Not just a golf course…anymore

Lynsey Kitching


Change is in store for the golf course and if everything continues as it is, the facility will no longer be destined to be a golf course, but an entertainment destination.

Since about September, the District has been in talks with a buyer of the golf course, and as of Fri. Jan. 3, the District and the buyer Graham Johnson, have signed the first draft of a purchasing contract. “How secure and binding that is I’m not quite sure yet, but I know there’s an initiative that they want this facility open. They need to do the right thing to protect the District and the relationship, so we make the right deal that protects both of us. In that process, it takes time. We’re almost there. We’ll enter into an agreement today [Friday] and it will still be a work in progress, but it’s a commitment on both our parts to say we are prepared to go forward. I’ll be assuming all responsibility,” says Johnson.

Having been involved in the Monkman Commons development on the marketing side for Triland International, the former developer of the project, Johnson has spent a lot of time up here in Tumbler Ridge. Having stepped aside from the development project, Johnson long ago fell for the town and hopes to call Tumbler home.

Johnson explains the golf course is like a diamond that just needs a little shining. “That view, just over here by the golf cart area, it’s spectacular, spectacular. So I’ll make some sort of a gathering area, a fire pit, where campers and locals can enjoy the view. It’s really just taking the opportunity of what is already here. You don’t have to stand in the way. It’s so nice. I realized this because I was always coming here. Anytime I did anything important with important people, coming to town for business or with my personal life, like with my father, I would bring them here.”

Looking out the giant windows of the restaurant, overlooking hole number nine and the mystical mountains beyond, one can’t help but agree.

In order for Johnson to purchase the facility, the District went through a public process, but no other folks showed interest, so the negotiations between Johnson and the District continued.

The next step is to get the contract signed, and as Johnson explains, you have to start off on the right foot. “The only way this place will operate is if there is activity here, I can’t expect to just open the doors and people to flood in. I’ve been in contact with some musical acts, but because I haven’t known if there was a commitment or not, I haven’t been able to secure any acts yet,” but Johnson says confidently, “I will.”

One thing that is also for sure is that there will be some upkeep done, specifically to the driving range. “I would like to put a shine on the facility, and improve things that may have been neglected the last couple of years like the netting and the driving range. I’m actually going to build a sauna here, a communal one for the campground so they have more than just an RV spot,” says Johnson.

So even though there are plans for some nightlife and changes to the facility, the golf course will remain a focal point, and Johnson is looking to the members for some guidance. An avid golfer, Johnson explains, “I need to get in touch with the members about what they’ve liked and didn’t like over the last few years, what could improve their experience of being a member here? I want to honour the history the members have of this place. Being a golfer I know the importance of taking care of your members. They’re your heart and soul of the facility.”

With these suggestions Johnson also hopes to increase friendly competition, for example, tournaments between or among companies and between unions. He also believes a successful junior program would be awesome. “An emphasis on junior players. One of the world’s best golfers right now is from Weyburn Sask., Graham Delaet. Weyburn doesn’t sound like a golf mecca, but there was a time when he was a little boy and he got involved in a junior program, and now he’s a world famous golfer. So, with any luck, we can have a good junior program and have kids playing golf,” he says.

One thing a good athletic facility needs is a good pro. Someone who makes people feel at home and encourages their passion in others. “I’ll make sure I find somebody that is committed and passionate, because that’s what it takes. If you’re not committed, people recognize that it’s insincere, so then there’s no longevity, but if you’re truly passionate about what it is you’re doing, it’s contagious,” says Johnson.

The second component to the success of the facility is the food, and for Johnson there is good food, and there is bad food. “Keep it simple—comfort food, good quality and affordable. The one thing I won’t do is the lazy way. You go out to a lot of places now, and they just get a box of something, they heat it up and they put it on a plate. It’s shameful. There is only one way to do it, and that’s to do it with care, and ability, that’s it. The style or the type, that’s not the biggest point; there’s good food and bad food. It’s not just going to be one thing.”

And to make yummy meals, you have to cook with good food. “It all starts with the ingredients, you can’t make good food with bad ingredients. I promise I’ll try really, really hard to not take the shortcut,” adds Johnson.

So along with being a golfer and having been drawn down the windy road to the course because of it, the other main reason why Johnson is interested in the facility is because, as he says, he loves to bring people together. This reflects in his experience on the venue side of the entertainment and concert business, from his time spent working with his father at BJ’s in Grande Prairie. “I will take my experience in BJ’s in Grande Prairie, and take all of that history I have and bring it here. That is kind of my thought process on the entertainment side,” says Johnson.

Johnson’s vision is to use the facility as the glue for all of the wonderful activities that already take place there, even in the winter. From the cross country ski trails, and the toboggan hill, which, is also awesome for beginner snowboarders or skiers; and the skating rink and the snowshoe trails to Tumbler Point, to the newly built RV park, the facility is ready to be a home base for the folks out there enjoying what Tumbler has to offer. “Making this one of the more utilized facilities in town. Get people to stop thinking of it as a golf course, and start thinking of it as an all-year round facility,” says Johnson, excited about the potential. He continues, “I’ll be doing a membership drive, taking ideas from people of what they want to see happen and try and improve the facility as best I can. There’ll be special events on a regular basis until I feel comfortable, then it will be open to the public seven days a week. I’m not sure when that’s going to happen. It will be scheduled openings, entertainment events, weddings, banquets, for the beginning, until I get on my feet. Time goes by quick and soon it will be golf season and it will be open all of the time.”