A past project at Trickle Creek Golf Resort in Kimberley, British Columbia, by Les Furber, ASGCA (Golf Design Services), led to his latest project, the remodeling of Elmwood Golf Club in Saskatchewan. Sheldon Reinhart, Trickle Creek’s general manager, worked with Furber on the Elmwood project and, “I knew he was the guy for this job.”
Golf Course Architecture reports:
“The genesis of the project was that the poa annua putting surfaces had been struggling for several years from winter kill, resulting in poor conditions in spring,” said Tim Birnie, design associate at Golf Design Services.
“The board of directors and myself understood that the greens were not coming in good enough after being around since 1965,” said Sheldon Reinhart, general manager at Elmwood Golf Club. “We needed to do something as they had outlived their life of 30-35 years.”
A four-year renovation, rather than a 5-10-year project, was decided upon by the club as it would allow them to keep 18 holes in play at all times via the use of temporary greens.
Furber’s firm Golf Design Services has overseen the construction of five new holes as well as the relocation of the driving range and putting green. Additionally, the remaining thirteen holes were comprehensively remodelled, including several new green locations, and teeing areas added or relocated on every hole. Extensive subsurface drainage work was completed on three holes which were previously prone to flooding during major rain events. Garth Beetstra of Golf Design Services was the lead shaper and site supervisor for the project.
The golf course property is owned by the city of Swift Current, who used a parcel of land for a housing development known as Cypress Point, with 82 lots sold to partially fund the renovation. “This facilitated further alterations to the design, to include moving the driving range facility, and complete the rerouting of two additional holes,” said Birnie.
“If it wasn’t for the relationship with the city of Swift Current, we could not do this project,” said Reinhart. “The city of Swift Current got us a loan that was the best we asked for and helped us out financially in a huge way.”
Birnie said: “Swift Current has a unique maintenance environment which in the winter months typically feature significant wind, relatively little snow cover, and very cold temperatures. However, there are also ‘Chinook’ winds, which are flows of warm air that can raise temperatures above freezing periodically during winter and create freeze/thaw cycles and a high propensity for ice damage to turfgrass, particularly on the putting surfaces. For this reason, from a design perspective it was important to design and construct the greens to drain quickly and have no areas which could hold water or melted snow/ice through the winter months.
“During the process of proposing a methodology and cost estimates for the reconstruction, it was suggested to the club that if greens could be placed in alternate locations, it may be possibly to ‘pre‐ construct’ at least some of the greens, such that the old green could be used for play until the new green was constructed and grown in. As with most locations on the Canadian prairies, the golf season is only six months long, and disruption to play is a significant consideration.
“Additionally, there were several blind tee shots on the course which presented playability and safety issues. This led to additional discussions about the possible rerouting of holes to help alleviate these situations, and conceptual solutions that potentially altered the golf course layout in a more meaningful way.”
In the final phase of work, the final four greens were completed with the old greens becoming fairway areas. “Although it was a juggling act using combinations of old greens and new greens, and to route golfers through the current construction areas, construction crews were always safe in the work areas and no members had to putt on temporary greens during the project,” said Birnie.
Reinhart said that the par threes are spectacular, including three new ones that Furber has designed. “The par fives are long and demanding, the stretch of holes 10-13 being my personal favourite.”
Birnie said: “Holes at Elmwood were designed to take full advantage of the site, which has variations in elevation uncommon for a prairie course. Vistas of the surrounding prairie, the city of Swift Current, and Swift Current Creek are available from several holes as well as the clubhouse which sits atop a 20-metre escarpment overlooking the course. Several holes play on and off the escarpment to varying degrees to make for interesting and challenging golf. The remaining holes meander through a lovely parkland setting with mature trees and swift current creek in play on several holes.
“The first is an impressive starting hole playing downhill and framed by the mature trees and new fairway bunkering,” continued Birnie. “The fourth is one of the completely new holes not in the original routing – it is a downhill par three with an excellent Sunday pin position behind the bunker and lovely view of Swift Current Creek. The thirteenth is another of the new holes and it plays across a dry stormwater creek to an elevated green with bold bunkering.”
The sixteenth, the last hole worked on, opened for play in April 2019 with the official opening ceremony held this month.