While final preparations are being made to get the front nine at the Estevan Woodlawn Golf Club ready for 2012, work is already underway to transform the back nine.
After losing nearly the entire 2011 season to devastating floods which virtually wiped out the back nine, course officials are optimistic despite entering brand new territory.
“We had a couple of big rumble strips in the road, but it’s all in how you direct your energy. If you can direct it as being negative, you’re going to see nothing but the negative side of it,” said Woodlawn general manager Brian Dueck.
“If you can say, you know what, yeah, it’s horrible, it happened, but sometime two or three years down the road we’re going to look back … 10 months later, here we are setting the pro shop up and getting ready to go this spring. We’re moving forward, we always will and that’s the only attitude you can have.”
Reduced to a nine-hole course for this season, Woodlawn is planning to open April 25. The driving range opened on Thursday.
In the meantime, the course is taking advantage of the flooding by beginning a back nine redesign project that had been in the works long before the water came.
The goal is to have the back nine ready for the start of the 2013 season.
“The most important thing for us is to get a good grow and get a good start when we seed. This July, we’ll see a nice emerald green looking back there on the back nine,” said Dueck.
At Woodlawn’s annual general meeting in February, the cost of the project was cited at $1,686,003, according to a budget put together by course designer Les Furber, who submitted six different designs.
Dueck said a major goal of the redesign is to make the course enjoyable for the average golfer while keeping it challenging enough to host high-calibre tournaments.
That will be done by having four tees on each hole.
“Number one, make it playable for everybody, but yet it can still be very challenging if you don’t play the proper tees,” said Dueck. “If you bring a scratch golfer in here and have a provincial tournament, if they play the back tees they have a challenge in front of them. It’s going to be a lot different golf course back there.”
The two shortest tees will see their total distance decrease, while the back two will play longer.
The reds have dropped from a total yardage of 5,409 to 5,070, with no more than a 60-yard carry across water. The whites have dipped from 6,121 yards to 5,848.
The blue tees, which were the longest, have increased to 6,456 total yards from 6,353, and the new championship tees play a total distance of 6,865.
“It’ll be a lot easier for the golfer that doesn’t carry the ball that far. They’re not necessarily tees for a gender. It’s a tee for ability, which is great for our juniors, seniors, ladies that maybe don’t carry the ball that far,” said Dueck.
Golfers will also notice a difference when playing over water.
“What they’re doing with the waterways back there, they were kind of cut out like canals before, but they’re actually taking some of the faces and pulling it back so that … the sight of the water will be there, but your ball won’t necessarily hit the bank and stop on the bank, it’ll deflect and continue on to the other side,” Dueck said. “Whereas before, it would hit the bank and because it was so steep, it went back in the water.”
Only three holes on the back will be similar to the previous layout, with the old 13th hole becoming 12, the old 14 becoming 13 and the old 16 becoming 15, with different green sites and bunkering.
“The rest of them have moved to totally different sites and places back there.”
There are also some changes to the front nine, including the installation of continuous cart paths throughout the course.
A water runoff issue on the fifth hole has been resolved, with the course taking advantage of the flooding carnage by channelling the water through pipes under the soil.
Meanwhile, the course was awarded $500,000 from the Provincial Disaster Assistance Program, but is appealing that amount through the Woodlawn Regional Park.
Woodlawn is pursuing an aggressive plan of attack to get back on its feet, and Dueck said support from the membership is crucial.
“(The budget) is based on retaining 90 per cent of our 2010 membership. 2010 was our best year ever, so those are pretty aggressive numbers, but I think if people understand that this is their golf course, they’re the ones that have the say in it,” said Dueck.
“We’re going to need our membership at key times. That’s when you need your membership, not when you’re swamped busy, it’s when you’re down — and not out, we’re not out — but when you’re down and need a helping hand.”
Dueck said he believes the new back nine will be a point of pride for Estevan when completed.
“This community takes pride in their facilities. You look at the amazing thing with Spectra Place. It’s a wow effect. When we built the clubhouse here, it kind of had the same wow effect, and when we build this back nine, it’s going to have the wow effect too,” he said.
“I know that people in Estevan miss golf. Just being out in the community playing hockey and reffing hockey and just talking to different people, they miss being down here. This is their place to come and socialize and have things to do in the summertime.”