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Golfing season already well underway in Pemberton

Sunstone and Big Sky golf clubs have been open since mid-April
Hole 14 at Pemberton's Big Sky Golf Club.

Year after year, Sea to Sky golfers who really can’t wait to hit some bombs and make some clutch putts head north to Pemberton. Both Sunstone Golf Club and Big Sky Golf Club tend to open in April, weeks before their Whistler counterparts.

Sunstone Golf Club

With Mount Currie standing watch in the background, Sunstone is one of two major golf courses in Pemberton. It features two distinctly different layouts: the first nine holes spread across a wide-open grassy area featuring some water hazards, while the back nine is more densely forested and tends to be more difficult. 

Sunstone has welcomed guests since April 15, and is usually one of the area’s earliest-opening courses.

“We have some great new staff on the course, golf shop and in the restaurant,” said general manager Kevin McLeod. “The [Sunstone Bar and Grill] has been open all winter, so we have been trying new items, training new staff and preparing our plan for the season as far as events.”

Golfers of all skill levels can cater their experience at Sunstone with one of six different tee-box setups. Beginners and novices may prefer a shorter course encompassing 5,211 yards, while longtime players and professionals will want to extend things all the way out to 6,455 yards. Overall, the course is known to be relatively forgiving. 

In addition, Sunstone will play host to a number of live events this summer. B.C. musician Steve Elliott is scheduled to perform “A Tribute to Elvis” on May 27, while Alex Carr, Ryan Williams and Will Corry from the EH! Comedy Tour will swing by June 10. Pop-punk fans have a concert by the band F.O.M.O. on June 24 to look forward to.

The golf shop also features a variety of new products that McLeod thinks visitors will want to check out. 

Big Sky Golf Club

Corry Butler, director of golf at Big Sky, is used to getting a head start on the season.

Big Sky opened to the public on April 21, although it closed for four days in late April to accommodate a private filming arrangement. The club’s annual “Spring Scramble” event took place on April 28 as originally planned, and it’s been all systems go since then.

“Obviously, you don’t always come out of the gate in the season with all the numbers and staffing that you’re looking for … and you definitely need to have some weather on your side for the prep of the golf course, but it’s not like we’re pushing the envelope and trying to open early by any means,” Butler said.

“This is obviously something we’re used to, and to be honest, we could probably have opened even a week before [we did] ... but our turf team really wants to make the course presentable … whether it’s clearing some trees or cleaning up the irrigation system.”

Over the last few weeks, Big Sky has seen a robust influx of guests eager to show off their swing, and Butler expects that to continue even after the Whistler courses open for business. The unseasonably warm start to spring has yielded a number of beautiful days, and club staff are working hard to maintain the turf as balmy temperatures persist.

Big Sky offers a layout welcoming to all ages and skill levels. Unlike some other courses—say, the Fairmont Chateau in Whistler—there is minimal elevation change, which lends itself to a different play style. Pemberton’s climate, with its mix of heat and moisture, also allows Big Sky to maintain bentgrass fairways, which are relatively rare in the Sea to Sky corridor. 

Bentgrass tends to be fast-running, firm and smooth under optimal conditions, but can soften when the heat goes up.

“We’ve got Mount Currie in your footsteps for every single shot you hit,” said Butler. ”We have a very forgiving setup where you don’t have forced carries off the tee. The fairways are very big, wide and receptive. We have large greens.

“It’s what we’d like to call a second-shot golf course: it’s very challenging on the approaches that you hit into the greens, but it’s very fair.” 

Butler and his colleagues also look forward to early September, when Big Sky will host its first national-level tournament: the Canadian Men’s Senior Championship.