It’s appropriate that owner Michael Grenier called this course Tobiano – an equine term for a multi-coloured horse – as the landscape surrounding this golfing thoroughbred is one of extreme visual variety, displaying a multitude of different hues.
Described by one commentator as a “moonscape with turf,” this stunning course is set in a desolate, mountainous desert location alongside the 18-mile long Kamloops Lake reservoir to the north of Vancouver.
It’s certainly one of the best natural settings that anyone has discovered for a Canadian course in many a year and designer Tom McBroom is said to have considered 20 different routings before he decided on one that incorporates a quintet of par three and par five holes.
Tobiano opened for play in 2007 and the course is intimidating to a lot of golfers, especially as many of the fairways demand testing carries across deep arroyos en route to infinity greens that seem to float in mid air above the lake. Sensibly, local rules permit balls that stray into the desert to be regarded as lost in a lateral hazard, allowing a new ball to be played from a drop area.Measuring anything from a gentle 5,358 yards on the forward pegs to a monster 7,367 yards on the tiger tees, Tobiano is a totally unique course designed to enthrall golfers of all abilities who take it on.
Set in a unique layout in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, Tobiano is a striking sight against the rugged terrain it's built on. The course is every bit as challenging as is mentioned. While the fairways are generous enough, the layout means a flat lie is almost impossible to come by. Missing the fairway is terminal with the rocky outcrop resulting in a lost ball for anything that strays. The greens are exceptional both lightning-quick and undulating.
Best Hole: 7-The entire layout is gorgeous, but to pick one 7 does stand out. One of many holes to play over gorges, this par 3 requires a straight shot over such a gorge to a narrow green.
The much heralded Tobiano opened for play in 2007 and the site is quite breathtaking once you arrive, as the course sits above the extremely tranquil Kamloops Lake on what used to be the historic Six Mile Ranch.
Like nearby Sagebrush, the panoramas here are stunning but the golf courses play quite a bit differently than each other.
I've played three rounds at Tobiano over the years, with my first round played from the tips. While 7300+ yards sounds daunting, the course definitely plays shorter due to the plethora of downhill tee shots.
Tobiano plays pretty firm but nowhere near as fast as Sagebrush. You pretty much have to play an aerial game at Tobiano as well, which isn’t nearly as much fun as experimenting with the ground game.
I first played Tobiano in 2009 and returned a couple years later. There was a tremendous amount of housing development going on and I have a feeling that it will mar the landscape out there, which in turn will lessen the experience of playing the course in my opinion. Pace of play was a major concern during all three of my rounds and I just wonder why McBroom had to choose a routing that had so many long forced carries, even from the front tees.
That all said, Tobiano is slightly flawed but overall is a really solid golf course worthy of the hype.
There is a tremendous amount of risk and reward out here and Tobiano from the tips is a supreme test. From a playability perspective, I think the golf course is just too hard for higher handicappers and I wonder why McBroom didn’t place some more tees closer to the fairway for women and seniors. There are way too many forced carries for those players – it’s a rugged piece of land for certain, with many benches of land where he placed tees and fairways but I have to figure he could have made a compromise with some of the tee boxes to improve playability for beginners.
There is some width out here, a necessity with the strong winds that you can face in the afternoon and that helps lessen the course’s difficulty somewhat. However, this is still a very tough test and you really need to be on your game to score well. There are a few holes that seem to play similar to others: the par three 7th feels very much like the 17th while the tough par five 8th and 13th holes almost play the same from the tee. McBroom also relies on the dogleg left holes a bit more than normal but it’s a minor quibble. There are some really strong and memorable holes out here and the golf course flows quite well for the most part. A couple weak holes still do stand out, however.
Stunning views and unbelievable topography make Tobiano one of the more beautiful golf courses in the country and dare I say, the world. However, I expect the landscape to be marred somewhat as housing starts to make its way onto the course and disturb the tremendous vistas.
Tobiano was in tremendous shape for a young course and played just as well in later visits – the greens were like velvet and the fairways and tees were in excellent condition. Greens were a touch slow compared to Sagebrush and the ground game isn’t really an option at Tobiano, for the most part.
This land is quite severe and McBroom’s routing takes the player up and down cliffsides and other benches throughout the golf course. This is a course I wouldn’t want to walk.
Tobiano has to be one of the tougher tests in Canada. I thought the experience of playing there would be a bit higher but the encroaching housing development and the issues with slow play damage what could have been one of the more special golf courses in the country.
Still, I’m very glad I made the effort to play Tobiano back in 2009 and I've been fortunate to play three times overall. If you find yourself in Vernon (near Predator Ridge) or even Vancouver, it's well worth the long drive or even an overnight stay to experience one of the prettiest sites in Canadian golf.
For a detailed hole-by-hole profile and pictorial, please visit my website at http://nowontheteegolf.com/2009/09/24/tobiano-gc/
Tobiano Golf Course is located just outside Kamloops in British Columbia. The course is set in desolate mountainous terrain abutting a large volume of water known as The Kamloops Lake reservoir.
The course opened in 2007, and was designed by Canadian architect Thomas McBroom who has fashioned an intimidating, exciting, picturesque course that twists and turns through the landscape challenging golfers with long carries over deep chasms, infinity greens overlooking the lake, and a routing that takes you off in all directions.
Tobiano (named after a multi coloured horse) is not really a walking course- to move from green to tee sometimes requires going down, up, through and around the gullies- so a cart is recommended..
The whole experience reminds me a little of Wolf Creek near Las Vegas. The course is beautifully maintained, and just great fun to play. But you must swallow your pride and play it off an appropriate tee. Play too far back and you will have a miserable day!
