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Golf courses get out to early start

Juniors golf free, among this year’s changes

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Calling all duffers, hackers, slicers, hookers, toppers, three-putters, four-putters, and other breeds of golfers:

Whistler’s golf clubs are getting ready to open within the next week, with lots of new perks for all kinds of players, from locals to B.C. residents to youths to beginners to pros.

With a light snowpack in the valley this year, Whistler golf course crews have had an early start and will open with some of the best early season conditions in a long time.

New to Whistler, all three local courses will be offering free green fees for youth golfers 16 and under when accompanied by a paying adult. Special rates for B.C. Residents are also in effect, with savings of $20-$30 per person per round, and specials for foursomes and late afternoon tee times.

The Whistler Golf Club

Whistler Golf Club is getting off to its earliest start in course history, opening this Friday, April 29 with a few new changes.

The Club has a brand new cart fleet, new bunkers on holes 6 and 15, and a renovation of the bunkers on 16.

"This will add a few new challenges to the course, as well as add to the beauty of the experience," explained Ro Davies, sales manager for the club.

The club has kept the same season’s pass rates for locals as last year, and is continuing to offer a wide range of clinics for all levels. The Practice and Learning centre has been open since the beginning of April, and spots are filling up fast says Davies.

Particularly popular are the club’s five session clinics for women, beginners and intermediates for $189. Each off the five sessions includes an hour of instruction, followed by a round of golf in the afternoons.

Whistler’s Locals’ Day will also be back this year on May 5, with green fees of $39 and proceeds going towards a local charity. The club is accepting applications from charity recipients up to April 29.

The 19 th Hole is also going to be a little different this year. The Whistler Golf Club has taken over the restaurant, extending the patio and changing the menu. Every day there will be food and drink specials, as well as some of the lowest prices anywhere in Whistler.

"This is going to be the best summer patio in Whistler, and the setting is unbelievable," said Davies. "Our new motto is ‘Palmer’s design, Whistler’s attitude.’"

Another perk the club is offering golfers is the ability to match the price on any brand of clubs sold in the province, while having your clubs professionally fitted.

"It’s a world-class course, but we’ve definitely done some things to make it a lot more affordable, a lot more fun, and to get people out here to play," added Davies.

More information is available at www.whistlergolf.com.

Nicklaus North Golf Course

All eyes will be on Nicklaus North Golf Course in July when it hosts the Telus Skins Game with Vijay Singh, John Daly, Stephen Ames and the Golden Bear himself, Jack Nicklaus. With an early start this year, crews have been working to ensure that the course is in extra good shape for the start of the season on May 6.

"We usually spend the first few weeks clearing the snow into piles so it can melt, but the conditions this year gave the guys a little more time to get everything in perfect shape," said general manager Jeff Ciecka.

There have been a few minor changes to the course this year, including some newly paved cart paths, and some new natural grasses planted around the water hazards. The bunkers have also been upgraded to ensure consistent sand, while cutting the edge back to improve the presentation.

"We’re really excited about the new junior program that the Whistler courses are offering this year. It’s a family resort, and this is a very family thing to be able to offer. We’re hoping to see a lot of young players out there this season," said Ciecka.

Special rates for B.C. Residents will also be available, as well as specials in afternoon and early evening that are competitive with other courses in the area.

The Telus Skins Game will be a major focus, with 5,000 spectators expected, as well as television crews and golf media from across North America. The game will be broadcast live on July 4 and 5, and rebroadcast immediately afterwards on TSN and RDS in prime time.

"What’s kind of neat is that people on the East Coast are going to be able to come home and watch the rebroadcast of the event from start to finish," said Ciecka. "We’re really hoping for sun."

Having Nicklaus North course designer Jack Nicklaus on the ticket is also a boon.

"It’s pretty awesome to have him back here on the 10 th anniversary of the course. He played his last Masters in April, he’s coming to Whistler in July, and the following week he’s playing his last British Open at St. Andrews in Scotland. The skins game is his warm-up for the final contest in a 45 year career, one of the final stops on his farewell tour."

More information on the Nicklaus North Golf Course and Telus Skins Game is available at www.golfbc.com/courses/nicklaus_north

Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Course

The Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Course is also emphasizing families and value this year when it opens on May 6. In addition to participating in the youth program and offering discounts for B.C. residents, the Chateau is offering the public the use of the now completed driving range for $10 (accessible through the Lost Lake Park parking lot).

For avid golfers, guests who play a round in the morning can also play for free in the afternoon.

The clubhouse has also gone through a few changes, with the retail moving to the front, and an expanded terrace and restaurant in the back. The course also offers valet service for vehicles and clubs to make things easier for players.

Last, but not least, the course is doing away with the concept of marshals, and replacing them with guest service specialists that will be placed strategically around the course. These specialists will do everything they can to help groups and keep the pace of play moving, from raking sand traps for guests to replacing divots. The specialists will also provide golf balls to guests who hit their shots into environmentally sensitive areas of the course.

"We’re really focussed on improving the overall experience as much as we can for our guests, adding value where we can, and providing services that we know people will appreciate and will come back for again and again," said Shawna Merell, public relations manager for the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.

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