Whether you’re a scratch golfer or a recreational hacker like me, you’ll appreciate that fine moment when all the elements align to create the perfect result. Here in the Okanagan that sensation goes beyond the fairway to that moment when you realize that there are so many great amenities in close proximity, each day offers you a sweet spot of options.
For example, only minutes from the Kelowna Airport, you can arrive at The Okanagan Golf Club with two great 18-hole courses from which to choose. The Bear was crafted by the highly acclaimed Nicklaus Design as a par 72, 6,885-yard masterpiece. On its website, it advises that the “Bear Course can prove as ferocious as a grizzly or as gentle as a teddy, depending on which set of tees you choose.” Recently, we opted to play its companion par 72, 18-hole, 6,794-yard championship course, The Quail, designed by renowned golf course architect Les Furber. After a quick tune up on the driving range and practice facilities, we enjoyed spectacular and varied views on The Quail made possible through the dramatic elevation changes and multi-tiered fairways encircling a majestic rock bluff. While we didn’t take advantage of it on this occasion, we noted a full slate of lessons were available at the GBC Golf Academy. We browsed the well-equipped Golf Shop and grabbed a quick bite at the onsite Sarazen’s Restaurant before heading on a winery visit.
While Ancient Hill Winery is just minutes away on the east side of the Kelowna Airport, it’s almost as if you travel back in time to a place of old-world charm. Through farmland dotted with horse ranches on a scenic back road, you arrive at the gate and luscious gardens of this enchanting European-style winery. Owners Richard and Jitske Kamphuys have lived here for 22 years and are only the second owners of this pioneer property in the last 67 years. It is one of the sites where grape growing began in the Okanagan in the 1920s and thirties. They have worked hard to return the property to its roots as a vineyard and created a winery experience akin to an ancient castle with rustic wooden features from its huge entry door with wrought iron to the massive wooden tasting bar. We fell in love with the full array of wines from Pinot Gris to Baco Noir and found the rich-flavoured Rose a fitting selection in the summer heat to sip on Ancient Hill’s picturesque patio. Another time, we’ll pack a picnic basket to enjoy on the licensed patio or opt for the selection of cheese and cracker baskets available there.
We checked into the Best Western Plus Kelowna, a short drive from the winery yet conveniently located near shopping. We even had time for a dip in the heated mineral pool and a tour of the fitness facility, Wellness Spa, outdoor hot tubs and business centre of this über-green hotel before dinner at its Ora Kitchen & Bar.
Next morning, fortified by a great night’s sleep and complimentary hot breakfast, we headed to nearby The Harvest Golf Club. Designed by renowned Canadian golf course architect Graham Cooke, this championship 7,109-yard track is on 254 acres in East Kelowna. In fact, you might be able to harvest yourself a treat from one of the trees featuring five varieties of apples on the 54-acre working orchard there. An additional five acres is devoted to vineyard for Ehrenfelser, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes used by Calona Wines to produce its award-winning products. We opted for a lunch selection from the sandwich cart midway through our round. In its stunning setting affording views of the lake, the Harvest has a full service clubhouse and restaurant where many a wedding is staged to take advantage of the gorgeous grounds and water features. There is a PGA Golf Shop, Golf Academy and the Okanagan’s largest Practice Facility.
We could have lingered longer, however, the Kelowna Fab Five Wineries trail including Camelot Estate Winery, House of Rose Winery, SpierHead Winery, The Vibrant Vine and The View Winery is a mere wedge away. We opted for The View Winery, which was winner of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce 2013 Business Excellence Award for Tourism & Hospitality. It is located in a rustic 1922 fruit packing house and offers an array of delicious wines including one of the few Pinotage in the valley as well as an apple cider, sparkling Frizzante and Bling sparkling wine spritzers in cans perfect for a picnic. Bling is not only delicious and fun but it has a lot of heart supporting the charities of The View Cares: Red Shoe Campaign. We enjoyed the gift shop and tasting room where guests are always offered a complimentary welcome pour and an additional tasting of four wines for $2 which also goes to The View Cares Campaign. Next time we’ll book our tee time earlier and reserve ahead at The View for its Vine Tingling Experience, offered for a fee of $15 per person Thursday to Sunday at 1 pm until October 12. It is an elevated tasting experience that features wine education, food and wine pairings and a stroll through the vineyards and orchards, weather permitting.
Inspired by the summer sizzle, for dinner we decided to fight fire with fire so-to-speak by heading to Poppadoms – Taste India! Don’t expect the traditional North American take on Indian cuisine here rather an Indian-spiced farm-to-table menu. This is a family business in its purest form where the talents of the entire Dosanj family are utilized to put a new spin on the best of fresh and local ingredients. Winner of a number of bartending competitions, Harry tempts you to quench your thirst with such creative concoctions as the HarryBerry Sour or Gindian Mule. And if you’re still craving wine, Poppadoms offers an impressive list of BC wines as well as craft beer.
Heading home to Penticton the next day, we golfed Two Eagles Golf Course & Academy. Here you’ll find the qualities of a classic GDS Les Furber design with the playability of a mid-length facility and a superb practice facility. Its 19 Okanagan Grill + Bar is a West Kelowna locals’ favourite. What about wine touring, you ask? Here you are in the heart of the Westside Wine Trail where family estate wineries are the rule rather than the exception. The family estates range from small lot wineries to industry leaders such as Mission Hill Family Estate and Quails’ Gate Estate Winery. Here you’ll also find Beaumont Family Estate Winery, Little Straw Vineyards, Kalala Organic Estate Winery, Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery, Rollingdale Winery and Volcanic Hills Estate Winery.
There isn’t a better destination than BC’s Okanagan to hit your sweet spot in golf and winery adventures.