OLDS — The Olds Golf Club won’t open for the 2021 season until about the middle of April, says pro/manager Wade Bearchell.
During an interview, Bearchell admitted that might be tough news for those anxious to get out on the fairways, given that other courses in southern and central Alberta are already open, but he said there are some extenuating circumstances.
Time is needed to ensure the course is totally ready for golfers.
A new tee has been created on No. 7 and some bunker projects and drainage projects were still being completed when he was interviewed. Also, tarps were just being taken off the greens.
“We’re trying to pick a day that makes sense for everybody so that once we open, we can stay open -- for the most part," he said.
“There’s obviously going to be days in April when you’re going to be closed – or May even, depending on weather. But yeah, just trying to get everything up to speed.”
Bearchell said staff have been working for a couple of weeks now to get the course ready for play.
He was pleased that that the winter was relatively mild.
“It's nice to have snow cover to protect the greens and the turf, so for the most part, we had that,” Bearchell said.
“We did have some warmer temperatures which can cause ice damage. We didn’t have any of that this year, but it’s always a concern, lately.
“We seem to get some very warm temperatures throughout the winter now and then some extreme cold, which causes ice, obviously.”
Bearchell praised the tarping and other procedures superintendent Jason Clouston uses to protect the greens.
“Certainly our green surfaces have been excellent the last 10 years or so; we haven’t had any significant issues,” he said.
This season, the club won’t be hosting any high-profile tournaments like the Senior Men’s Amateur championship it hosted last season.
It will however host qualifiers for the Alberta Senior Amateur and the Alberta Open. It will also host events on the Maple Leaf Junior tour and the Canadian Junior Golf Association tour.
Bearchell is hopeful the club can run leagues and some other tournaments this season as well – perhaps from mid-summer onward -- but that will depend on what happens with the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Things are changing obviously all the time, with the variants,” he said.
Bearchell said the golf club managed to deal with COVID restrictions last season and will do so again this year, but his heart goes out to those operating other businesses.
“It’s frustrating for us, but I mean, we’ll be open. It’s the restaurants and the other guys, the other ones. Certain businesses seem to get picked on and shut down,” he said.
“I mean, there may be issues in food and beverage that we’ll have to address, but for the most part, golf will be fine.”
There are some changes in personnel this season.
Bowden resident Randy Brown, who previously worked for Golf Town in Red Deer for many years is the new assistant in the pro shop.
Bearchell is pumped.
“We haven’t had an assistant for a few years now,” he said.
He described the hiring of Brown as “a perfect situation.”
“He knows a lot of people and he’s been in and around the golf business for about 25 years – about as long as I have -- so he brings a wealth of knowledge,” Bearchell said.
“He’s a master club fitter. He’s got a lot of experience in equipment and so I’m super excited to have him.”
There’s a new food and beverage manager in the clubhouse too. Merlin Ausenhus is replacing Merry Ann Bell who has retired and moved back to Manitoba after 18 years at the Olds Golf Club.
“We’re going to miss her, but we’ve got a new chef, so we’re going to have some new changes in menu and things in the clubhouse,” Bearchell said.
All in all, Bearchell is looking forward to this season.
"It’s good,” he said. “It’s just always stressful in the spring, trying to get open – especially when we’ve had kind of an early start. Golf courses are open in the city of Calgary now.
"But the golf course is good. Everything is looking toward another great year, so I’m very hopeful.”