I was lucky enough to have been invited to play a ProAm tournament in Maui last November at the beautiful Wailea Golf Club. It was 4 rounds at each of their courses (blue, gold and emerald x 2) teeing off at 7am each day so it gives us plenty of time to vacation in between rounds. Our team consisted of Cory Renfrew (Pro), Scott Walker, Max Kettler, and myself.
The playing conditions were some of the best I've ever experienced. Greens ran true, light fluffy sand in the bunkers, and the fairways were in great shape. One of the most challenging things I faced, apart from the distraction of the beautiful views, was the bermuda grass! It was the first time I've ever played on it and it took a while for me to adjust. I shot 91 (Blue), 80 (Emerald), 87 (Gold), and 86 (Emerald) and although we didnt make any prizes for the team event, Cory Renfrew won the Pro portion of the tournament for the 2nd year running.
The Blue course (Holes: 18 | Back Tee: 6545 | Par: 71 | Slope: 129 | Rating: 71.6) is the original Wailea course designed by Arthur Jack Snyder. It had really fast greens and a lot of the holes were lined by homes, but the good news is the fairways are quite wide...
The Emerald course (Holes: 18 | Back Tee: 6825 | Par: 72 | Slope: 135 | Rating: 72.8) was my favourite of the 3. If it thought the views were great on the Blue course, the Emerald's was even more stunning. Designed by Robert Trent Jones II, I found that this course had the most risk v reward chances.
Lastly, the Gold course (Holes: 18 | Back Tee: 7078 | Par: 72 | Slope: 138 | Rating: 74.5). It played the hardest for me even though I had a worse score from the Blue course (I was adjusting and dealing with nerves ok?! :)) There were a lot more bunkers in play on the Gold and a few more force carries.
If you're trying to decide which one to play on, any of these courses are quite spectacular but Emerald would be my first choice.
The Fairmont Kea Lani
During my time in Maui, I stayed at the Fairmont Kea Lani in Kihei as they were the tournament host. Even though they were in the midst of a renovation to their rooms, there were only a few minor inconveniences. Nothing to ruin a trip or even talk about.
My room had a Garden View and was one that was newly renovated. It was an accessible room so my lanai was ground level which made the room feel even bigger since I was able to step out and have more room to walk around. You get your usual amenities with a few extras: a Keurig coffee maker that is refilled every day, an electric hot water kettle, and a microwave. Since I had really early tee times, having these was a godsend. I was able to make a proper breakfast before I got out to the course.
The Fairmont resort grounds was beautiful. There was plenty of space for every one: a pool for families, a pool for kids, and one for adults only. Located on the ground floor is the market, clothing shop and theatre that had a magic show. The restaurants are also located nearby.
The Polo beach is about a 5 min walk from the pool area past the villas. There, you can rent lounge chairs with an umbrella, and snorkel gear. The first hour is included with your stay.
The Fairmont is really promoting to reduce plastic waste so located throughout the property are water stations. The water is filtered and cold. I really appreciated this amenity and used it many times during my trip. Each of their cabanas also has reef safe sunscreen, cooling lotion (in case you get burned), water and, of course, towels.
I made it up to Kamloops in the Fall of 2022 to do some golfing and sampled 4 golf courses that they have to offer - Tobiano, Big Horn, Talking Rock (technically not in Kamloops but close enough), and Kamloops Golf & Country Club. Each course was beautiful and challenging in their own right but for me, it was easy to pick a favourite: Tobiano.
Big Horn Golf & Country Club
Aptly named, Big Horn Golf & Country Club has a number of big horn sheep roaming around on the course. You play on the side of a mountain so the course has a lot of force carries and long grass that can prove challenging. I found the lay out to be fun and there are a lot of risk v. reward situations. As there isn't many trees that protect the fairways, there can be some errant shots from the opposite hole to look out for.
There was some construction going on around the fairways and greens so there were some holes where the conditions weren't the greatest. Some of the putting greens had some spots without grass or damage that made it challenging to putt through.
Maybe when the construction is complete, I'll go back.
Tobiano Golf Course
Probably one of the best golf courses I've played in the my life. I can see how Tobiano has won the honours of being BC's #1 golf course for a number of years now. There are 5 tee boxes to choose from with an additional 2 combo tee options which makes it fun for all skill levels.
