularly impressive swath through the fruit). Like Kelley Robbins says, it's the whole experience.
The high-season green fee of $105 Canadian might seem a bit much to an outsider, especially with carts not included. (That's an extra $36; luckily, Harvest is a very walkable course.) But the expense is worth it for the novelty of playing fruit golf.
Fore! Apple falling!
It's hard to beat Manteo Resort (800-445-5255) for Kelowna accommodation. Many a local couple has celebrated their honeymoon here, and Sting took the rock-star suites on the fourth floor when he did a concert in town. Be sure to ask for a room with a lake-view balcony.
Luckily, this unexpected high-end spot is in a good central location for golf and only a five-minute drive to the downtown shops and little casino.
For a blowout dinner in a picturesque setting, Gray Monk Estate Winery (www.graymonk.com) is the spot. The outdoor patio overlooks vineyards that stretch all the way to Lake Okanagan. Cooking with a daring touch goes well with the good wines, and the waitresses may just be the best you've ever had.
In downtown Kelowna, FIX Café stands out as an underrated find.
Harvest Golf Club might have the longest par 4 you'll ever play. No. 17 measures 498 yards from the tips and a still-whopping 463 yards from the blues.
April 5, 2007
Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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