Who's for good news in uncertain times?
"We're on time and on budget," said Mike Kenney, general manager of Southwood Golf and Country Club, which is now well into its $15-million relocation project.
Not a sluggish economy nor lousy spring weather have deterred the construction of Southwood's new home on a 297-acre parcel of land at the west edge of St. Norbert.
Renowned Canadian architect Tom McBroom has designed and overseen the creation of a new golf facility, complete with surroundings-friendly clubhouse complex and state-of-the-art practice grounds.
The project was made possible when the University of Manitoba, the club's next-door neighbour, purchased the current 110-acre site for $10 million.
It's the first known lock-stock-and-barrel move for a full-time golf club in Canada since 1961 when Vancouver's Shaughnessy moved to its current home.
As of today, all systems are on track for the projected 2011 opening at the new, private south-end club.
The concept became a full-steam-ahead project last summer and work continues in earnest. Other than some uneven exiting of frost this spring, the miserable, cold golf weather early this season has not impaired work in any way.
Kenney and project committee member and past Southwood president Brent Kerslake obliged the Free Press with a site tour late last week and the change since last June's ground-breaking is dramatic.
What was once flat farmland is now a sculpted, rolling route first through the north half of the property and then through the south.
More than 500,000 cubic metres of earth was moved to implement McBroom's design.
The course now includes elevated tees, elevated greens, mounded terrain that frames many holes, numerous bunker collections that certainly appear to have the potential to scare off the weak of heart, and drainage and irrigation ponds that will serve as formidable water hazards.
Finishing grade work is already complete on several holes and crews, working six or seven 12-hour shifts a week, are in full throttle on the rest of the course. Most of the irrigation system appears to be in place and drainage infrastructure looks to be in the final stages.
Kenney and Kerslake said what many interested parties wanted to hear, that seeding of the back nine will be underway before too much longer and that there should certainly be grass on that part of the course before the season is done.
Kerslake also pointed out a large area on the west side of the property that's being reserved for a third nine holes and said it's being groomed in the interim as home for 43,000 seedling trees under an environmental and greening program with the provincial government.
At one particular stop on our tour, McBroom's vision and talents were obvious. On the terraced 11th tee (206 yards down to 138 yards), he has created a par-3 with a downhill shot that needs to fly over water that hugs the front and left of the green and must avoid a major bunker complex to the right. As for a bail-out area -- well, it's best to just try to hit the green.
At another juncture, the existing landscape and forest has allowed him to created a nasty-tight par-4 16th.
The entire course is carded at between 7,336 and 5,318 yards on the drawing board, providing all the distance necessary for a top test of golf.
Trees are not an integral part of the course in many places except on the last three holes, but unexpectedly, we found definition, not just because of mounding or other landscape features on each of the holes we viewed, but also in the larger picture. The boundaries of the course to the north, east (especially along the La Salle River) and south are substantially treed, leaving only open views to the west.
If, in fact, the tree-seedling plan comes to fruition, the south nine then ought to be somewhat enclosed that way as well.
Plans and drawings for the clubhouse and pro shop complexes are nearly complete and Kenney said construction of those facilities is slated to begin next spring, when the countdown to the opening will surely be on.