Unique golf course snakes through Yukon mining town
Published Saturday, September 1, 2012 7:33AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, September 1, 2012 9:40AM EDT
FARO, Yukon -- It started with a few golfers and a can of orange spray paint. Before long it sprouted into one of the most unique golf courses in Canada.
The Faro Golf Course doesn't sit close to the small Yukon town of 400 found 360 kilometres north of Whitehorse. It's located directly in it.
The nine-hole course winds through town like a giant grass snake, crossing roads and brushing up against community buildings.
Just about the only place a green can't be found is at the town's closed lead and zinc mine, which was once counted as the world's largest.
The 15-year-old club redefines the notion of a "community golf course."
"A bunch of us started whacking golf balls around in just a couple open areas (and someone said) 'Let's have a tournament,"' said Gary Jones, the course's president.
"Our first greens, we painted circles on the grass in orange paint. That worked out pretty good. I don't remember how many people we had involved. It would be all locals.
"The next year a buddy of mine in town here took PVC (piping), some ready rod, some chloroplast, made flags and it just mushroomed from there."
If it takes a community to raise a child, it takes this community to raise the golf course.
In the 1990s, Faro was involved in a beautification project, clearing brush from green areas, eliminating swampy sections, and grooming the open grass fields. The grass fields, which are still maintained by the town, became the course's fairways.
"Through the beautification program, the town maintains the fairway areas," said Jones. "We would really struggle if they didn't help, if there wasn't that support."
The town takes care of mowing the fairways, local golfers and course executives care for the greens and tee boxes, much like an adopt-a-highway program found down south.
A golf course in Whitehorse helps out by sending in old mowers and selling Faro their used golf carts.
Another feature that makes Faro a rarity is the community permits open alcoholic beverages within town limits.
"There's always been public drinking in Faro," said Jones. "You can't drink and drive, but there's public drinking and it's not abused.
"The bylaw has been in place for years and years and years, way before the golf course. It does help though, because if there wasn't public drinking, we'd be the only golf course on the planet you couldn't have a beverage on."
Golfers must be mindful not to drink too much: The course features some rather uncommon hazards.
An electrical line strung over one fairway could stop a drive in its tracks. Flower gardens and backyard fences can force a drop. And the roads are so close to some greens, an overhit approach shot can easily bounce off the road and out of bounds, prompting shouts of "Nice shot!" from passing vehicles.
"To my knowledge, there's been nobody hit, no vehicles hit (by a ball)," said Jones.
The layout of the par 32 course has changed over the years and continues to evolve.
At one point, a hole was in the middle of the school's soccer field. Some time in the near future, Hole 9 will become Hole 8 as two others are combined and a new Hole 9 is developed. After a lot of brush removal and seeding, the new hole will be in excess of 600 yards, making it the longest hole in the Yukon.
Since its opening, the course has hosted the Faro Open, a best-ball tournament, every summer. Twenty-eight teams competed in it this past July.
"We have a lot of people who come all the way from Whitehorse every year," said Jones.
If there is a weak spot for the course, it's the greens. There are some dandelions springing through in places. Some have regular grass, like what would be found on the front yard of a home, offering a good excuse for three-putting.
"We'll never have greens that equal Augusta, but eventually our greens will be great," said Jones.
During a recent round, Jones pulled a Leatherman multi-tool from his pocket to tear dandelions from several greens.
So how much is a round? There's no clear answer to that. It's flexible.
"Our membership is more of a fundraiser for us," said Jones. "People would come from out of town and ask, 'How much for a membership?' 'Give us 10 bucks.'
"The local people who use the golf course quite often, they might toss us 50 or 100 bucks or something like that.
"You can take the cart away for the day and golf as many rounds as you want," he added. "It isn't controlled. Yet. Someday we'll probably hire students to help out."