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Review: Kelowna Golf & Country Club

Information:

  • Kelowna, British Columbia
  • Semi-Private (some tee times available)
  • AV Macan (1923)

Kelowna is a hot-bed for golf in Canada, with Predator Ridge, Gallagher’s Canyon, Tower Ranch & Black Mountain catering to the “resort” style players or tourism. Most of those golf courses mentioned plays up in the hills, with views of the lake or dramatic tee shots, but Kelowna Golf & Country Club is none of those. But that’s not a downside, and rather something positive to look forward to. Having lived in Kelowna a couple years of my life, the mountain style golf isn’t something I want to play every day.

Insert AV Macan’s 1923 design in the heart of the city, mixed with Jeff Mingay’s current renovation work and future planned, and a still interesting piece of land and you have what I would call the best golf course in the city (for reference, Predator Ridge technically isn’t in the city of Kelowna so it wouldn’t count as the Ridge course is fantastic).


Opening Kelowna is a welcoming 509 yard par 5, with Glenmore Road on the left (it’s a ways left). There’s a lot of room here to hit it hard and get home in two, and plays a little downhill.

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It’s a good introduction to Kelowna because the course features a similar style of holes and plays similar to other AV Macan golf courses. Not a lot of fairway bunkers, and on the 1st there isn’t any, but the hole requires to be played back from the flagstick . A drive to the left side of the hole leaves a nice approach up the gut of the hole, but it’s towards OB and for a first tee shot, the average player would struggle to get it to the left side (of any shot really, statistically almost every golfer misses right).

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A miss to the right of this green is absolute death, as it’s cut short to fairway length over a bunker to a skinny green.

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A lot easier from the photo above, and not this one, to approach the 1st green

The 2nd through 4th starts a three hole stretch designed by Graham Cooke & Wayne Carleton in the 90s when the City of Kelowna expropriated land for the Cemetery. Mingay’s started work on the 2nd and 3rd, and I believe he’s not yet finished, so this is the biggest achilles heel for the golf course as of right now. The 2nd is a 165 yard par 3, playing over a pond that doesn’t come in play. This is a really sporty green complex, though, and saves some of the hole. The only issue it doesn’t really feel like Kelowna Golf & Country Club, to me.

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Behind the green, the tee on the 3rd flows into the fairway/collection are back left. This is a really nice addition and simple stuff that if executed well, makes the world of a difference.

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The 3rd is uphill, playing 341 yards. There’s very few times I would ever say this, but a few more tees up the left, and behind the green, would benefit this hole greatly. This is the most urban part of the hole, and it doesn’t suit it very well as most of the better holes are secluded away.

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Like most of the holes at Kelowna, the green is quite good, moving to the left with a front right bunker and a bunker up the left. Two bunkers in the fairway right where the player wants to hit driver await, as well.

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The 4th is my vote for the worst golf hole. At 420 yards, the hole moves back down the hill the 3rd comes up. OB left, with two bunkers as well, and a hazard that you can’t see from the tee. My advice: take less club and hit it hard up the right.

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This hole has a lot of potential to me. Nice views, a slightly downhill tee shot, good rolling land, but the current form is just weird. I’m OK with having a hazard, although it’s clearly not a natural pond, but at least make it visible from the tee. Some awkward mounding between 3 and 4 hide it, and it’s in play with driver or 3 wood for sure. Not a big fan of the green here either, but I’ve heard Mingay plans to blow up this hole basically so let’s hope the finish product is good.

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The 5th is back to the good holes, with a 384 yard, uphill dogleg left par 4. This is the first real view of Dilworth Mountain, which the next hole, the 6th, doglegs left around.

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I really enjoy this hole. I find the strategic elements are fantastic. Bail out right and have a longer, more uphill approach over a set of bunkers short right, or challenge the bunker and have a shorter, slightly less uphill approach shot without the bunkers really in play. Regardless, the player has to always be conscious of the false front.

