Area residents enjoy a round of golf at the Sackville Golf and Country Club.
There aren’t many communities where employees, and, yes, even management, can slip out to the local golf course, play three or four holes and be back at the office on time to pick up where they left off.
The fact that the golf club is so close and there isn’t any requirement of a tee-off time, – a feature found at most clubs wherever one goes – is one of the things that makes Sackville such an attractive place to live and work.
Sue Seaborn typifies this love for the game. Like many others she joined the more competitive 18-hold Amherst club where she captured the ladies’ championship on 19 occasions. But she suddenly realized one day that there was a neat nine-hole course almost next door and now she is an avid member, playing every day. But while still employed she found she could jump in her car, rush to the club and play a few holes during her lunch break. She, like others who have taken up the habit, find the time relaxing and that the game eases the tension of the job.
While some barely realize Sackville has this gem – a community golf club owned and operated by its members and its board of directors – it has been in existence for 104 years, proving to be one of the oldest of its kind in the Maritimes. It was developed out of an abandoned strawberry farm and even to this day golfers will notice rolling fairways and as often as not will have a downhill lie after pulling off a huge drive.
But a good deal of work has taken place over the years and especially over the past 20 and visitors will find many upgrades, including a stock of golf carts, a fairly well stocked pro shop, a professional golfer-manager on site and a well manicured course with quality greens that are kept in shape by a team of experienced groundskeepers.
While this past winter has been a “killer” for many residents it has done limited, if any, serious damage to the course. Perhaps it was because of the early and lasting snowfall but the greens are looking good and except for some damage to trees along the fairways it seems all is normal.
So when may the diehard golfers expect to pull out their wedges, putters and long irons?
“We are setting a goal of somewhere between May 1 and 15,” says manager Steve Scott.
Scott is entering his fourth season in charge of the operations and brings a background in teaching and professional golf. In addition to handling the details of a six-month playing season he offers golf lessons and leads the junior program which has graduated a good many low-handicap golfers.
The course itself, while only measuring just over 5,572 yards for 18 holes, plays to a par 71. The front nine measures 2,755 yards, while the back nine is a little longer at 2,817. The 18th hole is actually an extension by 62 yards.
Club president Tanya Becker is predicting a banner year for the club. Last year, due to some poor weather at the beginning there was a substantial drop in membership, although the club remains debt free. She says experience proves that the membership soars during fine weather seasons, which she is confident will occur this time. Members travel from such areas as Port Elgin, Amherst, Dorchester and Memramcook to play the local course. A number of factors play into this – the fact it is not necessary to arrange a tee-off time and the relatively low membership and green fee costs.
Due to a number of factors, membership dropped by about 55 last year to a low of 225 and it’s hoped to grow it back up to near the 300 mark.
The executive has introduced a new payment plan they hope will prove more attractive to veterans as well as newcomers. And an informal meet and greet session will be held on May 6 from 6:30 to 7:30, during which time refreshments will be available and there will be experienced players available to discuss the game and membership.
Working with Becker on the executive are vice-president Jack Drover, treasurer Waynne Harper, games chair Grant MacDonald, along with Keith O’Donnell, Jeff Ollerhead, Robert Fillmore and Ben Brown.
Scott says the club employs seven or eight local people during the summer, which is beneficial to the local economy. A full service bar is on site and golfers merely need to check in before hitting the course.
Becker says there will be more fun nights this year while a fair number of corporate tournaments have already been booked for the season with others pending.
Asked if there are any plans to extend the course to 18 holes, Becker said there is nothing in the air. However, roughly 10 years ago a committee recommended such a move when a nearby farm became available but the membership voted it down.
So, Sackville, with top of the line golf and curling clubs available for membership, stands out among communities of its size in making membership available at a reasonable cost. And with members being able to hit the fairways without delay there are opportunities available here that are not likely found elsewhere. It’s hoped that local residents will seize this opportunity and ensure this gem remains viable and open to all.