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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A Drive Worth Remembering British Columbia Swing Nets Beautiful Test Of Golf

Some of the region’s most sparkling scenery and diverse golf sits less than a half-day’s drive north in British Columbia.

The province boasts numerous superb public layouts. Trickle Creek and Kokanee Springs rank in the top 50 courses in Canada.

Both courses at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, called Mountainside and Riverside, show off the spectacular jagged vistas of the Canadian Rockies and the headwaters of the mighty Columbia River.

Trickle Creek Golf Resort in Kimberly, a fun Bavarian town with great German restaurants, cuts through the heavily treed slopes of North Star Mountain.

Kokanee Springs Golf Resort, tucked into a valley at the northern edge of Kootenay Lake at Crawford Bay, snakes through an old orchard and farmland within sight of Kokanee Glacier.

Trickle Creek and Kokanee Springs also rate among the five toughest layouts in the province. But neither Fairmont course is a stroll in the park. All are beautifully manicured.

(Yardage cited measures distance from the back tees.)

Riverside

Here, the Columbia River is not so mighty. Flowing north from Columbia Lake, the rushing stream snakes through this 6,500-yard, par-71 layout and cuts across four fairways. Along with its six ponds, water comes into play on 14 holes.

Plus, 68 bunkers and plenty of cottonwood, birch and spruce trees await stray shots. With all those hazards, staying on the bluegrass fairways and bent-grass greens can be tough.

The fairway on the par-5, 590-yard 14th hole forms a horseshoe around the river - and is a slicer’s nightmare. But there are no bunkers. “We figured it was devastating enough,” says course superintendent Dale Wilder. “It can just eat you up.”

The river also follows the right side of the 180-yard fifth hole and bends around the elevated green, which is protected by a large bunker. Fortunately, the greens offer huge targets - averaging 7,000 square feet.

“The holes are well-designed for playing, but they’re tough,” Dale says. The course will accommodate any handicapper, he adds, and is “very, very fair for the ladies,” with its four tee boxes on each hole.

Flower beds decorate the course, all grown from the club’s own greenhouse. On the engaging 170-yard 13th hole, which features an elevated tee shot over the Columbia, 5,400 flowers grow in two beds on the riverbanks by the cart bridge.

The front nine features three par 3’s and a pair of 5’s.

In late September, the trees fill with bald eagles and osprey who hunt the Columbia, which turns orange from all the kokanee salmon. Deer and elk also inhabit the course.

The new clubhouse features a Scottish-style pub with darts, pool and live entertainment. The driving range offers covered tee boxes. Plus, there a snack shop for a quick pit stop between nines.

Future plans call for lengthening the 10-year-old course to some 6,800 yards and adding another 18-hole spread.

Built on a formerly swampy terrain, the area is monitored by the government and used as a model for handling an environmentally sensitive site, Dale said.

Both Fairmont courses are open from early April to the end of October, thanks to a relatively mild, dry climate.

Mountainside

This 6,500-yard, par-72 layout is an old-style course built by loggers in the ‘60s and ‘70s and is the opposite of its river sister.

Where Riverside is flat, Mountainside is hilly. Sidehill lies are common, but the fairways, lined with fir and spruce, aren’t too bumpy.

Plus, the greens here are small, sand isn’t everywhere and the water’s not as dangerous. Balls can drown on only six holes - some with ponds, a couple with a creek. Plus, the doglegs are gentle.

Mountainside does share something with Riverside, though - some scenic wonders. The green on No. 4 and the tee box on No. 5 both look down on Columbia Lake to the south. “The view from the back of the green (on No. 4) is fabulous,” says head pro Lorne Rowe.

The 600-yard, par-5 fourth hole - dubbed the Fairmonster - stands in the way of that vista. It plays straight, first down, then up, and looks simple - unless the wind kicks up from the south. Then the hole plays like a driving range.

Slippery slopes are everywhere. On No. 11, a 440-yard par 4 that’s one of the course’s toughest holes, the tee shot must be to the left side because of the severely pitched landing area. The long approach shot is a blind one, with the green sitting at the bottom of a hill. The green presents its own challenge - the back drops down and away.

On the 323-yard 15th, the elevated tee looks down on a very narrow fairway that funnels between two steep slopes, with the green hidden behind one.

Need more evidence of inclines? Two holes sport observation posts so players can walk up a full flight of stairs to look down hills for the group ahead.

The finishing hole offers a bit of a reprieve. The elevated tee shot on the straightaway 395-yard 18th, which Rowe calls the course’s signature hole, rolls downhill with a pond on the left about 250 yards out. The landing area is narrow, with an uphill pitch to the green.

The course has been improved recently. Five holes were renovated, and bunkers and a pond system were added. Four greens with crowns were flattened. “We poured a lot of money into the course in the past three years,” Rowe said.

One tip from Mountainside veterans: Most putts break toward the valley floor. If it looks like it breaks toward the mountain, it’s a straight shot.

Trickle Creek

If Mountainside is hilly, Trickle Creek is downright mountainous. Many of its slopes are so steep, they will not hold an underplayed shot. It’s possible to lose yardage on a simple chip shot.

Plus, flat lies are as rare as birdies. Sidehill, uphill, downhill - the course demands all these shots thanks to fairway swales, slopes and mounds. It also punishes mistakes with four to five bunkers on each hole and, on a couple holes, trees that sneak into the fairway. In addition, balls that stray off course into the forest land in thick underbrush.

Gratefully, the bent-grass greens are massive and inviting targets. But once there, look out for all the undulations. The green on No. 7 even sports a hump in the middle.

“That’s a great golf course,” Riverside’s Wilder says.

Like Mountainside, this 6,900-yard, par-72 layout has plenty of great view holes and little water.

