Tower Ranch – An Awe-Inspiring Mountain Golf Experience

Tower Ranch – An Awe-Inspiring Mountain Golf Experience

Course Reviews – Tower Ranch – An Awe-Inspiring Mountain Golf Experience

http://www.golftowerranch.com/

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My approach shot on the first hole at Tower Ranch.  Hard not to get distracted by the view.

For anyone who’s played golf in the Okanagan Valley in B.C., you may see some similarities to Tobiano when you visit Tower Ranch.  It is hard to avoid the comparisons; really, given the ruggedness of the landscape and the fact that Canadian course architect Thomas McBroom designed both Tower Ranch and Tobiano.  Journalist Robert Thompson has stated Tower Ranch is like Tobiano but without the majesty.  But having experienced them both now I would contest that Tower Ranch has its own unique majestic beauty and a brilliant back nine which allows the course to finish strong and leave players wanting more.

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Looking high up from the second green.

Set in the eastern hills of Kelowna, set very high over the city and Okanagan Lake, Tower Ranch was built in 2008 and is certainly one of the finer championship courses in the region.  Complementing the excellent golf options in the Okanagan, Tower Ranch is worthy of its place on Canadian course ranking lists.  Canadian Golf Magazine placed this in the Top 50 Public Courses in 2016 and it is certainly worthy of its place on that list.  I was fortunate to visit on a sunny spring morning, and feel McBroom was fortunate to have access to such a great piece of land to work with. The views of the opening holes and the city and lake below create a great first impression and I knew my golf game and my camera would get a good workout.

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Holding my finish on the par 3 5th hole.

As had been mentioned by other reviewers I read leading up to my visit, one critique is the lack of a practice range.  But working on the short game and getting used to the speed of the greens and the effect the slope has on the ball was worth the extra time.  Checking in was easy, as the staff were courteous and professional and made me feel most welcome.  My bag was loaded onto a cart – it is a course one needs to use a cart.  While I prefer walking I can appreciate the need for some courses to be cart only and this one certainly warrants that policy.

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The par 3 7th hole shows the challenges of this Tom McBroom design.

The layout is such that McBroom manages the significant elevation changes more directly on the opening nine with the first three holes playing significantly downhill.  Of course, heading back to the clubhouse at the turn, this makes the 8th and 9th even more challenging as stout, uphill holes to end the opening nine.  The course was in immaculate condition.  Even for early in the season the tall grasses which guard many of the holes set off from the generous fairways were high and thick.  Playing off an appropriate tee box will help make the round more enjoyable.  Make no mistake; this is a challenging championship layout.

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A tough set of bunkers short of the 9th green.

I felt the back nine was one the most enjoyable and challenging I have played in some time.  The mastery of McBroom’s work is seen a stretch from 11 to 15 where a stretch of 4-3-4-3-5 showcase the rugged landscape and his design brilliance.  The par 5 15th invites players to challenge the dogleg and bite off as much ground as possible; it is a stretch of holes I’d love play on a more regular basis.  And it certainly reinforces the need for a cart-only policy.

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The 11th tee starts off my favourite stretch of the course.  This is my favourite hole on the course.

The tee boxes were immaculate and very flat.  Greens were pristine and I stopped looking for ball marks after about 5 holes, not finding any; it is nice to see players and staff take such pride in their course.  The bunkering around the greens are demanding but fair.  The greens are not easy, with slope and in many cases false fronts which will make approach shots and greenside shots more challenging.  The pictures help tell the story and provide a compelling case for Tower Ranch as a must play when visiting Kelowna and the Okanagan region.

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The par 3 12th hole shows off the dramatic landscape and the rugged beauty of the area.

Aura – 9 out of 10 – The drive up to the course created that this was going to be a special experience.  The clubhouse is large and is located to provide convenient access and stunning views.  Having experience the course for myself it is possible it may even be somewhat underrated in its beauty.  I appreciated the solitude of the golf experience on the back nine.  Holes 12 and 13 were two of the most peaceful and enjoyable I have played, set at the farthest reaches of the course and away from any development.  It lacks the profile of some other excellent Canadian public courses more highly rated but holds its own as an excellent public course.

