Normally, in a regular year, it takes a wayward shot to find Duteau Creek at the Coldstream Golf Course on the outskirts of Lumby.
The meandering creek is in play on the first four of the nine-hole, 2,715 yard course located at the corner of Highway 6 and Dure Meadow Road. And usually, for one week of the year, Duteau Creek will flood parts of the golf course thanks to spring flooding.
But this year, course owner Vern Tilbert saw the creek cover vast parts of his course due to spring flooding, heavy rains, and overflowing dams on the Aberdeen Plateau which, according to Tilbert, caused the creek to rise from four inches to nearly three feet in one day.
That day was May 18 and for the next two months, Tilbert’s course was covered in water.
But during the two months of high water, Tilbert never closed his course to golfers. Not once.
“We were averaging 50 golfers a day until media coverage of the flooding,” said Tilbert in the pro shop of his course he operates with his daughter, Vanessa. “We went down to five a day because people were under the impression the course was closed.
“People as far away as Grande Prairie told me they’d seen me on TV and thought the course was flooded. One or two holes were flooded but the rest was playable.
“We never stopped. We put in temporary flags or players would shoot to other flags for a different challenge.”
Since opening his course in the fall of 1995, Tilbert has experience flooding every year every spring, flooding he termed as “a week of high water,” always around the time of Lumby Days in June.
And the flooding hasn’t been a problem.
“After a week, it’s gone and we’re back into play,” he said. “We’ve built up some spots on the course and built some of the (walking) trails up, put some planks up on some walkways. We’re used to having it happen.”
The last few years, however, Tilbert said the flooding has become extreme.
This year’s extreme water, caused he said by water being released from the dams on the Aberdeen Plateau along with abnormally heavy rains, was a record for the course.
“The No. 9 green was wet for four days before we could use it again,” said Tilbert.
Yet through all of that water, the course came out relatively unscathed.
Some of the grass died, and sticks and debris littered the greens, but Tilbert and his two-man staff were able to clean that up.
“It makes a mess as lots of silt comes down and it was covered all over the green,” he said. “We cleaned and washed all of the silt off the greens and picked a bunch of sticks up.”
What has helped Coldstream Golf Course over the years in dealing with high water is various environmentally sensitive plans Tilbert put in right from the start.
Duteau Creek is a salmon spawning creek so no herbicides or pesticides are sprayed on or near the course.
The grounds crew does minimal watering, dryland grasses were planted so the grass would stay healthy and not require a lot of watering.
The course keeps its carbon footprint down by having only one power cart.
“We’re a walking course and we try to keep our environmental footprint low,” said Tilbert. “We have quite a large bird population, two types of deer, coyotes, turtles and the spawning salmon. We’re an environmentally friendly and sensitive course.”
Tilbert wanted to thank the businesses and the golfers who have stayed loyal and supported him for nearly 20 years.
His course is again fully operational, playing 2,715 yards from the back tees with one par 3 and one par 5 hole. The rest are par 4s.