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The 6th then bends around Dilworth Mountain to the left, playing as a 524 yard par 5. I wouldn’t call this a cape hole, because I don’t think it’s a traditional version of the template, but it absolutely plays like one. The farther left you go, the shorter club you’re rewarded with in, which obviously requires the player to challenge the mountain.

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I am not sure why, but the club decided to mark the mountain as O.B. in recent years, which is strange. I understand making it a hazard or an environmental hazard for pace of play, because I’m assuming too many people were looking for their ball in the rocks, but O.B. would just slow down pace of play.

After making the turn around the corner, the hole continues to hug the mountain on the left.

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I like that it’s a “bite off as much as you can choose” hole, where the farther left the less club you have in. This is definitely a birdie or eagle hole with a good drive!

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The 7th is a weird one. At 269 yards, it’s drivable for most players, but it demands a borderline perfect shot. Below is the tee shot.

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It’s about 235 to the front, and 290 over the back. Two bunkers right, and a bunker short left, as well as O.B. left and wrapping around the back side make this hole more than well-guarded.

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The green is three tiered, with the middle portion being the highest. A bunker long right, and a very harsh collection area on the right also await the mishit shot.

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I could see the criticism here, but it’s one of those interesting risk-reward holes. In a normal round, why wouldn’t you go for this? I’ve played multiple tournaments at Kelowna and it provides a lot of interest in the round. Almost every player in the field can at least get to the front portion of the green (about 235-250), but only the straightest will hit the green. But if someone says they don’t enjoy this hole, I could see it. I like how I’m always torn between laying up or going for it.

The 8th is a decent par 4, 378 yards doglegging right around some trees, away from the perimeter fencing on the left and the bunker on the outside corner of the hole.

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The bunker in the fairway isn’t Mingay’s style, so you know he’ll be back to work on this hole. You either bust driver around the corner or hit it about 230 at the bunker on the left, whichever the player wants to do. Once you get the ball in play, you’re greeted with one of the best views in the city, looking towards downtown and views of West Kelowna.

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The 8th is also one of the better greens here, as well.

Finishing off the front, the 175 yard par 3, 9th is a good downhill par 3. Bunkers long, left and short right, as well as difficult contouring in the green make it a stout one shotter, regardless of the club you have in your hand.

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The 10th is one of the best holes in British Columbia, and I’m not sure anyone who claims to know architecture can dispute that. 441 yards, completely bunker-less, this is also one of the hardest 4’s here. The natural contouring controls the hole entirely.

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I couldn’t even begin to try and capture the scale of this hole. Pictures do not do justice, and you’ll have to take my word for it. If the player decides to bust driver, you’ll be welcomed with an uphill wedge from a downhill, hook lie. If you lay up short of the hill, with say 3 wood or hybrid, a mid to long iron from a slightly flatter, yet still hooking lie, but a level grade approach awaits.

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The green is skinny, with a run off area left (where most player end up hitting it), and shaved grass short, as well as right. Brilliant! Looking back, you can see some of the natural movement.

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The 11th is the second of back-to-back bunker-less holes, and an interesting one. It’s short at 347 yards, but plays a lot tighter because the trees on the left encroach onto the hole. This hole reminds me of Marine Drive, where the 5th also demands a good layup area otherwise the left side of the green is blocked out by trees. Below is the tee shot, with some bad lighting.

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Again, some good, but subtle land movement up the hill towards Dilworth Mountain like the 5th earlier in the round. Depth perception is weird here going back towards the mountain.

I think the standout part of the 11th is the green complex. Very low profile, with a lot of good internal movement. This is simple, yet beautiful.

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The 12th is being blown up this year by Mingay’s team, so this is kind of irrelevant, but it’s a 552 yard par 5, moving down the hill into the massive depression area in the middle of the property. This starts off Kelowna’s “Amen Corner,” a stretch of 12-15 around the pond (blanking on the name… I think Eagle Pond?) at the base of the clubhouse.

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An inviting tee shot allows the player to hit one hard in hopes of getting home in two, but the green complex is not so inviting. Trees on the left, as well as a peninsula green make it difficult to get home in two.

