2016 in Pictures – Tobiano

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!

The story:  My day of golf at Tobiano was simply amazing.  This course is well positioned in Top 10 lists of public courses in Canada.  My experience was somewhat solitary, as I seemed to bring in some stormy weather in my drive north from Surrey.  The dramatic effect of the weather in the distance set against the beauty of Kamloops Lake and the pristine condition of this course made it a real favourite of mine.  I was able to get 27 holes in before the weather won out.  But rest assured, I’ll be back and eagerly await a chance to play this very special course again.

Click here for my full review of Tobiano.

 

 

Updating my Canadian Bucket List

Updating my Canadian Bucket List

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Jaw-dropping views of the Rocky Mountains await golfers at Banff Springs.

Many golfers have one; a list of courses they want to play.  My list, all Canadian publicly accessible courses, is the reason I started this blog.  And three seasons in now it is worth a critical look.  After all, lists like these deserve to be viewed and reviewed regularly.  I have to give credit to my late cousin who passed too young but had a penchant for calling me following rounds at courses all over the United States.  Whistling Straits was a memorable call, but the most excited he ever was when he called me was following 36 holes at Bandon Dunes.  The resort was relatively new and he sounded like a kid who sneaked out of bed and saw Santa Claus.  That call, and his passing a couple years later, really spurned me on to make my own list and adopt a ‘make it happen’ approach to play as many great courses as I can in Canada.  Thanks for the inspiration Paul, you’ll never be forgotten…and more than just a shared passion for golf but I hope my pursuits are well aligned to your travels across the USA playing great courses every chance you could.

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Tobiano, even on a cloudy day, is nothing short of spectacular.

My list covers all ten provinces and is set at 73 courses as of today.  Looking back in three seasons of play I am proud I have been able to make it to 9 out of the 10 provinces.  Only Manitoba is left and my GJAC friend and colleague Jeremy Kehler would not be happy to know that.  This year has been an odd year for me in terms of golf and a late summer move had everything to do with that.  Of course, I continued my odd trend of playing better at the early and tail end of the season.  Specific to my bucket list I have knocked off another five courses in three provinces.  Breathtaking Tobiano and underrated Salmon Arm in BC; iconic Banff Springs and stunning Stewart Creek in Alberta and an enjoyable and beautiful Algonquin in New Brunswick.  In fact, my home province of Ontario was not covered this year.  Overall actually I have only played 8 of 24 courses I’ve listed here at ‘home’.

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The opening tee shot at Stewart Creek sets the tone for breathtaking beauty and great golf.

The Maritimes have been covered off best, with only 4 courses left in Nova Scotia on my original list.  Quebec has five courses left to play.  Ontario has 16.  Jeremy would tell me my list of two Manitoba courses is woefully underrepresented and the same could be same for Saskatchewan where I’ve played both courses on my original list.  Alberta has four left and BC has 11 remaining.

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Seaside golf at its relaxed finest at Algonquin Golf Club in New Brunswick.

I will spend time over the fall and winter months previewing each province and sharing more detail over my bucket list memories, aspirations and tips for travel if you’re fortunate enough to visit any of these courses.

I am enjoying the aspiration of completing my Bucket List and I am open to suggestions to help move this list closer to 100 courses.  The only caveat is that they cannot be a private course.  9 hole (or 6 or 12) are ok, but they need to be public courses.  Send me your recommendations, I’ll check it out and add them to my list.  Canada has over 2000 courses so hitting 100 of the best public courses in time sounds more than realistic.

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Salmon Arm Golf Club is a throwback; accuracy wins over distance.  Your game will be tested, but take the time to enjoy the natural beauty of the course and the area.

Thanks for reading and thank you for your help in expanding this list for me.  I hope it helps to inspire you to consider your own list!

 

Tobiano – 18 Signature Holes.  One memorable golf experience.

Tobiano – 18 Signature Holes. One memorable golf experience.

Course Reviews – Tobiano – 18 Signature Holes.  One memorable golf experience.

https://www.tobianogolf.com/

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The view from behind the 13th green provides a great panorama of the course and Kamloops Lake.

“It’s the little things that separate the good from the great” – Bob Schneider

I’ll borrow a line from an Austin, Texas singer/songwriter because his words are most appropriate to describe the golfing experience at Tobiano, just outside of Kamloops, B.C.  I had the pleasure of a day between business commitments in Vancouver in early May and made the trek north.  Even in less than ideal weather conditions (it was a cool, wet day when I traveled to Tobiano), this course is one of the country’s best public plays and golfers need to place this high on their ‘must play’ list.  As a growing fan of Tom McBroom’s work, the Canadian golf course designer utilized a masterful parcel of land on the south central shores of Kamloops Lake to create an expansive and challenging course which draws upon the terrain to shape and define holes which flow well and complement each other.  Based on my limited experience, I would place this as McBroom’s finest work to date.

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The first tee provides players a great sense of the course, the land and the scenery.  This is an excellent opening hole.

