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Yellowknife Golf Club officially open for business for 75th year

The Yellowknife Golf Club had a guessing game contest for people to see when they think the 2023 season would begin.
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The special flags commemorating the Yellowknife Golf Club’s 75th anniversary sit in the back of a cart waiting to be placed. Photo courtesy of Yellowknife Golf Club

The Yellowknife Golf Club had a guessing game contest for people to see when they think the 2023 season would begin.

If you had May 7, you’re a winner.

The club is now fully open for business as of Sunday and it even beat the driving range, which is traditionally the first bit of golfing people can get in. That normally doesn’t happen, but for Kylie Frederick, the club’s head pro and director of golf operations, she’s just happy to be able to throw open the doors.

“The ground crew did a ton of work to get the course ready and I’m surprised we opened (Sunday),” she said. “We wanted to wait until it was safe for people to get out and the greens were good to play on and walk on.”

If you lived in Yellowknife during the winter, there’s no need to remind you how much snow the city received and there was plenty on the golf course.

But the warmer-than-normal weather the city has been experiencing over the past few weeks meant that the snow melted quickly and that sped things up, Frederick added.

“We had a lot of people calling and messaging asking when we were going to be open,” she said.

As for the driving range, that was scheduled to be in operation on Tuesday.

“My guess was the 15th, but the weather beat me to it,” said Frederick. “We had the crew getting the nets up around the range and that should be good to go.”

It’s a big year for the club as it celebrates 75 years of operations in 2023. The grand opening happened on June 20, 1948 when a group of around 50 golfers decided to set up shop on the current location — the fuselage of a crashed DC-3 served as the original clubhouse.

As the story goes, Stanley Thompson, one of the most well-known Canadian golf course architects, was sent to Yellowknife by CP Rail to take a look at the course. He reportedly described the layout as ‘very interesting’.

The original course featured nine holes with sand fairways and oiled greens, but that changed in the 1990s. Three artificial greens were installed, which was expanded to all nine holes by 1995. The club began its expansion into an 18-hole course in 1999, still with the sand fairways but with all 18 greens featuring artificial turf. Many of those greens were replaced two years ago.

The club has seen its share of interesting happenings, such as when a CF-18 fighter jet dropped a live AIM-7 Sparrow missile on the driving range on the morning of June 18, 2004. It smashed into several pieces, skidded across the driving range and came to rest at the 10th hole near the club’s entrance.

As the story goes, Tony Sunderland was the lone golfer out that morning between 6 and 6:30 a.m. RCMP quickly got Sunderland and then-staff member Guy Kennedy out of harm’s way. The missile, which weighed 226 kg and was fitted with explosives but equipped with safety devices, was exploded by Canadian Forces personnel and left a crater one metre in diameter.

If you look close, you can still see a small depression when you play.

Close-call bombings aside, Frederick said there are plenty of events planned to mark the club’s diamond’s anniversary — some bigger than normal — and that includes the Midnight Classic, the biggest annual tournament at the club. It’s scheduled to be held between June 22 and 24.

“That’s kind of our birthday event,” said Frederick. “We’re planning to have a big social on the opening night and we’re still finalizing everything that we’re doing.”

There is also some limited edition swag available with the 75th anniversary logo for purchase at the pro shop to commemorate the occasion, she added.

All of the regular tournaments are back this season with a new tournament this season called the Pride Tournament. That’s being held in conjunction with NWT Pride. The Mediocre Golf Association is also back with another full season of eight events and it tees off with the Rebel Beach Am-Am on May 29.

But Frederick is just excited to see everyone come back for a new season.

“I’m anticipating a lot of excitement,” she said. “It’ll be nice to see all the friendly faces again.”