By: Susan Gerle

Golf has become a much more popular sport amongst the general public over the last few years. The number of new challenging public golf courses in British Columbia that have been built recently attests to that.

Golf is not just a hobby. I have come to realize it is a lifestyle, especially amongst retirees or semi-retirees. People enjoy the camaraderie of their golf team out on the course, but golfing is all about the personal challenge. The golfer is constantly trying to better his (or her) own game.

The following are 7 of the best and most challenging courses in British Columbia for the serious golfer.

1. Big Sky – Whistler/ Pemberton

Take the time to drive the Pemberton Highway north of Whistler, Canada and experience Big Sky golfing. The view is out the world! It is snuggled in amongst the dramatic coastal mountain ranges at the base of the 8,000-foot Mt. Currie.

The course itself is considered one of the most lady-friendly golf courses in North America. The fact that it is also a destination resort makes it a nice getaway for a weekend. It is only a 3-hour drive from Vancouver

2. Grey Wolf – Columbia/ Kootenay

There is something about being out in nature and watching deer or moose or even elk saunter across the green fairways in front of you. That is what you may experience in an early morning or twilight tee-off time at Grey Wolf Golf Course. It’s a good idea to carry your camera in your golf bag.

Located in the Columbia Valley, the course offers a beautiful mountain background setting and is one of 9 public courses in the Columbia Valley chain . It is well-known for its cliff hanger hole and great elevation changes. It is easily accessible from Calgary International Airport.

3. Tobiano – Thompson/ Kamloops

Who would ever have thought that the scrub brush surrounding Kamloops Lake just 3 hours north of Vancouver, Canada would become a worldclass golf course? Thomas McBroom had a vision and turned the dream into reality. Golfers say it has the finest collection of holes on a course anywhere in North America.

The view from the undulating hills is magnificent, as is the challenge for the golfer. It isn’t just sand pits and water hazards that make the course interesting. Be prepared to lose a ball or two in the deep canyons around the course.

4. Talking Rock – Thompson/ Shuswap

Talking Rock Golf Course is located near Kamloops, BC about a 4 hour drive from Vancouver. It is a totally different place to golf because of the way it was developed and what the area was developed for. Quaaout Lodge and Talking Rock is a retreat and conference centre built by the Little Shuswap Indian Band. It is rich in native cultural history.

The course is situated amongst mature growth trees and the 18th hole looks over a stunning view of Little Shuswap Lake. The golfing is challenging but the whole ambiance is very peaceful.

5. Salmon Arm – Thomson/ Shuswap

The Salmon Arm Golf Course has been around for 80 years and is ranked #1 in BC by many golfers. It is one of the few courses in North America that has chosen to be community friendly. It really promotes to local golfers and gives them the opportunity to come out and golf for a reduced fee without having to take out a membership.

They have also developed a great dining venue, which attracts people from all over the district. It attracts new golfers once people come out for dinner and see what is available on site.

6. Black Mountain – Okanagan

Black Mountain, located on the way to Big White Ski Resort just outside of Kelowna, British Columbia and is one of the newest courses in BC. It’s a finalist for the Best New Course in Canada 2010. It is also the only golf course in the Okanagan Valley that has an island green.

The location is fantastic as a destination whether you want to take in local wineries during your stay or also do some water activities. The green fees are very reasonable for the caliber of the course.

7. Predator Ridge – Okanagan

Predator Ridge is a challenging course located on the bench overlooking beautiful Okanagan and Kalamalka Lakes in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia. In a matter of a few short years, Predator Ridge has become a world class destination golf resort. Don’t be surprised if you tee up with someone from Germany or Korea or Mumbai. It’s one of the most expensive courses to play in British Columbia but well worth experiencing it at least once.

Phone ahead for directions because your GPS will give you the shortest route, not necessarily the best route to get there!

GolfPrivate golf clubs will always attract golfers. The social aspect of the club is very important. There is the opportunity to get together and travel to other clubs, which builds the camaraderie. Not having to worry about other people to golf with or tee times is a plus too.

Golf and Country Clubs are a little more exclusive and often restrict “outsiders” from enjoying club facilities. But that way of thinking is gradually changing with the number of new facilities available now. Some of the private clubs are changing their way of thinking and opening their doors finally with the number of new courses being constructed. The serious golfer has many opportunities now to experience world-class venues in his own backyard or one just down the road.