The approach to the par-four 8th green at the Quail Course in one of my favorites at Okanagan.
The Okanagan Golf Club is an elite two-course facility ever so conveniently located directly across Highway 97 up the hill from the Kelowna International Airport. In critiquing golf courses, I usually conclude with some final choice as to what courses are better than others. In the case of the Quail Course and the Bear Course at Okanagan, I simply can’t.
The two are exceptional golf courses and play mostly over heavily wooded hilly terrain. Both have three holes on their back nines that visit the meadow wetlands for a different look and feel, and both require accurate tee shots. If I were to tell you that the Quail offers more dramatic terrain and views as it meanders the mountain, one could quickly point to the dramatic view from the third tee on the Bear and the wonderful vistas from the Bear’s plateau position of the Okanagan Valley and the airport to the east. Both courses start out from nearly the same spots with parallel two-shotters of nearly the same length. The Quail Course is just a tad shorter at around 6,800 yards compared to the Bear’s nearly 6,900 yards, but the Quail’s slope and course rating indicate it is slightly more difficult. Both play to a par of 72 with green complexes fairly similar in size and movement as are the tee shot landing areas.
The only thing is for you to go settle this argument, because I very much liked both. The Quail Course is the older and was built in 1994 by renowned Canadian architect Les Furber. It winds about a more mountainous portion of the site and does have more elevation changes within the routing. The Nicklaus Design Company fashioned the Bear Course in 1998 and a majority of the layout rests upon a plateau though the drop from the elevated third tee is the most dramatic on the property. Interestingly 150,000 meters of earth were excavated to form the man-made Lake McIvor and the mounding around it. That said, both layouts maintain a nice harmony with their surrounds.
While it is very difficult for me to recommend one course over another at Okanagan, it is a slam dunk for me to recommend you play Okanagan. For convenience alone, the facility makes perfect sense to either begin or end your trip to the region if you fly in and out. From a quality standpoint, either course will delight you in every sense.
Fagan Grade: B+. I apply this exalted evaluation to both golf courses, which are representative of what great resort golf can and should be. If I had only one wish, it would have been to have had a designer who featured a greater architectural contrast for the second course (Bear) than experienced at the first (Quail), for here you can truly toss a coin and enjoy either experience as they are quite similar. Either way at the Okanagan Golf Club, you win!
Below is the second hole at the Quail Course. (Courtesy of Tourism Kelowna and the Okanagan Golf Club)