I found this course to be both physically and mentally exhausting. It is so intimidating to walk up the tee box and see a gorge that you have to hit over, or the OB left/right that you hope your ball doesn't shape into, or being buffeted by the strong winds, or seeing a huge uphill incline to get to the green... there's a lot to think about. But when you crest that hill and see the gorgeous backdrop, you quickly forget about it all and just enjoy the view.
The holes were very well laid out with lots of space around you. The fairways and greens were well maintained and rolled very true. If you've never played this course, I urge you to go and expect to score 5-10 strokes more than what you normally shoot.
Talking Rock (in Chase BC)
Talking Rock Golf Course in Chase BC is so beautiful. The lush green grass and tall trees surrounding each hole will take your breath away. We decided to walk the course to enjoy the scenery a bit longer but I found it quite tiring: some of the holes are quite spread apart and there are some where you need to climb up tall hills. When I return, I will not be walking!
I found the layout of the holes very challenging. Even though there wasn't too many holes with out of bounds, it was often difficult to find your ball in the long grass that borders the fairways that you'll still need to take a penalty. It is a good thing that most of the fairways are wide enough for my errant tee shots. It was nice to play a course where you needed to strategize instead of just relying on a long tee shot.
Unfortunately, the Quaaout Lodge suffered a devastating fire in early 2022, so the rooms and some of the facilities are still closed. I hope to stay here one day when it is rebuilt.
Kamloops Golf and Country Club
It was a very rainy the day we played Kamloops Golf which kept a lot of people off the course and it felt like we had the course to ourselves. Luckily, I often play in the rain in the Lower Mainland so it was just like being home! The course plays very similar to courses in the Lower Mainland and after playing Tobiano and Big Horn where there were so many force carries, it was a nice change. There isn't too many elevation changes, or force carries. But there were a lot of trees that can get in the way.
While it is a very fun course, I feel like the reason you go to Kamloops to play golf is to experience courses like Tobiano, or Big Horn. Even though I shot a personal best 77 at this course, I feel that it can be skipped if you're in the area unless you've had enough of losing balls at Tobiano!
The annual Osoyoos golf trip happened between May 28 to June 4 this year. We had originally planned to play 8 rounds of golf in 5 days but our last golfing day at Nk'Mip Canyon Desert Golf had to be cancelled as there was a severe thunderstorm forecasted for that day. We were still able to play 7 rounds of golf in 4 days however! Crazy? Most people will say so!
We played Fairview Mountain Golf Club and the Osoyoos Golf Club this year. We'll have to make our way over to Nk'Mip Canyon Desert Golf next time we come up.
Fairview Mountain Golf Club
Our first round of the trip was at Fairview Mountain Golf Club in Oliver BC which is a short 20 minute drive from Osoyoos. It is a very beautiful course wil huge elevation changes. We played from the black tees but in hindsight, I think we should have played from the blues because of the high winds. Being buffeted by 20 km/h winds that gusted to 40 km/h made a challenging course even harder but we still had a blast. The bonus is that I can now say that I've hit my 9 iron a whopping 170 yrds and my driver over 310 yrds!
There are many holes where you tee off from high above the fairway and watch your ball drop, hopefully, to a safe landing zone. The greens are very challenging: they are quite fast and difficult to read. From what I gathered halfway through the round is that the breaks will go away from the mountain regardless of whether it looks like they break toward it.
Fairview Mountain Golf Club has an excellent practice/warm up facility. There is a driving range, hitting net, 2 short game areas with bunkers, and a putting area. Golf balls are all provided and free of charge. Here is a course tour of the club.
Quick Course Summary (Course Summary via Golf Canada)
Gold tees - 7025 yrds - 74.2/139 (Ratings/slope)
Black tees - 6573 yrds - 72.0/134 (Ratings/slope)
Blue tees - 6171 yrds - 70.2/129 (Ratings/slope)
White tees - 5683 yrds - 67.7/122 (Ratings/slope)
Osoyoos Golf Club
The Osoyoos Golf Club is where we spent the majority of our time at, playing 6 of the 7 rounds of golf in 3 days. This golf club has 2 full 18 hole courses: Park Meadows and Desert Gold. They have a daily double where you can play both courses on the same day and with a power cart included for the low low price of $139.
