Course: Waveland Golf Course
Location: Des Moines, Iowa
Course stats: 6,544 yards, par 72.
The first round of golf in 2011 kind of came out of nowhere. I had certainly had enough of winter.
I blogged about the idea of driving to Iowa last week. I didn’t really think it was going to happen. It seemed a little bit crazy to be honest.
On Friday, I didn’t think it was going to happen. I was planning on hanging out on Saturday, going to GolfZone and hitting some balls and wishing I was playing golf. But my friend Jason sent me a message on Friday afternoon saying that he was down for the drive, he would pick me up at 7:30 the next morning.
Crazy? Perhaps. Fun? Absolutely.
As we left, there were actually some snow flurries in the air and we didn’t have a tee time in Des Moines. By the time we reached Mason City, the snow was gone and I had secured us a tee time just before noon at Waveland.
We certainly could have played a course that is a little more upscale than Waveland. But Jason grew up playing this parkland course. I didn’t really care where we played, I just wanted to get out and knock the little white ball around.
Playing golf at Waveland is like going back in time. This summer is the 110th anniversary of the course, but it is more than that. In some ways, it is like going back to what public golf used to be prior to the boom of golf course construction in the late 80s, 90s and 2000s.
On the wall of the pro shop is a framed Golf Digest page. I couldn’t see a date on it, but I’m guessing early 80s. The page featured the top 50 public courses in the United States. Waveland was on it. The guy behind the counter then showed me this coffee table book from that same era that had pictures and words about great courses. Again, Waveland was featured.
The actual golf course at Waveland sits on a nice piece of rolling property as you can see in the photo above. This is the fourth hole, a 371-yard par 4 that doglegs to the left. The fairway slopes from right-to-left off of the tee and if you end up in the left rough, you will be forced to hit a draw/hook and will have at least something of a blind shot.
I didn’t really take a lot of photos from Waveland as the weather wasn’t awesome and I was simply trying to work the rust off of my game. Without a driving range, it took a little while to get comfortable. I actually hit the first two greens in regulation and then bombed one off of the planet on the third hold and made a smooth 8.
With all that rust and with the wind blowing like crazy for much of the day, it was tough to get a full sense of the place. Aside from the first par 5 which forces players to essentially hit it down a hallway off the tee before an awkward second shot, I though the rest of the par 5s were good. Unlike a lot of municipal courses, these required a little strategy in terms of where to layup, etc. (getting to these greens in two wasn’t really an option as the course was not firm and fast and because of the cool temperature).
I also liked No. 8, a 182-yard par 3 in which you have to hit it over a valley to a green that appears to sit a little above tee box. This played into the wind and probably played about 200 yards.
How good is this course? First, I must preface by saying we paid $20 to walk. I thought it was a pretty good municipal course. It was much better than any of the Minneapolis city courses. A Twin Cities comparison would be Keller from my perspective. Was it the greatest course I ever played? Not even close? Was it fun? Certainly. There are a number of good holes, a few bad holes (note to Waveland, cut some trees on No. 14 so you don’t have to hit a duck hook off of the tee) and a few holes that aren’t really memorable.
But I got the added bonus of Jason pointing out where a dog once stole his ball and where someone had relieved him or herself on a green. How can you go wrong with that?
The only real complaint I had was that the greens needed some work. There was still quite a bit of top dressing on them (including some rocks to go along with the sand). Because of that (and because I doubt they had been mowed since last fall), the greens were super, super slow. It reached the point where missing the green turned into a better strategy than hitting them.
But it was fine for a season-opening round. While not firm, I was pleased/surprised that the course wasn’t a muddy mess. There were a few mud balls, but nothing major And after getting a bunch of snow here in Minneapolis last night, I would gladly putt this weekend on sandy, slow greens. In a second.
After our round, we stopped and got some food and made our way back to Minneapolis. About 13 hours after leaving, I was back at home. The trip back in time was complete and my first round of 2011 was in the books. I slept great that night and was certainly a little sore in spots after the first 18 holes (walking and carrying) of the season.
Yes, a one-day down-and-back trip to Des Moines for a single round of golf might be a little excessive. But it hit the spot and allowed me to get a little bit of a fix as I patiently wait for spring to arrive here.