Fore! Calgary-area golf courses open for season

Article content

From shovelling snow to digging divots and raking sand-traps … What a difference a week can make.

A handful of Calgary-area courses opened Thursday for the 2024 season. Several other local layouts will be ready for action by the weekend — all on full greens and tees.

Article content

“We definitely live in a unique part of Canada,” chuckled John Faber, golf lead for the City of Calgary. “To go from a foot of snow to opening in a week, that is definitely not the norm.”

Advertisement 2

Article content

Late last week, even with another wallop of winter out his office window, Play Golf Calgary’s Slade King was alerting staff to be ready to peel tarps and put the flagsticks out. King & Co. are always among the first to open, and they were welcoming birdie-seekers Thursday at each of their four facilities — Blue Devil, HeatherGlen, Links of GlenEagles and Serenity.

“There are so many factors that you’re looking at,” King said, explaining his optimism during what will hopefully be the final flurry until fall. “We were sending out messages to the staff with all those points — the winter snow has melted, there’s warmth in the ground, the overnight temperatures are looking good and any snow that does fall is going to melt quickly.

“So we were sending messages to staff in the middle of that blizzard last Thursday, saying ‘Let’s be prepared.’ Because we knew we would be pulling tarps early in the week.”

They did exactly that.

And?

“Everything, at first glance, looks fantastic,” King said. “There’s lot of colour, a lot of green, in the grass already, so we’re pretty happy with how it wintered.”

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

“I know our superintendent is happy with the condition of the greens underneath the tarps,” echoed Greg Griffith, who’ll be greeting golfers Friday as the head professional at Fox Hollow. “Having a superintendent happy in the spring, that is always good.”

When those tarps — necessary to protect the turf from the harsh winter weather conditions — are finally lifted, that news typically travels fast.

The City of Calgary launched the tee-sheet Wednesday for two of its most popular munis — Maple Ridge and McCall Lake. Within an hour, 92% of the slots for Friday-Sunday were booked.

“That does not come as a surprise,” said Faber, noting that Shaganappi Point should open early next week. “What it tells me is Calgarians are ready to golf.”

No doubt about that.

Many have been trying to keep their skills sharp at practice ranges or indoor simulators. Others made road-trips to Lethbridge or to B.C.’s Columbia Valley for their first rounds of the season. Now, they will be cranking drives and sinking putts a lot closer to home.

“The only problem is that it’s the same weekend as the Masters, so I’ll have to tape that and watch it late at night,” joked Gregg Schubert, the head professional at The Track, which opens Saturday. “But that first week is always great, because people are just so happy to be out again.”

Advertisement 4

Article content

Schubert won’t be the only one watching the action from Augusta National on PVR.

With temperatures forecast in the mid- to high-teens, weekend tee-times around Calgary were a hot commodity. In fact, there is demand for more.

“We’re not going until 10 a.m. on Friday, but we have people asking us to open earlier,” Griffith said. “The funny thing at this time of year is you’ll take a call and somebody will say, ‘Do you have anything available Saturday?’ You ask them, ‘Well, what time are you looking for?’ and they’ll say, ‘Oh, maybe around 7:30 or 8 a.m.’ ”

He laughs.

“It’s April — we’re not open at 7 in the morning! Everybody is just so excited that they forget what month it is.”

Ah yes, it is hard to believe that it was blizzarding at this exact time last week.

Now, it’s time to swap your shovel for a seven-iron, to switch from Sorels to soft-spikes.

“We’re really looking forward to what we assume is going to be another busy season,” said Faber, whose City of Calgary courses reported record numbers — a grand total of about 320,000 rounds — in 2023.

“The initial sense is that golf is still at an all-time high for interest and excitement,” added King, the chief operating officer for Play Golf Calgary. “People are still purchasing equipment. Our leagues are full. Corporate tournaments, there’s lot of interest. Golf is still riding a wave.”

[email protected]

Article content