About $20 mil­lion spent on up­grades to south­west course,

Calgary Herald - - SPORTS - writes Wes Gilbert­son. wgilbert­[email protected]­ Twit­­bert­son

To lose the most pic­turesque slice of your prop­erty and strengthen your golf course as a re­sult?

That’s a big ask, sort of like re­mov­ing your favourite club from the bag and still shoot­ing your best score.

At Earl Grey Golf Club, a pri­vate hang­out tucked away in Cal­gary’s south­west com­mu­nity of Lake­view, they seem to have pulled it off.

“Since we re­opened the 18 holes, there’s been a lot of fan­tas­tic feed­back from the mem­bers. They just love the new holes. They love the golf course,” said Richard Stringer, the long­time head pro­fes­sional at Earl Grey, home to both a cham­pi­onship length lay­out and a fam­ily friendly shortie known as the Lake­view Nine.

“And we just opened our new club­house, and the ac­co­lades have been ab­so­lutely amaz­ing. Folks are just over-the-moon happy with what turned out.

“Just the over­all project, we’re re­ally happy with.”

They should be.

Earl Grey is perched on the north­west side of Glen­more Reser­voir. The ren­o­va­tions were forced by an ex­pan­sion of the city trail sys­tem, with a 1.85-km stretch of bike path now run­ning be­tween the club and the cliffs.

With Van­cou­ver-based course de­signer Wayne Car­leton over­see­ing the work, the changes to the full-length of­fer­ing in­clude seven new greens and six new fair­ways. (There are also two new dance-floors on Lake­view Nine.)

The sixth as­sign­ment no longer hugs the es­carp­ment, but its 334yard re­place­ment — with sev­eral sand traps be­tween the tee boxes and a tricky green — is ar­guably the best of the new tests.

Although not as close to the wa­ter, the 164-yard sev­enth would still get my vote as the best Par 3 on the prop­erty.

On the back nine, No. 11 was stretched to be­come a Par 5. At 571 yards from the tips, this will be no pushover for even the big­gest bop­pers. Car­leton & Co. were also care­ful to repli­cate the char­ac­ter of the orig­i­nal green, mean­ing a three-putt is a def­i­nite pos­si­bil­ity if you find your­self on the wrong side of a large swale.

“Ev­ery new hole, I think, has its perks,” Stringer said. “There’s more char­ac­ter in some of the holes, turn­ing a few from straight holes into doglegs and cre­at­ing more shot-value and that sort of thing.

“And we find a lot of good, pos­i­tive com­ments about the bike path, too. That was prob­a­bly one of the more fear­ful points of the project. How is the in­ter­ac­tion with the path go­ing to go? How is that go­ing to look? Are we go­ing to lose our views? But I’ve had a lot of pos­i­tive com­ments that the views are still good, there are some even en­hanced views, even that the fence looks great.

“The in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the path and the course, from a traf­fic per­spec­tive and a user per­spec­tive, is pretty pos­i­tive, so that’s all good, as well.”

The work at Earl Grey also in­cluded a full bunker ren­o­va­tion and re­place­ment of the ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem.

When you add the con­struc­tion of the new club­house, there have been about $20 mil­lion in changes and up­grades.

Now beefed up to nearly 7,200 yards from the back tees, the main course re­opened in chunks, with all 18 holes back in ac­tion just in time for the club cham­pi­onships on Au­gust long week­end.

Mem­bers must be start­ing to fig­ure out the nu­ances of the new greens.

Guests might never guess what has changed and what was orig­i­nal.

“That’s a good com­pli­ment,” said Car­leton, whose re­sume in­cludes the de­sign of Shadow Moun­tain in Cran­brook and Dakota Dunes near Saska­toon. “The goal was to blend with what they had but also try to make it bet­ter where we could, and I think we’ve ac­com­plished that.

“Hear­ing that the mem­bers are sat­is­fied and the feed­back has been pos­i­tive, that means we’ve done our job.”

Only adding to what has been an ex­cit­ing sum­mer, the div­ot­dig­ging reg­u­lars at Earl Grey are now set­tling into their new club­house.

Among its many cool perks, the beauty of a build­ing fea­tures an out­door kitchen for pa­tio par­ties, state-of-the-art hit­ting bays and a putting lab in the pro shop and sep­a­rate locker-rooms for ju­niors.

On open­ing night in late Au­gust, the 32,000-square-foot fa­cil­ity — cer­tain to host a few good shakers as Earl Grey marks its cen­ten­nial sea­son in 2019 — was jam-packed.

“The at­mos­phere that night was truly as­ton­ish­ing,” Stringer said, beam­ing. “There has re­ally been a sense of en­thu­si­asm and pas­sion for the club. A lot of mem­bers are bring­ing their friends, whether they’re mem­bers at other clubs or whether they’re not mem­bers any­where, to en­joy our fa­cil­ity — to en­joy the course and then the club­house af­ter the fact.

“There’s a lot of in­ter­est, which is re­ally cool.”

The goal was to blend with what they had but also try to make it bet­ter where we could, and I think we’ve ac­com­plished that.

The eighth green at Earl Grey Golf Club in Cal­gary had to be re­lo­cated to ac­com­mo­date a bike path ex­pan­sion — in­clud­ing the bridge in the back­ground — along Glen­more Reser­voir, but mem­bers are happy with the changes.

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