(Gazette file photo by Wayne Shiels)

Break out the Brassie, the Mashie, the Niblick and the Jigger*; golf season is back!

The Legends Golf Club in Warman and Valley Regional Park Golf Club in Rosthern are both scheduled to open for business on Friday, May 5.

Valleyview Golf Club in Delisle was the first area course to lay out the welcome mat, opening its doors on Monday. May 1.

The Pine Ridge Golf Club in Waldheim is also expected to open early this month.

The Legends course wintered well, according to Legends General Manager Davidson Matyczuk.

“It’s a bit dry, but overall we’re quite happy with the condition of the fairways and greens,” said Matyczuk in an interview May 2. “We opened up for bookings last week, and the sheets are full. I’m expecting this to be another busy year.”

Matyczuk said the Legends driving range opened at the end of April, and golfers turned out in droves to practice their swings.

“We upgraded to artificial turf on the driving range two years ago, so that helped us extend the season a bit,” he said.

Matyczuk said the club membership is close to capacity, but new members are still being accepted.

“It’s looking like a strong start to the season,” said Matyczuk. “We have a lot of returning members who took advantage of the early payment incentives.”

Matyczuk said while there are no provincial golf tournaments scheduled for the Legends this summer, there’s still a full slate of corporate tournaments and league championships on the agenda, as well as the Maple Leaf Tour stop for young golfers.

The club is in good shape financially, not just because of the solid membership base, but also because of adjustments over the past few years to its food services operation and golf cart fleet.

“Instead of running a restaurant, which was challenging, we’ve struck up a partnership with a catering company that handles meals for our tournaments and league events,” said Matyczuk. “We’ve also expanded our offerings at our ‘Grab and Go’ concession for food and beverages. It’s more convenient for the golfers and it helps our bottom line.”

The club is now in its third year of a five-year lease agreement on gasoline-powered golf carts.

“In the long run, the gas carts are saving us money, because there’s no downtime for charging the batteries,” said Matyczuk. “The fleet is in constant use, and with the number of hours these carts are used every day throughout the season, it makes sense. At the end of the five years, the gas carts hold their re-sale value a lot better than the electric carts.”

The Valley Regional Park golf club in Rosthern also emerged from its winter hibernation in good shape, said general manager Conner McGill..

“It’s looking pretty good,” said McGill in an interview May 2. “We could use a little rain, but we’re ready to go.”

McGill said membership numbers will climb once the course opens for the season.

“People usually buy their memberships the first time out,” he said. “Most of our members are local, but we get some from other communities in the Sask Valley area, including Saskatoon.”

The Rosthern course is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

“We didn’t realize we’d hit the half-century mark until we got an award at the Regional parks awards night,” said McGill. “We actually thought the anniversary was next year. So we’ll have a celebration of some kind this year to mark the milestone. We’re just not sure what form that celebration will take yet.”

McGill said 25 of the golf club’s 50 electric golf carts are brand new,

“We’re swapping over the other 25 carts as soon as possible,” he said. “We’re hoping the new carts arrive this summer, but with supply chain issues, it might not happen till next year.”

McGill noted the golf club is now the main anchor for the regional park.

“At one point the campground was the main support for the park,” he said. “But when the Covid pandemic shut everything down, the popularity of golf just took off, and now the golf course is booming. We’re seeing record numbers of golfers these last three years.”

It’s the same story at golf courses across the province.

“When the pandemic hit, golf was one of the few sports that people could participate in,” said Matyczuk. “It’s a great activity that all ages can enjoy.

“People went golfing and realized they liked it. That enthusiasm is catching on with the next generation too. We’re seeing a lot of young golfers out on the links.”

Valleyview Golf Club assistant manager Amanda Radford said the number of memberships at the club in Delisle has increased steadily over the past five years. She attributes that, in part at least, to the Covid experience.

“As awful as that pandemic was, it actually boosted the sport of golf,” said Radford. “Everyone’s options were limited, and a lot of people discovered, or re-discovered, golf, and realized how enjoyable it is.”

She said the Delisle 9–hole course is in good shape.

“It wintered pretty well,” she said. “And we get the natural drainage from town, so that helps keep things green.”

(* Traditional golf terms for Wood 2, Iron 5, Iron 9 and Pitching Wedge)