SagebrushQuilchena, British Columbia
- Address6280 Merrit-Kamloops, BC-5A, Quilchena, BC V0E 2R0, Canada
Set on a rather remote 389-acre site that lies on the side of a hill beside Nicola Lake in British Columbia, Sagebrush Golf and Sporting Club [now known simply as Sagebrush] is the result of collaboration between designer Rod Whitman, developer Dick Zokol and agronomist Armen Suny. The course opened for play in 2009 to critical acclaim.
The topography was never going to be easy to tame here but, with a little shaping here and there, Whitman was able to lay out eighteen intriguing fairways that deliver a remarkably engaging and enjoyable round of golf on a big course that matches the big views.
First impressions often count for a lot but in this case the relatively dull opening hole can be overlooked as the architect was merely attempting to overcome the severe change in elevation on the site by routing a wide, forgiving par five 1st hole straight uphill.
Thereafter, the holes rise and fall across, up and down the hillside with many of the fairways offering more than one route from tee to green. The two par threes on the inward half are played either side of the driveable short par four 11th, leaving a long run of challenging two and three shot holes on the way back to the clubhouse.
In keeping with the minimalist approach to many things at Sagebrush, there are no distance markers on any of the fairways and, rather oddly, neither are there rakes in any of the bunkers – though some may feel the latter idea is taking the “back to golfing roots” philosophy a bit too far.
Sagebrush ran into serious financial difficulties and closed its tees for play in the fall of 2014 and was due to reopen in 2016 as a high-end pay-and-play public facility managed by Troon Golf, however, the course remained closed through to 2021.
In 2021, Randy Smith (the club’s new Head Professional) contacted us and commented as follows:
“A small group headed by Langley real estate developer Andrew Knott now own the long-term lease on the property, which sits above Nicola Lake, fifteen minutes east of Merritt BC. Andrew and his group are making substantial investments to the course and the overall property in the efforts to re-establish the Course as one of the best in Canada. The Club features some very stylish and comfortable suites available for overnight stays as well. The ultimate goal is to create a unique residential and destination golf community.
Former superintendent Neil Pilon has been brought back to restore the Golf Course which has been neglected in recent years. Pilon and his crew have done considerable work since last fall and have been busy since the winter snowfall lifted. Neil is supported by General Manager, Mark Strong and Head Golf Professional, Randy Smith who have been developing all aspects of the overall Club and Golf Operations.”
In the summer of 2021 Sagebrush re-opened and will no doubt soon return to its rightful place in the Canadian rankings.
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While studying at Sam Houston State University, Whitman helped with the green keeping at nearby Waterwood National Golf Club, under the direction of superintendent Bill Coore.