Last Updated on Sunday, 03 June 2012 18:11
Sunday, 03 June 2012 17:36
by Gord Montgomery
A golf course doesn’t have to be daunting in its length to play havoc with your game and in the end, with your mind.
What it needs, simply, are lots and lots of trees and small greens on the outward section and then lots and lots of water and sand on the way in.
Given that mixture, a golf course doesn’t need to stretch out over 7,000 yards – because in fact, if it simply comes in at around 6,600 yards it’s going to challenge even the best players.
The Westlock Golf Club, located about 45 minutes north of Edmonton in a town of about 6,000 people isn’t a beast distance-wise but it can be scoring-wise.
It’s actually a combination of two courses, one old and one new, melded together to put anyone’s game skills to the test.
The club’s head pro, Kevin Lyons, notes that the change-up his track throws at golfers between the front and back nines doesn’t go unnoticed and is actually appreciated.
“People enjoy playing ‘two separate courses’,” he began.
“The front gives the traditional style with the smaller greens and some target golf while the back allows the players to be a little more errant,” given the fairways are, for the most part, considerably wider than the opening nine.
That being said, Lyons noted the “old” side is perhaps the more difficult of the two halves. Off the blue tees, those nine holes come in at 3,306 yards.
“As a feeling from the membership, we get a lot of requests to play the back nine holes if that is all they have time for....they feel it is the easier of the two nines.”
The front is so different from the back one wonders why. It was a matter of making use of what was there, the pro said.
There Are Plenty Of Trees To Negotiate At Westlock Adding To The Challenge Of The Course
A big part of the reasoning is the timelines on this track. The nines are actually separated by several decades and as such, what the game was and what it now is, can be seen.
“The available land was very flat which dictates the links style of the back nine, which is a Les Furber design,” Lyons explained.
“The mounding and water hazards on the back are the biggest threat, but the younger trees are starting to mature and make some of the shots more difficult.”
As for distances on the back, it is a bit longer than the front nine at its 3,381 yards but that doesn’t faze the majority of the club’s members.
You see, by the time they get to the back nine most of them are likely looking for something a bit easier on the ego than the challenge they’ve just endured.
The front part of the Westlock course, which in this case was seven holes, opened in 1935. Over time it was stretched out to nine holes but those were mostly 300-yard par 4’s, fine in those bygone days but not consistent with what today’s players want.
A further major renovation took place in 1977 when Dr. Alan Watt, a local with considerable knowledge and understanding of the changes happening in the game redesigned the front by installing grass greens and lengthening many of the holes.
The Course Offers Quite Different Looks From The Front To The Back Nine
In 1991 the back nine was put into play offering the feeling of a more open links style course while preserving the challenge of a traditional golf course.
When asked how best to attack this course with its two faces, Lyons suggested “care” might be the word of the day on the front while “attack” is a better fit on the back.
“Personally I think you have to be more aggressive on the back nine and let the birdies happen on the front,” he said. “Putting the ball in play off the tee on the front is extremely important, as while it is not overly long the greens are small.
“If you put your shot to the center of the green on the front you are usually not going to have a putt longer than 20 feet,” meaning that with a good game plan you can score on both front and back – providing you steer clear of the trees on the front nine and the hazards on the back.
Overall, Westlock’s golf course is busy despite its rural setting with a membership just under 250 and a clientele that plays between 17,000 and 18,000 rounds a year, on a course that successfully incorporates both old and new designs in a seamless manner which would make anyone’s golfing grandfather proud.
About the writer: Gord Montgomery is the sports editor of two weekly newspapers in the Edmonton area. He has written for Inside Golf for the past four years with the majority of his coverage in north and central Alberta.
He can be reached at
By Gord Montgomery
About the writer: Gord Montgomery is the sports editor of two weekly newspapers in the Edmonton area and is a member of the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. He has written for Inside Golf for the past four years with the majority of his coverage in north and central Alberta. He can be reached at email@example.com.
More articles by Gord Montgomery