Tucked up high above Nicola Lake upon a scenic mountain range along the sunny Nicola Valley rests a one-of-a-kind golf course, now famous around the world.
Fresh to the world golf stage, Sagebrush Golf and Sporting Club is making its mark and recently cracked the top-100 list of best courses outside the United States of America, determined by Golf Digest, one of golf's most prestigious publications.
True to its name, the 7,372-yard links-style course is not only a beautiful blanket of large greens and scenic fairways overlooking the mountain-lined Nicola Lake; it is a weekend escape for golfers looking to break free from the hustle and bustle that plagues even the best city courses.
"You need to detach from your daily life," says club president Terry Donald, a resident of Vancouver. "We tend to rush out to play and that can cause you to stress and not relax, which is the point of playing."
With no tee times, encouragement of slow play, and a membership based on invitation only, Sagebrush is an exclusive club unique to virtually all others in Canada.
Former PGA tour golfer Dick Zokol (now with Predator Ridge in Vernon), Armen Suny, and golf architect Rod Whitman all pitched in to design the course while Donald built a man-made lake, "the hideout", stocked with rainbow trout, just off the twelfth hole.
"They come down here and they're just wowed by this wonderful lake," says Donald. Members can literally walk off the course down a short flight of wooden stairs leading to a dock where a set of fly fishing rods are set up for them to cast away.
"I've had a lot of guys who have just stopped here and, that's it, they're done."
The hideout, a carefully crafted habitat for wildlife, is the ultimate expression in keeping with the designers' goal of having a minimalist, environmentally friendly course.
It's Sagebrush's unconventional attractions like these that Donald says have helped put the club on the map in the golf world.
Golf Digest ranked Sagebrush the 85th best golf course in the world outside the U.S. Two other B.C. courses made the list, a total of 12 in all of Canada.
But this isn't the only honour Sagebrush has received. In early 2010, within a year of its May 2009 opening, Golf Digest and ScoreGolf gave the club best new Canadian course honours. This year, Golf Week magazine also voted Sagebrush the third best modern golf course in all of Canada since 1960.
"We were also voted tenth best in all of Canada for all clubs," adds Donald.
And the Sagebrush 2012 business plan has more in store with the construction of a members cottage, two-story lodge, putting course, and practice greens.
"We're all about private and corporate retreat," says Donald, adding that "you've got your client's full attention" when coming here.
The members' cottage, slated to open in August, will house two-bedroom master suites (24 bedrooms in total) to accommodate out-of-town guests wanting to stay for a few days. Donald says members come from all over B.C., Alberta, and Washington state, but especially from Vancouver, Kelowna, and Kamloops.
The lodge, which overlooks the 18th green and putting course, contains a lounge, dining room (seats 20 and acts as a conference room), bar, wine room, pro shop, games area, and five fire places—all built from the boards and bricks of Nicola Valley companies and made by the hands of locals. Sagebrush is also locally staffed with a total of about 30 people.
Donald says the club will feature a real estate component composed of 34 lots, up to five acres in size, ready for the market next year.
Sagebrush "posse membership", which follows the Nicola Valley's cowboy country theme, is divided between corporate and individual and is by invitation only. Non-members may also be invited.
Non-Regional Posse (members outside of B.C. and Alberta) membership costs $1,000, while Individual Posse is $7,500, and Corporate Posse $15,000.
Donald says the laid-back atmosphere, privacy, and security are key attractions to members used to five-star treatment.
The style of golf at Sagebrush is described as reflecting "more of the classic game with firm & fast playing conditions that reproduce an authentic links-style of play."
"Mother nature created this. We just happened to find 18 pretty good places to play golf," says Donald.