Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 June 2009 16:20 Tuesday, 23 June 2009 16:02
by Glen Erickson
If you happen to have about $40 million burning a hole in your pocket, why not start blasting rock and build a golf course on the side of a mountain?
To some degree, these astronomical costs are testimony to the state of golf course construction in the Okanagan Valley.
The numbers also confirm that a successful residential housing component is likely a must for any developer with designs on erecting a golf course. In fact, the magnitude of the project that has become the Black Mountain Golf Club is clearly evident while you explore the layout.
For the second time in two years, the city of Kelowna is welcoming the addition of a brand new golf course. Located 20 minutes from the Kelowna International airport along Highway 33, this 6,400-yard gem – yes, absolutely a ‘gem’ - is the centerpiece in an exciting new community development. The Black Mountain GC opened for play on June 6.
The entire master-planned project is property of Edmonton-based Melcor Developments Ltd., a company spearheaded by Tim Melton. The company is well-known in Alberta’s capital region where it also owns and operates a pair of golf courses within residential developments, The Links at Spruce Grove and the Lewis Estates Golf Course.
At the helm at Kelowna’s newest golf course is general manager and head professional Eric Thorsteinson, who returns to the Okanagan Valley after a stint at the Royal Mayfair Golf Club in Edmonton.
While there, Thorsteinson played an important role in rebuilding the new golf shop and in hosting the 2007 CN Canadian Ladies Open, this country’s only LPGA Tour event.
Suffice to say, his expertise will be an important factor as Black Mountain begins the process of establishing its profile among the many popular facilities in the Okanagan Valley.
“I have always had a lot of respect for Tim Melton - he was a member at Royal Mayfair - and also for the two properties the Melcor group owns in Edmonton,” Thorsteinson said while seated on the ample patio surrounding the clubhouse at Black Mountain. “I spoke with Mr. Melton in late 2008 and those discussions evolved into the opportunity here.
“We’re very fortunate and looking forward to the great opportunity at this property. It’s been about seven years now that I have been away from the B.C. interior. It’s nice to come back now with my wife and with grandparents close by to share in the responsibility of raising our children.”
In addition to Black Mountain, Cooke Carleton International Design is a Canadian company whose recent body of work in western Canada includes the Talking Rock Golf Course near Chase, B.C. and the Dakota Dunes Golf Club near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
Both facilities have opened to rave reviews, with Dakota Dunes already playing host to a Canadian Tour event.
Wayne Carleton has walked the property at Black Mountain on many occasions and is excited about the finished product.
”I don’t think I have one favorite hole,” he said. “I really like the way the back nine turned out, as we were able to utilize the natural character of the land, especially some of the greens like the 12th, 15th and 18th.”
For his part, Graham Cooke is also very pleased with the progress at Black Mountain.
“A few holes at Black Mountain have been built among the housing, though careful attention has been paid to setting the houses well back from the playing areas,” he said.
“We’ve had a very positive working relationship with Melcor. They are a company that really understands the dynamics of incorporating housing and golf together.”
Clearly, the powers-that-be were not persuaded by any misguided notion that modern day design must result in at least 7,000 yards of golf. Evidence abounds across the continent where hyped up layouts administer five-hour long thrashings to the general public.
In these days of hustle, bustle and busy lives where people generally prefer not to hurry up and wait, one might be compelled by these mammoth layouts to ask, “what’s the point?”
At Black Mountain, players can expect a unique experience that includes a total of six par-3’s and five par-5’s. The par-71 layout will offer plenty of challenge, one that will provide an entertaining test and in all likelihood, an eminently desirable pace of play.
After the opening weekend at Black Mountain, the staff has been able to speak with the golfing public about their experience. Thorsteinson, an energetic and engaging industry veteran, likes what he is hearing.
“For the most part, the feedback has been very positive,” he said. “And that’s testimony to the job that Barry Skabar (superintendent) and the entire management team have done. They spent several years here getting the golf course to where it is today and players are not going to come here and get beaten up.
“You are not going to lose a ton of golf balls here. If you play the golf course smartly, you will find it to be a really fun golf course. We think the value is perhaps our biggest asset right now as we are not asking people to dig too deeply into their wallets to play a round of golf here.”
Green fees during prime times are set at $65, with further value opportunities and nine-hole play also available. Thorsteinson is excited to be involved from the outset at Black Mountain and sees a successful 2009 season in the works.
“It’s a lot of fun right now because what I find I really enjoy is building a team,” he said. “We’ve got great personnel here, starting with Brice MacDermott (golf shop manager) who is a guy with local ties and is a great asset. And with my background over the years being a golf professional, I’m now more involved with the food and beverage operation. Everyday I’m learning something new.
“That’s probably the biggest source of enjoyment for me right now, the learning curve.”
Eric Thorsteinson, General Manager/Head Professional
Barry Skabar, Superintendent
Brice MacDermott, Golf Shop Manager / Associate Professional
Tony Fatica, Food & Beverage Manager
Toll Free: 1.800.765.6890
About The Writer:
Glen Erickson is a Kelowna-based freelance writer, entering his seventh year as a contributor to Inside Golf Magazine.