Last Hill Golf Course is on the verge of being revived by a group headed by owner Bill MacLean. The official reopening of the golf course is still, however, on the distant horizon.
“To be clear, we are a air distance away from that,” MacLean said. “We have done a significant amount of work on the clubhouse, driving range and reworking the irrigation system for the course. We will not be opening the course until, optimistically, for next year.”
The new course promises to be a unique experience in Central Alberta with the introduction of 12-hole course and 160-stall RV park.
“That is the concept we are dealing with,” MacLean said. “It has been abandoned as an 18-hole course since 2009. We looked at reworking it as an 18-hole course, but the more we looked at it – I didn’t feel confident with that. We had a different concept presented to us to shorten the course down to 12 holes, which I know is a bit unique for this area. We would use the freed up space for an RV park, and that is what I am spending most of my time on these days.”
The new concept requires that the land be rezoned in order to allow for the new RV park.
“It is 152 acres and we have to get in rezoned by the County of Lacombe to be able to allow for the RV park construction,” MacLean said. Phase 1 is looking at 100 stalls, the entire construction is looking at around 160 stalls. We will do that in at least two phases.”
MacLean is eager to begin construction, however the rezoning process is a lengthy one.
“It is taking quite a bit of time and effort to go through the more rigorous process then we have seen in other counties,” MacLean said. We have an Open House as part of the process to meet the county’s requirements. This allows locals, neighbors and interested parties to come and have a look and make comments if they wish too. We had hope to head into construction around that time but with rezoning and an appropriate develop agreement – that’s not possible.”
The open house will be on May 15 at the Last Hill Golf Course Clubhouse from 5-7 p.m. The open house will allow visitors to see the changes being made to the property.
“I have spent quite a bit of time at the course this time last summer finishing off renovations to the clubhouse, adding in new netting for the driving range and dealing with some weed issues,” MacLean said. “The local feedback we heard then was really positive and we had a lot of people driving by and stopping wondering what was up. It was all pretty positive.”
There has been some feedback related to the unfamiliar nature of a 12-hole course.
“There is some curiosity about the 12-holes,” MacLean said. “There are the so-called golf purists who wonder why wouldn’t leave it at 18 or go to 9-holes. The concept we have is to make Last Hill a destination with the RV Park. The RV crowd, from my take, tends to be more the 55+ crowd. We have seen what some people have done int he US with these 12-hole courses and we feel it meets more of a seniors need for golf.”
With the rezoning issue taking precedence, MacLean’s team has not had much contact with the Town of Eckville – however it is in the works.
“I like to keep the horse in front of the cart,” he said. “We have to deal with the county first and so far we don’t have approval to do anything. I think with previous owners, people around town have been told a number of things about the course that didn’t happen or only happened in a halfway way. We certainly do not want to do that again. We are trying to put our best foot forward so if we come off kind of slow or plodding – I am willing to live with that.”
MacLean believes that the RV park will make the course more viable then it has been in the past. This does not mean that it will be treated preferentially to the golf course.
“The golf course will be like an amenity for the RV park,” MacLean said. “We are going to have golf people running the golf course and RV people running the RV park. They will be quite separate and I see no reason that that the course would be shorted. From a business perspective the RV Park is what makes the whole thing work. The golf course has already failed. We are the ones putting our money where our mouth is and we will see if it pans out. We are certainly very hopeful.”