Cedar Rapids Country Club pg. iii

Eleventh hole, 425 yards; Here’s the first of five appealing flat holes. A carry of nearly 240 yards is required from the blue tee to get past the sole fairway bunker that protects the most expeditious route to the green. If successful, the golfer enjoys a mid iron approach. If unsuccessful, that is, the tee ball lands in the bunker or rough, carrying Indian Creek fifty yards short of the green becomes a chore. Good driving matters at Cedar Rapids! A missed drive doesn’t mean searching for the ball but it does mean that the player finds himself out of position and challenged to make par. Many of the crescent-shaped holes build upon the tee ball, and the eleventh is a prime example benefitting the golfer who can fashion his drive.

Golden Age architects left it to the player to decide his or her own route to the hole. Cedar Rapids again enjoys that characteristic.

Indian Creek chugs across the 11th fairway.

Twelfth hole, 220 yards; There must be something special about the land when a one shotter is bunkerless and really good. In this case, a 1 1/2 acre rise in the valley floor was exploited by both Bendelow and Ross. Currently, the twelfth and fourteenth greens back up to one another on this elevated mound, rumored to be an Indian burial ground. The triangular twelfth green was enlarged from 5,100 to 7,200 square feet during the restoration but it isn’t the 40%+ increase in size that matters but how so many of the best hole locations were recovered. Almost ten hole locations were recovered along the left, in the far back where the green narrows, and along the right where a tightly mown bank whisks balls off the side. Toner advises that the hole location alters club selection by as many as four clubs, so be alert on the tee. Indeed, the hole’s flexibility makes it one of Rae’s handful of favorite holes: ‘Can you imagine having an event here? One day the flag is in the middle of the green and is played from the 285 tee. The next, it is played from the white tee at 180 yards to a back hole location where the green narrows and you might play a bank shot. It calls for two wildly different shots.’

Golden Age architects didn’t mind asking the player to hit a driver to a par three green. In fact, some, like William Flynn, thought it was a weakness not to. A new black tee allows this hole to play as long as 285 (!) yards.

The joy of a long par three can be determined by the amount of time it takes for a shot to play out. Here, the golfer is wholly attentive to whether his ball climbs the five foot rise in front of the green or, perhaps, ricochets off the left side wall. It is a shot to remember.

This back hole location didn’t exist prior to the restoration and the recovery of 10 yards of putting surface in the rear.

Thirteenth hole, 405 yards; Terrific, even if the high to low point on the hole is merely three feet. Tee balls are slotted between a pond left and a horseshoe bunker right but it’s the green complex featuring short grass on both sides of its raised three foot pad that shines. Eight yards short of the green lies a hated bunker. As it was being built, more than one member voiced disapproval but that only confirms that the hazard was well placed. Hazards directly in the line of play are always the biggest irritant; every course could use a few more!

The prospect of finding water left pushes many a tee ball right into this hazard where there’s no guarantee of a level stance/swing.

This maddening pit of a bunker receives plenty of visitors. Its irregular shape is a thing of beauty and speaks as to the hands-on, unhurried approach that the project enjoyed.

Rae scrapped away the ‘fat’ that had been added by modern architects to both sides of the 13th green. After  the removal of the framing mounds the perched green is once again a most handsome target. Feller calls Rae’s bulldozer work here ‘phenomenal.’

Fourteenth hole, 345 yards; Yes, we are on the middle of the river valley but the golf is anything but uninteresting as this hole is capped by the back half of the enormous mound first encountered at the twelfth. Here, the mound is even taller and hitting the correct short iron approach is one of the day’s finest accomplishments. Toner shares his local knowledge and states that this green gets baked and wind-polished more than any other putting surface. Chasing after hole locations by flying the ball deep onto the green isn’t nearly as wise as using the green’s firmness and its high left to low right cant to feed balls to the desired area.

Benedelow had  fashioned his 5th green on this mound but his approach was from the right. Ross’s orientation enables the massive 7,800 square foot putting surface to play like a Reverse Redan with a high left to lower back right cant.

Typical for a Reverse Redan style green, front left hole locations are the most diabolical and those back right, like the one above, are the most fun.

Fifteenth hole, 565 yards; There should be a consequence for a failed second shot on a three shotter. One design ploy is to place the green forty yards beyond a stream. That way if anything goes awry on either of the first two shots, the golfer finds himself in a pickle. At 627 yards from the Black, this is one of the longest holes in Iowa and like the 285 yard twelfth is a neat example of how the architects enabled length to mirror fun.

Several ‘top shot’ bunkers were installed as part of the restoration. This one is a mere 90 yards from the blue tees. Imagine the hole without it and you gain an appreciation for how it breaks up the landscape.

Indian Creek parallels the fairway for nearly 400 yards before crossing …

… in front of the green.

Rae raised the 15th green 2 1/2 feet similar to the nearby 17th green to avoid flooding.

Seventeenth hole, 395 yards; The old back tee became the blue tee after Prichard found a pocket fifty yards back. Now, instead of hitting toward a narrow fairway with a weeping willow as the aiming point, the golfer aims at the Swinging Bridge. Assuming a forty yard long bunker is avoided on the right, the golfer is faced with one final approach over Indian Creek. Appropriate for a penultimate hole, this green is a mere seven paces from the water and is the closest to Indian Creek of any on the course. Again, pressure is placed on the golfer to find the fairway from the tee. Numerous perimeter hole locations were returned after the putting surface was expanded back to the edge of the green pad, increasing the green from 5,000 to 7,200 square feet.

Front hole locations are particularly troublesome on this original, beautifully perched green that has rarely flooded.

Eighteenth hole, 350 yards; This uphiller crafted as Bendelow’s ninth has been in use for over 110 years and has been the only Home hole that the course has known. Its green was built when greens ‘stimped’ at 5 or 6, so it is an absolute terror at today’s green speeds as it features the most pitch of any on the course. Ball position is critical and a twenty foot putt from below the hole is infinitely more appealing than a ten footer from above. The beauty of this finishing hole is that it preys on the nerves, which is the last thing that any golfer desires at this stage.

For takeaways, what’s not to admire? High quality work was performed at a fraction of what it would have been if the work was contracted out. Feller’s entire team remains with him to this day, so the work wasn’t too onerous. An enormous amount of pride exists among the crew for a job well done. As for the members, they enjoy an infinitely superior playing experience without being burdened by ongoing assessments. In fact, as a new found appreciation took hold in the region for this course, guess what happened? 88 new members have joined since the work was completed in 2015. Talk about a ringing endorsement!

To be sure, the tack of doing this much work internally isn’t for every club. The Greenkeeper must have the vision, talent and personality to drive such a project and the club board needs to be staunch in their support. However, in this mind-numbing age where clubs are signing up for $10,000,000+ restorations that leave the course starched and pressed, this hands-on approach has huge appeal. One of Prichard’s legacies will be that he led many projects that were both cost effective and transformational. To that very point, the author is thrilled to report that Prichard and Rae are in the process of replicating this in-house method at three more courses: Northland in Minnesota along Lake Superior,  Riverton in New Jersey, and Riverside in New Brunswick, Canada.

Where does Cedar Rapids fit within the lexicon of Ross courses? It isn’t on the Atlantic like Seminole or have incredibly sophisticated greens like Pinehurst No.2 but it possesses something equally important and that is a mix of holes that any member would delight in playing on a regular basis. The hills and creek constitute an oasis even though the Club is just over two miles from downtown. Such a secluded environment so close to home and work is a rare delight. So too is finding a course with so many good holes and so few weak ones.

The End