Coal Creek Golf Resort

Reclamation project of pride

The Dodds coal mine, a third generation, family owned and operated mining company in Alberta, had finally reached the end of its rope. As the last load of coal was removed in 2007 and the project was being moved to a new site three and a half miles away, ideas for a reclamation project were discussed. The idea of a destination golf course, complete with a coal mine theme, began to take shape. After feasibility studies and research, it was discovered that the location actually had a competitive advantage. Today, Coal Creek Golf Resort is on its way to becoming a popular golfing destination and a homage to the mining era in Western Canada.

The spectacular 18-hole course is being built on a 320 acre reclamation site near Tofield, a small town close to Camrose, and less than an hour drive away from Edmonton. The Canadian Business Journal spoke with project manager Jason Rasmuson about the exciting project thus far. The site is using many existing ridges, wetlands and other features to enhance the site into a unique, nostalgic golf course. The reclamation project intends to further enhance the theme of the course. The site plans to include an RV park as well enhancing the resort as a true golfing destination spot.

Nostalgic design and course features

The design of the course is quite unique, using three golf styles in its design; quarry holes, hills and a links style, all with many interesting design features. In the ravine area, which was used from the 1940s to the 1960s, the old mining pits are now the water hazards and there also is an irrigation pond that was built at 100,000 cubic metres. Rasmuson elaborates, “We built three other golf holes—creating a link style with the fescues and the big rolling mounds. The final mining pits are left recessed and the pits are dug up and the ponds are below that. There is also a 15 to 20 foot drop into the pit and golfers will play in and out of the quarry.” These kinds of features, such as lots of water and rugged terrain, make for an exciting course for players.

Amongst all of this, Coal Creek is aiming to maintain a nostalgic coal mining theme. It is importing black sand to add to the look, and will mimic the look of a coal slag with copper. There are iconic visuals throughout the course design, such as an old Fiat 41 Cat, an old 50-year old buggy, and conveyers. “It is stuff that has seen its last days on the coal mine and now they are becoming a show piece on the golf course,” says Rasmuson, “There won’t be anything like it around and I am pretty confident in saying so.”

Course construction

Coal Creek teamed up with Puddicomb Golf Design and Construction to embark on the reclamation project. Says Rasmuson of their relationship, “We went to the Puddicomb Golf Group, they were building a course about a half mile away so we went to have a peek at what they were doing. We went to meet their construction manager and he’s a fantastic guy, so we talked a little bit about the feasibility of it. It seemed to be a nice fit.” Puddicomb not only designs the course and does the construction, but will finalize the actual shape and finishing touches on the course.

Fortunately, Coal Creek has a competitive advantage for the project as it already has a number of resources needed at its fingertips. Rasmuson himself is in charge of the construction site and was in charge of the rough surveying, dirt placement and shaping. He comments, “We’ve used our own mining equipment to do our own construction here on the reclamation site.” Utilizing equipment and resources already in place was a major factor in the feasibility of the project, as were the shapes and dirt mounds left over by the mining operations. “We’ve used some of our rock trucks and crack hoes from the mining site that are basically idle in the summertime, so we put them to work over here during the summer months.” That mining equipment is being used to relocate over 1.5 million cubic yards of material to reshape the land. “We’ve had the ability to move dirt at a real competitive advantage compared to having a contractor coming in.”

Reclamation inspiration

How did the idea of a golf course even occur to the family? Rasmuson chuckles, “One spot on the course is kind of like the dream spot. It’s up in the old mine area and we’ve got about a 40 foot elevation looking down into a little area, so the one golf hole stood out on its own.” From there, the idea grew. What started out as a family joke—that it would make a great golf hole—turned into ideas for a couple of holes, and eventually snowballed into the current project.
Coal Creek is set to open up its first 9 holes during summer 2011, and progressively open the rest of the facilities in 2012 once the infrastructure for the RV Park and all other elements is complete. Once completely operational, Coal Creek would love to host a junior Alberta golfing event—or maybe one day, the Alberta Open. The family is excited at the prospects for the future, as is the region. Says Rasmuson, “There is not much for recreation for the community here so it’ll be a nice showpiece.”

The Coal Creek Golf Resort is a reclamation project that Canada can be honoured to show the world. Says Rasmuson, “I am actually very proud with what we’ve done here; to take something like an old coal mine, all the work, all the cleanup, all the environmental studies…it’s going to be a beautiful project. If we can be proactive in the industry what prove what a good reclamation project can do, that is something to be proud of.”