Review: Tower Ranch Golf & Country Club

Information:

  • Kelowna, British Columbia
  • Public – Daily Fee
  • Thomas McBroom (2008)
  • 54th in Canada (ScoreGolf)

Tower Ranch is one of the golf courses in the Okanagan Valley built in the late 2000’s. Along with Predator Ridge and The Rise which are both in Vernon, you have Tobiano up north in Kamloops, Talking Rock in Chase, Shuswap National in Salmon Arm and Black Mountain in Kelowna—Tower Ranch is near the top.

Built by Thomas McBroom, the course is situated on a very difficult property, making walking something only Olympic athletes would ever have the courage to do. From the 3rd green to the 12th tee I bet there’s close to 600 feet or so of elevation change.


One of Tower’s strangest features is the opening two holes. Both holes toboggan down the mountain. The 1st plays much shorter than the 424 yardage listed, and if they had a driving range here, it would be drivable for a lot of the bigger hitters (it’s a lot harder of a tee shot with only a few swings with 7 iron into a net!).

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For a magazine, Tower Ranch might lose points to say, Tobiano, which was built a year before Tower and features very similar architectural features. Tobiano has its fair share of housing, but not to the extent Tower does. And Tobiano certainly doesn’t have the miserable power lines behind the 1st, 2nd, and 7th.

The 1st green features some heavy movement in the contouring.

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The 2nd continues to tumble down, this time as a reachable, 565 yard par 5.

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Busting is down the left will push it back towards the centre and get a few more yards out of it, leaving a chance to go for this green in two.

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I find here there’s a good mix of big or small greens, tight or open tee shots. It never really forces the same thing every day. Like the 2nd, featuring a big green, versus other holes later on. It’s nice to have that variety.

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From the big and expansive 2nd to the tight and challenging short, 360 yard or so par 4, 3rd. This is a little more strategic, either laying up or hitting driver with a chance of getting it on the front edge.

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I think this hole is quite good, but could’ve been even better. I see no reason why there can’t be more fairway then you see on the right, making it feel a little less stuffy, and then slope the green off the front right bunkers so anything down the left has an ideal angle and anything farther right (for the player who doesn’t want to challenge bunkering) is hitting his iron to a green running away from him. But alas, still a good hole.

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I will say that if you see some of the brown in photos, it’s not to worry. The course was in spectacular shape and it played quite firm from the recent dryness of Kelowna. Tower used to be quite pristine and almost artificial, now it merges better with the local terrain and aesthetic a lot more.

The 4th is a short par 5 playing slightly uphill that plays blind from the driving zone to about 80 yards. The bunker right in the middle of the fairway is 323 yards landing on an upslope, so do your best.

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You can see the blind second shot, below.

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To a green perched up, falling off on all sides, with some pretty dramatic movement in the actual putting surface.

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The 5th is the first par 3, and the shortest on the golf course. This is one of my favorite short par 3’s in the province, as the bunkering is really well done here. It’s only about 150 yards off the tee, but if you look closely in the photo below, they can get some pretty dicey pins out there!

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From the shortest par 3 to the longest par 4, the 6th is a borderline Tobiano 5th knock off. At 487 yards, this is one of the holes that best decides which tees people play.

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The hole plays through some dune-like topography, like I mentioned before. For reference, here’s Tobiano’s 5th tee shot, which plays in a similar yardage, but moving slightly to the right and ever-so downhill.

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The approach shot here is to a bigger green with bunkering short left. I think this is a good feature. With 6 iron in your hand or possibly more, you don’t want to make the hole too difficult. 

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Once again, the approach gave me Tobiano vibes.

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Nonetheless, the 6th is a fine long par 4.

The 7th is a par 3, playing slightly downhill to a green shaped like a kidney around a stream. Bailing out a little right should bring it back into play.

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The 8th and 9th I found to be a bit of a slog back up the hill, but I guess that’s the product of 1 and 2 parachuting down the mountain. The 8th is a 395 yard par 4 with that same stream the player navigates on the 7th running up the entire left side.

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The iron shot in plays severely uphill to a green perched up. Anything short of the actual surface will likely either roll into the hazard on the left if it’s already heading left, or back down some 40 yards.

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The 9th features a similar tee shot as the 8th, moving ever-so-slightly to the left. Without the hazard, and 10 yards shorter, this is a good birdie opportunity.

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A bunker complex short left is the main defence to this slightly elevated, two-tiered green.

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The back nine starts with the slog of uphill holes that the front finished with. The 425 yard par 4, 10th moves a bit to the right around a pond.

