Designed by Rod Whitman, a native Albertan, Blackhawk Golf Club quickly established itself as one of the top contemporary courses in Canada when it opened in 2003, twenty years after the architect’s acclaimed Wolf Creek course debuted.
Held in high regard by many fellow designers, Whitman is recognized as one of the best exponents of the architectural profession so it’s no real surprise to learn that he’s recently been involved in two prestigious projects at Sagebrush and Cabot Links.
The 18 holes at Blackhawk are routed along the banks of the North Saskatchewan River outside Edmonton and – in contrast to Wolf Creek where significant shovelfuls of soil were shifted to fashion the fairways – Whitman is quoted as saying that here he only “moved some earth to build the eleventh green and pushed around a bit of dirt on (the) eighteenth but that’s about it.”
Blackhawk is the epitome of rustic beauty and riverside charm where the best features of the property are used to the fullest in a very imaginative routing. The opening holes sweep away from the river to a plateau then the fairways tumble through poplar and pine trees to a fantastic back nine that falls back into the beautiful river valley.
Greens are on the small side with bold contouring, complemented by some exceptional bunkering where the jagged edges of the traps add an unkempt, natural look to the hazards.
The long 7th is a fine, strategic hole on the outward half but the star of the show is another par five, the 590-yard 11th, where the fairway drops over 100 feet from tee to green. Bunkers protect the right side of a fairway that leads to a sunken peninsula putting surface that might yield an eagle one day and a triple bogey the next.
Course architect Rod Whitman commented as follows:
When I first looked at the site with owner Al Prokop I was impressed on many fronts. The property itself contained as much variety in landscape, contour and elevation change as any I had ever seen. Basically, it had all of the things you look for when assessing a site for its potential as golfing ground. On top of that it would be hard for anyone to not be taken aback by the setting and the natural beauty of the Saskatchewan River Valley.
The process of building the golf course went well. The team we put together was men that I had worked with for years dating back to my first project at Wolf Creek. That team, in combination with an ownership group that allowed us to work freely, resulted in us getting the most out of that land for golfing purposes.