Golf is back in Alberta's Kananaskis Country
Kananaskis Country Golf Course is ready to take on golfers for the 2018 golf season.
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After four years and millions in provincial reconstruction funds, Alberta's provincial golf gem, Kananaskis Country Golf Course, is set to re-open to the public.
In 2013, the engorged Kananaskis and Evan Thomas rivers devoured the pristine fairways that make up the Mount Kidd and Mount Lorette 18-hole courses.
"It was pretty devastating to see the power of Mother Nature," course general manager Darren Robinson recalled, after learning of the flood from course superintendent Calvin McNeely.
"As the morning (June 20, 2013) progressed along, so did the intensity of the water, to the point it was ripping apart fairways and asphalt paths and tearing apart our irrigation system."
Head golf professional Bob Paley laughed when remembering being initially told by Robinson they'd likely be closed for a couple of weeks.
"So we've got the head guy, who's in charge of our numbers, and he was just a little outside," Paley said.
The course, having lost all but four holes, has been closed ever since.
Guided by course operator Kan-Alta Golf Management, along with Calgary golf course architect Gary Browning, the long road to reconstruction of the 30-year-old course began. Aside from dealing with the physical devastation, there were political hurdles to overcome along the way.
In July 2014, the PC government approved the restoration of the golf courses, but a stop work order halted construction efforts in mid 2015 after the government changed to the Alberta NDP. Work began again on Oct. 1, 2015.
According to the province, they abided by an agreement struck between Kan-Alta and the previous government in 2014 for the reconstruction of Kananaskis, to the tune of $18 million. After a 2015 external review, it was determined that an additional $5 million would be needed.
The province said they expect to recover $14 million of the initial $18 million through the federal disaster assistance program, and they're pursuing more.
The work had to include substantial flood mitigation measures and stabilization of the river bank in the event of a future flood. The lion's share of that work has been done.
While heavy trucks and graders are still moving dirt in areas of the Mount Kidd track, Mount Lorette has been virtually completed. It's already hosted a number of sneak-peek days over the summer, with the projected public opening to be spring 2018. Mount Kidd is expected to open in July 2018.
The course reconstruction allowed Kan-Alta to tweak the course design to make it more enjoyable for the 60,000 some annual rounds played, namely adding in additional forward tee boxes for higher handicap players.
They went hole by hole and made minor adjustments, not taking away from the original Robert Trent Jones Sr. design, but to modernize it for a wider range of golfers.
Full rebuilds of the snack shack and other on-course amenities were also undertaken as part of the reconstruction at Kananaskis.
Robinson and Paley both talked of the peaks and valleys along the reconstruction road, but it was the public support for the course's rebirth that kept them going when the valleys were particularly deep. Through social media, they heard from thousands of people from all over the world.
"Before the flood we knew this place meant so much to some people," Paley said.
"It was humbling to hear what a golf course meant to so many people's lives."
Golf course tee times
While they are taking some corporate bookings for 2018 now, the public tee times aren't available for booking until March 2018.
Golf course rates
Golf course rates for 2018 haven't been established yet, but course GM Darren Robinson said they'd still be offering the so-called 'Alberta Advantage' to in-province players.
Delta Kananaskis Lodge
The primary accommodations in the area were purchased by the Alberta-based Pomeroy Group and they've poured $34 million into modernization of the hotel, and spent $8 million alone on the construction of a new Nordic spa area - everything from ice-plunge pools to dry saunas.
The William Watson Lodge, a facility that supports inclusion and accessibility for seniors and persons with disabilities in K-Country, will receive 1/3 of the annual revenue from the Kananaskis Country Golf Course.
When back in full operation, it's expected 175 people will be put to work seasonal full time at the golf course.
"This is an incredible provincial asset. Simply put, it supports jobs, tourism and the local economy," said NDP MLA for Banff-Cochrane, Cam Westhead.
"It puts Alberta back on the golf map."