Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tobiano GC

Tobiano
Kamloops, British Columbia, CANADA


7367 YARDS (PAR 72)
COURSE RATING/SLOPE: 75.3/135
COURSE ARCHITECT: Thomas McBroom (2007)
ACCESSIBILITY: Public
COURSE WEBSITE: http://tobiano.ca/
ROUNDS PLAYED: 3
LAST PLAYED: July 22, 2010.
LOW SCORE: 77 (+5)




ACCOLADES -
- Golf Digest Best New Canadian Course 2008
- Golf Digest Top 30 in Canada 2015: #25
- Golfweek Best Canadian Modern Courses 2015: #5
- ScoreGolf Top 100 in Canada 2014: #13
- ScoreGolf Top 59 Public Courses in Canada 2015: #10
- Canadian Golf Magazine Top 100 in Canada 2015: #8


"My first thought was just how powerful the site is from a drama and a beauty point of view. I've said it many times, but Tobiano has to be the best site that I've ever seen in terms of that beauty and that drama. With the mountains in the background, and Kamloops Lake and the fissured landscape, it is literally as good as it gets."
- Thomas McBroom, Tobiano Architect

My whirlwind tour of great central British Columbia golf courses continued, as I planned on playing the much-heralded Tobiano Golf Club in Kamloops the day after playing Sagebrush. While Sagebrush won ScoreGolf's award for best new course in '09, Tobiano took the same honour in 2008.

I was pretty exhausted after my full day of playing Sagebrush and the five hours of driving also took it's toll. I woke up a bit late and didn't get out of the house until about 9am to make the hour and a half drive (or so I thought) to Tobiano.

After the full day at Sagebrush, I promised my wife I'd be back at 6:00pm in time for dinner on this day - our host at the cottage we were staying at was flying in from Alberta so the least I could do was be there when he arrived back. I didn't think it would be too much of a problem - unlike Sagebrush, I just wanted to play Tobiano and get back to Vernon.

Well, it ended up taking about a half hour longer than expected to get to Tobiano, as the drive was pretty much two hours from Vernon. Still, 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 Sagebrush, the panoramas here are stunning but the golf courses play quite a bit differently than each other.

I didn't have a tee time setup but I called the club on the way to ask them to hook me up with another group. I was a bit dismayed when I finally got there when they told me that my tee time was at noon - there was an opening about a half hour earlier but the girl behind the desk told me it would be with three elderly ladies who are notoriously slow. She figured I wanted to play some players closer to my age and I ended up getting hooked up with a club pro out of Alberta, his wife and another guy from Vancouver who was about a 10 handicap.

My group was great - we ended up playing from the tips and while 7300+ yards sounds daunting, the course definitely plays shorter due to the plethora of downhill tee shots.

The first hole is a 576 yard par five that starts well downhill and then winds back up toward the green. A really solid opener - the drive (a very long carry) and the layup are no bargain, with the fairway sloping sharply from right to left and the green is pretty blind from back in the fairway. I hit three really nice shots but three whacked the green to start with a bogey.

The second is a shortish par four that doglegs right. You can't see the green at all from the tee and the ideal tee shot is over a large bunker protecting the inner part of the dogleg. I killed my tee shot and had a short pitch shot (shown above) to the green. I'd hit the front of the green and make about a 15 footer for the nice bounceback birdie!

If you can believe it, it took almost 45 minutes to play the first two holes and I was already thinking that there was no chance I was getting my full round in.

Disaster struck on the short par three third. I hit a perfect tee shot but misjudged the distance badly, hitting it about fifteen yards over the green. I was pretty much dead - I'd pitch back toward the green and it rolled through and took three more shots from there, making a terribly disappointing double bogey.

The fourth is a manly par four measuring 510 yards from the tips and doglegs slightly to the left. Lots of great rolling terrain here! I hit my second shot through the green but made the two-putt par from the fringe to stay at +2.


The 480 yard, downhill par four fifth might be the most stunning hole on the golf course. The entire hole is framed by huge dunes and I've read that Tom McBroom didn't move any land here, saying the hole is completely natural. It's like a huge halfpipe all the way down to the hole and it's just thrilling to play. I had a little less than 200 yards into the green and hit a great five iron to about 18 feet but settled for the satisfying par.


The sixth is way back up the hill and is a long dogleg left par four. The approach shot is pretty awesome, as the green sits up on top of the bench and there's nothing but the mountains in the distance providing the backdrop for the hole. I'd wager that a lot of approach shots come up short here, as mine did. I wouldn't be able to get up and down and thus moved to +3 through 6.

