Bill Newis first visited the Holiday Park Golf Course in Saskatoon in 1962 after graduating from the University of Saskatchewan. The course had just been constructed and Newis knew the property was the perfect site for a tremendous club.
Newis graduated with a degree in engineering and calls Priddis, Alberta home but for 26 years he has had a vested interest in Holiday Park. In the early 1990’s the city of Saskatoon asked the 2016 Saskatchewan Golf Hall of Fame inductee to draw out a long-term redevelopment plan for the 27-hole course. In 1994 the plan was initiated by the city and work began on the course. Newis said the process has been ongoing a long time.
“We’ve worked whenever the funds were available since 1992 to slowly and progressively move through the plan. I keep telling them if you guys keep going at this pace I won’t see the result,” he joked this week from his Calgary area home.
When first built in the early 1960’s, “thousands” of trees were planted around the course including oak and willows. At the time Newis visited the course he described the “wooded ornaments” as “scrawny.” He didn’t return to the course until 1992 when the trees had become full grown. Newis said the trees will play a factor in the redesign of holes 14 and 17.
“The tees will be a major undertaking because they are in a hillside and you will have to destroy a lot of the tree growth on there to get step down tees,” he said. “A couple of major trees on the course will have to be trimmed up or removed to open up the view to the greens and then two new greens will go in.”
The most recent upgrades to the course included four new tee boxes and greens on the regulation course plus another hole revamping on the nine-hole executive course. The renovations included irrigation work at various points on the facility and a water feature. According to the city of Saskatoon’s Andrew Roberts the recent work cost upwards of $1.5 million. Newis pointed to Holiday Park’s par-three holes and how they enhance the playing experience.
“Everybody has the opportunity to get a hole-in-a-one, it doesn’t matter what type of golfer you are. Everybody gets excited when they step up to the tee on a par three. The have some really strong, attractive par threes here with big rolling greens. They really stand out on the golf course,” he said.
Over 100 full grown trees have be relocated at the course as well in recent years. Newis said when the work is done Holiday Park will be a premier club in Canada.
“When it’s done in my view it will be one of the finest public 18-hole courses in Canada. There has been lots of changes to the course since 1962 and I’m convinced when it’s done it will be one of the best,” he said.
Roberts, the manager of special use facilities and capital planning for the city of Saskatoon explained the funding for the renovations has been generated by green fees. Newis and city officials follow the plan and complete the upgrades in stages when they are feasible.
“Once the funding has reached a level we feel we have enough funds to do a significant project that will have minimum impact to the golfers and provide the best benefit we will start the process,” Roberts said.
They meet with the architects, they look at what’s left on the development plan, what should be tackled next, the scope of the project, develop a design, tender out for a construction and proceed. Roberts said the next project is likely five to six years away. Newis estimated without the redevelopment plan in front of him that five greens and three tee box replacements are still left on the public track and one hole revamping remaining on the executive course. Roberts echoed Newis’ thoughts on the end result when the work is complete.
“It’s always been in a great location, it’s got lots of forest type parkland setting, the river is viewable from several holes. I would agree with that assessment that it will be a very good golf course. Saskatoon itself is very lucky, we have an abundance of quality golf courses based on our population and I’d count Holiday Park as one of them,” Roberts said.
Roberts estimates the final work will come in two or three stages.