Worry not golfers, Elmwood is just fine
I was bit apprehensive when asked to take a tour of the newly renovated North Course of Elmwood Golf Course in Sioux Falls.
Turns out I worried needlessly.
At the invite of Tom Jansa, the president of Dakota Golf Management and the guy who feels the wrath of every golfer who has had to put up with construction the past couple years on the oldest municipal golf course in town, I ventured out for my first look at the changes to the golf course I called home in the mid-1980s. It is still Elmwood -- only better.
For those not familiar with what is going on, I will give a brief recap. Renovations to the nearby airport resulted in expanded runways and regulations on how tall trees could be on adjacent land meant one thing -- the Elmwood we all loved had to be altered. Tom told me some 300 trees were removed, and as we all know, what's Elmwood if it doesn't have any trees?
On the 10th hole, which was lengthened from a par 4 to a par 5, the loss of trees is obvious. But so is the departure of the unsightly maintenance building that used to separate the 10th fairway from the 18th. Good riddance old building.
The first photo shows what No. 10 looks like now. It is a very good start to this nine holes.
The 11th hole, which used to be a 500-yard dogleg left par 5, is now a par 4. But the green complex is the same, though rebuilt with added hole locations.
But when you walk off the 11th green, you realize you are still at Elmwood. It feels the same. It is the same. Only it's a much-improved venue and when all the renovations are complete, those who left because they hated the disruption will come back in droves. Or at least they should. And, if they don't , it's their loss because Elmwood is a gem.
Holes 12 through 14 are generally the same, again with greens rebuilt to accommodate more hole locations. The 15th hole is new. And it is spectacular. It is the second picture shown here.
Built on land I didn't know existed adjacent to the 14th green, this par 3 looks like it has been part of the routing since the place opened nearly 90 years ago. And what makes the hole even better is the look you get when leaving the green and heading to the 16th tee. Hole 16 (it is old No. 15) has a teeing ground that was built into the trees several years ago during a previous renovation. But, until the new 15th hole was built, a golfer never really got the full feel of the hole that he does now. It is the third picture shown here taken from the back tee. How good does that look?
Walking off the 16th green -- like all the others, softened a bit with more space for hole locations -- the golfer heads for the new 17th hole.
The tee for the former 16th hole, that good old par 5, is where we start the new 17th.
But before we talk about this new one, I need to say goodbye to a hole where I witnessed the best golf shot I have ever seen (and I have seen a lot of golf shots played by golfers of all skill levels). During the final round of the 1995 SDGA Men's Amateur Championship, Ryan Jansa hit a 3-wood second shot some 260 yards under and through a strand of trees that landed 10 feet from the hole to set up an eagle that enabled him to tie for lead in a tournament he eventually won in a playoff, giving him his third consecutive victory in that event.
Trailing Roger Legge of Aberdeen by two shots at the time, Jansa hit what he told an Argus Leader reporter later was "the best shot of my life."
That hole is now gone, but the one in its place -- the green complex sits where the old par-3 17th green was -- looks like it has been there forever. It is the fourth photo shown.
And the new 18th hole is now a par 5. It is a much better hole and a great way to finish the round. In fact, the last three holes offer a very spectacular way to finish the round. I envision a lot of golfers having what was believed to be a good round of golf spoiled by how the final three holes were played. My warning -- stay focused.
Construction on the West Nine is underway right now and should be ready for play in the fall of 2016. I expect that nine to be every bit as good as the North layout.
In fact, I am so confident of how good the golf course is going to be when complete, I have already asked Tom if we can bring the 2018 SDGA Amateur Championship to Elmwood.
Imagine my delight, when he said yes.