Improvement in the tee box: Courses plan renovations following tough, sultry summer

Sunday, February 19, 2006

While the past year brought no major changes to area golf courses, the spirit of improving the popular recreation for Cape Girardeau County residents is in the tee box and swinging away.

Local courses weathered a dry, hot summer that took its toll on greens in the area with several fighting back with plans for improved irrigation for the future.

Past labor also kept damage to a minimum, as well as received accolades.

Notable recognition came the way of Dalhousie Golf Club, a Nicklaus Design creation which continues to receive rave reviews since opening in June of 2002. The course was listed among the top 10 new private clubs in the nation by Golf Digest in 2004. In 2005, Golf Digest listed Dalhousie as the second-best course -- public or private -- in Missouri. The club, beginning its fourth full year, was listed above the likes of Bellerive Country Club in Ladue, Mo., which has hosted major PGA Tour events.

Dalhousie is not resting on its laurels. The club recently completed construction on its 1,300-square-foot pro shop and two 1,400-square-foot cottages. The structures are the first steps of a campus area, situated next to the driving range and putting green.

The cottages contain two connected 700-square-foot units. The club, which hired O.B. Sports to market the course in 2004, has been aggressively seeking national members over the past year.

Each unit has two beds, fireplace, kitchenette, couch, bathroom, vaulted ceiling and screened-in porch.

"They are for members, but they were developed with national members in mind," said Dalhousie general manager Andy Diero. "Instead of a hotel room, they can stay on site."

Among the 2005 nods to Dalhousie was the Missouri Golf Association announcement that three of its tournaments will be played at the club in the coming years. The most prestigious of the trio is the 2012 Missouri Amateur. More immediately, the club will host the Missouri Mid-Amateur Championship on Sept. 15 to 17, and the Missouri Four Ball Championship in August of 2007.

Dalhousie will also host the NAIA Region 5 Championship in May.

"Our hope is to submit a bid to host the nationals," Diero said. "We hope to get strong consideration."

The club hopes to someday host an event on either the LPGA Tour or PGA Tour.

"That's the ultimate goal, but we have to start at the beginning and not only take the necessary steps, but embrace the necessary steps. We're looking forward to hosting the NAIA and MGA events. The United States Golf Association has several events we'd like to host in the next few years."

The 2006 plans call for the construction of the clubhouse, which will be called Members Manor. Construction on the two-story clubhouse is expected to begin this month. The 20,000-square-foot facility will include a large area for dining, private dining, locker rooms, retail shop and a basement for cart storage.

Construction will also begin shortly on a food pavilion, which will be adjacent to the cottages and pro shop.

Cape Girardeau County has two additional private courses and two public courses:

Kimbeland Country Club

The private Jackson club completed its renovation on holes Nos. 8 and 9 during 2005.

"They turned out to be really good," said Kimbeland professional Jim Davey. "They are completely redone. Both are more dramatic."

Both 8 and 9 remained about the same distance, retaining their par of 3 and 4, respectively.

A dose of higher risk has been added to both holes. A lake was brought more into play, and undulation was added to the greens. Bunkers were also added to No. 9.

"Strategy is very key," Davey said.

Since 1997, Kimbeland has built four new holes. The course currently features 20 holes, with two holes continuously rotated out to accommodate work on the course.

Davey said the course is not planning any major renovations this year.

Cape Girardeau Country Club

The area's oldest 18-hole golf course will concentrate on some behind-the-scene renovation that general manager Dave Kaesheimer is confident will ultimately show itself on the forefront.

The course struggled with its greens during the drought last summer. The green on No. 2 was reseeded last fall, and extensive work was performed on four other greens.

"The heart of the irrigation system will be taken out and replaced with a system totally modernized," Kaesheimer said. "It should help the golf course a ton."

The work is expected to be completed by the end of February.

"Hopefully all the work pays off, and we won't have to go through what we went through this last year," Kaesheimer said.

Renovation in the last year included a new women's tee box on No. 5, while the men's tee box on No. 16 was pushed back about 25 yards. Additional renovation of the women's tee boxes could continue this year.

The club also received a new roof, and the pro shop is undergoing a makeover, which will create more space for the staff.

Bent Creek Golf Course

Co-owner Mike Litzelfelner has become accustomed to the yearly sparring with Mother Nature. The public course is beginning its 16th year of operation in Jackson and the previous 15 have been eventful. A tornado ripped through the course in 2003, bridges have been washed away on Hubble Creek, and drought has taken toll on fairways and greens. The fairway problem was alleviated years ago with the introduction of zoysia. Heat and drought took a toll on greens last summer.

"It was a difficult year last year, weatherwise," Litzelfelner said. "We had stress in areas we had never seen before. We learned some things about the greens and other parts of the golf course we never would have known if we didn't experience it."

Irrigation and drainage projects are at the forefront this year. Sprinkler heads are being replaced around the greens, and to combat burned out aprons, existing turf was removed on four holes, and the more drought-tolerant zoysia was taken up to the collars.

Litzelfelner was so pleased with the results that the approach will be used on the rest of the course.

"You hope you don't get that kind of heat and water shortage again, but I think we'll be better prepared than in the past in the event it happens again."

The course has seen its Tuesday night men's league take off since being started about four years ago. In 2005, more than 60 golfers were involved in the league, which runs from April to September.

Bent Creek also introduced match play to its preferred members in 2005. Litzelfelner said the match-play tournament, which had 40 competitors in three divisions, went over well. Three divisions are again planned for this year and will likely have expanded fields in each.

"We'll definitely have that again and maybe a stroke-play event," Litzelfelner said.

Cape Jaycee Municipal Golf Course

The only public golf course in Cape Girardeau celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2005.

The clubhouse is undergoing a renovation, replacing a couple of walls and adding a few windows. The makeover, which will not change the size of the facility, should be completed in the coming weeks, said course manager Jason Karnes.

Work on the course last year included the renovation of the tee box on No. 1. The tee box was lengthened and widened.

"We had a lot of compliments on our golf course the last year," Karnes said. "It was in as good condition as it's been in for a long time."

Over the past several years, the course has hosted the lone stroke-play event for the public in Cape Girardeau County. The event is scheduled this year for July 22 and 23.

Other major events on tap are the annual four-person scramble in June, a junior individual tournament (Aug. 12), the four-person Autumn Open (Sept. 16) and a senior two-man scramble (Sept. 16).

335-6611, ext. 124

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