Perhaps the title of this feature should be “Every Golf Course has a Story.”
The story is all about the Rustic Nine golf course, which has celebrated its 10th year of operation as a nine-hole par-three course north of North Battleford.
To mark the anniversary, Sept. 1, the course was open for just $5 to anyone who wanted to golf that day between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Closest-to-the-pin prizes were available.
What began as a fun addition to the farm property of Victor and Elaine Liebaert has since turned into a popular destination for area golfers.
“When we first decided to do the golf course, it was just our back yard,” said Elaine.
“This was never to be opened to the public. It was just a family event, but then friends and family came and tried it, and they enjoyed it, and they told us we had to let other people come. So we did and every year we have more and more people that come and enjoy it.”
The land itself has been in the family a long time. Victor’s grandfather bought the land in 1926, and moved there in 1946.
It was run as a grain and cattle operation for much of its history. Golf was on the back burner. The Liebaerts admit they weren’t all that active as golfers before building the course.
Their son, Ben, enjoyed playing golf more than anyone. They recalled that around 2004 they were watching Tiger Woods play golf one Sunday afternoon on television.
At that point, Elaine recalled, Victor turned to Ben and said, “why don’t we go out and cut a couple of greens?”
“So they came out here, cut a couple of greens, and we’ve been golfing ever since.”
Initially, the golf holes were just recreational on a small portion of the property.
“The cattle were on one side and we golfed on the other,” said Elaine.
In 2005, the decision was made to sell the cattle. The corrals and graineries were taken down, freeing up the space to put in even more golf holes throughout the yard.
“Victor and Ben planned it all out, where the holes would be,” said Elaine.
After family and friends saw the course and urged them to open it up to the general public, “then we got serious about it,” Elaine said.
Tee-off mats were acquired from a company out of Calgary, because they knew if they were going to do this “we had to do it right,” she said.
They approached the RM about their plans and council was enthusiastic about it as well.
For the most part, it was just “learn as we go.”
“You learn by your mistakes and find out what works.”
The entire operation is family-owned and run — basically by Victor and Elaine and other family members.
The course today consists of nine par-three holes, as well as a clubhouse where snacks and drinks are available. Golfclubs and pull carts are available for rent, and there are golf carts for those who are not able to walk far.
The longest hole is 143 yards and the shortest are 65 and 68 yards.
“It’s challenging, but not exhausting,” said Elaine.
Noticeable on the course are a number of amenities including vintage farm equipment that has been in the family for years. The largest one is a threshing machine, but there are other items like plows and wagons and a seeder.
One item, which looks like a cannon, is actually a stationery engine from a grain elevator.
“Victor and I love old machinery, collectibles, things like that,” Elaine said, “So we thought we would incorporate that in the golf course.”
The machinery items are often on cement pads around the course, which was where the out buildings or cattle corrals used to be.
It’s a way to pay tribute to their farming background. But these antiques also pose a challenge to the golfers on the course.
“Some of the equipment is in the line of fire, I guess we could say,” said Victor. “We hear the odd one clanging off there.”
Golfers who enjoy the course range in age from young people all the way to seniors. A number of seniors are out on the course five days a week, Elaine said.
“It’s more of a relaxed atmosphere,” she said. “There’s no pressure to push you along. We don’t let too many people out ... four groups at a time would be the maximum.”
The course itself is normally open from May to the end of September each year, a typical golf season in Saskatchewan.
In addition to the golf course, the Liebaerts have opened up the barn on the property to various functions, including concerts and dances.
The venue has become a popular one for staff functions, family and school reunions, birthdays and anniversaries and for weddings.
There have been 39 weddings at the location since the course opened. The first one took place there in May of 2011.
Later this month, the course will once again host the Brian Maunula Junior Golf Tournament for a third year. That event happens on Sept. 23 and is open to children between ages four to 14.
The event benefits the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital and is held in memory of Brian Maunula, a business and community leader in the Battlefords who also was known for his passion for the game of golf.
The enjoyment people have in coming to the Rustic Nine course is what keeps Victor and Elaine inspired to keep it going.
“Just to hear the laughter and the comments after that people enjoy themselves makes it very worthwhile,” said Elaine. “We know we’re never going to make a fortune doing this, but it’s a labour of love.”