TRAVEL BAG THE
Long Haul Predator Ridge Golf Club • Predator Course
Golf’s on the rise in Vernon, B.C.
ou won’t forget your first round at Spallumcheen Golf Club (spallumcheengolf.com), for the simple fact that it’s called Spallumcheen — not some homogenous, all-purpose name so easily forgotten but … Spallumcheen. According to the British Columbia government’s web site, the name is derived from a Shuswap (an interior B.C. First Nation Tribe) language term, “spal-lum-shin,” meaning “meadow flat.” Now, any course description that uses the words “flat” and “meadow” doesn’t usually do much for the traveling golfer. It doesn’t send chills down your spine. You won’t clean your clubs in preparation, nor lay your best slacks out the night before. It would be wrong to suggest, however, that the meadow in which this Les Furber design lays is entirely flat. And, far from being the rather dull layout the name might suggest to a Shuswap speaker, Spallumcheen is actually a terrific golf course you’ll be very glad you visited. One of five courses that make up the newly-formed Vernon Golf Group — a growing golf destination in the heart of British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, roughly three hours north of Gamble Sands up Highway 97 — Spallumcheen certainly isn’t a bucket lister you have to tick off your mustplay list, but it is a fun round full of delightful holes and interesting shots.
By Tony Dear
Greenskeeper Jim Simm’s excellent Poa annua greens have breaks and borrows that have grown ever more subtle since the course opened 48 years ago, and there’s a nice variety in the holes’ shapes, direction, lengths, and challenges. Best of all (for me anyway) is the number of magnificent weeping willows you pass during the round. Who doesn’t love a good willow tree? (Well, superintendents, for starters, as they have terribly thirsty, complex roots prone to piercing the surface. And, a lot of golfers aren’t partial, either, because of their large, impervious canopies. But, I like them, and Spallumcheen’s specimens are glorious.) The visitor greens fee is $70 CDN (about $55 U.S.), and there’s a fun, nine-hole executive course you can play for $23. Head professional Myles Johnson grew up playing at Spallumcheen. In July, he and his wife entered the hospitality industry, buying the Castle on the Mount guest house a couple of miles away in order that Mrs. Johnson could spend more time with the couple’s young son. Myles, though, spends his day doing typical head pro things — teaching, running the tee sheet, overseeing operations in the pro shop, managing a staff of 20, and liaising with members. He’s also very conscious of how Spallumcheen fits into the Vernon Golf Group. “The group is in its infancy, so early returns are tough
to gauge,” says Johnson. “But, I do believe it will be a great way to get the word out that golf in our area is strong, with many great options. You don’t have to go south of the Kelowna airport to have a golf trip.” Ah, yes — Kelowna. By far the biggest city in the Okanagan Valley, with a population of nearly 195,000, Kelowna is located halfway up the eastern side of the skinny, north-south-oriented Okanagan Lake, and gets aaaall the attention. Even Kevin Poole, Vernon’s Manager of Economic Development & Tourism, concedes that when the Okanagan comes up in conversation, Kelowna is always the first place people think of. But, he adds, his city has an excellent relationship with its neighbor to the south. “Kelowna is the largest center in the Okanagan and also the busiest,” says Poole. “Vernon tends to be a bit more casual — those wanting to move to the area looking for a more relaxed lifestyle often wind up in Vernon. And, from what I’ve seen in almost ten years in the community, Vernon really wants to be a destination on its own.” Cool downtown businesses like Marten Brewpub on 30th Avenue, and Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery on 24th St., are giving the city center a more sophisticated vibe than it once had, and the golf group is looking to do its bit, too. cascadegolfer.com
Western Washington's largest and most widely distributed golf magazine, with news and views for Seattle-area golfers.