2016 in Pictures – Talking Rock Golf Club

In an effort to step up my photo game this year I am pleased to share 10 of my favourite golf images over the past year.  With a healthy layer of snow already in southern Ontario I hope this brings back good memories from your 2016 golf season and stokes the fire of anticipation for 2017!

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The Story: Talking Rock Golf Club is in beautiful Chase, BC and wasn’t even on my radar until I began exploring options to squeeze in 36 within driving distance of Salmon Arm.  Sagebrush was closed early this May and I had window of time to explore something off my bucket list.  Talking Rock is part of the Quaaout Lodge set on gorgeous Little Shuswap Lake in the Little Shuswap Indian Band community of the Shuswap Nation.  The area is a postcard and the course was simply beautiful.  Water is only prominent on holes 15 and here on 18.  The tranquility of this picture looking at the 18th green reflects my experience at Talking Rock; understated, peaceful and beautiful.  The Thompson-Nicola region of British Columbia is worth exploring…bring your clubs and make time to visit Talking Rock.  It was an amazing discovery for me.

Click here to view a link of review of Talking Rock

 

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Talking Rock – Add Talking Rock to Your Bucket List

Talking Rock – Add Talking Rock to Your Bucket List

Course Reviews – Talking Rock – Add Talking Rock to Your Bucket List

http://quaaoutlodge.com/content/talking-rock-golf-course

It was circumstance and good fortune that made me add Talking Rock to my early May itinerary in a quick two-day, one night trip to the Shuswap region of BC for some golf.  Sagebrush was not yet opened and I researched options in lieu of this.  Talking Rock was not on my Bucket List but I am going to add it, and you should too.

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Looking back from behind the 2nd green

The course is located outside of Chase, BC – between Kamloops and Salmon Arm.  The course is part of a resort and conference facility on Little Shuswap Indian Band territory on the north shore of Little Shuswap Lake.  Directions to the area are easy but follow signs as you get close.  The course is not visible from the access road and you will head to the resort and conference facility to check in.  Staff will direct you across the road to superb practice facilities and the first tee.

I really appreciated the relaxed layout which meanders throughout the area with stunning views of the mountains.  The course layout is a real strength, creating a sense of solitude throughout the course with few exceptions.  Despite a relaxed layout, it is the course design will demand your attention.  Off the tee, the course varies from demanding to quite generous.  Greens are guarded very well with bunkering, elevation change or, in some cases, ponds.  The tall pines frame holes exceptionally well and create beauty and clarity from tee to green.  The front nine opens strong; fact is, I love the opening six holes.  The par 3 6th is a beautiful par 3 which is guarded well with a bunker on the front and a subtle downhill slope on the front edge of the green.  The par 5 3rd hole is a sensational golf hole tee to green.  Heavily guarded with bunkers around the green, the risk-reward factor for big hitters is real.

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The par 3 6th hole was one of my favourites.

The course really shows its ‘wow factor’ from holes 14 to 18.  The 14th is an uphill par 4 with a slight left-to-right movement.  When you get to the tiered green your work is not done, but take time to look left of the green to get your first view of Little Shuswap Lake.  It shows the subtle climb players have made on the back nine.  The view culminates with a signature hole, the par 3 15th.  This downhill par 3 plays 1-2 clubs less than the yardage depending on wind.  And greenside bunkers are eager to capture errant shots.  I loved the dogleg par 5 16th which continues downward from the high point of the course on the 15th tee (get your cameras out for that look over the lake).  A risk-reward par 4 17th awaits before a straightaway par 4 closing hole which runs adjacent (and very close) to Little Shuswap Lake.  The subtle beauty of the opening 6 holes is replaced by a more awe-inspiring closing set of holes.

Amidst this natural beauty is a course of exceptional quality and conditioning.  Greens ran consistent throughout the course.  The slope changes will require attention on the greens but slope is fair and playable.  The bunkers are very good.

