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Four new golf courses for Edmonton

  First explosion of links in nearly a decade

By Curtis Stock, Edmonton Journal

Four years ago, the last load of coal from the Dodds coal mine near Tofield was extracted. The mine had to be reclaimed, so the question became, "Now what?"

Strange as it may seem, that is how Coal Creek Golf Resort, one of four soon-to-be new courses in the Edmonton area, got started - with a giant question mark.

"There is one spot on the course, which is now the 13th tee box, where you look down about 40 feet and someone joked, 'This would make a great golf hole,' " said Jason Rasmuson, Coal Creek's head project co-ordinator.

(Two families own Coal Creek: Paula and Don Bowal, whose daughter, Leah, is married to Rasmuson, and Dayna and Peter Kudrowich, whose sons Corey and Brad are also involved in the project - as is the Bowal's son, David.)

"Then someone else said another part of the mine site could be a golf hole, too. Then a third and a fourth ...," said Rasmuson. "That's when we decided to go to Whitetail Crossing in Mundare where the Puddicombe family's Golf Design and Construction company was adding another nine holes. We met Mark Puddicombe and we broached the idea about a full 18-hole golf course.

"They came and took a look. They were sold immediately and we were sold immediately on the Puddicombes," he said.

The result is a big, strong, bold and rustic 18-hole course which will open on 320 acres next year.

Also on the go is Trestle Creek, a 27-hole project 45 minutes west of Edmonton, and Quarry Ridge, south of 164th Avenue east of Meridian Road near Raven Crest Golf & Country Club. Those two are also projected to open next year while the fourth, Whitetail Crossing, with the addition of nine holes, opened to the public last month.

This is the first explosion of new courses in the Edmonton area in nearly a decade, following a similar outburst that opened Blackhawk, RedTail Landing, Northern Bear and Jagare Ridge.

A 45-minute drive from Edmonton - half an hour from Camrose - Coal Creek is definitely one of a kind. Not only is it built on a coal mine, but it encompasses three distinct types of golf architecture: quarry, links and woodlands.

The mining theme at Coal Creek is in evidence everywhere, with pieces of mining equipment and other artifacts, including the processing plant - the mine tipple - scattered throughout the course.

But the biggest and most noticeable coal mine feature on the course is the bunkers of black sand which leave an impression that coal has been incorporated into the hazards.

"It's definitely a very unique project," said Grant Puddicombe, managing director of the Edmonton-based, family owned and operated golf design and construction business.

"You will feel like you are playing on a coal mine."

No two holes are even remotely alike, the course belongs in the heroic mode of architecture - a combination of the strategic and penal schools - which means there are always two choices: a safe way to play and a riskier option. The safe way avoids much of the trouble but is the longer route. The riskier approach forces you to deal with bunkers, rough, trees and water to shorten the hole.

"Because of the location, we knew that we couldn't just put the ball over the goal-line; we had to put it a long way past. It had to be outstanding and I think we've done that," said Mark Puddicombe, whose father, Sid, is the company's president and has been in the golf business since 1947.

"The owners gave us pretty much free rein, so we could be creative and unique," added Grant. "We've been moving dirt - more than a million cubic yards - for more than three years. It was a massive undertaking.

"It definitely has the potential to host a major tournament. It can be intimidating, but not if you play from the proper tee box."

Coal Creek presents five distinct tee boxes that allow the course to be played anywhere from 5,475 yards to a daunting 7,205 yards. "It's also a good model to show what you can do with reclaimed land - in this case making it viable green space ... ," said Rasmuson.

Water hazards, mostly made from existing pits, comes into play on 12 holes.

"We've kept a lot of the old tailings - the natural, inorganic residue of coal mining - the open-pit mine quarries, existing ridges, wetlands and natural features and what was dug out became lakes and ponds," said Grant.

Green fees are "probably going to be around $50 for a $100 golf course purely because of its location," Grant said.

A 170-lot RV Park is also planned in conjunction with the golf course. For further information go to: www.coalcreekgolfresort.com.

Whitetail differs from Coal Creek

Whitetail's new nine holes in Mundare - a 35-minute drive east of Sherwood Park - was built on raw farm land.

"It's a completely different course than Coal Creek," Grant said. "The primary feature on the existing back nine is the wetland stream that runs throughout the course."

While each of the new nine holes are distinctive, there are two common themes: the greens on all 18 holes are all immaculate and the links-style course incorporates existing ridges, wetlands and naturalized wetlands.

The par-72-layout plays from four distinct tee boxes, ranging from 5,441 to 7,071 yards.

Originally opened in 2008, Whitetail was purchased by the Puddicombes in 2010.

Built on 220 acres, the fairways are all generous. Green fees are $42 on weekdays and $50 on weekends. There is also a $37 (weekday) and $42 (weekend) twilight (5-1/2 hours before sunset and a $37 weekday - before 9 a.m. - rate. For more information, go to www.whitetailcrossing.ca.

The third new course is Trestle Creek, 45 minutes west of Edmonton just south of Highway 16 on Range Road 70 near Entwistle.

Trestle Creek a year-round facility

While Coal Creek was built on a mine and Whitetail Crossing on farm land, Trestle Creek was a cattle ranch for 100 years.

An ambitious $30-million project, the end result will be a championship 27-hole golf course with 690 RV lots on 600 acres. Nine holes will open next spring; 18 holes will be ready in 2014. Then, the third nine will begin to take shape. The first of the seven phases has 89 deeded and titled lots for sale.

"Response has been off the charts," said manager Dean Beaton. "People have been dying for a spot like this less than an hour from Edmonton."

As well as the course, Trestle Creek will be a year-round facility, including 20 km of walking, jogging and biking trails that can be used for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in winter. There will also be an equine facility, a sand beach, a park with sports fields, an indoor recreation centre that can be used for tennis, ball hockey and basketball and ice hockey in the winter, and several other amenities.

The course is a large, resort-style course. "Most courses use a quarter section for 18 holes," said Beaton. "We're using a quarter section for each of the three nine hole layouts."

Designed by Brad Dupius, who has worked with famous designers such as Jack Nicklaus, Rod Whitman, Pete Dye and Tom Weiskopf, and, for more than 35 years, has built courses around the world before returning to Alberta to design and build Trestle Creek.

Seven of the holes on the first phase will either play over or beside lakes or over and around Trestle Creek, where, at the junction of Anderson Creek, is the start of the Sturgeon River. The next phases include more water and a true island green.

"There are no gimmicks," said Beaton. "What you see is what you get. But it's definitely a risk/reward course."

For more info, go to www.trestlecreek.ca.

Quarry Ridge will be longest course

Information on the fourth new course, Quarry Ridge has been difficult to get.

"We don't want to say too much until it is open," said owner Akis Popadopalus, who also owns Cougar Creek Golf Resort.

"Depending on the weather, we could have a soft opening by the end of August," he said of what will also be a 27-hole layout.

From the tips, Quarry Ridge - located not far from Raven Crest - will be the longest course in Western Canada at 7,800 yards. But, not to worry, the forward tees are 5,500 yards.

Built on 320 acres below a subdivision, Cougar Creek head pro Jeff Cuthbertson was tight-lipped, saying only: "The elevation changes are unbelievable. The course will make your head spin; it will blow your mind."

http://www.edmontonjournal.com/Four+golf+courses+local+scene/5287670/story.html

 

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