Gallagher’s Canyon – A Brilliant Championship Layout

Gallagher’s Canyon – A Brilliant Championship Layout

Course Reviews – Gallagher’s Canyon – A Brilliant Championship Layout

http://www.golfbc.com/courses/gallaghers_canyon

It is fitting that this review is being written as Kelowna and Gallagher’s Canyon are set to host the GolfBC Championship on the Mackenzie Tour (PGA TOUR Canada).  I had the pleasure of playing Gallagher’s Canyon in early May on a quiet afternoon, seemingly having the course to myself which allowed me ample time to appreciate this Les Furber and Doug Robinson designed gem.  The course was designed in 1980 and I actually played it over 25 years ago.  Staff were kind to point out there has been some routing changes but the prominence of the Canyon remains a focal point.

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Teeing off on the first hole.  Set for my own ‘championship’ experience.

This mountain course, which one article cited as “rugged yet refined” is walkable but does come with some significant elevation change in places.  The front nine begins with a bold start.  The Tour tees measure at over 6800 yards and I was able to tee off just behind the pro shop, set very high above the fairway below and providing a majestic view of the hole.  Stout, at over 430 yards, this hole will demand players’ attention.  However for me the course reflects the intelligence of its design on the next two holes.  A shorter par 4 provides an element of risk and reward for players.  And while not necessarily drivable, the options of how much of this hole to bite off from the tee provide players decisions to consider early.  The third hole is also an attention grabber.  Missing short and left is simply not an option as the elevation changes of Gallagher’s shows itself once again.

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Such a masterfully designed par 3, the third hole at Gallagher’s.

I love the routing of this course.  In fact, the only place where the course seems at all tight is off the first tee but it simply isn’t the case.  The layout is masterful and Furber and Robinson use the natural terrain to create appropriate vistas off the tee and subtle uphill holes for players to take on.  As one would expect with a Tour-caliber course, the greens were spectacular.  They rolled true and consistent.  As one may expect, uphill putts needed an aggressive hit whereas downhill putts required a delicate touch.  I loved the stretch of holes from 4 to 7; brilliant use of terrain to create a 4-4-5-4 combination which I place up against any public course in the country.  The ninth closes off the front with the canyon hole.  The drop off left is staggering but fortunately it does not really come into play as the fairway frames the hole nicely.

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The downhill 5th hole.  My only birdie of the day.

The course offers four unique tee blocks with a hybrid combination providing five play options.  Something which I did not experience back in the early 1990’s was a housing development running adjacent to many of the holes on the back nine.  I felt the back nine was not as challenging as the front but still brought the attention to design detail.  The subtle doglegs on 10 and the steady uphill challenge of 11 provided further appreciation to Furber and Robinson’s work.  I would have liked to have seen more from the closing two holes, but making providing birdie opportunities on a closing hole of a championship course will always create excitement, even from this 10 handicapper.

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Just left off the 9th tee is this sign…and this view.

Add to this courteous and professional staff, a fully stocked pro shop and a sensational clubhouse and my return experience at Gallagher’s Canyon proved to me I should not wait another 25 years to come back and experience this great course.  Also, combine the golf experience with a growing food culture, exceptional recreational opportunities off the course and one of Canada’s best wine regions and Gallagher’s reflects all that is excellent in Kelowna.

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On the tee on the par 4 11th.  A stout uphill hole.  Great to see the sun shining.

Aura – 8.5 out of 10 – Playing a course where professionals play is always a special experience.   This is one of the more unique and enjoyable courses I had played in some time.  Excellent conditions combined with the scenery – in and around the course – made more a memorable golf round.

Value (cost / experience) – 7.5 out of 10.  Peak fees are $125 but include access to practice facilities and a cart.  However, there is greater value to be had with a later tee time or play in the shoulder season.  Membership for a single player requires annual dues of only $2400 after a one time initiation payment.  For one of the province’s best courses and a championship layout this is worth a visit.

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Fabulous green complexes at Gallagher’s Canyon.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – 9 out of 10 – This is one of a handful of courses I could play every day.  The layout is exceptional and the designers utilize the terrain exceptionally well.  Tee boxes were fabulous and the fairways well framed off the tee.  As a public course, the rough was not too penal and the greens were in outstanding condition.  In rare form, I did not visit the bunkers at Gallagher’s so I cannot offer any comments on their condition.

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – This is an excellent golf course and worthy of its high rankings for public play in Canada.  Following a 4.5 hour drive from Vancouver through snowy mountain passes, the chance to walk Gallagher’s and appreciate this mature layout started my quick visit to Kelowna perfectly well.  I certainly hope to return again soon – 8.5 out of 10

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Standing on the 17th tee and facing a sharp dog leg.

Highlight (what is great about the course) – Reminiscent of other courses in Canada which bring uniqueness, challenge and enjoyment, Gallagher’s Canyon is truly unique.  From the opening tee shot, to the awe of looking down from the 9th and a chance to enjoy time in this relaxed clubhouse following the round, the entire experience was a highlight.

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – The abruptness of 17 and its strong dogleg design could benefit from some additional work.  But I feel I am splitting hairs here as the course is well designed and it is one round I have replayed in my head this year again and again.

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My round complete, looking back on the 18th fairway.

My Best Shot – Having spent the first four holes scrambling, the downhill 5th hole allowed me a chance to attack the pin on my approach.  My 8-iron almost hit the pin leaving a short four footer for birdie.  My only one on the day, mind you.  Let’s see the pros match that this week!

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36 Holes. 36 Hours. Golf Tripping to Kelowna, B.C.

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The views at Tower Ranch overlooking Kelowna are sensational.