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12th hole off the tee

I finished my round and immediately regretted I could not tee it up again for another 18.  However, I did manage to stretch my stay with a seafood clubhouse at the resort for lunch.  The food, like the golf and the scenery, was spectacular.  Lastly, while piling on praise for this underrated gem, I have to acknowledge the professional and courteous staff who helped make my experience at Talking Rock memorable.

Aura – 6 out of 10 – I had not heard of this course, but locals certainly have.  I am going to do my best to ensure others outside of the area are not in the same boat as me.

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The first view of Little Shuswap Lake is off the left of the 14th green.

Value (cost / experience) – 8 out of 10.  A peak greens fee of $75 is exceptional.  Stay and play offers exist and while there is no mention of a replay rate, the course does offer graduated greens fees based on tee times throughout the afternoon.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 8 out of 10 – I loved this course.  The layout creates a sense of solitude I enjoy.  The conditions were very good and consistent throughout the course.  The members and staff take pride in the course and maintain it exceptionally well.  It is also a layout which players of all skill levels will appreciate.

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The stunning 15th is a clear choice for the signature hole at Talking Rock

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – This was a highly underrated play for me and I am surprised and disappointed this was not on my bucket list from the very beginning.  I felt fortunate to play here and, as I mentioned, really wish I could have played 36. – 8 out of 10

Highlight (what is great about the course) – This course starts strong and ends stronger.  It is a marriage of beauty, challenge and design which all golfers can appreciate.  The closing stretch of holes provides spectacular beauty and great challenge and opportunity for players.  It is the kind of course you could play 60 times in one season and never get bored.

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Looking back over the short par 4 17th.

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – It’s appropriate I cite a magic wand.  If you get a chance and get paired with a member named George be sure to take the time to explore his incredible magic tricks.  We played the last few holes together and while waiting briefly on the tee for a foursome in front of us he would take the time to show me some amazing card tricks.  The magic of Talking Rock extends beyond the layout and the great staff!

Just So You Know – The resort offers accommodation options and stay and play packages which are clearly presented on their website.   I regret not taking advantage of this and won’t make this rookie mistake next time!  Also, their golf shop is very well stocked.  Love their logo and it only made sense to get some Talking Rock gear.

 

B.C. Bound – A 2-day golf teaser

Early May.  2 days. 3 courses. 4 rounds. About 1500 km. Pure bliss.

As is now customary, when traveling for work I explore opportunities to tack on a day or two for some golf. A visit to Vancouver and Surrey in early May is no exception and wrapped around the Surrey leg of the trip are two days of driving and golf. Two important things to understand are: I am a morning person, and second, driving is very relaxing for me. And while the itinerary is by no means locked in, I am pleased to share it with you in it’s current state.

On an off day between business meetings I plan on an early departure from Vancouver to Kamloops to experience a top Canadian course, Tobiano. In fact, if I’m fortunate and can get out of the city quick enough I hope to stretch the day to include 36 holes as it will be midweek and relatively early in the season. A definite bucket list course, the chance to play there is something I’m excited for. Following a day of work back in Surrey, I’ll pack up for an overnight trip to Salmon Arm. The day will include two strong value plays and another bucket list opportunity at Salmon Arm Golf Club. The morning round will take me off the Trans Canada highway to play Talking Rock on the Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band territory. I’m fascinated by the layout and the beauty of this course and its signature closing hole. I’ll make my way east for an afternoon round at Salmon Arm GC. Canadian Golf Magazine places this well within their top 50 public courses and its on my own bucket list. It should provide the strong value and end this golf trip on a high note. It will be a restful overnight in Salmon Arm before a relaxed drive back to Vancouver to head home in time for Mother’s Day.

