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Back From BC: Sagebrush Intrigues, Tobiano Continues To Impress

I’m actually not quite back from B.C. In truth I’m sitting in the Vancouver airport using their terrific free wi-fi and getting ready for the red-eye back to the centre of the universe. The trip was a bit of a whirlwind — into Vancouver, do an interview, fly to Kamloops and drive to Merritt the next day to try out Sagebrush. Thirty-three holes later, I returned to Kamloops to tour Sun Rivers, and today I played 36 holes, including 18 with Miles Mortenson and the crew at Tobiano and then another 18 with Tom, one of the young assistants at the Dunes. In 35 degree heat, it was a lot of golf.

I’ll write about Sagebrush next week. There’s a lot to say, and I’m fascinated by the completion of Richard Zokol’s vision and Rod Whitman’s design. The course is quite wonderful — quirky, rustic, wild in places, and generally worth repeated visits. I played eight holes before Richard showed up. I say played because it is the kind of course that demands you drop a second ball and try different ways of playing shots. The second hole, for example, is a short par-4 with a fairway that tumbles down a fairway and makes a jog to the right, with a green perched well below. I hit a 4-iron off the tee and an 8-iron on the green. When I played the hole later with Richard, he hit a slinging 3-wood down the right side, while more 3-iron didn’t quite make it down the hill and a 6-iron couldn’t quite reach the green into the wind.  This happened over and over again — with different options at different places on the course. It was firm and fast — rivaling anything I’ve played in that regards — and that allowed for some very interesting approach shots. There’s lots to discuss here — but the course can be played by the public, assuming they can reach Zokol or Terry Donald, Sagebrush’s GM, and have $175. For that you’ll get fed and have the chance to play as much golf as you can squeeze in. Oh, and do a little fly-fishing; I caught a small rainbow trout while having a post-round beer with Zokol. Let’s say this — Sagebrush might well be the best golf experience in Canada.

Today I was at Tobiano. I often wondered whether I thought too highly of the course after playing two rounds there in May 2008. My round today convinced me I was right the first time — it is an excellent, fun golf course. The criticism from some last year was that it was too narrow for the windy conditions and the fescue rough was too thick. Almost two years after opening, Tobiano played wonderfully, with the fescue wispy and thin and the course playing firm with some of the most wonderful greens I’ve putted on this year. This is the top public course in B.C. in the current issue of ScoreGolf  — and deservedly so.

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Speaking of which, ScoreGolf’s public golf TV special airs on TSN at 11 am Saturday. My mug will be on this one — but don’t let that dissuade you.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Rob,

    Glad to hear you enjoyed Sagebrush so much – it certainly reaffirms my thoughts on the experience I had there a couple weeks ago.

    How was the pace of play at Tobiano? That was the one big turnoff for me while there, as it took over four hours to play 13 holes and I had to leave without finishing. I still contend that the course is entirely too hard for novices with all the forced carries.

  • Ahhh just what this province needs another really expensive golf course. I find it kind of funny and maybe just a little sad that the courses being built are high end, big dollar courses. I keep reading and hearing about how the number of rounds played a year is declining and the number one cause seems to be cost and yet…?!?!? No wonder golf is always fighting the tag of an elitist sport.

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