With four to six tee boxes per hole, the course is friendly to all handicappers, says head pro Kevin May. For example, the par-4 15th hole can play from either 240, 287, 362, 402 or 417 yards.

Like many holes, the green on the par-4, 451-yard fifth hole has a bunch of mounds horseshoed around it. Off-target shots will either ricochet onto the green or into deep trouble.

This dogleg right is one of the course’s best holes. May advises against cutting the corner because of the thick brush, instead playing it straight or left. The rolling fairway dips into a grass gully on the left near the landing area, though.

Beside No. 5, the course’s other signature holes are 11 and 17.

A scenic gem, the par-3 11th plays from 174 to 107 yards. The elevated tee, which overlooks a sweeping panorama of the Purcell Mountains, drops almost straight down. The hole then rises to a postage-stamp-sized landing area just shy of another slope that fronts the green, which sits on a hill not too far below the tee. There’s a massive bunker in the back and two smaller ones in the front.

On the 523-yard, par-5 17th, “you never know what to expect,” May says, because of all the different lies off the undulating fairway.

Three bunkers on the right side of this dogleg left collect mishits off the tee. On the approach, a creek crosses the fairway some 70 yards in front of the green. A rock wall rises just in back of the water hazard. It’s a good idea to lay up.

As May says, “Every hole is different.” And you never know when you’ll run into moose, bear or deer.

Trickle Creek, only four years old, opens early in May and doesn’t close until around Thanksgiving.

By the way, there is no Trickle Creek. The owners just liked the name.

Kokanee Springs

From the first tee box - sitting high above the dogleg-right fairway and surrounded by flower beds - to the finishing hole, with its big pond and apple tree island in front of the green, this course is a visual feast.

Built in the late ‘60s on land once occupied by a farm and orchard, this 6,500-yard, par-71 layout has plenty of apple and pear trees along with hickory, willow, fir and dozens of other tree varieties.

Flowers are everywhere, thanks to 11,000 square feet of beds. With a raging river cutting across the fifth and sixth fairways, more ponds and a creek, water comes into play on seven holes.

Plus, the Purcell Mountains and Kokanee Glacier fill the background. Beaver, ducks, mountain goats, cougar, deer and bear often wander through the wide, mostly flat fairways.

“It’s a comfortable, friendly course,” says Greg Garbula, the general manager of Kokanee Springs Resort. “It has a cozy, homey feel to it.”

It’s also quite a test of golf.

The 462-yard, par-4 fifth hole offers the greatest challenge. Of the 66 bunkers on the course, this hole sports 10. Six line the fairway, three on each side, and there’s a lateral hazard on the left. Thankfully, the fairway is wide and flat.

The approach shot must clear Crawford Creek, so high handicappers are wise to lay up to avoid the white water. The long, narrow green has two bunkers on each side.

Like the other greens, it’s jumbo-size. The average green is over 6,900 square feet, just a shade smaller than Riverside’s.

But sometimes a giant green doesn’t help. On the 183-yard seventh hole, the toughest par-3 on the course, the tee shot must carry to the right plateau of this three-tiered green or long, tricky putts await.

On the 10th hole, a 418-yard par-4, there’s only one place to put the tee shot - down the middle. With forests both right and left, the fairway here is one of the few that are narrow.

Kokanee Springs is open from mid-April to mid-October.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

MEMO: Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. AT A GLANCE All rates are in Canadian dollars. The current exchange rate with U.S. dollars is .73. Each resort offers package tours.

Kokanee Springs Golf Resort Green fee: $41 ($21 for second 18); juniors (18 and younger), $25. Power cart: $26 ($19 for second 18) Address: Box 96, Crawford Bay, B.C. VOB 1EO Phone: (800) 979-7999, (250) 227-9362

Trickle Creek Golf Resort Green fee: $42 Power cart: $24 Address: P.O. Box 190, Kimberley, B.C., V1A 2Y6 Phone: (888) 874-2553, (250) 427-5171

Riverside Golf Resort Green fee: $45 Friday-Sunday and holidays; $42 Monday-Thursday. Power cart: $24 Address: Box 993, Fairmont Hot Springs, B.C., VOB 1LO Phone: (800) 665-2112

Mountainside Golf Resort Green fee: $40 weekdays, $42 weekends and holidays Power cart: $23 Address: Box 10, Fairmont Hot Springs, B.C., VOB 1LO Phone: (800) 663-4979, (250) 345-6514

2. ZEROING IN Both Fairmont courses offer rentals of laser-sighting devices that give golfers the exact yardage from where they stand to the flagstick.

Two sidebars appeared with the story: 1. AT A GLANCE All rates are in Canadian dollars. The current exchange rate with U.S. dollars is .73. Each resort offers package tours.

Kokanee Springs Golf Resort Green fee: $41 ($21 for second 18); juniors (18 and younger), $25. Power cart: $26 ($19 for second 18) Address: Box 96, Crawford Bay, B.C. VOB 1EO Phone: (800) 979-7999, (250) 227-9362

Trickle Creek Golf Resort Green fee: $42 Power cart: $24 Address: P.O. Box 190, Kimberley, B.C., V1A 2Y6 Phone: (888) 874-2553, (250) 427-5171

Riverside Golf Resort Green fee: $45 Friday-Sunday and holidays; $42 Monday-Thursday. Power cart: $24 Address: Box 993, Fairmont Hot Springs, B.C., VOB 1LO Phone: (800) 665-2112

Mountainside Golf Resort Green fee: $40 weekdays, $42 weekends and holidays Power cart: $23 Address: Box 10, Fairmont Hot Springs, B.C., VOB 1LO Phone: (800) 663-4979, (250) 345-6514

2. ZEROING IN Both Fairmont courses offer rentals of laser-sighting devices that give golfers the exact yardage from where they stand to the flagstick.

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