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This was already a good golf hole.
The new owners at Water Valley Golf Club figured there was potential for it to be even better — and now, it is.
Among their immediate improvements at this rural hangout, they have spiffed up the 16th, adding a trio of sand-traps and some mowed-low collection areas around the green. Always requiring a delicate tee-shot across a pond, this 170-yard eye-pleaser is certainly worthy of signature status.
“When the members came around the corner for the first time, they’d say ‘Whoa, good job guys,” beamed Jeremy Dueck. “It was nice to hear that.”
This was already a good golf course.
Dueck and his uncle, Pat Thomas, see potential for it to be even better. Immediately after purchasing the property in the fall, they started on a long list of projects.
They renovated the clubhouse restaurant and extended the hours so that golfers and neighbours can always count on a good breakfast or a cold beer on the patio.
They’ve added bunkers in strategic spots and beefed up the yardage for the big-hitters by building a few new back tee-boxes. They’re hosting the 2022 Alberta Match Play Championship in mid-August, an opportunity to show this place off to some of the top amateurs from around the province.
They reopened the driving range and parked a clunker of a car in the middle for target practice. If you can bonk the bumper or drill a door on that old station wagon, you’re ready to take aim at the green at No. 16.
With three bunkers now surrounding the putting surface, this is even more of a knee-knocker than you remember — which means a birdie would feel even better than before the renovation. A front-right pin, in particular, will be a doozy.
While that’s the signature shot, it’s not the only Instagram-worthy look on a charming layout that bobs and bends through the trees on a rolling piece of foothills about a 40-minute cruise from Calgary’s northwest city limits.
Another highlight is the fourth hole, which serves up a splendid panoramic view and features a dramatic downhill drive, an uphill approach and a creek crossing somewhere in between.
Water Valley’s loyal customers have long bragged about what a great value this is. The public green-fee is just $65 from Monday to Thursday and $75 weekends. (If you’re riding, that does not include the cost of a cart.)
“People don’t realize what’s out here. If they’ve never been out here, they just don’t realize why we call it the jewel of the west now, because it’s a pretty special place,” said Dueck, who has more upgrades in mind for the future — both on-course and beyond. “I had a friend drive down from Edmonton, had never played it, and on his way out here he was thinking, ‘Oh, so this is going to be another flat, no-tree golf course. But once you come here, there’s this pocket of trees that it’s mapped through and the undulation once you hit No. 4 and start going down there, it’s pretty spectacular.
“You’re just like, ‘Oh, wow.’ ”
That was Dustin Risdon’s reaction. A former tour pro and now an instructor at Water Valley, he teed it up at this off-the-beaten-track track for the first time last fall.
“I was blown away,” Risdon recalled. “I said to myself, ‘How have I never played here?’ I’d never really heard much about it, but it’s pretty mint out here.
“It’s an absolute hidden gem.”
Indeed, long before you arrive at Water Valley’s splashy 16th, you’ll likely be thinking about a return trip.
“One of our big things is making sure people feel special when they come out here,” Dueck stressed. “We have a line of clothing in the pro-shop called ‘Gourmet Golfer,’ and what that gourmet golfer means is the elite golfing experience, like you’d get at a gourmet meal. That’s what we want is for our guests to feel like they’ve come to a special place and to know they’ll be treated special. That’s our main goal.”
CHIP SHOTS: Brady McKinlay of Lacombe won the Alberta Men’s Amateur Championship in dominant fashion, finishing five strokes clear of the field at 11-under 202. During the final round, Hunter Thomson (Calgary G&CC) equalled the competitive course record at The Ranch with a sizzling spin of 8-under 63. He now shares the mark with Ian Doig, Ray Freeman and Ian Leggatt, who all played on the pro circuit … Tyler Kidd (Priddis Greens) stormed from seven shots back to claim the overall title at the Calgary Golf Association’s Tourmaline Oil City Junior. The 14-year-old Kidd fired a two-day total of 3-under 141 at Elbow Springs. Jayden Singh Brar (Priddis Greens), who sizzled to an opening-round rip of 7-under 65, was the runner-up … Dillon Batsel (Desert Blume) topped the leaderboard at the PGA of Alberta’s Golf Supply House Series stop at Innisfail. Batsel completed two laps in 3-under 141 … Brendan MacDougall, a longtime member at Glencoe and now a rookie pro, gained some invaluable experience in Sunday’s final group at the PGA Tour Canada’s Prince Edward Island Open, although he ultimately faded to a T-18 finish at 11-under 277.