The experience begins before the tee is placed in the ground on the par 5 first hole.  The facilities are clean and modern.  The course opened in 2008 and the facilities remain pristine.  Of course, talk to any staff – from GM, Head Professional, Servers and Starters – and they exude pride, passion and a commitment to service that goes beyond almost any public golfing experience I have had.  After a long drive it helped me to relax and settle in for what promised to be an enjoyable afternoon.  Mid-week on a cool, wet afternoon meant I seemingly had the course to myself.  Head professional, Shannon McGeady shared with me important information on the course about the terrain and some of the blind shots I was about to experience.  She was also helpful in identifying a tee box for me which was ideal given my index.  Tobiano has five sets of tees and two options to play split tees, making what amounts to seven different playing options.  These have the course set from 5350 to 7360.  If in doubt, play one tee less than normal.  It will allow you to enjoy the experience more.  There are a couple forced carries and a few blind shots (but tee markers serve as excellent aiming points, purposefully).

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My first view of the tough 5th hole.  It’s a brute of a par 4 which requires a strong tee shot and precision on the approach.

The conditions are practically flawless.  The greens may be the best I have ever experienced; rolling true and consistent and with predominantly gentle slope.  I stopped looking for ball marks, not seeing any for the first six holes.  The tee boxes are mint.  Practice facilities are outstanding.  The fairways range from tight to quite generous and are clearly identifiable in contrast to the rough and the desert-like brush evident in the gorges and beyond the rough.  If there is a fault, and it is minor to me, it is the amount of small pebbles in the sand traps.  It is a tough, but fair course.  The greatest carry is on the par 5 8th hole.  Here is where identifying the correct tee to play off will really help.  The stretch of holes from 5 – 8 are four of the most beautiful and challenging you may find.  The par 4 6th creates a stunning optical illusion on the approach where any shot past the green will land in the lake.  On the back nine, I loved the 13th, 15th and 16th.  But let’s be honest; the challenge for Tobiano is identifying a signature hole from 18 which are unique, well designed and visually stunning.

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The 6th green looking from the side.  It’s a beautiful golf hole with a flawless backdrop.

I loved this course.  It does not easily fall into one certain style which is fair given the uniqueness of its landscape.  What it is, and I say this with certainty, is one of the best public courses I have experienced in Canada.  Canadian Golf Magazine placed this as the 8th best course in the country.  I love the subjectivity of course rankings but will not argue this.  In terms of public courses you’d be hard pressed to find courses that are better across Canada; the list would be a very small one.  I look forward to a return visit.  This time, I will look to bring the sun with me!

 

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The 3rd of a great four hole stretch, the par 3 7th carries a gorge to a narrow landing area.

Aura – 9 out of 10 – Chances to play nationally ranked top 10 courses is a special opportunity.  This course delivered and actually exceeded my expectation.

Value (cost / experience) – 8 out of 10.  Traveling in early May, paying $109 for a course of this condition is great value.  Even a full membership for $2500 is strong value.  For a traveler, make time to play 36,  pending availability, and you can get your second round at a 50% rate.

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The par 5 8th hole affords a beautiful look at your second shot.

Course Condition (fairways/greens, layout) – Simply stunning.  The superintendent and staff take great care of this course.  Greens were some of the best I have ever experienced on a public course. – 9.5 out of 10

Overall Experience (how did the round make me feel; would I return) – This is a very special place.  The golf, like the land, is unique and exceptional.   – 9.5 out of 10

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Just loved this view off the 12th green.

Highlight (what is great about the course) – The course starts with very strong golf holes.  But holes 5 to 8 are some of the best you may experience…until the back nine.  Take a pause and savour the tee shot on the par 3 15th.  My favourite though may be the view looking back over the course from behind the 13th green.  After the round, enjoy the restaurant and the view from the lounge.  Made me smile to have a bald eagle flying overhead while putting out on 6 and teeing off on 7.  Simply stunning.  Lastly, the drive to Tobiano from Vancouver along the Trans Canada is bucket list worthy in its own right.

Recommendation (magic wand…what would I change) – It is a tough course to walk.  Some of the distances between holes are long and meander up and down the valleys.  It’s nit picking, but the bunkers were very good, not great.  And while there are more blind shots than I am used to, I will acknowledge they did not detract from my experience at all.  The course is not perfect, it just feels that way.

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The 15th is a stunning par 3.

Just So You Know – Unlike many courses across Canada, Tobiano has a great social media presence.  The website presents information clearly and they have an active twitter account @tobianogolf

My Best Shot – Playing smart with a 3 wood off the tee on the downhill par 5, 16th I layed up to a great yardage and my approach released longer than I’d like, leaving me 20 feet uphill.  With a good read, I hit it firm and it rolled in for a birdie and helped me to break 80 at course where scoring can never be taken for granted.

