Whitetail Crossing makes full use of what nature presented
By Gord Montgomery
Whitetail season in north-central Alberta isn’t just about the search for big game anymore. Rather, it’s now about seeking birdies at one of the newest premier golf courses in that part of the province.
That bird hunt is taking golfers to one of the rising stars on the Alberta golf scene – Whitetail Crossing Golf Club – located in Mundare, east of Edmonton on the Yellowhead Highway.
This track has already drawn rave reviews as a 9-hole facility so when it opens its back nine this summer, tee times could be as highly prized by golfers as a 10-point whitetail buck is to big game hunters.
When fully completed in the early summer of 2011 the course will play slightly under 7,100-yards from the tips and down to around 5,600 yards from the front tees. In all there are four sets of tees.
Regardless of yardage, the challenge of this links-style course remain intact through the concepts put into play by architect Grant Puddicombe of Puddicombe Golf, a company which is part owner of Whitetail Crossing along with Laurent LeBlanc.
The designer used what nature provided to establish a layout that is totally aesthetically pleasing.
“When we started Whitetail, the characteristics of the site that we capitalized on and worked at enhancing were some gentle hills, areas of native bush and the wetland feature which cuts through the back nine,” Puddicombe noted.
In true links style, the front nine has no trees until the ninth hole, where a grove stands to the right of the fairway and behind the green but doesn’t really come into play. That lack of trees has been off-putting to some so that changes slightly on the back nine.
“We incorporated four holes on the new nine that use native bush,” Puddicombe said.
LeBlanc pointed out that the overriding characteristic of this must-play gem is nature itself. Full use was made of the native fescue grasses and the wetlands, accented by well-placed bunkers and large greens.
“It’s open here, so the wind plays a big role on the front,” said LeBlanc. “Then the back nine has the four holes which go through some trees to give people a bit of relief.
“The average to good golfer appreciates what we have here. A lot of beginners, their first comment is ‘Where’s the trees? It’ll be nice when you get trees planted.’”
While there are a few trees they aren’t a big component of the course and that’s fine because this new beauty doesn’t need any cosmetic touches to make it a winner.
“The key to convincing the unknowing golfer that no trees is a negative is to create fabulous greens and great playing conditions, couple that with staff that offer an all-round pleasant atmosphere and most will not notice,” the course architect expounded.
If the combination of Puddicombe Golf and the design of Whitetail Crossing sound somewhat familiar, that may be because of another course the company’s designed – RedTail Landing GC in Edmonton.
Interestingly enough, one of the owners says he feels there are similarities between RedTail and Whitetail. The other says he doesn’t feel that way at all.
“They are very similar,” LeBlanc stated. “People call us Little RedTail although we’re not as fierce. The similarities are there – the fescue, the conditions and the size of the greens, which are huge.”
However in a separate interview, Puddicombe said he doesn’t see the parallels as vividly.
“I don’t see a distinct similarity to RedTail,” he began. “However, both sites do use native grasses as buffers between holes. You may also be seeing some of our style in terms of green shaping that has a similar look but there was no intention to make (them) look the same. Ultimately we like to make every hole different regardless of the location.”
Whether you see a likeness between the two or not is up to you. What you should do though is view this new course firsthand, with a set of clubs at your disposal of course, and make your own comparisons without any regard to the minimalist approach to the use of trees.
“A prairie golf course should be natural and tree-lined fairways certainly are unnatural in an area like Mundare,” Puddicombe said in closing.
What he doesn’t say and doesn’t need to is that with natural wetlands and open spaces Whitetail Crossing offers it fits in seamlessly with the surrounding area and should become one of the “must play” tracks on everyone’s list.
About the writer: Gord Montgomery is the sports editor of two weekly newspapers in the Edmonton area and is a member of the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. He has written for Inside Golf for the past four years with the majority of his coverage in north and central Alberta.