Unveiled in 2008, the 18-hole layout at The Rise Golf Club spans a peninsula over a thousand feet above two arms of the Okanagan Lake, offering stunning views of the sparkling waters and the surrounding valley. It’s a Fred Couples Signature course, co-designed with veteran architect Gene Bates, with five tees on every hole to cater for golfers of all abilities.
The front nine sits on a sage-covered plateau, with the par four 6th featuring as one of the most memorable holes on the property. Accuracy off the tee is demanded here before an approach can be played across a small lake onto an island green.
The back nine is carved out of a forest of Douglas Firs, with elevation changes that offer a flavour of coastal golf in British Columbia. Toughest hole on this half is the long, uphill par four 11th, where a multi-tiered fairway provides a very stern challenge.
A multitude of wetland areas have been preserved and incorporated into the routing, such as at the 12th where Moose Pond is brought into play. The signature hole is considered to be the par three 15th, where tee shots plunge more than a hundred feet from an elevated tee position to a pond-protected green.
The Rise is aptly named because the terrain -- 1,000 feet above the beautiful Lake Okanagan -- is anything but flat. The main issue when confronting such significant movement is getting a routing that makes sense and does not regularly feature contrived situations.
The opening hole presents a fine par-5 -- flowing downhill from the clubhouse -- plenty of movement in the fairway and the green banked nicely so that only the best of shots can get to the green for those who dare to do so in two shots. The next two par-4's can be charitably called inventive creations from architect Gene Bates and his PGA Tour consultant Fred Couples.
The 431-yard 2nd rises noticeably in the drive zone. Often times many architects will eschew such situations because uphill holes are always going to be more demanding for those players who lack serious pop in their tee games. That's the reason the back tees are appropriately called, "Boom boom" in honor of the nickname Couples was called when playing.
Fairway bunkers are the aiming point when standing on the tee at the 2nd. The turning point for the hole is one to be respected because only the longest of players can attempt to play down that side. The green is also elevated and requires at least 1-2 more on the club side. Whatever you may have earned at the 1st you can be sure to give it back at the 2nd.
The 3rd at 443 yards is one of the best holes at The Rise. The hole features a scenic Alpine look -- with large trees flanking the drive zone but far enough apart to avoid an undue claustrophobic situation. The hole turns slightly left in the drive zone and for those fortunate to achieve that, the approach is no less challenging -- a pond hugging the left side of the green with the putting surface diagonally angled. Anyone able to par the 2nd and 3rd in order has truly done something to talk about at the 19th hole!
The rest of the outward half is a pleasant mixture of holes and concludes with a fine downhill long 590-yard par-5 at the 9th. Players have options in whether to be super aggressive in challenging the left side which is protected by tall fir trees or opting to play down the safer right side. Those choosing prudence will not be able to see the green until their 3rd shot. Those successful at cutting the corner can get to the green in two shots but the watch word is caution as a single bunker guards the left side.
The inward half offers the better combination of holes and is not as cluttered with flanking trees as the front. There's enough differentiation between the holes and much of that is because of the terrain changes one constantly faces. The uphill par-4 14th is listed at 391 yards but plays a good bit longer. At the 15th you play in the opposite direction and a menacing pond fronts the green. The 16th, a mid-length par-3, goes back the other way and uses that same water hazard in front of the green.
Unfortunately, the Rise concludes with two holes that fail to do much beyond the scenic component they each provide. The par-4 17th is listed at 438 yards but plays considerably shorter because of the massive downhill nature of the terrain. The green is also simply a pedestrian effort. Anything over it will likely mean a reload from where you hit your approach.
When completing play at the 17th you must double-back via a pathway to get to the 18th tee. Why this was done is hard to say with certainty but getting Lake Okanagan in a postcard vantage point seems to be the reason. The hole also goes downhill and turns left in the drive zone with the green situated considerably below the top of the fairway. After you play the hole you then have to take a considerable ride back to the clubhouse area.
The Rise has its moments - no question on that front. But, the convoluted nature of the routing means a course that goes through its ups and downs -- no pun intended. The view from the clubhouse area is intoxicating but one has to realize The Rise is a mandatory power cart course. For traditionalists who reject such things it's likely best to skip playing here. For those who are a bit more elastic, a round at The Rise will have its share of entertaining and frustrating moments.
by M. James Ward