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Love the views from the back nine.

Value (cost / experience) – 7 out of 10.  Peak fees are $123 are not going to attract the highest marks as a value play, but value is defined relation to quality and this is where this course is strong.  Membership is $3250 for an individual with unlimited access and this includes cart access.  Make no mistake, this is a very high quality course and it’s well worth a visit.

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The par 5 15th was so exciting to experience.  A brilliant design and fun to play.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 9 out of 10 – In a word, exceptional.  The attention to detail from the superintendent and staff is seen throughout.  The course is well designed, exceptionally maintained and McBroom has added another gem to his course of Canadian designs.  While not a fan of tall grasses which can over penalize misses, the contouring on many holes help kick balls back to the fairway.  On the opening stretch of holes this was appreciated.

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The par 5 17th.  Exceptional sight lines off the tee.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – 8.5 out of 10 – Tower Ranch provides a unique and high quality golf experience that reinforces Kelowna and the Okanagan as an exceptional golf destination.  With a strong closing nine and a staff whose commitment to service and a quality golf experience, I look forward to when I can return and play again.  The round capped off a truly memorable 24 hours in Kelowna, having played Gallagher’s Canyon the afternoon before.

Highlight (what is great about the course) – I like the feel of the elevated tee shots on 1, 2 and 3.  But the experience on the 12th and 13th tee, feeling I have the course to myself and not seeing anyone else around was a feeling I won’t soon forget.  Add the countless views of the city and lake below and there is much that is great about Tower Ranch.

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The view from the 17th green over Kelowna and Okanagan Lake.  I’ll be back!

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – I lost a number of balls in the tall rough on the front nine…but if you’re asking what I’d change, first, I’d say a straighter game for myself off the tee.  The course is fair and tough.  If pressed, I’d lower the rough along the mounding on the elevated holes on the front but Tom McBroom places a premium on accuracy and I wouldn’t change that.

My Best Shot – My approach on 15 was blind down to the green set below and I hit a wedge shot that I felt was good.  Well, as it turned out, it released and slowly rolled closer and closer to just outside of 4 feet but still on the high side.  Unable to get the delicate putt in for a birdie, my par on 15 (as with the few others I had) was one of satisfaction.

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Looking Ahead to 2017

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Mid-January but always dreaming of getting in 36 a day!

We’re well into 2017 now and while the golf clubs continue to sit idly, except for indoor dome or simulator action, I know it’s only a few months now until the season begins.  But I am not spending of the off-season quietly sitting and waiting for spring’s arrival.  A new year brings optimism but also a plan and a commitment to improve.  So here are some thoughts, projections and plans for the year ahead:

  1. Getting my mind and body fit.

Reflecting back, I don’t think I’ve looked at my off-season preparation for golf in a truly holistic manner.  I’d try to hit balls as often as I could and workout every now and then but it never was truly effective.  A late summer move to my childhood hometown has helped me get into some more healthy habits.  Combined with a couple health apps on my smartphone and an investment in new exercise equipment I am giving 2017 a chance to be more healthy, happy and successful on (and off) the golf course.

Better sleep, better diet, an exercise regime which will focus on my heart and my overall flexibility are already helping me feel better.  I am reading more often – golf and non-golf books – and am starting to learn French.  All this to say is that my view on improving my golf game is being viewed physically, mentally and emotionally now.  I am continuing my golf lessons over the winter months and feel once I get to the middle of April I will be ready to build on my successes of last season.

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I can’t golf every day.  But like this sign says, at Eagles Glenn in Cavendish, PEI, I can have a good day and make choices to help me get better.

  1. More Champions and LPGA golf, less PGA Tour

Ever so slightly, I am starting to sour on the PGA tour.  Where I am finding enjoyment on

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I feel like I’m the only one not scoring 59.

