The main player in the fivesome has to be Predator Ridge (predatorridge.com), a nationally renowned golf resort spanning 1,200 acres with all the amenities and lodging options you’d expect at a resort of this size, including 36 holes of golf. The Predator Course is one of Les Furber’s best efforts and possesses a number of fine holes, especially on the back nine. It is Doug Carrick’s Ridge Course, however, that enjoys a slightly higher approval rating. Building a really good mountain course is one of the toughest assignments for a golf architect, especially if it has to work its way through housing. Toronto-based Carrick made a superb fist of it, however, minimizing the houses’ impact, maximizing the views and nullifying the impact of the slopes. There may be some uphill drives between greens and tees (a cart is an essential companion), but only a couple of holes actually play uphill. Carrick says his first reaction on seeing the site at Predator Ridge was excitement, mitigated by a little trepidation. “I liked the variety of landscapes — rolling grasslands, wooded valleys, and rocky ridges,” he says. “But, some of the slopes were a little extreme. It was pretty rugged in places. Routing the course was tough. The terrain didn’t give us many options and finding playable holes, building them, draining them, and linking them together was difficult.” The fifth is probably the hole that will linger longest in the memory, and the sixth is a remarkable sight, but it was the prospect of building the 509-yard ninth, where players have to avoid areas of exposed rock, that excited Carrick the most. “The fairway presented a few construction challenges, as we had to blast the rock in places,” he says. “But, if I had to pick one for how it turned out, that would be it.”
The Rise Golf Club
arrick certainly had to be at his creative, resourceful, and innovative best in devising a route up, down and over the hills at Predator Ridge, but his task was fairly simple compared with that which faced Gene Bates and Fred Couples at The Rise (therisegolf.ca) — about seven miles west, and 1,000 feet up, from downtown Vernon. The course’s web site and promotional material will tell you that Couples designed the course, and while he certainly made a major contribution — probably more than most big-name player-architects do — it’s hard to picture the former Masters champ toiling for months over this grueling landscape, sitting at a drafting desk until the early hours, and working out how he was going to connect the 18 holes in a way that made sense. For all that, he needed the considerable talents of Gene Bates, with whom Couples has now designed 14 courses. An investment group hired the Bates/Couples team in 2005 to build the course on land that Bates regards as the most “intimidating” of his career. “Almost everything about building the Rise was difficult,” adds Bates, whose work is familiar to Washington golfers who love Salish Cliffs and Idaho’s Circling Raven. “We encountered plenty of solid rock, there wasn’t sufficient topsoil, and finding a reliable source of irrigation water was very tricky. The hardest thing, though, was connecting the holes, as the elevation difference between the several usable plateaus was considerable.” Choosing the best direction to go following the par-5 first was especially tricky. “We wanted to go up the mountain to find our next plateau,” says Bates. “So, the second needed to be a transition hole. It took a lot of earth-moving, but I think it provides a tough, yet reasonable connection to the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth holes.” Work on the course stopped during the harsh winter months, but when the rain and snow disappeared, construction happened for 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Couples was on-site four times. It doesn’t seem like much, but Bates insists his input was critical. “Fred was very sensitive to the difficult nature of the site, and made numerous additions to course strategy and playability,” he says. “He has always been totally engaged with our course design, both during initial design and construction.” No doubt, The Rise is an engineering marvel, a tribute to man’s daring and adventurous spirit. A hundred years ago, any architect asked to build a golf course on such a site would have stared at the man proposing the venture for a good long while before erupting in a huge belly laugh. It might not be to everyone’s taste, as nothing polarizes golfers like a mountain course with excessive elevation changes, and there are a couple of holes that even the course’s biggest fan might concede are a little awkward. But, there are a number of very good holes, the views over Okanagan Lake are incredible — especially coming down the 17th and 18th — and the peak greens fee is a very reasonable $109 CDN (about $85).
Spallumcheen Golf & Country Club
Predator Ridge Golf Club • Ridge Course
Western Washington's largest and most widely distributed golf magazine, with news and views for Seattle-area golfers.