Kelowna, British Columbia is one of the most picturesque cities in Canada, positioned beautifully in the Okanagan Valley and along Okanagan Lake.  Arriving at Vancouver International Airport on an overcast morning, I had set an itinerary for myself over 36 hours which would allow me two rounds of golf at two of Kelowna’s 18 local courses, and arguably two of their best and both positioned on my bucket list – Gallagher’s Canyon and Tower Ranch.  My GPS identified the drive from YVR to Gallagher’s Canyon at just over 4.5 hours.  As is the case anytime I’ve driven in BC, the journey is just as memorable as the destination.  The drive to Kelowna, along the Trans Canada, and Highways 5 and 97, took me over two mountain passes – Needle Peak and Pennask Mountain.  At Pennask, the elevation change took the rain showers I had experienced from Vancouver and changed it over to a significant snowfall.  Considering I was only about 50km from the course it was eye opening to experience this!  Gallagher’s Canyon is about 35 years old and is set along Scenic Canyon.

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The 9th hole sets players alongside the expansive canyon drop to the left.  But the impressiveness truly starts on the opening tee with one of the best opening tee shots in golf in Canada.  This is an excellent layout with brilliant use of the elevation change throughout the course.  A full review of Gallagher’s Canyon is forthcoming at 36aday but this is an excellent championship course which hosts the PGA of BC Championship.

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Gallagher’s Canyon provides one of the best opening tee shots I’ve experienced in Canada.  Set high above the fairway, tee it high and let it fly!

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The peak at Pennask Mountain is about 1700m above sea level and brought some early May weather I did not expect.

Activities outside the golf course are plentiful with wine tours, craft breweries, arts, spas and farm-to-table tours to mention only a few, and of course there is the lake and the abundance of water activities.  Resting up after a memorable round and sampling local beer and farm-fresh food, I was able to arrive early at Tower Ranch Golf Club.  A Tom McBroom design, this course is one of the most visually stunning I have experienced with intelligence in its design.

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Course designer Tom McBroom uses the terrain so effectively as seen here on the par 5, 15th.

My advice; play one tee forward as the course demands excellent ball striking.  Yet McBroom adds a playability factor for players of all skill level with his design that can funnel shots back into position through effective use of the natural, and very hilly terrain.  It’s a course I’d love to play again and again.  Holes 11-13 may be one of my favourite three-hole stretches I’ve experienced.  Fortunate to catch a sunny day, it only added to the awe of the vistas looking over the entire city from its location high up the hillside.  Finishing my round, it was hard to believe that my quick trip to Kelowna had come to an end.  With business in Vancouver I had to return back and the drive, set in brilliant, mild sunshine was relaxed and easy.

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Get used to views like this on your drive.

Everything about this trip was easy and efficient.  Airport car rentals are extremely efficient to get renters off quickly.  Having booked tee times in advance, the toughest decision I had over the two days was where to go for dinner and what to eat.  Tacking on time over any trip to Vancouver, this two-day, one night getaway is exciting, memorable and will have you wanting to come back to Kelowna for more.

Two days.  921 km.  36 holes.  2 bucket list courses.  One incredible city and a great golfing experience.

Bucket List Update – Spring 2017

Bucket List Update – Spring 2017

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Will 2017 bring me to exciting destinations like St. Andrews By The Sea in New Brunswick again?  Playing Algonquin was certainly a 2016 highlight.

My decision to expand my personal Canadian public course ‘bucket list’ from about 72 courses to close to 100 was met with mixed reaction.  To be more specific, one person commented that can a list of close to 100 public courses in Canada be considered a ‘bucket list’ or does it simply become just a list?  A fair and valid critique and one best argued over a pint on the 19th hole of many of Canada’s best public (or private) courses.  I am unapologetic about my bucket list and as I mentioned before, there’s a certain degree of self-indulgence in this list of mine.  But arguing for it, the 2015 Golf Facilities in Canada Report cited 2126 public golf courses in the country.  Looking at my current list of 98 courses, this is merely 4.6 percent of that total.  Picking almost 100 from over 2100 ensures strong geographic representation with a quality focus.

With the exception of the territories, my list covers off all 10 provinces.  My additions are not represented in all 10 provinces – at this time.  In 2015 I had played ten courses in PEI to complete my bucket list there.  And while none were added over the winter, I am getting some people mention to me that I should consider adding Belfast Highland Greens, a stunning 9-hole course which plays to a par 37.

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Early morning mist and shadows shrouded the second tee at Green Gables in October 2015.

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British Columbia can seem like an obvious choice for bucket list courses but getting off the beaten path can open up gems like Talking Rock in Chase, BC.

To-date I have played 31 courses on my list.  There’s a shockingly low number played in my home province of Ontario and I have yet to tee it up at all in Manitoba (which @meximenno is quick is remind me of regularly).

My goals for 2017 are to play Tower Ranch and Gallgaher’s Canyon in Kelowna while in BC on business.  Other courses will likely be in Ontario this year, understanding there’s several great options in Muskoka I hope to access this fall.  Others could be more a one-off with day trip potential to get in 18 or 36 an option for me.  I don’t see other extended travel this summer for me but we shall see.   This is a list I can work on over the years and having the anticipation of quality public golf across the country provides all the justification I need to have added to my list.

Cabot Links 16th

The par 4 16th at Cabot Links remains my favourite golf hole in Canada.  But will I discover a course that possesses a new favourite for me in 2017?

What courses are on your must play list?  Is a list of 100 public courses in Canada too large to be considered a bucket list?  And most important, am I missing any courses?  Check my list and my bucket list map to see where I still have to venture to and play.  With golf season almost here for all of Canada I hope there’s a golfing bucket list adventure planned for you in 2017.