A 'slinger' truck spreads a layer of sand over a section of the ninth fairway under construction at Seven Hills Golf and Country Club Monday.

Fairway repairs underway

Seven Hills repair a damaged stretch on the ninth fairway.

SEVEN HILLS—After nearly a year of playing around a large, missing chunk of the ninth fairway, golfers at Seven Hills Golf and Country Club may soon be back in the swing.

Armed with donated and rented equipment, including a sand-broadcasting “slinger” truck, a volunteer group of club members spread and levelled a layer of sand on the damaged section of ground Monday.

“When this is finished we’ll take a layer of that soil there,” volunteer Dale Dorward said, gesturing to mounds of clean topsoil piled at one end of the fairway, “and spread it over the top of the sand.

“Later in the week we’ll bring in a hydro-seeder and plant it.”

In a best-case scenario, the hole could be ready for play in the annual Men’s Open tournament, scheduled for Sept. 8-9.

“It’ll be nice to get it planted,” said Kevin Black, course manager. “Then it’s just a matter of waiting for it to grow.”

The section of fairway is a transition stretch between the flat, lower section of the hole and the steep, final slope up to the green. It was dug up last year after gradually developing sinkholes deteriorated to the point it was essentially unplayable. An extended stretch of poor, wet weather exacerbated the problem, preventing crews from working on it for months.

Finally, earlier this summer, a work party of 17 club members, friends and family descended on the hole to clear the jumble of rocks dragged to the surface when the ground was churned up.

“We had nothing but rakes and our hands, and figured it would take us two days to clear it,” said Dorward. “We ended up finishing in three hours. When we needed volunteers, it was no problem getting them.”

“That was probably when things changed,” Black said of the rock-clearing. “That’s when they realized, ‘we can do this.'”

The next step was to sculpt the fairway to provide for runoff while leaving a smooth surface for players to hit off.

Orca Sand and Gravel, which has previously donated material for local playgrounds and ballfields, provided the sand at no cost. Port Hardy Bulldozing offered discounted rates for the topsoil and for use of its sand plant, which was set up behind the second green. OK Paving donated the use of a front-loader run by employee Mike Balcke, who is also a club member, and Rick Milligan ran multiple loads in a pickup truck equipped with a dumper bed.

At the centre of the activity was the big slinger truck from Down to Earth Stone Slinging of Campbell River, which is equipped with a rotating belt that quickly spreads even sheets of sand over a wide area.

“There have been some costs,” said Black, who noted cash donations were provided by Rotary Club and the golf club. “But the volunteer work we’ve gotten has saved the bulk of the cost we would have had.

“It’s a special place where you can get people to step up and do that.”