Seated in an Adirondack chair at the clubhouse, a glass of Okanagan Pinot Noir in hand, the view at Predator Ridge, just outside Vernon, B.C. encompasses holes on both its golf courses (Predator and Ridge) and the surrounding evergreen forest. Only the eagles have a better view.
Though this heavenly scene is all part of a plan, it’s one that’s man-made, rather than divine.
Totalling 36 holes, Ridge is the work of course designer Doug Carrick, and Predator the creation of Les Furber, both legendary in golf circles.
“What I always try to do is find the optimum clubhouse location, a setting that allows me to route great, scenic holes coming in, with a panoramic overlook, and expand the course from there,” says Furber, who did not design the clubhouse itself. The designer has married golf club and land with a larger sensory experience exceedingly well at this course.
Furber learned his profession at the side of famed course designer Robert Trent Jones, Sr., and went solo in 1980. Since then, he has crafted courses across Canada, as well as in Europe and even Cuba.
Les Furber, illustration by Tony Healey
How to play the course: The layout of No. 14 reflects Furber’s playability mantra, and it’s a primer on how to play the entire course. Bite off what you think you can chew, Furber advises, because he has provided options. Anyone can be a hero, at whatever level, and no one must play the role of punching bag.
Designer’s choice: Furber is a believer in the risk/reward par 5, and he did it swimmingly with No. 14, a 500-yard cape hole. A classic-era design standard, it sweeps around a water hazard. Flirt with the hazard; shorten the line of play. Play down the axis; bogey, at least, should be assured.
Furber’s design artistry is both an incremental and evolutionary process. “I’ve been in the business 50 years,” he says, “and, as you go through time, you are influenced by others, but you don’t want to copy; you want to be original. You should change over time.”
With the golf industry struggling against a flatlining participation curve, Furber staunchly believes that course designers must grow, learn new tricks and adapt in order to keep golf vibrant.
“The game has become too hard, too time-consuming and too expensive,” he explains. “[Course design needs to be] softened for the times. The industry overbuilt in the past, with too much emphasis on length and difficulty. The last thing [a golf course operator] wants to hear is a player walking off the green saying, ‘That was beautiful. I don’t want to play it again.’
“I don’t try to make a picture on every hole. I try to make it playable for all, so there is a way for everyone to play every hole.”
Yet there are many picture-perfect scenes throughout Predator, its sister course the Ridge and within the larger resort. Particularly memorable for all who experience Predator are greens that feature rolling hills, a reflection of the rise and roll of the larger geographic area.
Geographically sensitive, yet democratically playable, the Predator course is Furber’s nod to the heavenly landscape of the B.C. Interior, but it also embodies a welcome revitalization of course design—and the game of golf itself.
Getting there: WestJet flies to Kelowna 21 times a day from five Canadian, two U.S. and three international cities, and Penticton 11 times a week from Calgary.