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For the player who lays up, it’s a downhill, hooking lie. Very tough wedge shot. This green complex is absolutely wild and doesn’t fit with the golf course at all. Mingay will likely make this one of the best holes, but right now it’s just weird. I’m interested to see what he does.

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The 13th is a great par 3. At 178 yards, it’s not overly long, but water right does frighten the player. It’s not really in play, and lots of room left to bail out make it a pretty stress free swing. Three bunkers right also await the mis-struck shot.

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I like how the entire green complex moves to the right. Bailing out left gets you safe, but makes a really difficult up and down chipping back down the slope. For the aggressive player, they must hit it closer to the bunkering and water right to have an uphill putt.

Once the golf course is done, I imagine the 14th has a duel fairway with the 8th, with lots of room left to bail out for the less aggressive, or shorter player, but for now, the 373 yard par 4, 14th is a difficult tee shot.

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The long player just busts it over all the trouble, while the high handicapper has to play out left (cue in double fairway with 8 to let the fairway seem bigger where the high handicapper would hit it). I will say that the trees to the left of the green make all the difference. I’m not a tree guy at all really, but when they add strategy it’s cool with me. Trees left force the big player to keep it right centre, otherwise they’ll be forced to hit a draw with a wedge off a downhill fade lie. Some good land movement here as well, and the green complex is really cool, sloping off the left.

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The 14th originally played to the upper green. They keep both greens maintained, and I think it’d be cool to have both greens in play as it completely changes the hole.

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The view of 14’s two greens from 8 tee

The 15th is my vote for the hardest par 3 here. The 13th plays with the pond to the right, like the 15th, but offers some bail out room. The 15th is do-or-die, with room left to bail out, but almost guarantees bogey or worse.

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For tournaments, they keep the right side of the hole completely shaved down, which increases the difficulty substantially. This hole becomes a lot harder when you realize the clubhouse is just up the hill, to the left looking down on the 15th!

The 16th is another bunker free hole, except a par 5 now. At 504 yards (with a spare tee at about 520), the 16th has some incredible land movement going back up the hill the 12th tumbled down.

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Keeping it right is ideal to go for it in two otherwise you’ll have to work it right to left, but the right side falls off and can give you some greasy lies.

The green complex is one of my favorites, with some great movement and short grass surrounding.

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From the fairway, you can see some of the contours.

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And looking back, the beautiful trees that frame the hole.

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The downhill, par 3 17th is about as good of short hole as you’ll get in the interior. 149 yards, playing about half a club down, it’s usually no more than a wedge for the big player. A bunker long left, two short right, and one long right (that is absolute death, by the way), means this hole demands accuracy to yet another well contoured green.

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You can see the wonderful movement in the green at the penultimate hole.

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For the record, that is not my ball in the bunker!

The 18th would be a great par 4, but is a fairly easy finishing par 5 that forces the player to cut it off the tee.

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At only 452 yards, if you can’t hit a fade, bust it to the top of the hill and have a long iron on level grade over the ridge. With driver, you get wedge in as the landing area is downhill.

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Perched up over the valley, the 18th is a great finishing hole. Hopefully this hole is changed to a par 4, because it’s one of my favorites to play as a par 4! As we all know, however, par is irrelevant (that gave me an idea for an article). If you lay up, it’s a straight uphill wedge shot without a view of the surface.


Kelowna will without a doubt be one of the best golf courses in the West once it’s finished, and I would argue the architecture here is good enough to be pushing that already. Some amazing green complexes, with good land and some great Mingay bunkering, plus some of Macan’s strategic genius leave a great round ahead for anyone who plays Kelowna.

At only 6300 yards, it’s short, but it’s playable for the high handicappers, yet challenging and fun for the low handicappers, which is exactly what I look for in a golf course. There isn’t many places in the interior. Once Mingay is finished, I’m confident everyone who plays here will think it’s deserving of a top 100 spot (some might even now!). This is pure, golden age architecture at it’s best.

 

 

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