It’s just after five and the afternoon sun casts a sheen over lush acres that sprawl before me. Carpet-like mounds dot the groundcover, giving way to undulating plateaus, strategically-placed bunkers and craggy bedrock ridges. Ponderosas and billowing wheat grasses hug up to the perimeters. Lakes and turtle-filled ponds pocket the interiors. While boasting an arid backdrop of orchards and hay fields, the greenery is like an oasis on the lone range.
Although captivated by the embracing beauty, all of my concentration is currently devoted to the little white ball that hunkers between my straddled feet. It goes by the name of "Top Flight #1" and while silently praying that it lives up to its name, the wise words of Golf Marshal, Pete, go through my head. “Just relax, have fun, and try to stay out of the rough.” We soon discover what he’s referring to. Natural Okanagan vegetation borders many of the twenty-seven manicured fairways, and the bramble-choked edging adds a challenging dimension to the game. My eyes remain riveted to my target. I take a deep breath, shift my stance, and prepare to swing. And she swings! World-renowned courses can feel pretty intimidating to a novice golfer, (spoken from one who knows).
Even though Predator Ridge, on the outskirts of Vernon, BC, has received consistent accolades since its ’91 debut, all Tiger Woods wannabes, like myself (female counterpart), are given kid "golf" glove treatment, as well as advice from staff like Pete. Every player, from newbie to guru, can brush up on their swing with a visit to the on-site academy, where qualified instructors like Len Harvey have a long-term relationship with "the links". When united with the other pros at this top-notch learning centre, the accumulated years of expertise surpasses the century mark. Now that’s a lot of knowledge! Although this form of instruction was not part of my Predator prep, I discovered another awesome way to unwind before stepping up to the tee.
The five-thousand-square-foot Rituals Aveda Spa offers a number of ways to de-stress, and it was urgently calling my name. With the help of Claudia and her skilled hands, I was scrubbed, rubbed, slathered and lathered, then successfully transported (in my mind) to a distant paradise. “Close your eyes and escape to a place where palm trees sway and waves lap onto the shore,” she said calmly, while cloaking my body in sensuously warm green goop. The therapeutic seaweed mask was just one heavenly part of the Caribbean Body Treatment featured at this sanctuary. It was followed by a multi-jetted cleansing, and then ended with a blissful massage. By the time I emerged, I was totally renewed and smoother than the meticulously groomed greens themselves. (minus the colour!)
While I was ahh-ing and spa-ing, my better half was preparing for his golf game in a different fashion. Snuggled amidst craftsman-style cottages and posh condos are a number of outdoor pools and a fitness centre that would appease any competitive Olympian (much less a mid-lifer looking for a quick fix to getting fit). While doing the front crawl in the lap pool and attempting to keep the pace on high tech treadmills, he could gaze at the fairways through the wall of windows and dream of his debut.
We re-grouped over lunch to compare our strategies and prepare for the big game. Even though our suite had a chef-envy kitchen and would sustain long-term hibernation, my pre-tee jitters needed soothing. Ditching the apron for the clubhouse’s restaurant seemed like a good solution. And from our patio perch, while chowing down on wraps and savory soup, we had a bird’s eye view of what lay ahead. Our feathered friends are the obvious theme here, and for good reason. While the area is home to over seventy avian species, the Red Tail, Osprey, and Peregrine have been specifically chosen as names for the three nine-hole courses.
Back on course, our golf cart connected with the asphalt pathways that laced over hill and vale, taking us to a total of eighteen holes and over 7,100 yards. We plodded the same turf as Sergio Garcia, Fred Couples, Mike Weir, and Phil Mickelson, and gained insight into why Score Magazine has rated this one of Canada’s top 25 courses for the past eight years. In spite of losing my special Top Flight #1 to the unforgiving rough stuff, I was filled with a new born confidence – I’d arrived as prey and left as predator.