Predator Ridge Golf Resort, some 35 minutes from Kelowna, in British Columbia's Okanagan region, brings upscale polish to a most unexpected location. There are 27 holes of golf, a spa and pool, and plenty of golf real estate. You can pack a lot into an off-the-beaten-path world of vacation luxury, it seems.
VERNON, B.C. - Waking up, something seems off. It's just too ... still. The cool, crisp morning air drifts in through the open windows. The gray morning sky and wisps of fog turn the scene into something straight out of Middle-earth.
"It's so quiet," guest Janice Rivert said. "It's like waking up on another planet."
As long as you forget the hulking whirlpool tub in the master bathroom and the plush spa four floors down.
No, Predator Ridge Golf Resort isn't exactly slumming, but it brings its resort polish to a most unexpected location.
Developed by the ex-equipment salesman who brought Titleist to Canada, Predator Ridge is located about 35 minutes from Kelowna, the main burg of British Columbia's Okanagan region. If Kelowna - whose downtown could pass for Smalltown, U.S.A. (save for the casino and strip club) - is a happening spot, Predator Ridge is the hinterlands.
The long, winding road up to the resort offers a hint of its remoteness. Predator Ridge is its own little world.
Which doesn't mean that world is limited. There are 27 holes of golf, a spa whose masseuses have loyal customer followings, a recreation building with a 25-meter pool and plenty of golf real estate all around. You can pack a lot into an off-the-beaten-path world of luxury.
Somehow, all that stuff doesn't detract from the natural surroundings. Predator Ridge still has plenty of guests who never check in, and whose only use for credit cards would be to chomp on them.
"Did you see the doves as you drove up? Sales Director Margaret Penner asked.
It's a good bet you've never heard that question on the drive up to Las Vegas or to a Myrtle Beach resort.
Or been joined at the tee box by a coyote. Penner recalled one coming out of the bush as a New Jersey duffer was getting set to swing; the big dog circled the tee box and moved on, as nonchalantly as could be.
The guest wasn't quite so nonplussed, Penner said - he shanked his drive with a shaking swing.
Predator Ridge is best experienced with an early-morning stroll around the grounds before anyone tees off. It is best understood by sitting down to dinner with its owner.
There will be an interesting array of appetizers (oysters, anyone?), a high-class buffet and grilled-to-order fish so fresh it tastes like it came straight from Lake Okanagan. Herb Paterson might jump up and get butter for your baked potato himself, and he'll definitely spin yarns like a golfing Mark Twain.
Paterson started in golf as trailblazing entrepreneur. He brought Titleist equipment into Canada in 1957 and extended his sales territory across the whole country and into Hawaii and the Pacific Basin, virtually one handshake deal at a time. His equipment firm started with modest sales of $35,000; by the time he sold it to Titleist the figure was $35 million.
He knew he wanted to open up his own golf course. And he wanted to do it right.
"I didn't want one of those places where they spend $18 million on the clubhouse and $2 million on the course," Paterson said.
So the course came first, with 18 holes designed by Canadian architect Les Furber opening in 1991. The clubhouse followed the next year; the first lodge building wasn't up until 2003.
This gave the course a chance to mature before many golfers played it. It gave Paterson and his son Dave, who runs the resort's day-to-day operations, the opportunity to learn even more about what golfers wanted.
That includes no tack-ons.
"The green fee covers everything - the cart, as many range balls as you want, unlimited practice time," Paterson said. "Golfers want to know what it costs and be done with it."
Predator Ridge offers a one-night package including a round of golf for $139 Canadian Sundays through Wednesdays.
You need to seriously like golf, or seriously want to veg out, to really appreciate Predator Ridge. When it gets dark here it gets dark, and there's not much to do except have a cigar on the veranda and think about your morning tee time.
Herb Paterson wouldn't be opposed to joining you. Entertaining a group of golf writers with his quick wit, the white-haired 81-year-old encouraged his guests to have another drink. And another. And he kept up, rather easily. A salesman who builds a $35 million international business knows a little something about schmoozing.
September 4, 2007