A year ago, the Estevan Woodlawn Golf Course was in recovery mode after the Souris River flooded its banks and left water, silt and mud spilled across most of the course.
They would have to cancel most of their season. In all, Woodlawn would only be partially open for nine days in late April and early May.
The course's front nine has been restored, and it opened May 1. But the back nine remains closed, as an extensive rebuild, valued at over $1.6 million, is underway. It will significantly alter the course's appearance, and the playing experience for golfers.
Head pro and general manager Brian Dueck said a lot of progress has already happened on the back nine this year.
"It changes almost daily, but definitely weekly you see a big change," said Dueck.
Four tee boxes – 10, 11, 12 and 13 – have already been seeded. Greens for those holes, along with the 18th green, have also been seeded. The green on 18 was the first that was completed.
The tee box and the green for the 14th hole were slated to be finished around July 12. Work on the other tees and greens will follow.
"The green and tees on 15 are already ready to be seeded," said Dueck. "We just have to put the mixture of peat moss in there, and then work the fairways and get them ready."
Some sand has been applied on the 16th tee box, and the 16th green is ready for sand.
There are weeds on the tee boxes, but Dueck said those will disappear as the grass continues to grow.
The first six holes carry the most dramatic changes. The 11th hole was a par 3 before the rebuild began. It will be a par 4 once the project is finished. The 14th hole will be a par 3 instead of a par 5; No. 15 will be a par 5 instead of a par 4.
Holes 16, 17 and 18 will carry some similarities to their previous design, but even those holes will have changes in layout and distance.
"Even the holes that are similar in layout are going to look a lot different because there'll be some mounding, there'll be some bunkering," said Dueck. "The green sites and the tees are also elevated a bit. The biggest thing that people are going to see is the greens."
That's because the greens on the back nine will be a lot larger.
The 14th green, for example, will be around 7,000 square feet, with five different quadrants for pin positions.
Prior to the rebuild, the largest green on the back nine would have been between 3,800 and 4,000 square feet. One of the largest greens on the front nine, the sixth, is about 5,800 to 6,000 square feet.
Each hole on the back nine will have four different tee boxes, which will allow people of varying skill levels to play the course.
"It doesn't matter if you shoot 120 or 72, you can be challenged if you want to be challenged, or you can have a great time out there," said Dueck. "There's lots of room to hit the ball."
The holes will also play differently. Golfers won't necessarily use their drivers on each hole. Sometimes they'll have to play strategically, and use a 3-wood or another club on a par 4.
"Take No. 10," said Dueck. "It's not necessarily stand up there and wail at it with a driver. You have decisions to make. Where do I put the ball so I can get the ball on the green? And that's golf."
Dueck still expects the back nine will be open at the start of the season in 2013. Heat and dry weather will provide the best growing conditions. He still doesn't expect the back nine to be in play this year.
People who have had a tour of the back nine have already been impressed. Dueck has previously stated that it will carry a "Wow!" factor.
It could also result in another surge in popularity for golf in Estevan.
"I think any time you have a new product to present or show off, people are intrigued by curiosity, a 'Let's go check it out,' to start with," said Dueck.
Woodlawn's executive had been very pro-active in the past year, he said. If they weren't pro-active last summer, then the effort to reconstruct the back nine might just be underway now.
The number of golfers at the course has been satisfactory, Dueck said, since only nine holes are open this year. The Tuesday night ladies' nights and the Wednesday night men's nights continue to attract players.
Woodlawn has launched an ambitious fundraising campaign. They're selling sponsorships for the holes for $25,000 each for 25 years. Benches and the naming rights for the golf course are also for sale. Dueck said they have yet to finalize anything naming rights for the course, but there has been some interest.
Regardless, Dueck said the course has a financial need. Members and green fee players alike have to come and show support, due to the significance of the back nine project.