Mark Rendell
Mark Rendell

Golfing in Grace: New Course in Five Years

Council discusses Darwin Rudkevitch's nine-hole, grass-covered course favourably.
Currently used as a sod farm, the site is slowly taking shape

Tired of hacking away at sand and gravel and hauling a little chunk of fake grass from hole to hole? Well, Yellowknife golfers, it’s still a few years away — at least five before the first tee-off, says the man behind the plan — but the golf course on the south side of Grace Lake finally seems more than a nebulous rumour, grass and all.

At Monday’s Municipal Services Committee Meeting, council discussed rezoning the 23-acre property beside the planned 85-lot Grace Lake subdivision, from “growth reserve” to land for “commercial recreation.” The discussion was, in general, favourable. Council also spoke about offering Darwin Rudkevitch, who’s currently leasing the property, a discounted five-year lease to help “incubate” the project, though they won’t vote on either issue for several weeks.

Currently the site is used as a sod farm for Rudkevitch’s company Arctic Farmer. However, after being given the go-ahead from city council last year to start developing preliminary plans for the course, things are already beginning to take shape.

The future nine-hole golf course is off a winding road past the Kam Lake area. The foreground of the lot is filled with odds and ends, including a mint-green house up on piles, neatly and exactly split in two, a small army of Bobcats, trucks and trailers, and a small but neatly sodded patch of manicured lawn grass. To the left of the entrance, you’ll find a lush, uniquely beautiful landscape, not yet fully tamed. Pitch-black water fills a shallow stream, while bone-white rocks poke through the ground, and the gently rolling fields are filled with fireweed.

“When we process our dirt, we have a 25 percent waste product that comes out, which is gravel, sticks, topsoil, so we use that to level the land instead of having this big pile of material,” says Rudkevitch. “And when we bring sod in or do hydro seeding, we always have product left over, so as we level the land, we’re hydro seeding it and sodding it as we go. We started doing that instead of throwing the product out, so we ended up with a huge field.”

So far they have about three or four acres of the 23-acre property covered in grass, and they’ve built two holes on the sodded section – although they aren’t keeping these two holes up to a playable standard: “We have to generate some revenue off of it or it makes no sense maintaining it.”  They’ve also starting work on five more holes, which will be covered in grass in the coming years.

He doesn’t have the development or business permits yet, but Rudkevitch is hoping his golf course will have a clubhouse, bar and restaurant. There might even a campsite (perhaps an RV park) nearby.

The question remains: can a city of 20,000 people can really support two golf courses? Rudkevitch seems to think so.

“You only have to look at Whitehorse, which has an 18-hole and a nine-hole, and see their membership to realize how much room there is for a nine-hole course in Yellowknife,” he says. “And I don’t think we’re going to be in competition with [the other golf course], we’re a nine-hole, they’re an 18-hole. Besides, they’ve got 350 members, and I think Golf Canada said they should be carrying about 1000 to 1500 members on average, so where’s the rest of the golfers?”

Besides there’s that special grass feel, he says. “Playing on sand with that little mat, when you go south to actually play on grass, it takes you a couple rounds to readjust your swing, to want to take a divot out. From trying not to knock the mat flying to trying to take a nice divot, it takes a couple rounds to adjust to it.”