It’s been more than eight years since someone teed up a golf ball and knocked one down the first fairway at Last Hill Golf Course near Eckville, Alberta.
The course shut down in 2009 for a variety of reasons according to those in the know. The property changed hands a few times over the years with one owner basically walking away from things and never looking back.
“It was like a scene out of Pompeii, “said Bill MacLean, whose is behind a plan to bring the course back to life. “We walked in and there were still dishes on the counters and there were all kinds of golf trophies around the place.”
In fact, MacLean, who grew up in the Rimbey area, knew some of the people whose names are on those trophies.
But now he and his wife Carla are looking to put their names on a redevelopment of the 18 hole golf course into a 12 hole track complete with a clubhouse, driving range, a pro shop and a 100+ unit RV park.
The former chartered accountants were behind the development of Clearview Industrial Park in south Red Deer and this project caught their eye. A contact in Calgary was aware of the property and so the work started on making this project a reality. So why 12 holes?
“We had seen a couple of places in the US where they had shortened up courses. Now up here in Canada and Alberta most of the traditional courses tend to be nine holes or 18 holes,” he said. “Our contact in Calgary kind of pitched to us something in between that and so I guess we’re kind of trying to capitalize on that and time will tell if we’re doing the right thing or not.”
MacLean says the RV park is the focus of the project with the golf course an amenity to mould the location into more of a destination for the RV crowd.
There are some courses around the globe which do cater to those who feel nine holes is not enough but 18 is too many so MacLean is zoned in on that demographic.
“Maybe eighteen holes in an afternoon is too much golf. So, what we’re trying to do is come up with a concept that still has some challenge to it and yet can be accomplished in an afternoon and you can go back to the RV area.”
The course is going to need plenty of work to bring it back from the dead and MacLean says he as no plans in re-routing the holes as the designers who built Last Hill, Les Furber and Sid Puddicombe, both well known course architects, pretty much knew what they were doing.
MacLean says what they are willing to do is pump in enough money to bring the remaining 12 holes back to a state where they are playable and to a level well above goat-track status.
The original front nine will be sticking around but golfers who played Last Hill may rejoice in the elimination of the iconic 18th hole which the name Last Hill aptly described it. You were grateful there wasn’t another hill to climb after your round. It was a difficult second shot to a small green which included a significant change in elevation. Many would have welcomed an escalator ride to the top or maybe a Sherpa guide to haul your clubs. It was a hike to say the least.
MacLean’s group is currently working with the County of Lacombe to cross the t’s and dot the i’s on the development permit for zoning to start work but it’s been a slow process to this point, he said.
He was hoping to be putting shovels in the ground this summer but it’s looking more and more like the summer of 2018 is a realistic time line.
The next step n the process is an Open House May 15 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and MacLean says people can drop in to see what the plan looks and deal with any local concerns.
“It should be an interesting couple of hours,” he said.
Good luck and here’s to teeing one up in the summer of 2018!