I thought Tobiano was quite wonderful, with a great combination of short and long par 4’s, playing with wind coming from different directions on different holes. There are some absolutely world class holes, and very few weak links.
The course is quite challenging yet our group with diverse handicaps all loved it. Perhaps my only criticism is the forward ladies tee on the par 3 seventeenth hole- 58 metres? What were they thinking?
Notable holes include:
- the short , turning par 4 second hole
- the pretty par 3 third hole
- the long par 4 fifth hole with green in the gully
- the demanding and attractive par 4 sixth hole with lake background
- 'all or nothing' par 3 seventh hole over the chasm to a very shallow green. One of the scariest holes anywhere. The back tee is just ridiculous!
- the par 5 eighth hole with long carry off the tee over a chasm, and then a rolling double dogleg to a skyline green
- the par 3 twelfth hole
- the short par 4 fourteenth with skyline green
- the par 3 fifteenth with lake background
- the par 3 seventeenth with tee on one side of the gully and the green on a ledge on the other…
Tobiano is a hoot to play. It is the perfect spot to stop on trips through the Rocky Mountains moving from Whistler to Jasper. And if you do stay on for dinner- the club put on a good meal.
Peter Wood is the founder of The Travelling Golfer – click the link to read his full review.
Played this courses several times in mid- May before the heat of the summer. Rattlers were not a problem as it was early in the season. The course was in fantastic shape, fast sloping greens. Beautiful views of KamloopsLake and the surrounding brush country. Well worth the trip to come play this unique golf course.
The most striking feature of Tobiano is its incredible beauty -- breathtaking is an understatement. The land is abrupt in certain spots but the views clearly catch your eye and it's so easy to be distracted and fail to execute the shots one needs to hit throughout the round.
One of the issues I heard about Tobiano before playing it deals with playability. After playing the course I have come to the conclusion such comments are truly misplaced. Golfers need to play the appropriate tee boxes in order to match their skill level to what the demands are. Too many people take on way too much golf course when their respective game is clearly not aligned to the task. Then these same people scream out the layout is over-the-top.
The only people who should remotely think about it heading to the tip tees are those with 5 handicaps or lower. The tee game is an essential element at Tobiano so players need to be thoroughly honest about their skill level.
The opening hole is a fine starter -- a downhill sweeping par-5 that provides a true challenge. There's ample fairway width on the hole -- like others at Tobiano -- but there is a preferred side to reach for the best playing angle. The next two holes are not backbreakers but ones requiring a deft touch as you face a short par-4 and par-3 combination. What you immediately realize when playing these holes is that the putting surfaces present serious issues for those failing to land one's approach on the proper side. Quick three-putts are not uncommon for those having a heavy hand with the flatstick.
The golf course is served in not being overly cluttered with invasive housing and other such distractions although there are plans to expand on that front near the course entrance. The 1,000+ acre site is also free of interfering trees and the like -- allowing wind to whip through the property -- sometimes at vicious speeds.
The front nine turns up the meter when you get to the long par-4 4th. But I really enjoyed the qualities of the 5th and 6th holes -- both fine par-4's and totally different as the former plays through a valley with a contoured putting surface awaiting and the latter going the opposite direction and calling for a right-to-left ball flight off the tee to a narrowing fairway.
I've heard certain people say the par-3 7th to its plateaued green is too demanding and overly severe. Again, the issue is what tee boxes are used and what handicap level is playing from there. The long uphill par-5 8th is a true three-shot hole -- finding the fairway is crucial because the demands only intensify from that point.
The inward half continues the journey in an up and down fashion. The 10th and 11th are a good combination but I didn't like the boring long par-3 12th. It's simply a very long hole with nothing compelling on the architectural front. The uphill par-5 13th would play better if the yardage were decreased just a tad in order to tempt players to go for the bold tee shot and even riskier second to the green.
One of Tobiano's best holes comes with the par-4 14th. The tee shot is hard to discern as you can't see the landing area. The need to work the ball from right-to-left is rewarded handsomely for those who pull off the shot. The backdrop of the green with Kamloops Lake in the background is truly impressive.
I only wish the course had a better conclusion to it. Two of the final holes are par-3's and they are simply satisfactory -- not bad holes per se but neither really adding to the build-up such a course should rightly have. The long par-4 18th attempts to end the round in a rigorous fashion and it's a solid hole -- just not a great one.
Tobiano has an interesting routing featuring five par-5 holes and five par-3 holes. The reality is that the "extra" hole in each category would likely have been better served with one less each.
The scale of the property is quite impressive and the bulk of the holes is well done. For those venturing to the area it's likely many will include a round at nearby Sagebrush just 35-40 minutes away. The two courses are clearly the leaders in the area for core golfers to play.
Tobiano may not be the course for classical architecture types who favor more subtle elements emphasizing finesse first and foremost. Tobiano is blessed with a grand piece of land -- clearly bold in its overall presentation. Those heading to the interior of BC should certainly bring their clubs for a rousing fun time.
by M. James Ward
Mr James Ward wrote a fine review of Tobiano but I feel couple of holes have serious issues. I feel the 1st tee shot is nearly impossible as most of good tee shots to the right will sell-off to the left side of fairway. Impressive but not a good starting hole. In addition, 8th hole has a serious 2nd shot landing area issue. The tee shot is difficult enough for most golfers on a windy day but the second shot is not only blind but only experienced perfect shot will be playable. On couple of occasions I thought I had really good shots to the left edge but still rolled off to the right side and down the hill. I have been golfing in Kamloops in the spring and in the fall for the past several years but my buddies are not too keen on playing Tobiano based on frustrations and windy afternoons factors. However, it is still the most scenic and few stunning holes make it my favourite golf course! When the conditions are not right in Kamloops, I enjoy heading to Northlands in Vancouver.