Golf courses primed for early openings 

Mild winter allowing for record starts at all three Whistler courses

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CHATEAU FAIRMONT WHISTLER GOLF COURSE - Fore! The Chateau Fairmont Whistler Golf Course has undergone renovations in advance of the 2015 golf season.
  • Photo courtesy of the Chateau Fairmont Whistler Golf Course
  • Fore! The Chateau Fairmont Whistler Golf Course has undergone renovations in advance of the 2015 golf season.

A mild and precipitation-light winter may have caused consternation for skiers and snowboarders.

But it's proving to be quite the boon for fans of summer.

All three golf courses in Whistler are set for record early openings. The Chateau Fairmont Whistler Golf Course and Whistler Golf Club will tee up their seasons this Friday (April 24), while Nicklaus North Golf Course is set for an April 30 kickoff. Meanwhile, The Meadows at Pemberton opened up March 27 for its earliest opening day in a decade.

In particular, the Chateau Fairmont is excited for the first 'Fore!', as it will open the doors to its renovated clubhouse. The pro shop has new cabinets and lighting while the bathrooms inside the clubhouse and at the on-course Bear House were also renovated. Lastly, the course has new patio furnishings.

The Fairmont Chateau Whistler was bullish on its April prospects as it added three weeks to its schedule.

Director of golf Nick Droulis noted the previous early opening was April 29, but it was far from the ideal scene he's anticipating for 2015.

"The golf course had snowbanks on it," he said. "This will be a much different opening than that one was."

In addition to the noticeable changes to the experience, Droulis explained there are some smaller on-course changes, such as installing stairs at some tees to make them more easily accessible for some golfers.

Droulis said the early opening should work well in conjunction with the hospitality side of the business, as it will give the hotel's guests another option for their Whistler stays.

"We were able to give them another activity while they're here in April and early May that normally they can't do," he said.

The course announced its early opening April 20 and in an interview the next day, Droulis was already happy with the response.

"We're seeing really positive bookings already," he said. "We hope to carry on the positive momentum throughout the season. Once people get up here and see how amazing the conditions are already in April, they're going to want to come back a few times throughout the year."

The course is offering a special rate of $59 per golfer (plus $20 cart fee and taxes) until May 7 to mark the early opening.

Whistler Golf Club director of golf Alan Kristmanson said the recent stretch of warm weather is encouraging for golf-lovers, as he expects the course to appear in nearly prime shape at opening. In particular, the greens that were installed prior to the 2012 season were looking fine, he said.

"We've had such good weather to get the course prepared. A lot of times in spring, there will be plenty of rain and cold weather, but the weather's been so warm that the golf course is not only going to open early, but it's going to open in, we think, late-May condition already," he said. "The golf course wintered really well and we've been able to get a lot of pre-season work done already, which is really exciting."

Kristmanson noted the grass is dry and in need of watering already, which he said is "pretty unheard-of." He added they're already mowing the lawn daily.

In Kristmanson's 23 years with the club, there have only been two April openings with the earliest being April 27.

He downplayed the financial benefits of starting about two weeks earlier than an average year, feeling the main advantages will come a little later on once golfers receive proof of the conditions.

"The biggest thing we get out of opening early in combination with really good shape is the word of mouth gets out," he said. "We're excited to get people out there and getting people to have a look."

Nicklaus North director of golf Andrew Smart said the opening is the first April debut for the course, with its earliest having been May 1. Smart added the crew is tackling "the small things" needed to make the course shine earlier than usual, so he is also expecting a strong early-season showing.

"We feel like we're in some exceptional early season conditions," Smart said. "We're seeing a good amount of growth in the fairways and the greens and it allows us to get a little bit ahead with some of our other jobs rather than clearing snow."

This season marks the 20th anniversary for Nicklaus North. The course is offering discounted memberships, waiving dues and reducing license fees on its three membership offerings.

As well, Smart said there will be a Craft Your Golf event on May 2 for those who book tee times from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. There will be food and craft beer-tasting stations on-course as well as a barbecue after the round. Cart and transportation back to Whistler Village in included. The round costs $85 plus tax and can be booked through using the promo code CRAFT.



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