Many small Saskatchewan communities don’t have the luxury of having a golf course to be the hub of summer activity, as for Birch Hills and their surrounding residents, not only do they have a fully serviced nine-hole facility, the track is one of the province’s hidden gems.
Located on Highway 3, just east of Prince Albert, the farming town features an almost 3,000-yard bush and water laden course that will make any trip worth the drive. Board secretary Lorisa Ganes said golfers that visit the course for the first time are always impressed with what the club offers.
“Personally I think they are pleasantly surprised,” she said to Golf Saskatchewan during a recent visit. “I think visitors think they aren’t going to get the services that they get here. We have a kitchen with homemade food, we have the events building, a driving range, and practice green. I personally think our course rivals any in the province, I think they are pleasantly surprised when they come.”
Established in 1926, Birch Hills has over 100 members including “social” and “corporate” packages. On Tuesday they host their ladies’ club and the men have their weekly event on Thursday evenings. The course plays well for all skill levels of golf. Hole five is the course’s claim to fame as it features a tricky island green. Ganes said the course isn’t really long but you will have your hands full.
“Even though it might be a shorter course I think it has some challenging aspects to it for sure. A lot of trees are in play, fairways are fairly narrow, and the water is in play on four of the nine holes,” she said. “We don’t have any sand, but I think the course more than makes up for that with the challenge aspect of it.”
The community has four certified “community coaches” and is working hard to get a junior program up and running. Last year they had over 40 kids taking part in lessons. Time restraints for a couple of the coaches this year only allotted for 16 kids to take part, but plans are in the works for next season to get the number back up. Adam Morrison is the facility manager at the course, he’s also an avid golfer. He said Birch Hills is a great course for young golfers and top-notch players as well.
“The nice thing about this course, you tee off from the blue tees it can be difficult for anyone but it’s also very family friendly,” he said. “It’s a course that a family with two young kids can come out, enjoy nine holes and not be pushed from behind. It’s a very family friendly course which I love about it. I think it offers all aspects to all golfers, from beginners to good amateurs.”
The course is adjacent to the Birch Hills airport, the Prince Albert Gliding and Soaring Club uses that as a base for their operations. Watching the gliders along hole two is a neat feature of the course according to the locals.
The town has several recreation facilities along with the course, they boast a curling and skating rink, basketball court, ball diamonds and campgrounds next to the course as well. Morrison said the town and volunteers work hard to give residents plenty to do highlighted by golf in the summer.
“I think in the summer the course is the place to be,” he said. “We have some unbelievable rec facilities here. The people that run them and the boards do a great job with all our facilities. Our town doesn’t have too many businesses, so our rec facilities are the centre of the town. A lot of people in town golf, it’s enjoyable.”
Over the past couple years the course has upgraded their maintenance equipment and purchased 10 new carts for their fleet. The number one goal now is their clubhouse and somehow getting a new one. The event building was donated by C. Ross Wheaton out of Saskatoon. It comfortably holds 60 people and has large windows with a view of the course.
The course has a full slate of tournaments ever season as well, their Town vs. Country Ryder Cup style event features town residents challenging area farmers in a match style tournament. On the first Wednesday in September the Ladies’ Club hosts their annual tournament that in the past has had over 100 players. All the prizes for that event are harvest related. The tournament fills up in a day.
Lastly, the club offers one of the best promotions you will find province wide, on Monday’s and Friday’s green fees are two-for-one. Two people can walk the course for $22. That promotion is all season long.
Birch Hills also partners with other Saskatchewan courses, if you are a member of theirs, Manitou Beach, St. Brieux, Hidden Hills of Shellbrook, Lanigan, LeRoy leisureland, Wynyard, Craik, or Davidson you pay 50 per cent green fees.
For more information on the Birch Hills course visit their website.