Two area golf courses are taking the “sooner than later” approach to improving their facilities with an expansion.
Elkhorn Ridge Golf Club, near Spearfish, and the Boulder Canyon Country Club, near Sturgis, are bucking the recent golf course expansion slowdown by adding nine holes to give them both up-to-date 18-hole courses.
For both, the time was right.
“I'm a lousy golfer but I play a lot,” Elkhorn Ridge owner Daryll Propp said. “People like 18 holes, they don't like making that turn and playing the same nine over.”
Boulder Canyon Country Club board of directors president, Dana Limbo, said it was the will of the club membership to add the final nine holes at this time, something that was originally in the works about 10 years ago.
“The bottom line is our membership looked at it from a futuristic standpoint, saying, ‘We are already at max capacity and if our population grows, where will we be 10, 20, 30 years down the road?’" Limbo said.
Both courses would like to open their new additions at some point in 2016, although Boulder Canyon might be delayed a bit as it is still in the planning stages in some facets of construction.
In conjunction with the City of Spearfish, the first nine holes of Elkhorn Ridge were completed in 2009. Propp said it has always been the intention to add a second nine.
Propp said that they wanted it done sooner than the City of Spearfish was able to work it in its budget, so the course is now entirely privately owned, as opposed to the city being a partial owner.
“It was a joint decision, but we wanted to move more quickly than they did,” Propp said.
With that said, Elkhorn Ridge will have no debt on the entire project, with it being funded by cash flow from Propp's real estate properties in the Denver area. In the end, he said the 18-hole facility will cost about $11 million.
“Rather than have sleepless nights with a bank loan, we're just funding it ourselves,” he said. “We have seen too many businesses and developers go in with big ideas and sell a few homes with this and that and pull the plug, and that is not fair to people either. We don't have any intention of doing that; we would have to put ourselves out of business and we don't intend to do that.”
Course architect Patrick Wyss of Wyss Associates said the biggest attraction to the back nine will be three holes that go through a canyon that is dubbed a “miniature Spearfish Canyon.”
There are limestone cliffs on both sides, with golf holes running through the bottom of the canyon.
“It is ready-made for golf. Before we moved a blade of dirt, standing on the bluff, you could just picture the golf holes,” Wyss said.
One of those holes will have a downhill par 5 that will be in the range of 600 yards, which Wyss calls not only spectacular but one of the longest holes in South Dakota. Wyss said it has nice bunkers, modern greens and multiple pin placements. He said the back nine will complement the existing nine and each hole will have five sets of tees.
Wyss said it is designed to be challenging, but fun for all levels.
“Our intent in designing this is to have beautiful, challenging and fun golf holes, but also designed that if you play a round of golf, it will enable you to use every club in the bag,” Wyss said. “There's a lot of variety of length; it's going to be a nice addition to the region.”
The construction is on schedule with all of the rough grading completed last fall. Mid-America Golf and Landscape out of Lee's Summit, Mo., has begun the irrigation and is shaping the greens. The grass will be seeded by Sept. 1. Wyss said they're hoping that at some point in 2016 they will be given the go-ahead when the grass is in good enough condition to play on.
For members of Boulder Canyon Country Club, the additional nine holes will be a case of better late than never. The club originally had a plan in place about 10 years ago when the Apple Springs Subdivision began construction, only to see it abruptly end when the real estate market struggled.
Limbo said they began expansion negotiations with new Apple Springs owner Mike Short about three years ago and have worked with membership through a series of fact-finding missions. Members voted on the expansion last summer.
The Boulder Canyon board of directors has selected a construction company for earth moving, Johner and Sons of Spearfish. They are anticipating breaking ground in the middle of June and construction is expected to last for a couple of months. Limbo said they'll put in a sprinkler system and look to plant seed for the grass by the end of the summer.
“Our open date just depends on how things come in,” Limbo said. “We have to let the course mature. I'm thinking we will open up more like the end of the summer (2016) at the earliest, or maybe not at all next year.”
Limbo and his brother, Brad Limbo, designed the new back nine and proposed it to the membership before the vote.
“Generally speaking, we were able to work out a land swap. We’d be gaining roughly 55 acres and only use 30. It’s a win-win,” Limbo said. “He (Short) will get some housing area and the golf course area. In addition, he has given us $250,000 to put into construction of the course.”
Limbo said they have a budget of about $900,000 to build the back nine holes, roughly $100,000 per hole. The club’s finance committee is working on the financing at this time, as they are viewing two bank proposals for a loan. He said they look to borrow about $650,000, which will be made up with membership fee increases.
Three holes were roughed in during the original plan with sprinkler systems, which will help in bringing the costs down at this time.
“We're not cutting corners, but we're doing things that are going to be cost-effective,” Limbo said. “It’s a good layout, not having to do as much work on it.”
The biggest difference in the back nine will be more water, with six of the nine holes expected to have some sort of water hazard, with one green an island green.
“It’s going to be a fun risk-reward deal; not overly long,” he said. “It has turned out to be a good deal; a win-win situation. It will give us the opportunity to be a better course and in the future have room for growth.”
Other area upgrades
Several other golf courses in the Black Hills and the region have made some upgrades for the 2015 season.
Meadowbrook Golf Course superintendent JJ Walraven said they completed bunker renovation last fall, eliminating 27 bunkers (from 87 to 60) and from 75,000 square feet of sand to 55,000 square feet.
“The bunkers haven't been touched for 40 years,” Walraven said. “Originally there was 120 bunkers when the course was built and it was down to 95 when I got here. I took it down to 87. Rocks were coming up because we are on a creek bottom and we couldn't keep sand on all the faces of the bunkers. Everything just kind of expanded over time; things got deteriorated, so it was time.”
With the road construction on Jackson Boulevard, city workers are putting in a retention pond on No. 18 for storing water drainage off of the road. The city also took out their pump houses that they had on the golf course. Meadowbrook personnel are renovating that area by putting new cart paths in and planting new seed.
At Southern Hills, the Hot Springs City Council is studying a master plan that would make changes to hole No. 9, the driving range, adjustment of fairway lines and improvement of the irrigation system on the old front nine.
Among some other additions this season for area courses:
• At Rocky Knolls in Custer, the clubhouse received a couple of upgrades. Volunteers tore down the wall that divided the bar area from the area that golfers pay for greens fees and they then constructed a new horseshoe-shaped bar.
• Arrowhead has added a new practice tee as well as a new cart path.
• Red Rock has added a new sand facility for practicing bunker shots.
• At Hart Ranch, additions in 2015 include a new wedge practice course.
• Executive Golf Course's clubhouse got a facelift with new lighting and a new deck.
• The Belle Fourche Country Club has added a new ball dispenser on the driving range, new tee boxes, sand traps, water hazards and grass bunkers.