One reason I started this blog is to share Canadian golf travel information. I’ve written about golf trip itineraries for trips to Cape Breton Island and PEI before. I want to acknowledge Where 2 Golf, a great site that helped me determine Talking Rock would be my third course to play after finding out Sagebrush would not be open yet when I’m traveling. I welcome your thoughts and suggestions on this itinerary. I don’t know the area. Any must visit restaurants or items to order off the menus of these courses? Any tips for the drive? For me, the experience always includes doing my research, enjoying the journey and the savouring the chance to experience parts of Canada I don’t get to visit regularly.

Time simply stopped me from extending a trip to covering off great Vancouver area courses, getting back to play on Vancouver Island or heading up to Whistler.  Add to this some other quality golfing options in the Thompson/Okanagan region and safe to say these two days will only whet the appetite of this golfer for BC golf.

Lookout B.C., Ontario now offers year-round golf

Lookout B.C., Ontario now offers year-round golf.

Here is my somewhat tongue-in-cheek creative brief for marketing year round golf in Ontario. After all, given this bout of mild weather – which has no end in sight – it is inevitable.

British Columbia is blessed. People living on Vancouver Island and parts of the mainland can enjoy a full, uninterrupted 12 month golf season. Well, now people in Southern Ontario can enjoy all the benefits of a 12 month golf season. Trade in the snow shovel for a sand wedge. Start buying golf toques for fashion purposes and book your Ontario winter tee time today. The off season is now one day long, December 25. (Seriously, you can play golf at Tarandowah, outside of London, ON in February…record temps help, of course).

Weather nerds are already in the know. But for those who can’t tell what Cirrostratus clouds are and may not know the dangers of Cumulonimbus clouds forming when you’re at the turn – pay attention. There are websites which offers 30 day weather forecasts (ok, projections) and this is what every Southern Ontario golfer needs this ‘winter’. As Ontario enjoys an incredibly mild December with temps which feel more like October it was great to know you can plan ahead to see which days in January you should consider calling in well and booking a round at your local muni. Calling in well? Here’s my take…anyone can drag their sick carcass into work and put in 8 hours. We’ve all done it. But for those warm winter days when the weather is too nice and you’re feeling too good to go to work, the golf course is calling you…well, you get it. But where was I? Yes, it is time to program your golf course number into your phone for speed dial.

Consider the possibilities here. You could surprise the family with a golf and ski trip. Sounds exotic? It’s nothing a two-hour drive to Wasaga Beach can’t cure. Golf in the morning (trust me, there won’t be any snow) then ski in the evening (the ski resorts can make snow). Everybody wins. You can thank me later. Understand that the only flaw in this plan is the limited daylight. Global warming or this El Niño has nothing to do with the annual adjustments for the earth’s axis and the limited daylight; simply it is what it is. But you’re planning ahead, armed with a trusted weather forecast and a willingness to play ‘ready golf’ (along with some snappy toques) so you’ll be set to go.

Let’s be honest. We’ve all driven along in the extreme shoulder season of the golf year only to see a foursome or a solitary single playing golf and our first thought is, “that should be me”. Well friends, with the advent of a 364 day golf season in Ontario you can be that guy or gal. So what are the benefits of a year round golf season? Aside from the obvious of course…you can be a star and plan the odd day at home for those rare days when the temps drop below 4c. Using the 30 day forecast, too, you can align cooler days on the calendar with the warmth of quality time with the family. Yes, I’m a problem solver.

Really, there is no downside to a 364 day golf season. BC can boast about the Rockies. Sure, flowers bloom on Vancouver Island in March. Big deal. Ontario is now the next place for year round golf…and we’re closer to Quebec so our access to authentic poutine makes it even that more enviable. You’ll excuse me, I have a ski rack I need to sell to some unsuspecting non golfer who doesn’t know better. Play well and keep that flask filled…only to cut the chill of a damp morning tee time.

