Whistler Golf Club is now a member of a pretty exclusive organization.
The newly revamped golf shop entered a partnership with Nike in the offseason, becoming just the second location in Canada along with the Angus Glen Golf Club in Markham, Ont. to switch exclusively to the brand. Director of golf Alan Kristmanson said the club was keen on doing a major renovation during the winter, and after an affiliation with the company for the past few years, felt it was the right time to further the relationship.
"We were looking to do something special in our golf shop. We were due for a renovation and we were looking for a key partner to do that," he said. "Nike offered us this opportunity to become one of their pinnacle shops."
In addition to adding a fitting studio near the driving range, other changes include acquiring exclusive merchandise associated with major tournaments like The Masters and the U.S. Open, as well as potential drop-ins from some of the sport's big names. While nothing is confirmed at this point, Kristmanson noted the brand sponsors are Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Michelle Wie and Suzann Pettersen.
"We'll look forward to, hopefully, hosting some of Nike's athletes in the future, which will be really exciting. We're working on some of those details right now," he said.
On the course, after opening early on April 30, Kristmanson said it doesn't exactly feel like early May out there, with warm conditions and the course being in "late June" shape.
"We went from winter to spring overnight," he said. "The greens are rolling good already. The fairways are in good shape."
Elsewhere in Whistler, Nicklaus North Golf Course is set to open May 5 and is reporting similar encouraging conditions to start the season.
"The course wintered so well, and since early April we have been doing a ton of work to the greens, tees and fairways to ensure we continue to have the great course conditions Nicklaus North is known for," general manager Mike Zuccolin said via email.
While the course didn't experience any changes other than some small tweaks, Zuccolin noted he was excited about the completed Valley Trail connection between Meadow Park and Nesters near the course's 13th hole.
The Fairmont Chateau Whistler Golf Club, meanwhile, experienced its major upgrades leading into the 2015 season, but director of golf Nick Droulis said there was more work done this winter to continually improve the course in advance of its April 29 opening, one of its earliest ever.
"The renovations in 2015 turned out terrific and we have done more work in 2016, including replacing the 9th cart path, rebuilding the 10th tee and a new cart fleet," he said in an email.
Up in Pemberton, where golfers can get their swings in a little earlier because of favourable weather, action has been going since late March.
The Meadows at Pemberton had its earliest opening in recent memory, said general manager Kevin McLeod. The first golfers teed off on March 27.
"From the day we opened we have experienced a nice increase over last year where we also had an early opening on March 27. We have attracted some new members and our Spring Pass (unlimited golf until the end of May) has been a great success," McLeod noted in an email.
Some of the offseason changes included clearing out some vegetation along the back nine, allowing for more airflow and sun onto those greens.
As well, Big Sky Golf Course next door recently re-opened its five-hole par-three course to help draw more people into the game. General manager and head professional Woody Bishop said the full course can be intimidating for some and was thrilled to bring back an intermediate offering to help get people hooked.
"I did not like to hear that kids, or adults for that matter, stopped playing the game because they just don't feel comfortable playing a longer course. At the end of the day we just need people playing the game of golf, and if five par 3 holes is a way to help make that happen we all win," Bishop said in an email.
The course opened on April 22 with ideal conditions. In addition to golf, he noted the course is hosting a variety of events ranging from yoga and movie nights to wine and painting nights.