TV is through the PGA Champions and LPGA.  Here I see players who hit it only slightly farther and play courses closer in length to what I do.  It is increasingly difficult for me to relate to PGA stars that hit the ball so far and are seemingly automatic around and on the greens.  I understand on TV we see the leaders play and those are the players who are playing the best.  But seeing pros dissect 500 yard par 4’s with driver and 9 iron just doesn’t appeal to me.  Maybe part of it is that in 2017 I become eligible for the Champions Tour (age-wise anyway. Yes, it’s a milestone year).  Don’t get me wrong, like you I’ll be glued to the Masters and all the important tournaments and I’ll still get more than my share of PGA Tour viewing in.  But with weekly scores of 59 or 60 now, and tour players’ relentless commitment to training the game is not what it once was to me.  My issue is not the players, it’s the ball…but that’s another rant for another day.

  1. Business Travel Plans

My 2017 business schedule is locked in.  I have extended visits to Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal lined up.  I certainly plan on tacking on some time out west to play Sagebrush and maybe one or two others on my Bucket List.  I have yet to explore the options (time or courses) for Ottawa or Montreal but the clubs will be coming with me and my habit of mixing some pleasure after business will continue.  I will do my research but not hesitate to put a call out on Twitter or FB for recommendations of places to play to help build my itinerary.  I’ll be hard pressed to match my success from the 2016 season which had me play in British Columbia, Alberta and New Brunswick.  There, I was able to knock off 5 courses off the Bucket List as well as play two others.  This year I’d like to knock off just as many on my revised list.

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No trips to Cape Breton planned for 2017…yet!

  1. Membership has its privileges

It’s possible I’ve buried the lede here but I have joined Hidden Lake Golf Club in my hometown of Burlington, ON.  As an associate member I can control the value proposition for myself but still get all the benefits of belonging, including the chance to play in the Club Championship in August.  The membership structure is such I can still make a commitment to play public courses in the area from time to time (I will not abandon my pursuit of my bucket list) yet have access to practice and playing facilities close to my home and at a fraction of the cost of other area courses.  It’s been over 35 years since I was a member at a club so this will feel new but will also be exciting.  I expect to wear out their short game practice area over the year.  But even in terms of rounds played, 20 rounds is simply not going to cut it (that was my total for 2016, one of my lowest numbers in some time).

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Christmas Eve 2015 – Hidden Lake Golf Club

  1. Practice with purpose. Play more competitively.

My index is currently 9.6 but that is not consistent throughout my game.  My weakest parts of my game are irons and short game (I’m more a 15).  I’ve worked hard to become an average putter and my long game/tee game has vastly improved (here, I’m closer to a 5).  So, to get better I feel I need to focus 3/4 of my time inside of 150 yards and most of that inside of 50 yards.  My new course will provide me great access and space to do so.  Through my instruction with Brian McCann I will create a plan to review and address areas of my game which are weak.  I love practicing and get much from an hour or two on the greens, range or short game area.

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OK, maybe this is extreme, but I do plan on making a greater commitment to practice in 2017.

Also, I am hopeful to play more competitive golf in 2017.  I wrote about my experience in 2016 at the Golf Ontario Baka Public Player Championships.  I won’t be eligible for that this year and will need to focus within my new club to get the competitive experiences I now crave.  An August Club Championship and weekly Men’s night will be a good starting point.  I’ll explore other options too as I love the competitive nature of golf.  But even with that, my filter for golf will always be to have fun.  It’s an amazing game.

Like New Year’s resolutions (which I no longer make) I don’t want to set a firm goal for 2017.  I strive to be a scratch golfer and break par regularly.  I have never broken par, my best round +3.  However, if pressed on the issue I’d like to see if I can get my index down to 5.0  This is a milestone I am seeking to achieve.   I have much work to do to get there…we’ll see how things go!

It’s going to be a fun 2017 golf season; I hope it’s an enjoyable and successful.

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Here’s to many great days for us all in 2017.  Play well friends.