Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Rise Golf Club - Vernon, BC

In July of 2008, a new facility opened in the Okanagan Valley, The Rise Golf Club. It is a beautiful piece of property, one that provides views of Lake Okanagan that cannot be experienced from any other golf course in the region.

I played the golf course with three friends prior to it's grand opening and had an interesting day. I wrote and submitted my review of the golf course itself, but it was not published. I appreciate that a magazine publisher must be wary of printing editorial that is not necessarily complimentary toward an advertiser's property, but I also believe the consumer is entitled to what I believe to be truth and accuracy.

Therefore, the time has come for my review of The Rise GC to see the light of day. It is a lengthy piece, so I will post it in two parts. Here goes:

Open for business: The Rise Golf Club
By Glen Erickson (July, 2008)

A trip up to The Rise Golf Club takes you on a leisurely, winding drive through Vernon’s newest, awe-inspiring residential development. Be assured that navigating the route is not an impossible mission, just one that should be approached with patience, and appreciation for the sheer size of the property.

Upon your arrival at the golf course, there may be a distinct feeling that you’ve actually arrived at the top of the world. In fact, you’ll be high above the burgeoning Okanagan Valley, readying yourself for one of the region’s most stout tests of golf.

Designed by PGA Tour professional Fred Couples and architect Gene Bates, The Rise Golf Club is a layout that initially is likely to generate an occasional mild fit of anger. At the same time, be prepared to absorb the soothing ebb and flow provided by your tour of a parcel of land that truly illustrates all that makes the Okanagan Valley one of the most beautiful regions on the planet.

While the golf course is open for business and ready for play, there are signs that confirm the spring of 2008 has not been particularly kind to the region’s golf industry. Fairway turf conditions on the front nine are not yet 100 per cent, however, the tee boxes and putting surfaces are absolutely perfect.

Ah yes, the tee boxes.

Couples and Bates have incorporated square teeing grounds, a feature somewhat unique to the Okanagan Valley. Native fescue surrounds each tee box, an “easy-on-the-eyes” aesthetic you cannot help but enjoy. If you take the time to look back from green to tee whenever you can, the visual impact of the four-cornered tee box design is a feature to marvel at.

From a pure golf perspective, prepare yourself for at least two certainties during your initial foray to The Rise. Firstly, bring mucho ammunition, as the fescue and underbrush off of the fairways on the front nine will devour wayward golf balls. And second, be prepared to hit your putts hard for now, as it will take awhile for the grounds crew to speed up the eminently healthy putting greens.

The opening hole allows you to bang your driver, which really is what most of us want these days. The expansive fairway is wide and inviting, yet your approach shot will be threatened by a crafty rock feature surrounding the front left side of the green.

The next 30 minutes of your day might prove to include a pair of the most demanding par 4’s in the entire valley, as they play uphill and include a huge change in elevation. Uneven fairway lies await, presenting an enormous challenge for the majority of recreational players. By the time you reach the third green, you’ll clearly understand why power carts are a mandatory proposition at The Rise.

The shortish fourth hole offers a brief respite, along with a view of Okanagan Lake that many people will likely be experiencing for the first time. The northwest arm of the lake is visible, winding past Parker’s Cove on the west side and all the way up to Spallumcheen. To suggest it is spectacular would most certainly qualify as an understatement.

The fifth hole is one that will require you to muster every ounce of patience, as the landing area on the sharp dogleg cannot be seen. Straight ball flight is the only option here, yet an accurate carry yardage may be difficult to ascertain. Really, the design amounts to about 360 yards of potential carnage. From the corner, should you arrive there safely, a downhill approach shot is played to a large, inviting green that slopes significantly from back to front.

At the sixth, a swirling mountain breeze can make the downhill par 3 a most challenging club-selection battle. Destined to be one of the signature holes at The Rise, it is worth taking the time to appreciate the work required to position each of the tee boxes atop the hillside.

From the seventh tee to the ninth green, the golf course begins to open up as you recognize you are escaping the confines of a well-treed front side. This is where I felt the true comfort beginning at The Rise, as the expansive views of the back nine and surrounding vistas become apparent.


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