Golf: Dude, Where's My Ball?
A wind blows across the hills of British Columbia’s backcountry toward the
green of Tobiano’s par-3 seventh hole, which is set atop a sage-covered bluff.
From the back tee, 189 yards away, the green looks awfully small, perhaps
because it and the tee box are the hole’s only safe areas of play. The rest is a
canyon of scrubland and fescue that—says my playing partner, Tobiano director of
golf Miles Mortensen—descends more than 100 feet at its deepest point. This is a
place where Titleists go to die.
The course’s superintendent, Terry Smith,
and his assistant, Ryan Smyllie, have joined Mortensen and me at the tee.
Nothing like a gallery to make a tough shot even tougher. Rationalizing that I
have nothing to lose except my ball, I swing the hybrid 5-wood. My shot is a
high, arching fade that began well to the left and is now drifting over the
center of the green. Just as the ball sails to the green’s edge, on the horizon,
I lose sight of it in the sun.
“Is that on?” I ask Smith and
Smyllie, wearing wraparound sunglasses and standing with his arms
folded at his chest, answers with a shake of his head, and then with his index
finger he traces a swooping, downward arch.
The remainder of the 7,300-yard
course, which is set along the edge of Kamloops Lake, about 240 miles northeast
of Vancouver and a 15-minute drive from the city of Kamloops (which has an
airport), is equally, although more deceptively, challenging. Canadian designer
Tom McBroom shaped the course around an existing landscape that he has described
as “the best natural property I have ever had.” Few trees line the fairways, but
the fescue fields that extend from the rough are less forgiving than they
appear. Locating an errant shot after it has landed in the tufted grasses is as
challenging as finding that seventh green.
The course, which opened in June,
is the centerpiece of a planned 1,000-acre resort community named for the
brown-and-white spotted horses—pintos—that roamed these plains in the 19th
century. If Tobiano’s rarefied yet rustic setting evokes a dude ranch, this is
not by chance; the course and homesites sit on land that until recently was part
of a cattle farm.
The community will include more than 600 stand-alone
lake-view homes built on sites ranging in size from one-quarter acre to more
than half an acre, and in price from about $247,000 to $523,000. A village
center with a variety of retail shops, a 100-slip marina on Kamloops Lake, an
equestrian center, and three hotels are in the planning stages. Tobiano also
owns 17,000 acres of backcountry containing smaller bodies of water that are
ideal for fly-fishing.
The course’s cart paths and washrooms and other
buildings are tucked into the recesses of the valleys, which existed before the
course was built. Their well-planned placement leaves unencumbered vistas of
undulating emerald fairways and golden, fescue-coated fields that are flecked
with only the occasional ponderosa pine. The scarcity of trees on the property
plays to its strength. “We’ve got these great panoramic views,” Mortensen says,
gesturing toward the 22-mile-long lake and to the Cascade Range rising steeply
on the far shore. “If we had more trees here it would take away the view.”
Though, as evidenced by my drive off the seventh tee, every now and then on a
golf course, it is OK to lose your view—out of sight, out of mind.
Tobiano Golf, 250.373.2218, www.tobianogolf.com