The harder of the 2 courses, in my opinion, is the Desert Course. There are a lot of elevation changes during tee shots and more hazards left and right of the holes. During the summer months, when the fescue has grown more, it becomes even harder to find your ball on errant shots as balls running off the fairway can get swallowed up. Add the threat of rattle snakes in said hazard areas, its just as easy to say "I'll drop here where it's safe". Many of the holes wind up and down the mountain side and there arent too many holes that are beside each other. Distance between holes can be quite far, hence why power carts are mandatory on this side.
Park Meadows is more of the type of golf that we're used to here in the lower mainland. There are more tree lined holes that run parallel to each other, and elevation changes are much less compared to Desert Gold. Errant tee shots arent as punishing since you'll be able to play off the other fairway but there are some blind 2nd shots so plan your misses accordingly!
I believe that Osoyoos Golf Club provides the best value golfing experience in the area. You dont have to play both courses on the same day but if you can, you should. If I only had time to play 1 round of golf, I would choose Desert Gold as it's a completely different type of course that I'm used to playing.
Course Summary - (Course Summary via GolfCanada.ca)
Gold tees - 6500 yrds - 71.6/140 (Rating/Slope)
Black tees - 6039 yrds - 69.4/125 (Rating/Slope)
Silver tees - 5571 yrds - 67.1/123 (Rating/Slope)
Bronze tees (Womens) - 4924 yrds - 68.7/118 (Rating/Slope)
Black tees - 6351 yrds - 70.5/122 (Rating/Slope)
Blue tees - 6200 yrds - 69.8/119 (Rating/Slope)
White tees - 5719 yrds - 67.0/110 (Rating/Slope)
Red tees (Womens) - 5259 yrds - 71.4/122 (Rating/Slope)
Happy New Year everyone. I wish you all a very happy and prosperous 2019.
2018 was a very busy year for me, especially between October and December, I apologize for not updating my blog more often but life happens. In 2019, I hope to dedicate more time to this blog and share more of my experiences with you all.
To start off 2019, I wish to share my most memorable eats from my trip to Philippines, Japan and Hong Kong in October 2018. To start off, I went to Manila to visit family and attend a wedding where my Dad was one of the "Ninong" or godfather. It was one of the most extravagant weddings I have ever attended in my life and will most likely never again experience. If you have watched the movie "Crazy Rich Asians", this wedding was just like it. Scroll through some Instagram pictures of the wedding (#JarvisandKimi) and read this article or this article, you will understand what I mean! Congratulations Jarvis and Kimi! There were over 1,100 guests in attendance at the reception and one would think that the food quality would suffer. But NO the Manila Marriott hotel did a great job serving consistent and yummy food! It's just too bad that a lot of the older FilChi parents in attendance didn't appreciate the western cuisine as much. But their loss!
Very quickly, the courses were: seared scallop, cauliflower soup with crispy mushroom rangoon, Asian seabass fillet with kumara sweet potatoes, coconut lychee sorbet (to cleanse the pallet), and grilled Australian ribeye with tiger prawns and veggies.
After my short trip to Manila, I headed to Kyoto, Hiroshima and Osaka for 8 days with a very good friend of mine. While there, we ate as much local Japanese food as I could get my hands on! It was a very good thing that we walked a lot or I would have gained at least 20 pounds!
It might have been the excitement of the start of vacation but I enjoyed the food in Kyoto the most out of the 3 places. Don't get me wrong, everywhere we ate at was very good, I didn't have one bad meal in Japan but in Kyoto, everything felt like it was made with more care. I don't really know how else to explain it.
Two of the best meals we had while in Kyoto involved ramen! The first ramen shop we came across was by happenstance. We arrived Kyoto pretty late at night, around 9:30pm and after all that travelling, we were famished. Walking from the subway station to the hotel, we passed a ramen shop that was open until 11:30pm so after checking in and dropping our bags off, we headed straight for it. I don't exactly know what the restaurant is called but their website is found here and is located near the cross streets of Shijo Dori and Muromachi Dori. Doing a google maps search, there is a tag for the restaurant but it's simply called "ramen shop".
The second ramen shop we frequented is called Wajoryomen Sugari (website in Japanese) or on TripAdvisor. The restaurant is only open for dinner and seats about 8-10 people only. The first night we came, we got there at around 7pm and the line up to get a seat was about 45 minutes long. The second night we came, we thought we'd be smart and come 20 minutes before they opened. When we got there, there was already about a dozen people waiting! My favourite here is the tsukemen.
