Golfers lined up to hit the driving range over the long weekend at Birchbank. Golf courses throughout the Kootenays are enjoying early openings and great conditions from a mild winter and sunny spring.

Golfers lined up to hit the driving range over the long weekend at Birchbank. Golf courses throughout the Kootenays are enjoying early openings and great conditions from a mild winter and sunny spring.

Area courses set to open in fine form

A favourable winter has area golfers and golf courses looking forward to a great season.

A favourable winter has area golfers and golf courses looking forward to a great season.

Trail’s Birchbank Golf Course is in prime condition with golfers teeing off for the past two weeks, and is now fully operational with the opening of the restaurant earlier this week.

Manager Kelly Rintoul also noted that with the demise of the HST Apr. 1, (other than equipment and clothing) the cost of virtually everything else is seven per cent less, including green fees, memberships, driving range passes, and food.

“From a benefit perspective, definitely customer’s are going to pay less,” said Rintoul.

The sunshine over the Easter weekend was a welcome change from last season with a substantial increase in numbers being the result of excellent course conditions from a mild winter and favourable start to spring.

“I think the message about the shape of the course is getting out,” said Rintoul. “Not only are we talking about our $45 green fee, but the shape of the course, and I think that is starting to pick up momentum.”

Birchbank is also offering 25 per cent off green fees until the end of April.

Similarly, at Redstone Golf Resort and Champion Lakes, which are both set to open mid-April. Champion Lakes head pro Kevin Nesbitt offered early-bird membership rates and processed subsequent memberships after Apr. 1 so all members get a break in their fees this year.

The Champion Lakes driving range will open Tuesday and the course on the 13th. The nine hole course wintered well for the most part, with some damage on number one and three greens, but operations manager Dave Duncan is pleased with the results, saying, “It’s grass, it will grow back.”

Redstone will open its front nine on the 15th or 16th, and take a wait-and-see approach for snow to melt on the back nine, but manager Cary Fisher is optimistic about the upcoming season.

“It (the course) is going to be absolutely perfect,” said Fisher. “We blew the greens two weeks early this year, and we’re just getting excited and geared up to get going.”

Redstone has already seen an increase in early bookings this year, and Fisher is hoping to build a solid and mutually beneficial relationship with area courses.

“We’re looking at doing a lot of inter-club play with local courses,” said Fisher. “We had a really good meeting with Birchbank regarding joint activities, which is really positive.”

With a good snow cover early in the winter, the impact of this year’s runoff should be minimal.

“The underground water ways and the ground itself never froze,” Fisher said. “So that water has been flowing all year, so the aquifers are at a decent level rather than being frozen and they get hit with a lot of water infiltration at once, so the stuff runs on the surface for a while. This year the ground is absorbing water so that is a huge difference.”

Meanwhile the Castlegar Golf Club is opening nine of its 18-holes on the course today, and will likely open the rest of the links by the end of next week, said club pro Pat Biln.

“Obviously we want to get open as soon as we can, and our grounds crew is snowblowing out there, they’re doing everything to get us open.”

The greens are in prime shape, but pockets of snow on some holes will have to melt before they are fully operational. Like all golf courses, Biln hopes to avoid the record rain falls that washed out much of May and June last year.

“It’s a little dry out there right now, but less rain for May and June would make everyone’s life that much better. The golfers get tired of the rain and it was a cold rain too, so hopefully this year the weather man’s nice.”

Castlegar’s Little Bear also opens today, while the Salmo Golf Course’s opening has yet to be determined.