Bear Mountain – Mountain Course – A Stunning Track I Wanted to Love

Steve and Jack Nicklaus were provided a very interesting and unique piece of land to work with in developing the original course of a two-course resort layout in Victoria, BC. I’ve had the pleasure of playing this course on two separate occasions and was very impressed with the quality of the course and the natural beauty of the area. This is a course which is worthy of a place on Top 100 lists and should be on the bucket list of Canadian golfers who are seeking exciting, diverse and quality golf experiences. And make no mistake, if and when I return to Victoria I will seek this course out again to play, perhaps as a 36 a day loop with their newer Valley course which I have yet to play. But as much as I liked this course, I can’t bring myself to love it.

There is much to like mind you. There are holes, such as 11 and 14, which are simply spectacular. The optical illusion of 14 is amazing, with a feeling that the uphill approach shot will hold the green or the ball will fall into the harbour. On sunny days you can see Victoria and Port Angeles and are likely able to see Mt. Baker in the distance. Do take time after the hole to admire the view; it’s one of the best I’ve experienced. The conditioning of the course is superb, as one would expect. Greens roll true and quick yet fair. Bunkers are very well maintained and provide a healthy challenge for the player and as a result approach shots demand accuracy. Landing areas off the tee for a mountain course are relatively generous. There are a few holes which require a target approach, and local knowledge is helpful. Hole 15, for example, is deceptive in the landing area and does require a very precise tee shot to remain in play. The par 3 11th hole utilizes the elevation change wonderfully, as opposed to the 4th hole which while extremely scenic is a challenging shot to hold on the green as it’s a slightly uphill tee shot.

The only area in which housing and development comes into play is the first hole. A gentle dogleg right to left on the opening par 5 invites wayward tee shots to the left to approach the resort complex. Once you’re past the first hole, however, this is no longer an issue.

The oddest feature which is unique, exciting and stunning as well as curious, disappointing and detracting is that the best hole on the course is not part of the rotation of 18. Nicklaus saw an opportunity to build a short par 3 after the 14th hole which overlooks the harbour. It’s a visually stunning golf hole which requires a precise shot to a very short par 3. Bear Mountain markets this as their 19th hole but I would like the chance to play this hole as part of the overall layout. To me, this is a serious design flaw and left me wanting.

Playing with a member on both occasions, I can see the pride that members have in this majestic and well-conditioned course. It is a challenging layout but a golf experience which I thoroughly enjoyed and only hope I can experience once again. Look around and take in the marvelous scenery, even look back, for some holes offer an incredible view behind you as well as ahead! My pictures paled in comparison to the pictures available on their website.

Aura – 8 out of 10 – This is a special course with views of Victoria and Washington State which are stunning. The golf course is of a quality that complements the scenery.

Value (cost / experience) – 7 out of 10. Not the value track that others can boast in Victoria, but there is a quality to Bear Mountain which makes playing here worth the expense, it is a wonderful golf experience.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – I would love to rate this higher, and it is worthy of a higher rank save for the failure to incorporate the best hole into the 18. To me, it’s a missed opportunity. – 7.5 out of 10

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – Having played there twice, I really enjoyed it and would welcome a chance to come back and play it again. It is a very stout test of golf on a beautiful piece of land. With a second course alongside it is now a destination for golfers seeking great golf – 8.5 out of 10

Highlight (what is great about the course) – The view after 14 is breathtaking. But before you even tee it up, step outside of the clubhouse and check out the scenery and breathe. You would never know you were mere minutes from downtown Victoria.

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – At the risk of overstating it, I’d make the 19th hole the 15th! That and I’d like to have an office in Victoria so I could play here from November to March, affording the chance to golf year round!

Just So You Know – The addition of the new Valley Course provides a great complement to this course and makes the Stay and Play options for this Westin Hotel resort course even more attractive.

Playing Partner Notes – When you play with a member who is a retired golf professional you get some unique insight. My first experience playing with Brian D. was special. It was a damp, foggy December morning and we got off early. After the round he stated he was pleased with his score considering he was seeking to hit close to the cart path to avoid walking far to get to his ball. He demanded I keep my bag on the cart as we played another round in the afternoon as the fog burned off. He was insistent I see this course in all its natural beauty, and wow, what a thrill that was!