And the last place I wish to highlight from Kyoto is an okonomiyaki restaurant called Botejyu Kyoto. Even though it is a larger restaurant, it is a family run place with excellent food. The type of okonomiyaki they serve is is the Osaka style where everything is mixed into a batter and then cooked as opposed to the Hiroshima style which is layered. We ordered a yakisoba wrapped in omelette and a pork okonomiyaki. Both dishes were prepared in front of us and were very very yummy.
If you are in the Kyoto area, I would highly recommend these 3 restaurants. I know there are a lot of restaurants in Kyoto, especially in the Pontocho area. What are your favourites? Let me know in the comments below and the next time I go to Kyoto, I will try and check them out. In my next blog, I will highlight the restaurants I visited in Hiroshima and Osaka. Until then, Mahalo nui loa.
For me, Kyoto has the perfect balance of the Old and the New. A place where traditional blends seamlessly with the modern and a feeling I thought I would feel in Athens. During our time in Kyoto, we visited the usual tourist spots: Fushimi Inari Taisha; Kinkaku-ji; Kiyozumi-dera; Arashiyama; Nishiki Market; Nijo Castle; Gion. Each site had it's own charm and beauty and when I go back to Kyoto, I would visit them all again.
Fushimi Inari Taisha
Even though you may not know the name Fushimi Inari Taisha I am sure you've seen pictures of it at least once. It is the spot where you see hundreds vermilion torii gates that line a path like the one pictured below. The torii gates are not the only attraction at Fushimi but it is likely the main reason tourists come here.
We arrived Fushimi Inari via the JR line and as soon as we exited Inari station, the shrine was right there. An alternate train line to get here is the Keihan line which stops a few streets over. It is a nice walk through the streets with small shops.
We decided to go to Fushimi Inari a earlier in the morning to hopefully beat the large tourist groups. When we arrived at 930am, it was already pretty busy but not compared to how busy it got at noon when we left.
Fushimi Inari-Taisha is the head shrine of the god Inari who is the god of rice, tea, sake, fertility, agriculture and of prosperity, and is one of the principle kami (or spirit) of Shinto. The Kitsune, or fox, is believed to be a messenger to Inari.
We spent a lot of time hiking up the mountain and taking pictures in between. There is so much to see and experience along the way, so when you visit Fushimi Inari-Taisha, I would allot at least 2 to 3 hours to enable you to really experience the area and the beauty of Mount Inari. It could be done in a little over an hour but that wouldn't do the place justice. Be warned, the hike up to the top of Mount Inari is like a stair master challenge! We only made it halfway up and according to my pedometer, we climbed 55 flights of stairs!
Kinkaku-ji or the Temple of the Golden Pavilion is one of the most beautiful places I visited not only in Kyoto but in the world. Admission is ¥400 (roughly CAD$5) and worth every penny in my opinion.
After a short walk from the front gates, you see this spectacular scene: (pictured below)
It is not uncommon to see huge groups of school kids on a field trip when visiting Kinkaku-ji, in fact, when we visited, I counted at least 6 groups of 15 kids or more. We spent over an hour alone in the front area mainly because it was so crowded that I had to wait patiently to get good pictures but also because it was so beautiful and serene. There is plenty more to see other than the Golden Pavilion but in my opinion, none are as memorable.
Shirakawa Dori and Pontocho
After a long day of touring the sites and attractions, it is nice to just relax and be brought back in time.
Shirakawa Dori and Pontocho are 2 great places to do just that in Kyoto.
Shirakawa Dori is a small section located in the Gion district of Kyoto. From what I have read in a lot of blogs, this area is often depicted in animes and Japanese dramas because they have kept the old style feeling of the buildings and streets. We visited this area at night and with the real Geishas/Maikas and tourists dressed up as Geishas/Maikos walking the narrow streets, it was easy to imagine being in the old Kyoto days.
Pontocho is a great place to do some Geisha spotting. Similar to Shirakawa Dori, Pontocho is an alley that has been preserved. From what I saw, the shops in this alley are mainly restaurants and clubs but there are a few other stores as well. The street parallel to Pontocho also has a large number of restaurants of many cuisines.
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