Record season for Chinook golf course in 2023, some rate increases in 2024

Mayor Al Bridal presents a framed photograph of the Chinook golf course to, from left, Ken Koester and Doug Leavins during a regular City council meeting, Dec. 11.

By Matthew Liebenberg

The municipal golf course in Swift Current had a record-breaking season in 2023 with many rounds played and highest revenue ever.

Chinook golf course professional Ken Koester and course superintendent Doug Leavins made a presentation about the season during a regular City of Swift Current council meeting, Dec. 11.

Koester noted their goal this past year was the same as every previous year, which is to keep things steady at the golf course to the benefit of golfers.

“So everything’s pretty day by day and our job is to keep the golfers happy when they drive into the parking lot,” he said.

This approach worked well in 2023 and over 27,000 rounds of golf were played during the season. 

“Most of the increased traffic has come from green fee traffic, you know day-to-day golfers,” he said. “Memberships have been steady the last few years, but it’s the warm weather and the once a week or once a month, twice a month golfers that have come out post-COVID to play golf with their kids, their spouses, whatever. So that’s been the key to increased traffic at our golf course.”

The COVID-19 pandemic had a positive impact on the use of the course, as people were looking for outdoor activity. Chinook golf course typically had 22,000 rounds each season before the pandemic, but numbers increased over the last few years. There were around 27,000 rounds in 2021 and about 25,000 rounds in 2022.

The increase to over 27,000 rounds played in 2023 had a positive spinoff on golf revenue, which reached a record high of just over $1 million. It was the first time in the history of the golf course that revenue was this high.

“So that’s pretty exciting,” Koester said. “To put that in perspective though, I’m sure we’ve probably had record expenses as well.”

These record numbers were achieved despite a late start to the season due to weather conditions. The initial nine holes opened on April 29 and all 18 holes were open on May 4.

“Historically by the middle of April we’ve got at least nine holes, if not all 18 holes open,” he said. “So the start was late. As everybody knows, it was a pretty wintry and icy winter. So we weren’t expecting much when the season started, but once we got going, it always goes from 0-100 pretty quick and it did again this year. Weather was great all season, which contributed to a lot of great golf happening.”

One of the season highlights occurred in early July, when Chinook golf course hosted the provincial junior women’s and men’s golf championships with 105 golfers in attendance.

“A lot of great golf and a lot of great comments about the condition of the course and the city in general,” he said. “So that was exciting.”

The 2025 provincial senior men’s and women’s golf championships will take place at the Chinook golf course, but Koester said their approach is to avoid hosting tournaments on a frequent basis.

“Our kind of self-imposed philosophy and kind of mandate is to be as accessible and affordable as possible to many of the people, as we all know the taxpayers of the City own the golf course and with that we try to keep as many weekends open as possible,” he explained. “We don’t have major golf tournaments or anything like that, which allows for us to accommodate as many golfers as possible, especially on the weekends when most people are available to play golf.”

The golf course was also busy during the week in the 2023 season with active men’s and women’s clubs. The men’s club has been very successful over the last few seasons and set a new record this year.

“One day we had over 140 guys show up for men’s night on the Thursday,” he recalled. “Historically we’re 100 to 120. So a lot of people out there want to play golf.”

The women’s club experienced similar growth in recent years. The number of golfers increase from between 30 to 40 in the past to between 40 and 50 since the pandemic. This season’s wind-up event saw 80 women in attendance and it might be a good sign for next season.

“We’re hoping next year that we can keep 60 to 80 ladies,” he said. “The men do an 18-hole, front nine, back nine start. The ladies have always done a nine-hole shotgun and potential for next year that we have to use all 18 holes. So that would be exciting.”

Leavins mentioned that last winter’s varied weather conditions created a challenge during the course preparation for the 2023 season.

“It was a struggle in the spring,” he said. “We had more ice damage than in the past 25 years just with all that rain last winter.”

Another off-season of unusual weather appears to be on the cards this winter that might impact the condition of the course.

“The golf course is always better if it freezes in the winter and stays that way all winter long,” he said. “The temperature fluctuations don’t help much, but you never know with Mother Nature. Some springs everything’s great the first April, some years it’s not. So it’s only so much you can do.”

Council approves increases to 2024 Chinook golf course rates:

Council members approved various increases to Chinook golf course rates for the 2024 season during the regular council meeting, Dec. 11.

City General Manager of Community Services Nicole Spenst provided details about the adjusted rates. She noted that golf course rates are reviewed annually.

“The 2024 proposed rates have been reviewed and discussed with the Chinook golf course professional and the golf course superintendent as part of the annual operating budget discussions,” she said. “Rate comparisons are taken into consideration with seven provincial courses of similar playability and operations.”

She added that the City aims to provide affordable recreation opportunities for residents. The adjusted rates will amount to an average increase of seven to 10 per cent in various categories.

“By reasonable increases to golf in the community, the Chinook golf course will continue to be a destination for recreation for all ages, from the beginner to the expert, providing fun, affordable outdoor pursuits by all our citizens,” she said.

The unrestricted membership rate will be $1,418 and the restricted rate will be $1,129 (taxes included). The membership rate for a couple will be $2,322 and $2,370 for a family. The membership rate for a young adult will be $765 and a university student will pay $514. Junior rates are $195 (aged 12-18) and $160 (under 12).

The green fee rates (taxes included) are based on different categories. Green fee rates for juniors vary from $11 to $25. Senior green fees are $30 (nine holes) or $43 (18 holes). Regular green fee rates for nine holes are $32 (weekday) or $35 (weekend). Regular green fee rates for 18 holes will be $52 (weekday) or $57 (weekend).