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My 2016 B.C. Golfing Adventure

My 2016 B.C. Golfing Adventure

My 2016 B.C. Golfing Adventure

Vancouver – Kamloops – Surrey – Chase – Salmon Arm – Vancouver

Total Mileage – 1660 km

Rounds Played 3 – Tobiano, Talking Rock, Salmon Arm GC

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The Fraser River alongside the Trans Canada Highway

Sandwiched around a conference, a presentation and two meetings, were two days of golf and travel to the Thompson/Okanagan golf region of BC.  A peppy 2016 Nissan Altima would prove to be a comfortable and spacious way to travel.  As itineraries go, this is not going to be my most efficient but it would certainly rank high around its enjoyment and scenery.  The route was a new one for me; I have not ventured outside of Vancouver by car before.  My only BC driving adventures were in my early 20’s as a tree planter in and around the Prince George and Smithers areas of BC, and most recently, on a long weekend away with my wife from Victoria to Tofino.  This recent drive is one I hope to experience again one day, I loved it.

With my work commitments set, I had a one-day window which I used to travel west of Kamloops to play what Canadian Golf Magazine cites as a national top 10 course, Tobiano.  A full review of all courses will be forthcoming but safe to say this course lived up to its billing as a top course in the country.  The natural setting, layout, and conditioning were all spectacular and if there was one thing that topped it was the passion, commitment and friendliness of staff.  Simply put, it is one of the best courses I have ever played.  In less than ideal weather, the dramatic backdrop of Lake Kamloops and an emerging weather system was incredible to experience.  I made an impulsive decision to take the longer route along the Trans Canada which followed the Fraser River Valley to Cache Creek before taking a sharp right toward Kamloops.  I am very glad I did.  I had the time; my rental vehicle was processed quickly and my ability to get on the highway early and avoid early morning traffic outside of the airport allowed for this altered plan.  The route moved from the Fraser River to the Thompson River and views were no less spectacular.  As for the round itself, it was a good day to have a good day.  I hit the ball exceptionally well and enjoyed a solitary spectator; a bald eagle watching me from overhead.  Wow.  Tom McBroom did outstanding work designing a course which is truly world class.  It was an experience and a day I won’t soon forget.  My drive back was more direct but no less dramatic along Highway 5.  Driving downhill for 19km reflects the incredible elevation changes.

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Following a day of work back in Surrey I was up early and off again, this time further north than Kamloops to an unheralded and underrated Talking Rock Golf Course at Quaaout Lodge north of Chase BC.  The drive was a relaxed and easy one; there is very little traffic along the way on a Friday early in the morning.  The course is a relaxed, meandering route which moves away from Little Shuswap Lake.  The conditioning was superb and it provided an enjoyable morning round and golf experience.  The tranquility of my morning was broken by a deer which ran across the 7th fairway following my tee shot; certainly nothing which kept me out of a relaxed rhythm of play.  The course is spacious off the tee despite it being carved out of tall forest.  The dramatic views off 14 and 15 are further accentuated by the awe and beauty of 18, a par 4 which runs along Little Shuswap Lake.  I made time for lunch at the resort and was very glad I did, as it my seafood clubhouse sandwich was outstanding and fuelled me along for about 45 minutes further north and east to Salmon Arm.  Talking Rock was the most underrated course of my loop and was a more than adequate replacement for Sagebrush which was yet to be opened under their new management of Troon Golf.  I was the beneficiary of this circumstance and eagerly await a chance to return to Talking Rock.

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Talking Rock Golf Course.

My last round of this trip was a mature beauty, Salmon Arm Golf Club.  The staff were helpful and accommodating in allowing me to tee off early.  On a beautiful, sunny day I played the first few holes in solitude, seemingly having this venerable course to myself.  There were three quick observations which provided consistent throughout my experience at Salmon Arm; first, this is a challenging course off the tee.  It is tight and tree lined and requires exceptional ball striking.  Second, the elevation changes are utilized exceptionally well to create stunning vistas and challenge with approaches.  And lastly, the greens are simply exceptional and cap off the quality of the condition of this mature course.  The round was a leisurely, relaxed experience and despite an offer to pass a group in front of me I wanted time to take pictures and savour the experience.  The course provided challenge and beauty at every turn and I hope to get back so I can use my newfound course knowledge to good use.

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Clever tee markers at Salmon Arm Golf Club.

A quiet night in Salmon Arm allowed me a nice early morning drive back to Vancouver.  GPS helped me get the car back quickly and stress free.  My work schedule did not allow me more than three rounds and I wouldn’t have changed a thing about this itinerary.  The spring in BC brought summer-like conditions to the courses I played.  The Friday round was sunshine and mid 20’s.  Golfing in BC has a unique and spectacular awe to it and with three courses of this quality and unique character to it, it has only whet the appetite to get back there and build a new itinerary, adding new courses to this impressive list.  The chance to strike off two bucket list courses, and really, add a third which I can also check off is a treat.  Course reviews forthcoming; and additional pictures!

This country offers such great golf.  BC, which boasts itself as ‘Super, Natural, British Columbia’ may as well have been talking about its golf.  Thanks for great golf and great golfing memories.

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Thompson River Canyon

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.