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The green complex here is more inspired however, slightly above the fairway and better bunkering. The contouring and movement in is quite good as well. The work here just feels more inspired to me.

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The 11th is another uphill hole, but the last of its kind. Short at 375 yards, it’s a good golf hole. Off the tee the key is avoiding the bunkering left.

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One thing I want to talk about is sand color, because I feel like Tower Ranch doesn’t get enough credit for going with the proper color to match their vibe. Sometimes, a course looks at Augusta and thinks “why can’t I have white sand,” and then everything gets confusing because the course is rugged and in the high desert, like Tower Ranch, and it would just look awful. They did the responsible thing and chose an appropriate color, and I think that’s something we need to start giving courses more credit for. It looks great, and I noticed that on the 11th.

The approach is to another pushed up green, but wider with more options in. I think McBroom did a good job on the 11th to keep things interesting after three uphill holes in a row prior.

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The 12th is a really cool par 3 on a shelf at the highest point in the property. playing around 200 yards straight up the green, this is a really fun iron shot to hit.

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I love the green complex here.

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The 13th is a good par 4 playing over a valley to a fairway partly hidden by a massive dune.

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At about 400 yards, it’s key to pick your target as you can absolutely hit it too far.

After navigating the extreme tee shot, the approach is benign to help balance out the hole.

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Speaking of extreme, the 244 yard par 3, 14th is defined best by that. Playing down into that valley you crossed on the 13th tee from the elevation of 13 green, this is a really good long par 3 that plays much shorter than the yardage suggests.

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I can’t tell if the 15th is downright bad, or just quirky. I feel like after my thoughts on The Rise‘s 18th, which plays very similar to this, I feel like I should hate it, but it’s done in better taste. A tee shot over one of those valley’s like the 13th, but instead of playing similar to a cape style tee shot where it’s a “bite off as much as you can chew” mentality, the player can’t really get too aggressive left as the valley runs up the left.

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Things get a little shaky after the tee shot. If you look in the photo above, on the far left side, that’s where the green is. This is the view from the landing zone, making it really hard to gauge where to go and it’s almost a safety hazard.

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The green is down and to the left, under the fairway.

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Right of the green, as you can see, has some pretty substantial movement.

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I think I’ll settle on “not good.” I didn’t mind playing it, but I feel like architecturally, it’s just not good. It borders on that gimmicky line and I can’t think of too many modern courses where “gimmicky” is a charming way to describe a hole. But like I said, I didn’t mind playing the hole. I didn’t want to pull my hair out, I could see what McBroom was thinking. It’s just not for me.

Tower Ranch finishes par 5, long par 4, par 5, long par 4, and the 16th is the second longest 4 on the course at just shy of 470 yards. However, it plays very downhill, so I had wedge in. With the firm playing conditions and an ideal wind, you could probably get a 400 yard drive here!

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This is a pretty straight forward hole, but I enjoy the tee shot. It’s nothing crazy but a solid golf hole that’s thrilling for most.

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The 17th however is one of Western Canada’s best holes, playing through some of the dunes, this is one of the best longer par 5’s (580 yards) I’ve played.

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The ruggedness of the new Tower Ranch is quite evident here, and I think it pulls everything together splendidly. But again, the second shot plays slightly up and is blind to the green, making no real chance at having a go at it in two with a big drive unless you play here regularly.

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The green is a little more lowkey than a few previously, but there’s still some nasty movement in the left. Anything on the left side will likely roll off the green.

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The 18th is another one of Tower’s best holes, and is probably in contention with 17 for the best. At 446 yards, this hole swings right around a very big, and very intimidating bunker complex in the driving zone.

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You can see the scale below.

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A well-guarded green is what you’ll be treated with once you get the ball safely, meaning no match is guaranteed 1 up coming to 18.

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I think Tower has an accurate spot in the Canadian Top 100 right now. There’s a lot to like, and then there’s a few head scratchers. But either way, it’s a great course for Kelowna, and arguably the best in the city. I’m still taking Kelowna Golf & Country Club, I think it’s better architecturally, but if someone told me they liked Tower Ranch more I would understand (Predator Ridge doesn’t count–it’s in Vernon). It’s an enjoyable 18 with some of the more difficult golf holes in Kelowna, yet still fair and playable. I noticed a lot of the front tee boxes were in good spots to make it easier for people who don’t hit it as far to navigate this challenging golf course.

If you’re ever in Kelowna, Tower Ranch is one to play. It’s a must play in a city lacking of must plays, and is almost universally liked by everyone who steps foot on it. The golf is good, and the views aren’t too bad to boot, either!

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