Faro rings in 15 years of community golf

It all started with a few golfers in Faro 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 town of about 400, it's located directly in it.

FARO

It all started with a few golfers in Faro 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 town of about 400, 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. It redefines the notion of a “community golf course.”

Club president Gary Jones fondly remembers the course’s early beginnings.

“A bunch of us started whacking golf balls around in just a couple open areas (and someone said) ‘let’s have a tournament,’” said Jones. “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.”

Like a great round of golf, all the pieces fell into place at the right time for constructing the course, which reached its 15th season this summer.

In the ‘90s 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.”

To paraphrase an old expression: it takes a community to raise a child and a golf course. As 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 you might find down south.

But there has been plenty of outside help too.

“It was supported by most of the community and possibly the whole Yukon,” said Jones. “We do have lots of support through CDF (Community Development Fund), Yukon Lotteries … Mountain View (Golf Course in Whitehorse) especially. They give us their old mowers, sell us their used golf carts.”

Another feature that makes Faro a rarity – if not completely unique – is the community permits open alcoholic beverages within town limits.

Contrary to common belief (at least outside of Faro), the law didn’t come into place because of the course – so people could legally enjoy a beer or two during their round. The law was in place long before. However, the law is buttressed by the course, said Jones.

“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.”

So entwined with the community, 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 – don’t be surprised if you hear “nice shot!” from a passing vehicle.

“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.

And the new Hole 9 is going to be a doozy! 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. “It’s a long way. You have to drive 360 kilometres!”

The long drive from Whitehorse could cause some stiff muscles, but the course includes a driving range on which to warm-up. The range was built with CDF funding.

“That’s when there was very little employment in this town – probably 1999ish, 2000ish, something like that,” said Jones. “So we opened the area up and started changing the golf course a little bit. We didn’t have Greg Norman to come up and design (the course).”

If there is a weak spot for the course, it’s the greens. Some are a little rough. There are some dandelions springing through in places. Some have regular grass, like you’d find on the front yard of a home. (Though not a bad 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. “I’ll get all the bastards,” he said, yanking a weed.

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.”

Where else can you get a round of golf with a cart for $10? The community of Faro has the motto: “Yukon’s best-kept secret.” The same could be said about its course.

Contact Tom Patrick at

tomp@yukon-news.com