|The Golf Club at The Rise is carved into the hillside about 1,100 feet above Vernon, B.C. (Wes Gilbertson/TravelGolf)|
VERNON, B.C. -- Across town, a few hours earlier, one of the locals had provided an enticing review.
"The Rise? The views are incredible," he said. "That's one of the only places you'll ever see airplanes below you."
B.C.'s Okanagan Valley is easy on the eyes from one end to the other, so when a longtime resident of the area says something about "incredible" vistas, you'd be nuts not to get over there and see what the fuss is about.
Carved into the hillside about 1,100 feet above Vernon (and its regional airport), The Golf Club at The Rise doesn't disappoint.
"We love hearing that," said resort General Manager Terry Yacyshen. "You actually kind of get numb to it after a while, because everybody comments on the vistas. But, no doubt, people that are here for the first time are taken back. My office is very close to the golf shop, and I hear it all the time -- the first words out of their mouth are, 'Wow, that was spectacular.'"
The Rise is billed as the only Fred Couples signature course in western Canada, although his design partner, Gene Bates, deserves the bulk of the credit.
Couples, the 1992 Masters winner and current Champions Tour star, would've needed something a little more sturdy than a pair of ECCO sneakers for his first tour of this topsy-turvy property, located near the northern tip of Okanagan Lake. He also could've used a machete for his ceremonial first round, when he lost four golf balls and quipped, "We have a lot of hay out there to give to the farmers."
For everybody that has teed it up since, a camera might be the most important item in the bag.
The road that leads from Vernon to The Golf Club at The Rise is uphill all the way, winding past orchards, vineyards and slope-side real estate. You're climbing again en route from the pro-shop to the first tee. And from the moment you strike your opening shot, there's no risk of flat-landing -- or flat-lining -- on this 6,843-yard setup.
The most memorable moments at The Rise are the assignments that seem to teeter on the edge of the valley.
On the 438-yard eighth hole, for example, the wide strip of fairway could double as a ski run in the winter months. If you're long on your approach shot, the ball might not stop rolling until it reaches Vernon's downtown core.
After a blind tee-shot on No. 13 -- which measures only 298 yards from the tips and will be a disaster if you don't consult your GPS for a bit of direction -- you'll arrive at the landing area and be gobsmacked by a brand new view of the lake.
All told, more than half of the holes offer a view of the valley from either the tee-box or green. If the foursome in front of you isn't stopping to snap photos, they're likely from around here. While the tourists leave talking about the vistas, Yacyshen said it's the challenging layout and top-notch course conditions that appeal to the locals.
"People are coming back, so that shows us that they enjoy the experience while they're here," Yacyshen said.
The Golf Club at The Rise is part of a 250-acre package that also includes a real-estate development and winery. The pro-shop and Freddy's Patio Restaurant -- named for you-know-who -- are currently housed in a trailer, although there are plans to eventually construct a clubhouse.
The Rise does not have a driving range, but there are warmup nets and a practice putting area near the first tee.
The biggest fans and fiercest critics of The Rise are essentially saying the same things.
Will you encounter awkward lies? Yes.
Are there occasional blind shots? You bet.
Does that add up to fun or frustration? Well, you'll have to decide that for yourself.
If you're looking for an old-school layout, you're at the wrong place. In fact, you're probably in the wrong part of the world.
What you'll find at the Golf Club at The Rise is four hours of golf that won't remind you of any place you've been before. Every hole is a bit of an adventure. Like a roller coaster, the ups just build excitement for the next plummet.
"It's just a fun place to play," Yacyshen said. "Great vistas. Great layout. There's just a little bit for everybody here."
September 26, 2012
Wes Gilbertson covers the NHL’s Calgary Flames and writes golf features for Postmedia in Calgary, Alta. When the snow melts, he's living proof that thin mountain air doesn't turn everybody into a long-drive specialist. Follow Wes on Twitter at @WesGilbertson.
Any opinions expressed above are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the management.
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