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Late spring for golfers

Millionth golfer at WGC among highlights for local courses



Whistler Golf Club will hit a major milestone this year.

The course, which opened in 1983, is set to welcome its millionth golfer at some point this season, according to general manager Alan Kristmanson.

"That person is going to win the golf course for a day at some point during the season," he said. "They're going to be able to bring whoever they want, have the whole course to themselves, and they'll win a full outfit from Nike Golf.

"We think it's going to happen sometime in the May-June time period, but we're not going to divulge much more than that."

The winner will get the chance to enjoy a course that has had some of its tee boxes redone, though the course will otherwise be its familiar self.

Opening day is expected to be May 12, about a week later than originally planned.

"Obviously the late snow and the temperatures have put us behind a little bit. We're shooting for May 12 and we think we'll be in great shape once we get open," he said. "We miss a week of revenue, obviously, and we would like to get going. But the last three years, we opened early and we were probably due for a longer winter.

"Everything that happens in a normal golf cycle just happens a little bit later."

The range, however, is open for golfers to get their early-season swing in to be ready for when the course opens in full.

Meanwhile, the Meadows at Pemberton has been open since April 15. General manager Kevin McLeod said a new slicing technique applied to the greens has them coming out of winter beautifully.

"They came out the beginning of the year and they're easy to putt on, and we can get them faster earlier," he said.

After a couple years of late-March openings, it took longer for golf fans to get their fix.

"It was a little bit late this year, for sure," he said. "If you look at the last eight years, it's usually the first part of April, so it was a little later."

McLeod said the course is looking to draw in more families this season and has a few different ideas on tap. To start, the club is building an 18-hole mini-putt course that is expected to open in early June.

"It'll get the young'uns out there with a putter and a ball to have some fun," he said. "It'll be just off the rear deck so the parents can sit on the patio and have a cocktail while the kids play the little putt course."

With the Meadows already hosting the Battle of the Bands each summer, McLeod said he hopes to use the backyard area for other events throughout the season.

"We're hoping to have a croquet tournament, have sack races and other little games and some outdoor music throughout the year," he said.

The Meadows' neighbour, Big Sky Golf Club, is set to open on May 1.

"The course is looking good. It came through the winter really well and we're looking forward to dropping the puck here on Monday morning," general manager Woody Bishop said. "We're feeling really good. We just redid our greens and collars the last couple of years so they're brand new and they look absolutely phenomenal — probably the best we've ever seen them coming out of the winter."

Bishop noted there were a few minor hiccups associated with the long winter that took a little extra elbow grease to fix up, but everything will be pristine before opening.

"Overall, things are looking really good out there. Now we just need some sun —three or four days of sun and it'll be perfect out there," he said.

Like other courses in the region, Big Sky has opened early in previous years, but Bishop said they always play it cautiously and won't be opening late according to their schedule.

"In the budget process, we always say that May 1 is the day that we want to be open by. That way, we don't get behind the eight-ball," he said. "If we can get open earlier, then we will, but I don't like to rush things. I don't like being open just for the sake of being open."

One exciting event for young golfers is the Canucks Junior Golf Week coming to the course once again. This year's event is slated for July 7 at 5 p.m. Registration is $20 and must be completed before June 22 at

"We have a huge junior program as it is and this is just another incentive," Bishop said. "A lot of kids in Pemberton are really starting to get out and wanting to get to the golf course and play golf."

In terms of non-golf programming, Bishop said movie nights and yoga will be back this summer. As well, on Sunday and Monday afternoons, golfers will be allowed to bring their dogs with them.

Meanwhile, Nicklaus North Golf Course has a new general manager in Jason Lowe, who has been with the GolfBC group for 18 years and served as general manager of Arbutus Ridge Golf Club on Vancouver Island for the past nine years.

Lowe said their greens are looking good, without a lot of freezing and thawing that can take a toll on some of the more sensitive greenery.

"For the golf course itself, we increased the budget, so we should see even better conditions. Part of what we're known for is great conditions, and we have more labour in the budget," he said. "We'll have a bit more maintenance in certain areas."

Lowe said he plans to look and listen this season before deciding what direction he may want to take the club. One present idea, though, is to maximize efficiency in the restaurant and upgrading some fixtures and furnishings.

"I'm an attention-to-detail guy with how things look and feel," he said.


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