Review: Tobiano Golf Course
Reading Time: 9 minutes In the high desert of British Columbia lies Thomas McBroom’s Tobiano, his best public access course to date
- Kamloops, British Columbia
- Public – Daily Fee
- Thomas McBroom (2007)
- 24th in Canada (ScoreGolf)
Tobiano is one of the most interesting golf experiences in Western Canada. You’re not in the Rockies like Banff or Jasper, nor your typical country club like Royal Mayfair or Shaughnessy. What Tobiano is, though, is like playing golf on the moon. Desert fingertips overlooking the Kamloops Lake on some very difficult terrain, Tobiano is a very fun round of golf on a golf course that is quite hard. 75.3 at 7367 yards… sheesh.
Kicking things off, Tobiano starts with a 576 yard par 5, moving to the left over (you guessed it) some undulating land.
Bust driver at the bunker on the right. It’s some 330 yards off the tee landing on the upslope, so unless it’s downwind it should be out of play. After that, you’re forced with the decision of hitting it just past the 100 yard marker, or back to the 150 yard to avoid the depression area in the fairway, granting you with a blind third shot.
I’ve found that sometimes a first hole is used as an “introduction” to the golf course, without any real merit or strategy, but right off the start Tobiano forces the player to think. The course conditions are firm and fast, with the fairway cut really short so anything right around the 110-98 to the centre layup actually rolls back to the 135-140 area and is blind.
The green, above, is guarded by a few bunkers short left and short right, with some good movement. All of McBroom’s stuff in British Columbia features some wild green complexes, and Tobiano is likely the best example.
Moving onto the 2nd, it’s the shortest par 4 on the course. Doglegging right around the fairway bunker complex, it’s actually about 300 to the front edge, regardless of the 350 yardage on the scorecard.
The bunker complex here is my favorite on the golf course, and features some wonderful shaping.
A wonderful green complex guarded by three bunkers left, and some heavy undulations in the actual green.
The third is another one of the shorter holes, a par 3 at 162 yards. A fairly simple hole, but is a good introduction to the par 3’s here as they get a lot more difficult. The fescue you see short of the green brushes up right against the fringe, so avoid that otherwise it’d be a really difficult chip shot.
The 4th is completely bunker-less, but features an eye-popping 510 yardage. On second glance, you notice it’s a par 4 (!). To put this into perspective, the second, at 350 yards, and the third, at 162 yards, are 2 yards longer than the 4th. It’s a beast.
Just get the ball in play off the tee, and get a long iron in. This is probably the hole that will turn most people off from the 7367 yardage. It’s a 90 yard difference from the 7300 tee and the 7100 tee.
The approach is to a cool, slightly raised green complex with yet again some good movement. Most of the greens in Tobiano don’t have any crazy defining knobs, knolls, ridges or depression areas, just a lot of slope and without any real direction. Putting here is a lot of fun, but the architectural merit of the green complexes could be higher.
The 5th is one of, if not the best hole on the golf course. At 480 yards, moving down the hill, between some of the (hoodoos? coulees? badlands? I’m not sure what the Kamloops region calls them) natural topography.
The approach shot is really cool. The green complex is fronted by a bunker complex short left, and is surrounded by the badlands.
One of my favorite short iron shots in a province full of good golf courses. You can see some of the land movement looking back.
The 6th, described at the HP’s favorite hole, is another good long par 4. Holes 4-5-6 are 510, 480, 462, so you definitely have to hit it good through this stretch. Keeping it left on the 6th is ideal, as it leaves a shorter yardage into the hole.
When you sign in to the pro shop, they’ll let you know that “the 150 yard markers are strategically placed in the fairway to guide you through the round,” which is weird to me and they are massive and almost obnoxious, but I guess if you hit it at the 150 stake all day you’ll be alright? At the 6th, at the 150 stake or left is better than not.
The 7th is a do-or-die par 3 at 197 yards all carry over the desert wash to a finger of a green. It’s very shallow, with two bunkers over the back and one short right and one left.
You get a great look at the 7th green complex from the 8th tee.
The 8th is a pretty good par 5, measuring 11 yards short of a meaty 600. The farther right your drive is played, the better view of the entire hole you have, but it’s a riskier shot over some bunkering and closer to the edge of the property.
