Big Sky Golf Club in Pemberton is looking to prove the sky is the limit with its recent upgrades.
In terms of on-course playability, golfers will first notice the brand-new T1 bentgrass greens that general manager and head professional Woody Bishop said were long overdue.
Another major change will be the renovated practice facility, which features three new holes. Between them, golfers can tackle any challenge they might face on the course in advance of their round.
Big Sky is set to open May 15. Though that's about a month later than normal, it's a boon for the course, which didn't expect to open until next month due to the upgrades being undertaken for this season.
"(It's) way better than expected," Bishop said. "When we laid out the plan in the fall, we were thinking if we could be open by June 1, that would be good.
"The new greens have taken even better than expected and we're all looking forward to May 15."
Bishop noted crews started installing the new sod on March 11. On that date in 2014, he said, there were still 18 inches (46 centimetres) of snow on the course. Additionally, the warm temperatures have allowed the sod to take root more easily, helping to speed the process along.
When the first tees are set in 2015, Bishop feels visitors should quickly notice the upgrade.
"They can expect superb playing conditions that they haven't seen here in the last, probably 10 or 15 years, to be honest," he said. "They're going to play awesome, better than in years past. It's a very advanced grass that we put down that's specifically for this Pemberton climate that we have that's super dry and hot during the summer months."
As for the practice facility, Bishop said the three holes would prepare golfers who want to work on everything from perfecting their chip shots, to getting out of bunkers, to tackling swales.
"If you're warming up for your round, you're able to work on all aspects of your game," he said. "We have a lot of swales on our golf course, so we built a swale to imitate the ones you'll see while you're playing."
In a normal year, Bishop expects the course would have opened in the first week of April. But even with the other courses in the Sea to Sky corridor gaining everything from a two-week to a six-week head start, Bishop feels the course's accolades from Golf Digest and SCORE Golf bestowed in 2014 as one of the top courses in the country will help build excitement among participants.
"Usually, we pride ourselves on being the first course open, which generates some traffic," he said. "I don't think it'll affect us very much at all. I think that the more people are out playing golf, whether it's here or at the Meadows (of Pemberton) or at a golf course in Whistler, that's what we need. We just need more people playing golf.
"We know with our rankings and our reputation that once we do open, people will look to come see what the excitement is all about. It's almost like we're relaunching Big Sky this year."
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