I couldn't suppress my laughter upon reaching the seventh tee, a 197 yard par three. The shot is ALL CARRY from one finger of land to another and the green is only about 25 yards deep but extremely wide. It almost seems like it's too hard to hit with a long iron but all three of us hit the green (I used a 5-iron) so maybe it just looks harder than it is...but I doubt it. The pin was over on the left side but my ball was about as far away to the right as you could get. My 100 foot or so birdie effort fell woefully short and I'd miss my par putt as well to move to +4 on the day. This hole is tough!

The par five eighth hole at Tobiano might be the second most difficult par five I've ever played in my life next to the stupid 10th hole at Mystic GC in Ancaster, Ontario. This hole is almost as unfair as that one but is playable I suppose. You need to KILL your tee shot here just to reach the fairway, which again is about 220 yards or so over another huge dropoff area. Into the wind.

Then, you have to layup your shot into an area where the fairway width is about 15 yards and also slopes sharply towards Kamloops Lake on the right. If you're successful with that, you'll still likely have about 180 or so yards left for your third shot to a long, undulating green.

Now, I made par here after hitting my drive into one of those fairway bunkers that fronted the beginning of the fairway but I had to hit a great 200 yard 5-iron third shot into the green to do it. I think this hole is way too hard for a resort-type course and holes like this are why the golf course plays so slow.

The ninth is an uphill par four measuring 418 yards. The landing area is wide but really, the difficulty here is in the second shot, which is played well uphill to a slopey green protected by deep bunkers. I'd three-putt here as well for another bogey and a 41 on the front, this despite playing really solid golf from tee to green.

I was almost to the point of snapping as we waited about ten minutes to tee off on number ten. It was after 3pm already and considering I had a two-hour drive ahead of me, it was quite apparent that I wasn't finishing this round. Truly sad.

The 558 yard par five tenth is a bit 'Plain Jane' compared to the first nine holes but in a way, it's welcomed. Everything is right in front of you on the hole that weaves back and forth and climbs uphill. I sprayed my drive to the right here but still made a pretty routine par.


The 420 yard par four 11th is a beauty - a dogleg right that tumbles downhill off the tee but back uphill a bit to the wide and shallow green. I hit into one of the gaping fairway bunkers on the right then hit the lip trying to get out. I'd miss a two-footer here and end up making a double.

The 12th is another lovely par three that stretches to 240 yards from the tips but plays downwind and downhill. I blocked my 4-iron way right here and made a second consecutive double, as I was completely out of grind mode by this point and just continually looking at my watch to check the time.

I'd play the 13th hole as well, a 578 yard par five with another huge carry off the tee just to reach the fairway. It's quite the gorgeous tee shot but for some reason, I didn't take a picture here. I'd bogey this one and notice that it was already after 4:00pm. I would have to pack it in.

I can't tell you how disappointed I am that I could only get 13 holes in here. This golf course is just so difficult but everyone and their mother wants to play out here and I truly believe that it's just too hard for the casual player.

I drove through the rest of the course and took a few quick photos before heading out.


The 14th is a 453 yard par four with a blind tee shot. The landing area is well below and from there, the panarama is jaw-dropping, with the gorgeous lake and mountains framing the green that sits even further below the landing area. This looks like it would have been a hell of a fun hole to play. :(

The short 155 yard par three 15th plays downwind and Kamloops Lake runs down the entire left side. Another stunner of a hole.


The 16th is a sharply downhill par five measuring 567 yards. Despite the scorecard length, this hole is likely reachable in two, as it tumbles substantially downhill. Another hole that looked like a hoot to play.

You face another long, forced carry on the 179 yard par three 17th and again, the green is pretty shallow but wide. Looks like a shorter version of the 7th hole.


Now, keep in mind I didn't play it but the 18th looks like a pretty pedestrian finisher. A 473 yard, downhill par four with a pretty wide landing area. Just a very plain hole and not really a worthy closer on such a good course.

The golf course 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'm also worried about how this place will look in five years. There is a tremendous amount of housing development going on right now at Tobiano 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. The ridiculously slow play also is a major concern 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 is in tremendous shape for a young course - 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.

The stunning views of the mountains and the lake certainly help but the slow play and all of the noise from the bulldozers and workers putting up houses are a detraction.

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 and I hope to return someday to play all 18 holes. I will bet that this course will be ranked inside the top 30 in the country by next year.

EDIT: SEPTEMBER 7, 2010
I'm happy to say I was able to get back out to Kamloops earlier this summer and finally got the chance to play all 18 holes this time. In fact, I played 36 in a single day!

I still think the golf course is too difficult for higher handicappers, even from shorter tee decks, as the forced carries are just too considerable in many cases. However, I did enjoy myself a bit more the second go-around and will probably venture back again at some point in the future.

And I was right with my prediction that Tobiano would settle within the top 30 in the 2010 rankings - in fact, the course fared even better than I could imagine, finishing in 16th spot in the country, high praise indeed.



1 comment:

  1. i think it will be a top ten next time

    ReplyDelete