When people think of a golf vacation in the Okanogan Valley, Kelowna usually steals the limelight. But Vernon, at the northern end of the Valley, is also an outstanding golf destination. The courses are fantastic and, generally, so is the weather. This semi-arid geographical jackpot basks in an average of 2,000 hours of sunshine annually.

Swing Like a Girl at Predator Ridge

Now we approach phenomenal,” remarked Richard Zokol, as our cart climbed up to the number five signature hole of the aptly named The Ridge course. Zokol, two-time PGA Tour Champion and Canadian Golf Hall of Famer joined the Predator Resort team as their Golf and Real Estate Specialist in 2012. He was not exaggerating. From the elevated tees of the gorgeous par-three golfers inhale panoramic views of the violet-tinged Monashee Mountains, granite rock outcroppings and sparkling Lake Okanagan below. A couple of deer bounded gracefully out of the trees for added effect. Architect Doug Carrick has seamlessly carved his 7,190-yard design through rugged mountain terrain.

Apart from the drop-dead natural beauty of the place, and a four-and-a-half star rating from Golf Digest, Predator Ridge boasts 36 holes of golf—the newer Ridge and The Predator that has hosted two Skins Games. With its azure lakes and streams, wild sage, wheatgrass meadows and the sunbaked red hills fringed with golden fescue, The Predator, designed by Les Furber, is more of a links-style courses and probably tougher than its younger beauty queen sister. At sunset from the clubhouse dining-room deck, Predator looks like a larger-than-life painting.

“If there was a ranking for the busiest golf course in Canada, we’d be number one,” says Zokal. Last year Predator hosted more than 54,000 rounds.

Looking to improve your game and hone your swing? Predator’s Golf Academy has programs for all levels and ages. For women only, their Swing Like a Girl Camps offers four hours of instruction, lunch and a gift bag. The program was developed by former LPGA Tour player, AJ Eathorne, who grew up in nearby Penticton.www.predatorridge.com

Giddying Heights at The Rise

Further north in Vernon, “Boom-Boom” PGA pro Fred Couples created his signature debut western design in collaboration with Gene Bates in 2008. Aptly named, The Rise, the 6,843-yard roller coaster is set 400 metres above Lake Okanagan.

Right from the get-go The Rise proves to be no walk in the park. The first is a long par-five with a rock hazard and bunker in front of the green poised to swallow errant Titleists. Number two, the toughest of them all, is an uphill battle par-four, dogleg left. Par on this one is worth bragging rights.

The sixth hole, an elevated-tee 192-yard par-three, is a sight to behold. To your right, water washes down a natural black rock cliff face. Beyond, the valley view stretches to a green infinity. And 100 feet below, the green teases from behind a glistening pond at the foot of the waterfall. Bring your camera. This course is truly a drama queen and don’t be surprised if your ears pop due to the 1900-foot altitude.www.therise.ca

Western Welcome at Vernon Golf & Country Club

Set in a valley with views of Middleton Mountain, the Vernon G&CC is immediately likeable. The waitress in the clubhouse couldn’t be more welcoming and breakfast is cooked to perfection. Lovingly tended gardens bloom all over the 18-hole course and a lovely fountain greets you on the first fairway.

The championship par-72 course plays longer than the 6,609 yards on the scorecard. Towering Lombardi poplars and mature weeping willows have stood guard over the beautiful parkland setting and witnessed many progressive changes over the years. The Okanagan Valley Railroad bisects the "inside five" from the rest of the golf course.

The opening hole is a short dogleg par 4 with Vernon creek bordering the right side. The second hole offers a solid test from tee to green; the entire right side is out of bounds and the fairway narrows as Vernon creek encroaches on the left. After crossing the tracks to holes 3 through 15 on the high side of the course, the golfer will return to the "inside five" and face one of the strongest finishes in the entire Okanagan. The 460-yard 16th brings several challenges including: OB left and right, a strategically placed tree atop the middle of the fairway, and a side hill approach. Hole 17 is a difficult par 3 with a narrow and sloping green. The finishing hole is a slicer’s dream as a dramatic left to right tee shot is required to find the undulating fairway with Vernon Creek defining OB along the right side. The three-tiered green is protected on the right by "Pete's Pond."

A round of golf here is a bargain: $69 at prime times; $39 after 3 p.m. You can rent a power cart but it’s a terrific walking tract. www.vernongolf.com

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