The Club at Sagebrush

Information:

  • Architect: Rod Whitman, Armen Suny & Richard Zokol
  • Built in 2009
  • Quilchena, Britsh Columbia
  • Was 10th in Canada for ScoreGolf’s 2014 ranking (closed for two years at the end of ’14 golf season)
  • 2nd in my Top 50 Golf Courses

The Club at Sagebush, formally Sagebrush Golf & Sporting Club, is a hidden gem. I know, typically, a course that’s been ranked as high at 10th in the nation isn’t considered a hidden gem, but in Sagebrush’s case, it is.

Initially, the course was private. Zokol’s vision was a high-end private club similar to Redtail Golf Club in Ontario, where the affluent can fly in from Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. However, with legal issues, condo re-zonings, and new ownership Sagebrush went under a complete change. The course will re-open in 2017 under Troon management.


When Rod Whitman stepped onto this property, he asked Zokol, “are we gonna ski or golf?,”and no doubt, you could do either. Right from the get-go, the course demands a 3 shotter playing straight up the hill.

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The slight dogleg left par 5 opener at The Club at Sagebrush

The hole isn’t anything special, and is rather boring, and if not for the green complex — which is spectacular, featuring a huge false-front — the hole likely would’ve been one of the worst holes on the course. However, the green complex is quite spectacular.

The second hole is a 450 yard, all-world par 4 (a gallery of the hole below). The tee shot is blind, but there is aiming devices to help you navigate the hole. The hole becomes brilliant when you play it the second time. You realize that the more you challenge the right hand side, the more you’ll be rewarded, and it’ll make your approach shot easier. However, leaving your tee shot out to the right is a much harder tee shot.

Another great par 4, the 3rd is a par 4 with bunkers down the entire right hand side. The key to playing Sagebrush is being bold off the tee. If you do play bold off the tee, you’ll likely have an easier approach shot, thus making almost every hole a birdie hole.

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The tee shot at the par 4 3rd, a fantastic par 4.

It depends on what you’re going for; if you just like making pars and bogeys, you can be conservative off the tee, but if you’re going for birdies, you’ll need to be aggressive off the tee.

On the third, for example, if you hit your tee shot to the right, you’ll have a short right pot bunker that eliminates the ground game — a key at Sagebrush because of the extremely firm greens.

The fourth, a beautiful par 3 looking at the Nicola Lake (shown below), is perhaps the best representation of Sagebrush. Fly it to the hole and try and spin it, although that’s a difficult shot, or hit it short and let the ground do the work. Either way, you need to hit it in the right spots otherwise you can end in some pretty nasty spots.

At first glance, the 5th looks like a bland par 4, but, after the first four, you should be accustom to “there’s more that meets the eye” idiom, as it describes Sagebrush perfectly!

Playing the tee shot out to the left requires no carry, but leaves the player a blind second shot to a very difficult green (shown below). However, you can carry the natural ravine on the right and have a clear look at the green.

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Looking at the approach to the par 4 5th from the right side of the fairway.

One of Sagebrush’s most interesting characteristics is the bunkering. Rugged and natural, they look beautiful, however, they play nasty, and even worse when you get in them and you see no rakes!

The course believes in the idea that bunkers should be real hazards, not fluffy lies that is easy to get out of. Bunkers should be penal, and unkempt bunkers help keep that idea in tact. For those who are shaking their heads at this idea, there is an honor system that you fix everything with your feet. Still unkempt enough to make it harder than your average bunker shot, but clean enough that it won’t completely mess with your head.

The 6th-11th is a solid stretch of holes, but unfortunately I don’t have any pictures! When I go back I’ll update this part of the review with a full description. Here’s a basic description:

  • Hole 6: 260 yard, par 3, usually playing downwind
  • Hole 7: A 650 par 5 that features an dogleg left, uphill tee shot, and a dogleg left, downhill approach. This hole has been renovated and is completely new for the reopening.
  • Hole 8: A 480 par 4 that doglegs slightly to the left. A blind tee shot slightly uphill and an approach shot downhill. No bunkers on this hole.
  • Hole 9: A mid-length par 4, playing somewhere around 430 yards. The hole plays uphill, with a wild green that’s become somewhat controversial.
  • Hole 10: A short par 3, playing downhill. The yardage is somewhere around 170 yards.
  • Hole 11: A sharp dogleg left. The hole is a long par 4, playing around 490 yards. The approach shot is over a huge depression area that is playable if your ball is short.

After the long par 4 11th, the course moves towards strategic instead of brute. The uphill, 120 yard, par 3 12th is a beautifully short 3 that has a small green. The hole has a Pine Valley feel to it.

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After the 12th, you get to the tee on 13, where you have a beautiful view of 13 and 14, and parts of 11 and 9.

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The hole is arguably the best risk-reward on the course. The water is in play no matter what route you take. Going for the green — which is certainly drivable at 311 yards — it’s around a 280 carry downhill, and laying up brings it even more in play.

The difficulty of the hole comes from going for the green and how aggressive you want to be. To get onto the green, you need to fly the water and let the kicker slopes take it to the middle of the green, however, if you’re going for the green and you leave it out to the right, you’ll have an awkward chip over two deep bunkers to a firm green. The same strategy is in play when laying up.

The par 5 14th, shown above, is one of, if not my favorite hole on the course. From an elevated tee, the player is greeted with a insanely wide fairway that is basically impossible to miss. From there, the player makes the trek uphill. The par 5 is reachable, but is difficult to get to and requires two well struck shots. Only playing 552 yards from the back tees, the hole caps off an incredible stretch of risk/reward holes, starting at the 12th.

The 16th, again, another long par 5, playing close to 650 yards (again), plays quite differently than the 7th. Like the 7th, this green complex is massive, being the biggest in Canada, while the 7th is the second biggest green surface in Canada. Even though the yardage is close to 650 yards, the player can get to the green in two, as the hole typically plays with a wind behind the players back.

The 18th isn’t a special hole by any means, and feels like a relatively weak closer hole, but with the prevailing wind playing into the player, the hole plays much, much longer than the 440 yardage says.

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The tee shot at the par 4 finisher at The Club at Sagebrush.

The tee shot is very similar to the 5th. A dogleg right, if the player decides to be aggressive to the right they will be able to see the full green complex, while leaving it out to the left — which looks far more appealing — will leave a semi-blind approach to a difficult complex.

 

 

Sagebrush ends with a 420 yard par 4, that is almost the exact same tee shot as hole 5, except it’s not for blindness that you must go to the right side of the fairway, its to get a good angle! I’ve only seen one pin location every time I’ve played this course, front right behind a deep bunker (tough!).

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The approach to the 18th, which typically plays into the wind.

Sagebrush is certainly a modern masterpiece. Rugged, wild and complex, The Club at Sagebrush is a great representation of modern golf course architecture. With the course reopening in 2017, the course will likely open to rave reviews again, and hopefully, with the minor changes, we’ll see it jump up even higher than 10th in Canada for 2018.

 

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