If you did any skiing or snowboarding this past winter you probably parked at the Whistler Golf Course driving range, which was pressed into action as a dirt lot in the lead-up to the 2010 Winter Games.
The Whistler Golf Course, owned by Tourism Whistler, has been hard at work since May 7 restoring the lot as a driving range, while also upgrading and improving it from its previous design. That means improved irrigation and drainage and new features. There are now five target greens on the range, as well as a new chipping green and practice bunker. The practice putting green was tripled in size.
There is a new grass tee deck to practice on, as well as a new synthetic tee deck that mimics natural grass.
All of the grass is sod, which was necessary to get the facility ready for its grand reopening this weekend.
According to General Manager Alan Kristmanson, the $820,000 renovation improved the experience in many ways.
"I think the thing that golfers would notice is that it's actually a good place to practice now, before it was a field with a net around it," he said. "We've contoured the entire field to create golf targets, and have five practice greens with bunkers around them. With new turf also comes new drainage and irrigation, so it looks better as well.
"We also pushed the end of the range up. Before, the end of the field really fell away on a slope so you couldn't really see the whole range, but now the end is up you can actually see all parts of the field.
"People are already telling us, 'what a difference.' You have a driving range where golfers smash balls north and south, and you have facilities where people can come and work on all aspects of the game, which is what we wanted to create. You can work on your short game, your long games - all aspects."
There was a soft opening of the main driving range last week, but this weekend is the official opening of the new chipping green, bunkers and putting area.
From July 31 to Aug. 1 the course is offering specials to driving range users, including:
• Two-for-one practice balls
• A Nike-sponsored Closest to the Pin contest from noon to 6 p.m. daily, with six Nike drivers up for grabs.
• A Nike putting contest, with six wedges or hybrids up for grabs.
• $2 hot dogs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
• Free tips from Canadian Professional Golf Association professionals.
• Live music with Brother Twang on Sunday at noon.
There will also be a ceremonial first swing at noon on Saturday, the official opening time for the driving range.