The Sundre Golf Club was established in 1964, but that’s the only thing that’s old with the picturesque 18-hole layout, which is nestled in the foothills.
Over the past three years the club has been completely rebuilt from the clubhouse to the greens.
“We ripped out every blade of grass and all the sod from the fairways to the greens and we limbed the trees and cleared out all the underbrush . . . it’s a brand new course on the old property,” said the club’s director of golf Buzz Wilson, who joined the club when the new ownership group took over on Feb. 1, 2006.
The owners — Jim, Ryan and Dane Thorogood and Jay Wilson, all of Calgary — made over a $10 million commitment to rebuild the course.
The first thing that came was the clubhouse, with work beginning on the course in September of 2006 when they closed the front nine. It was completed by the fall of 2007, when the back nine was shut down.
“There was absolutely no drainage and because of the trees and the underbrush there was no air getting to the course.
It was basically rotting away,” explained Wilson, who grew up in Victoria and has been in Calgary the past 30 years.
“When we scraped up the old fairways there were thousands of golf balls that hit and sank.”
The course was completely resodded on sod brought in from Littleton, Colo., in refrigeration trucks.
“They have similar winters to what we have, so that was perfect,” explained Wilson, who also used strong A1 bent grass that is used at Priddis Greens in Calgary.
“It’s very strong and survives the winter. I don’t know if it grows during the winter, but it was plenty long this spring,” he said with a laugh.
The new fairways and greens are in perfect shape, and add to the fact the trees have been cut back with the underbrush eliminated and mulch put in its place, the course couldn’t be in better condition.
The greens were a touch slow early in the season, but have since been double cut.
“We didn’t want to cut it too short until we had our irrigation going,” said Wilson.
“With a lack of water and with some frost and cooler temperatures you don’t want to cut them down.
“Now that we have the water going we can cut them and they’re a lot quicker.”
Outside of the changes to the fairways and greens, there were few changes made to the design of the course, which ranges in distance from 6,761 yards at the tips to 5,097 yards from the white.
There are four tees on each hole, so there’s a distances for everyone.
The only changes came on the back nine where they eliminated the par-three 15th and built a 556-yard (from the tips) par-5.
They also divided the par-5 17th into a 402-yard par-4 and a 151-yard par-3.
“Originally we had back-to-back par-3s on 14 and 15 and it made for a bit of a bottleneck and slowed play down,” said Wilson.
The final change to the club came in the parking lot and the cart paths where they were all paved.
“It just adds to the whole course,” said Wilson.
“Before carts would come in off the course and even on dry days they looked like they were driven in the mud.”
The new Sundre Club is being heavily promoted by the ownership group, and it’s drawing rave reviews.
“Everyone, even those from private clubs in Calgary, have commented on how much better we are than a lot of other courses,” said Wilson. “A lot of people have heard about the changes and the condition of the course by word of mouth and we’re getting a lot of calls and the amount of play is continuing to pick up.”
The club has close to 300 members, up from 120 when the new owners took over.
Green fees are $75 during the week and $85 on the weekends and that includes carts. It’s $45 during the week for nine holes.
Wilson doesn’t feel the course has one specific signature hole.
“There are so many good holes, it’s hard to pick one,” he said.
While the course is complete the owners still have one more project on the horizon as they plan on building a 100-room hotel just to the west of the 18th fairway.
“It’ll be a nice addition for a stay and play package,” concluded Wilson.