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RODE: Changes coming at River Bend


Anyone who has had the opportunity to play the River Bend Golf Course knows all about hole No. 12.

Your tee shot is over water — unless you play the yellow tees — then the second shot is once again over water if you’re going for the green.

Once you’re on the green, it’s another story, especially if the hole is located in the middle or towards the front. If you’re above the hole or even have a sideways shot, you’re lucky if you stay on the green if you don’t sink your putt.

For those who start thinking about that hole from the first shot, there are some changes coming.

No. 12 will be one of the five greens to be renovated next season, along with the fairway and approach to the green.

“There will be changes to the complete hole, just not the green,” explained River Bend General Manager Rob MacPherson.

“We’re not just here for the advanced golfer. The intermediate and novice golfer struggle to play that hole, even the good golfer can lose two or three balls on the hole.

“So we’re renovating the fairway and the runway up to the green so the high handicappers along with the ladies and seniors can navigate through there reasonably.”

The green will be redone to eliminate a lot of the slope along with greens on No. 2, 5, 13 and 16.

‘Those greens have slumped and settled down over time to a point where there’s lots of slope,” said MacPherson.

Also, some of the greens will be downsized.

“Take No. 5 — it could be cut in half and still be a full-sized green,” said MacPherson.

The maintenance of smaller greens is more cost-efficient as well.

The irrigation system will be replaced along with some work on tee boxes, some trees, the driving range and mini links.

To do all this, the course will be shut down all of next year.

“There were a lot of rumours going around about what we were planning, but it was never set in stone until late last year,” said MacPherson. “The wisdom behind shutting down the whole year is that there’s a lot to get done. Only eight or nine holes will be untouched. It will be great to get at it and get it all done to be able to get back on the course as soon as possible.”

Irrigation is one of the major projects.

“The original system, which was installed in 1987, is still there with some changes over the years,” MacPherson said. “Three different contractors were used for those changes so we have a mismatched system that doesn’t produce the results we’re looking for. In dry periods it can’t keep up to what we need.

“The new system will water more efficiently and the end result will be a better golf course.”

MacPherson indicated they hope to start renovations in April of next year and have the course finished by July or mid-August so they can reopen in May of 2026.

“That’s our plan but there are always unforeseen things like how construction goes and weather. As well, a lot of the project will be sodded, and the sod has to knit into that when on a typical day 300 people are walking across it, it doesn’t go sideways,” he said.

Once work on the main course is finished, they will turn their sights to the driving range and mini links in September. But up until then, those facilities will be open to the public with, of course, lessons available.

“We have one of the best teaching facilities in the area and one of the best public driving ranges,” MacPherson said. “As well the mini links is very popular so we like to keep that open as long as we can.”

As far as trees go, MacPherson indicated the only changes would be the elimination of some of the older poplar trees, and the continued of trimming the limbs up off the ground.

“Trees are a slippy slope as a lot of people don’t want them touched,” said MacPherson. “But the big poplars are past their life span and are dangerous to the public. They can break during high winds and fall on people, so we’ll eliminate them on the course and mini-links. The ones on the mini links will be replaced by other trees.”

The trimming of limbs isn’t there to make it easier, but used to make the pace of play quicker.

“So that golfers can find their balls easier and possibly chip them out.”

Several tees boxes will also be worked on.

“The architect has plans in place. He looked at different aspects of play-ability and the risks and rewards. Not just to make it easier, but more playable, which I guess makes it easier.”

Despite MacPherson’s April Fools joke about remodelling the clubhouse, that will remain the same. The majority of the staff will remain, although the every-day restaurant will be closed.

However, the food and beverage staff will still be needed for weddings and dinner shows.

“We’re hoping to have enough events to keep them some-what busy and so we don’t lose them and they’ll be back once we open again,” explained MacPherson.

Discovery Canyon will be untouched and will now have plenty of parking available for the summer months.

So far, MacPherson has received positive feedback, although “no one wants the course to be closed for a year.”

“But most people I’ve talked with are excited to see the remodelled course and to be able to enjoy it for another 30 to 40 years before it has to be done again.

”The new greens, of course, will be slightly different to start until they settle down and are used and then they’ll play like the rest.”

MacPherson indicated they will be holding an Open House in September to tell and show the changes to be made.

Although nothing has been planned yet, he expects a grand reopening in 2006.

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at