The hole then tumbles down the steep terrain, with a gully up the right side in the layup area. With a good green, smash it over and have a chance at getting home in two.
McBroom did a good job here of making the par 5’s really interesting. I find that the difference between a good golf course and a great golf course tends to be how the par 5’s keep the player interested, instead of your usual free birdie or three-shot-slog. The 100 yard marker here is the hardest part of the fairway to hit.
The green is biggest in the middle and back, with the front portion being a small tongue between two bunker complexes.
The 9th is kind of a slog back up the hill. 418, with the ravine to the left, the key is getting it in play off the tee here.
I like the bunkering on the approach though, and is the better part of this hole.
The 10th starts a nice two hole breather. 558 yards, up the hill, it’s a fairly benign hole. However, a fairly simple hole is a good thing at Tobiano as it has some very extreme holes!
Just a good three shot hole. It usually plays into the wind, and in Kamloops it usually blows, so hit it to a good number and have a good wedge in!
The 11th is another fairly simple hole. At 420 yards, this par 4 doglegs right around a bunker complex.
The fairway slopes fairly aggressive to the right side, and in fact the entire right side is lower than the left, as the green is defined by the upper (left) and lower (right) portions. I like this green complex a lot though, and is a beautiful approach.
The 12th is a meaty 240 yards, with a bunker short left and bunkering right. Hitting it short with firm and fast conditions will help the ball get close to the green, and plays slightly downhill so I don’t think it plays the full yardage.
After the fairly simple stretch of 9-12, we get back to the craziness of Tobiano at the 13th. 578 yards, swinging up the hill to the left around a huge wash area to the left.
The key to the tee shot is avoiding the left bunkers, or the left in general. At the bunkers on the right is ideal.
Once you navigate the tee shot, you have the option to get home in two. Because of the nature of the hole, it plays a lot shorter than the 580 number suggests. The big hitters should be able to get home in two.
For those who layup, hitting it farther up the hill leaves an easier wedge shot as you’re looking down the mouth of the green. Laying up back farther or to the left more forces a carry over the bunker short left.
The 14th is another great par 4, playing slightly downhill at 453 yards. A big drive over the left bunkering should leave a wedge in. The hole moves to the left, so a draw is best suited.
A beautiful view of the Kamloops Lake and the green complex awaits the player around the corner of the dogleg.
The 15th then plays against the edge of the property, closed to the lake. It’s a short par 3, only 155 yards.
The entire green complex slopes towards the front left bunker, with more defined ridges on the right side.
The 16th to me is a weird tee shot. 567 yards, all downhill, it plays so downhill that the other tee boxes make it a blind tee shot. Kind of weird if you ask me. It could’ve been a lot better hole with more visibility.
The hole moves to the left, around a massive bunker complex down the left side thats close to 300 yards to carry entirely. There’s a lot of bunkers on this hole, so avoid them!
A bunker front of the green, and left are the main defences. This is the easiest par 5 on the course, and a good birdie opportunity on a course that rarely makes birdie obvious.
The 17th is a fantastic final par 3, playing over the desert depression area to a green cut into the natural shelf. At only 179 yards, it’s not overly long, but the green slopes pretty hard to the front left, and it’s well guarded.
The 18th is nothing really special, just a longer par 4 to finish moving back towards the clubhouse. There’s room to hit it hard, and at 473 yards, I suggest hitting a good one to end.
The approach is played from a slight draw lie to a green that suits a draw. A bunker left, with the slope moving towards the left, plus a view of the Kamloops Lake is a good way to end.
Tobiano is one of the best golf courses in the province, and at 24th in Canada, it’s one of the best in the country. It borders on the “must play” in Canada region. I could see the argument either way, but I would personally include it in my trip to the province working my way back to Alberta.
One thing I will say is I feel like Tobiano is the Canadian Cape Kidnappers. Maybe not identical in style or quality, but playing on some desert/sagebrush fingers overlooking a lake on some difficult topography, the views reminded me of the pictures I’ve seen. I’ve never actually been to New Zealand, so anyone who has played both can correct me, but standing in the fairway on 14 I thought I was in New Zealand!
The key to enjoying Tobiano is playing from the right tees, cause it is really difficult, and borders on almost too difficult on certain holes. But playing from the right tees can help that, and bringing lots of balls will go a long way!