Nelson's Granite Pointe opens Thursday. The driving range is now open.

Nelson's Granite Pointe opens Thursday. The driving range is now open.

Nelson’s Granite Pointe set to open

Mother Nature’s blast of spring in the last week has brought the arrival of opening day at Granite Pointe golf course in Nelson.

Mother Nature’s blast of spring in the last week has brought the arrival of opening day at Granite Pointe golf course in Nelson.

The mountainside course in Rosemont was under a blanket of snow in late-March, but sunny days and warmer temperatures has helped speed up the melt and first swings will take place on Thursday.

It’s welcome news for the local course that is run by a community society. The nasty springs of 2011 and 2012 set the course back considerably which created many challenges for the group of volunteers who steer the facility.

Last year was a difficult revenue year for us due to the terrible spring weather with double the record rainfall in June,” said society president Bruce Fraser. “However, with very tight expenditure control we ended up essentially breaking even in 2012.

“I know there were some rumours floating around Nelson over the winter about our situation, but the fact is we are in very good shape heading into the 2013 season. We have an excellent board and staff and with the changes we are making we are setting the foundation for a very robust season and a bright future.”

There is plenty for Fraser and local golfers to be excited about for the 2013 season. Over the winter, Granite Pointe secured the services of Kootenay golf legend Denny McArthur to take on the head pro and pro shop management duties. The 69-year-old spent 36 years at the Castlegar golf course and brings a zeal to the sport that is unrivaled.

“We had actually been in discussions with Denny a year ago so this is really a natural extension of that,” said Fraser. “Denny will be our head professional and manager of golf operations. He brings a wealth of experience, is well known in our area, and is very friendly and approachable. He will provide a full range of professional services including instruction, equipment advice and fittings, and event management. We will also be able to provide a very well stocked golf shop and our prices will be competitive.”

Another big change is in the clubhouse. The society has inked a deal with New Grand Hotel owner Danny Rickaby who has put a top-notch team together to run the food and beverage service at the golf course.

“For some time the board has been considering different business models for the club and leasing the restaurant was one of them,” explained Fraser. “This will make our operation more efficient and reduce certain costs. It will also allow us to focus on our core business, which is running a golf course. We reached out to Danny and one thing led to another. We are very pleased to have someone like Danny and his group running the restaurant. Obviously they are experienced and know how to run a successful operation. I think our customers are going to be very pleased with a number of changes that are taking place in the restaurant. It really is an incredible venue for a restaurant.”

Despite the shift in the way it operates, Granite Pointe expects to continue to face financial challenges. Like most of the other golf course in the Kootenays, there is an over-abundance of facilities and a limited market of locals to use them.

“We are currently working on a business deal which will raise some capital for the course,” said Fraser. “This will allow us to continue with our plans to improve the course and clubhouse facilities. In my opinion, if you aren’t making constant improvements then you are falling behind. We already have a very beautiful and challenging golf course and we are going to be in a position to make it even better.”

In an effort to entice more golfers up to the course, Granite Pointe will also be offering many different specials in the coming months geared at new members, youth and untapped demographics.

“Our new pro will be offering a range of teaching opportunities for people of all ages with a special focus on children,” said Fraser. “Golf is a great game for kids. It keeps them busy for hours doing something very healthy and it teaches them values such as honesty, integrity and respect. We plan on running some ‘free golf’ afternoons on a monthly basis throughout the season and this will give people a chance to try us out. We also have a plan for a golf swap where people can pick up used golf equipment at a fraction of the cost of new.”

Despite a couple of dark financial years at the course, Fraser is optimistic about what the next couple of years will bring.

“I have always felt confident about the future of Granite Pointe,” he said.

“It is a wonderful community asset. There have definitely been some bumps in the road as with any business operation, but I have always felt that the future was bright. And honestly, I have never been this optimistic heading into a season. I feel like the board have our eyes open and we are making important changes that will continue to keep Granite Pointe on a solid footing.

“In the long run we are very fortunate to have some outstanding property that we can bring to market and this is a huge asset to the club if used wisely. For me, the key is also to make golf more accessible to people. The prices have to be reasonable, the product has to be excellent, opportunities for learning have to be provided, and people will discover what a wonderful and challenging game of a lifetime golf is.”

Granite Pointe’s driving range opened Tuesday. When the course opens Thursday there will be no tee times for the scattered nine and there is a special rate of $20 for the nine holes until further notice.