With all of the great variety of outdoor activities that are available locally one might think that something as simple as Par 3 golf might not have any popularity, but in actuality it has been a mainstay of recreational sport for many years.
That is, it was a mainstay.
Smithers Par 3 golf will not be reopening for the next season after many years as a popular spot for locals to have a nice walk, putt around a golf ball and maybe meet some of the folks camping out at the RV park associated with the golf course.
Owner Delee Wah Yuen, who will be 69 next month, said that all of his friends are retired and that it might be time for him to back off a bit himself.
Delee said that he and his family have run the business for around 16 years.
“When we took it over, I didn’t know a thing about it but I gradually learned. It didn’t take long to get used to it,” he said.
He felt that it was great to get to know what you needed to and when looking back, it was hard to believe he had progressed so much in such a short period of time.
“As a business it’s been fine. The RV park has been fantastic. That does not change. More and more people my age, baby boomers, are getting into that. The RV park will remain open. It’s easy to take care of compared to the golf park,” he said.
He particularly likes meeting people.
“I like to sit at the campfire with them and chat. It’s nice. Very enjoyable,” he said.
He felt that winter was tough because there are still duties such as snow removal and trying to make sure that things do not freeze up.
When he took over the business, he got involved with the RV park and the land was always on his mind.
“For the family the main work was the golf course at first. There was a lot of learning curve and the amount of work was unbelievable. The irrigation was just a total nightmare,” he said.
The golf course had been there for over 30 years. It started with a nine-hole course and they bought some more land by the highway and increased the size until it added up to 18 holes.
“When you do the work to make it nice, it’s a very nice golf course,” he said.
The golf course won’t just be let go to become a fallow area.
“We will still keep it mowed down low. We don’t want it to look bad for the people in town. If they want to come out for a nice walk, we want them to feel free. It’s a real shame that we have to do this because it’s a community recreational place,” he said.
“We’ll leave it in such a way that if someone wants to turn it into a golf course in the future, it will be possible but not in my time. We don’t have plans on selling it as a golf course. We would never do that,” he said.
With most members being older people, he feels that perhaps a regular golf course might be beyond them.
As with any job, certain incidents seem to sum up what it really meant to the individuals involved.
“We were closing up in the fall and some members leave their clubs in the clubhouse. At that time, we had not let the information out but most of them had got that kind of feeling. An older gentleman had come to get his clubs and as he was sauntering out with his clubs, he had his head down. He mumbled, ‘You know, Delee, I don’t care how well you maintain it. I just want to come out and walk around.’ That kind of thing really touches your heart. It pulls at your heart strings,” he said.
Delee knows that many people will miss the club and what it has meant to them as a place for a little golf and a nice walk.
“We will continue to mow it so people will be able to walk around there. We might take care of one or two greens. I’ll let the members know that they can bring their clubs. They can walk around. They can hit a few balls if you want for free. We’re going to try to keep a few holes open up on top so that our customers can come out and hit a few balls around … maybe one or two on the bottom for now until any plans change,” he said.
Delee said that he has five children in his family and that three live locally.
“The three that are here will have to come out to pull some weeds and help with the maintenance. The ones who are still here will have to come and lift a shovel,” he said.
Delee said that he has lived in the area since 1983 and enjoys all that it has to offer.
As for the business, he particularly enjoys the RV park.
“It gets people from all over the world and they stay and everyone of them stands in the same spot to take a picture, over the clubhouse and the driving range where you can see the mountain,” he said.
While the Par 3 golf course might be under some change, it should still be a popular site for recreation.
“Cycle 16 is putting a trail right by our golf course, next to it. The ground work will start this spring. It will come off the bridge. It will come down to the course, go through the course and go towards Telkwa. It will be a paved bike trail,” according to Delee.
If it’s paved it will be possible to keep it open in the winter.
Delee does no think that he will have too much extra time.
“First of all, it’s not like I’m just going to hand the key over to someone. There’s a lot of training and there are so many things here that nobody knows where it is. For example, the irrigation. When I took over, I was never told where it was, I had to find all of the irrigation. There are maybe 3-400 sprinklers underground and I had to find each one if them,” he said.
“The most difficult part was that I had never done this before. I didn’t know a thing about taking care of grass. There was a lot of research; there were a lot of questions. I needed the help of a professional greenskeeper and the help of fertilizer people who came to see me to provide advice. We found what worked and what didn’t,” he said.
At first Delee relied on what he had been told by previous people. For example, he had been told use a lot of fungicide and a lot of chemicals.
When he read the instructions on these substances, he thought about it and asked himself what he was doing. He felt that these substances were very bad for the human body.
“Almost right away I cut that down to half, and a year later I cut it down more and finally I made a decision about three years later I was not going to buy any more. I used up what I had and that was the end of that. And then I went to strictly organic fertilizer,” he said.
The new substances worked fine. There were maybe more weeds but he and his worker hand weeded.
“Can you imagine a kid picking up a golf ball that was loaded with that stuff. They have it all over their fingers. Now it’s been about 10 years chemical free for the whole property so I figure that most of it is dissipated by now,” he said.
The business itself is healthy.
“We just want to keep this as a family thing and most of us are living here. We want to make the RV park really nice. When I took over, I spent so much of my time with the golf course that I didn’t have time for the RV park,” he said.
He said that he is always surprised when he meets people from far off locales such as Hawaii.
“They always say that it is so nice here. We see this every day, so we take it for granted,” he said.
He has met people from all over the world.
“There was one family that was probably refugees and they were on the golf course having a great old time. They will probably want to come back. There were a lot of people from Sweden, Germany. There was a family from Africa. The only ones who haven’t shown up here is Martians,” he said.
Anyone who wishes more information, can contact him. There will be a name change from Smithers Par 3 and RV. It will now be Bulkley Valley RV. The phone number will remain the same at 250-847-3229.
While Delee describes himself as just a ditch digger, janitor and bottle washer, he has become far more than that and has become more like the heart of one of the thriving popular recreational spots in the area.