VERNON, BRITISH COLUMBIA - As any expert wine taster will tell you, a good red wine will have a memorable finish. The aromas of the wine will linger on the palate and dance throughout the tasting apparatus. The expert golf connoisseurs can relate. After the round is complete, the numbers tallied, the images caricatured in the cerebral albums, the length of the "finish" - how long it swirls around in the memory banks - is a great indication of the course's quality. At the Predator Ridge Golf Resort in British Columbia's sun-drenched Okanagan region the "finish" has lasting overtones.
Woven through the arid hills of Canada's most prolific wine region, the Predator Ridge Golf Resort is a golf tasting paradise. When golfers wind up the road to the resort, located ten minutes south of Vernon (five hours east of Vancouver), they are treated to a fiesta of poignant visuals. Dunes capped with wheatgrass and sage give way to ridges flecked with pine. And then, to finish off the celebration, natural lakes and streams surrender to the rugged alpine and untamed wilderness of the Okanagan. And in the midst of this most coveted mosaic, checkerboard fairways of Kentucky bluegrass glide through the seams. A place a taster of the game would love? Can Sergio Garcia play golf?
Speaking of Sergio, in 2000 Predator Ridge played host to the Export 'A' Canadian Skins Game. The foursome included Phil Mickelson, Mike Weir, Fred Couples, and, you guessed it, Sergio Garcia.
"Sergio fell in love with this place," says Brad Burgart, Predator's Director of Golf. In fact, Sergio was so impressed he purchased two cottages on the course (one was for his parents). "He visits a couple of times a year now," says Burgart. "He loves to unwind here, work on his game, and get away from the vigors of being one of the world's top players."
While you may not be able to duplicate the quality of shots that Sergio exhibits when he plays Predator, you'll be equally impressed with the course. Want some more good news? Predator Ridge features 27 mouth-watering holes. The three nines - Peregrine, Osprey, and Red Tail - take full advantage of the panoramic views and meld to form what is arguably the best golf resort in British Columbia.
Designed by Canadian architect Les Furber, it has taken some time for Predator's three nines to come of age. Originally, the course was eighteen holes and to get to the nearest cottage you'd have needed an ATV with a full tank of gas (but it would have been a great ride). Now, with 27 holes and two quiet streets lined with cottages, Sergio has plenty of playmates and three no-lose combinations to make eighteen holes. Kudos to the resort's planners, however, as the routing changes and the new holes have vaulted this place from mediocre Merlot status to a vintage Cabernet. As for the cottages, they too blend in well and won't disrupt your first-class tasting. (Most cottages, in fact, are out of sight and out of mind. However, you won't be the first golfer who tries to spot Sergio on his deck flipping steaks. And yes, I do know exactly where Sergio's cottage is, but I'm going to have to leave you hanging on that one.)
If there is a favorite nine here, the Peregrine Course might get the nod. The second hole on Peregrine, a daunting 481-yard par 4, plummets into an alpine-like setting and begins a thrilling five-hole journey into Predator's backcountry. When standing on the green at the sporty 355-yard fourth hole (a gorgeous high spot and the furthest point from the clubhouse) the trees part, revealing a majestic view of Okanagan Lake. At this stage of the game, popular thoughts include: "This place is unbelievable," "I will move here," and "I think a monkey could have designed a beautiful course here."
With all three combinations working out to approximately 7,100 yards from the back, Predator Ridge also packs a punch when it comes to testing your game. For those tasters who have a yearning for a dramatic finish, they won't go away with a sour taste in their mouth. All three finishing holes are par-4's over 440 yards and require nervy long-iron approaches to well-protected greens. In order to end with a number better than bogey you'll need to be on form coming home.
With the variety of settings found here - the prairie grasses, links-like dunes, arid ridges, and rocky alpine forests - it's like playing links, prairie, parkland, and mountain golf all in one. Interestingly, some of the best holes at Predator Ridge are the "transitional" holes - holes that transport you to a different theater. The par-4 3rd on the Peregrine Course is a good example. With a shimmering pond in the foreground, a narrow slice of fairway is threaded through dense pines and ends at an elevated green. It begins the memorable "mountain" phase at Predator.
The Okanagan climate is another attribute to take into consideration when you've got a week to kill and are wondering which road to take. While many areas of Canada are still in the snow shoveling mode, the Okanagan region is warm and explodes with flowers as the orchards begin the sun-soaking process. And in the fall they play longer too. While Predator's season winds up in late October, weather wise, it could often stay open until December - something the folk living in the Canadian Prairies tend to get a little envious about.
Whether it's a late fall dash or a springtime rendezvous, the Predator Ridge Golf Resort is a great place to activate the taste buds. With 27 gorgeous holes, a host of luxurious cabins waiting in the Okanagan sun, and award-winning red wines aging in nearby oak barrels, the Predator Ridge Golf Resort is place to celebrate. Not sure what to pack? Start with your corkscrew and your clubs.
Predator Ridge Golf Resort
301 Village Center Place
If at all possible, stay in one of the cottages on the course. The setting is surreal and the dining at the club is also fantastic. Golf packages are available. The cottages are fully furnished and include nine-foot vaulted ceilings, private ensuites, and stone-faced fireplaces.
The Okanagan is loaded with great golf courses. The 'best of the rest' include The Okanagan Club (Kelowna), Gallagher's Canyon (Kelowna), Hyde Mountain (Sicamous), Fairview Mountain (Oliver), The Harvest Club (Kelowna), and The Vernon Golf & Country Club.
The Okanagan is famous for its wineries. The most popular choices for tours and tasting include Mission Hill, Cedar Creek, and Sumac Ridge. For more information on Okanagan wineries and festivals check out www.owfs.com. Other popular activities in this region often involve the beautiful lakes. Fishing, boating and other water sports are very popular. Some of the best beaches in Canada are found in this region. In winter, skiing takes center stage. The biggest ski resorts of the area are Big White and Silver Star. For more information on the area check out www.vernontourism.com.
Andrew Penner is a longtime member of the Canadian PGA. Author of "One Flew Over the Caddyshack," he also writes for a number of magazines throughout Canada and the U.S.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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