LAC LA BICHE - A significant makeover of the Lac La Biche Golf and Country Club is set to begin in September — and will see half the holes on the course closed for at least a year.
Darrell Lessmeister, Lac La Biche County’s associate CAO of Recreation and Community Services, confirmed that phase-one of the master plan for the local golf course will involve work on the front 9 holes, which is expected to be completed by fall of 2024.
The master plan — with an initial budget projection of $4.5 million over seven years — was approved by county council and the golf club just over a year ago.
“The work involves extensive improvements to drainage systems, new washrooms, an equipment wash bay, reconstructing the tee boxes, upgrading the irrigation system on the greens and improving the greens themselves,” Lessmeister explained.
Tenders for the first phase of the project are currently with pre-qualified contractors.
Lance Palamaruk, the golf pro and manager at the Lac La Biche Golf Club, welcomes the much-needed changes, though he is concerned about the inconvenience to golfers.
“It’s truly a case of short-term pain for long term gain,” Palamaruk said. “We will be down to nine holes beginning late this fall and most likely thru 2024 and even into 2025. The course has been very busy the past few seasons so it will be a tough place to get on when we scale down to nine holes.”
The course opened for business in 1958 as a nine-hole layout. it was redesigned and expanded to 18 holes in the late 1980s. Although there have been many upgrades over the decades, some infrastructure has been in place for more than 60 years, Palamaruk said that in recent years, the course has experienced quite a few ‘old-age’ issues, including greens that have become increasingly rounded over time, small tee boxes that are unable to keep up with daily play, drainage issues, and constant irrigation maintenance.
The irrigation system is over 30 years old and needs to be replaced,” Palamaruk explained. “In the end, the upgrades will be more than worth it as we will most likely have larger greens, tee boxes, as well as proper drainage that meets environmental regulations. Construction crews will also be adding quite a few bunkers and replacing the old irrigation heads and main line with new ones.”
County owned, society run
The golf club is owned by the municipality, but day-to-day operations are overseen by a not-for-profit volunteer society.
The county signed a 99-year lease agreement in 2009, taking over ownership from the society, which had been experiencing financial challenges keeping up with repairs and maintenance. The not-for-profit society remains responsible for the day-to-day operations and upkeep of the course. The society uses revenues collected to assist the municipality with upgrades at the course.
Green fees, cart rentals and membership costs during the construction project are expected to be items of discussion in the coming weeks for Palamaruk, county officials and society members.
in past interviews, Lessmeister has said every effort is being taken to keep at least nine holes of the course open throughout the construction period.