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Golf season tees up

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All three of Whistler's golf courses will tee off this weekend with good conditions, despite the late winter and heavy snowpack that hung around until late April.

Nicklaus North Golf Course is opening on May 8, with early season conditions that are much better than manager Mike Zuccolin expected.

"It was a long and cold winter and we are doing a number of things to improve the course (for opening)," he said. "We're also renovating a number of bunkers this year, up to 18 bunkers, which is good, and we're doing a number of things to improve the condition of our fairways - they're really good but we're dong some soil conditioning and focusing on some drainage improvements this year. We've also purchased new equipment to improve our fairways - we've always had great greens and tees, and the fairways will be up to that standard."

Like other courses, Nicklaus North will be aggressive in attracting customers this year, with a focus on local golfers.

Tuesday is going to be local's day through the season, which includes specials on golf, food and beverages.

"The rates are going to get people to do a double-take," promised Zuccolin.

The rate for locals is $33 in May, going up to $44 in June and $55 in July. That's open to Sea to Sky residents only - I.D. will be required - and you have to book your tee time at 4 p.m. on Monday. The price doesn't include carts.

As a semi-private course, Nicklaus North limits the number of outside memberships they sell each year and sold out more than two weeks ago. That includes 20 morning and 20 afternoon passes.

"We're anticipating a tough year for visitors, so we're trying to do things to drive local business during quiet times. For example, Tuesday is our quietest day the last couple of years, and we want to make sure that day is filled up and that people are having a good time playing here."

There is also another "group therapy" package in the works that's open to Sea to Sky businesses. The rate is $69 per person for twilight and sunset rounds through the season, which includes food, golf, and rental clubs and carts.

The Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Course will open on May 9, a few weeks later than planned. While there are no major capital projects this year, they are also looking to attract more local customers and visitors that are budget-conscious.

"We're basically offering more packages," said Fairmont spokesperson Lynn Gervais. "We are bringing back men's night on Wednesdays, and we have local's appreciation on the first Tuesday of every month starting on June 2 with a $75 green fee. We're also doing a special Fairmont Friday on May 8 to do some lead-in to the season, with different competitions like chipping or putting contests on our back terrace to build some excitement.

"Once again we're also offering people a free round of golf on their birthday, which was a success last year."

Like Nicklaus North, the Fairmont is predicting a tougher year. They hope to have the same success with golf as they've had with skiers visiting the resort by offering promotions through the hotel.

"People are booking more last minute than the past, and we put out specials that got a lot of pickup," said Gervais. "We're expecting it to be a great season. If anything there is better awareness of Whistler as a golf destination and the product here than ever before, and we're being acknowledged for our golf product as well as for our skiing."

To that end she says local courses are working together more closely than ever before to promote Whistler as a golf destination where visitors will play at several courses during their stay.

Other promotions include the Fairmont's Golf and Grill package, which is $89 from May 8 to May 28 or $79 for golf only. That price goes up to $119 and $109 on May 29, and to $149 on June 26. From Sept. 20 to close the price will drop again to $89.

The grill component is worth the $10 with a three-course menu - starter, grill and desert.

The Whistler Golf Course will open on May 8 with a variety of promotions targetted to locals and B.C. residents.

B.C. resident rates start at $79 for individuals and $69 per person for a foursome through May 28, with another $10 for their Golf and Dine packages for matinee, twilight and sunset rounds. Starting on May 29 there will also be a 9 and Dine option for playing nine holes.

Their top rates are low, topping out at $109 for a B.C. resident from June 26 to Sept. 20, although that drops to $99 for a foursome. The price of Golf and Dine packages is $30 per person.

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