History & Memories by Elmer Laver
In the 1980’s, my son Don was renting the south part of what is now the golf course to several farmers to pasture cattle on. The fences were not too good, so the cattle often got out into surrounding corn fields, however he could not get sufficient rent to build more fence. For several years it was let go to grow grass, weeds and brush. Don considered planting it to trees like he did to Stony Hills, the other land that he owned. However I said he would not get much income from that in his lifetime.
When Glovers opened up their driving range I thought it might be a good idea to start a small golf course. While I was riding my 4-wheeler by the big pine tree on the hill overlooking Salt Creek, I came up with a plan that would be a 9-hole par 3 golf course. Sitting on the hill I drew a sketch of where the greens would be then I planned how to tee off and get to the greens.
In the fall of 1994 I shared my idea with Don. His reaction was that there was not enough land to build a golf course on. However after visiting some par 3 courses in the area, we found that we had lots of land. A golf course that I had played before in the Kingston area was particularly helpful with teaching us how to plan this course. It was once a hilly farm with rock outcrops but turned into a scenic, fun course to play.
Later that fall, Don decided to proceed with the plan. He applied for rezoning but was held up a year until a politician (who was a farmer) looked at it and knew that it was not good for farming. Our original plan (on paper only) was for 4 greens north of the creek with a clubhouse on the sand hill. Parking was where number one green is now. It did not please me because the holes were too close together. I said to Don that we needed to find another hole somewhere else.
In the winter before we started work, I was on my snowmobile and drove into the woods and I found the other hole. It became the hole in the woods (#14) and I am to blame for that one. We started to clear land and plan for 9 holes on the east side of the property. Don purchased a ditch witch with a ditcher and small backhoe all in one. In planning the 9 holes, we had in mind that we would some day expand to 18 holes. I said it would be good if we could get some longer holes so that the larger clubs could be used and also to expand to 18 in the future.
I said from the start if he was to spend several million dollars in the planning and building of the course that it would not work because of the low price of golf in this area. I also wanted it to be affordable for people to play golf. He had a person from some distance to draw up plans at a reasonable price. I was not happy with some of them, but some were very good, such as the number 16 hole that we did not see. We went with nine holes on east side of the property with the plan to put a club house on the sand hill. The first thing that Don did was bring in a large tiling machine and tiled all of number 5 fairway and through the woods and the east side of property north of the creek. This made it dry so that we could level the land.
Through the spring and summer of 1996, we obtained a permit to take water from the creek. Three bridges were put in across the creek. Don leveled greens, planned tees, planted with farm equipment that he had and the ditch witch we were able to get it leveled and ready for seeding. Then he had to install the irrigation. By this time it was late August. The irrigation specialist that helped Don lay it out said we would be three weeks doing it with the help that we had. Don said we did not have three weeks as it would to too late to seed. The man was right, it did take three weeks and the seeding was done late in September. After seeding there was a very big rainfall that came really hard and washed out some of the seeding and had to be fixed in the spring of 1997.
In the fall of 1996, putting in irrigation seeding and all expenses were much larger than expected. Some contractors wanted to build a club house on the sand hill in the fall of 1996, but shortage of money did not allow it. In the winter of 1996/7, we moved an old grainery that was back in the woods into the workshop and fixed it up for use as a club house to get started (with limited funds). It was insulated and wired and is now the rain shelter on the hill overlooking the sixth hole. In the winter of 1996 and 1997, I made benches to sit on, signs to number the holes and one out house plus worked on the temporary clubhouse.
In March of 1997, Clara decided to sell her house. I told Don that he would have to purchase it if he was to have an eighteen hole golf course. It had many advantages to our original plan. The entrance was a lot better as you could see each way on the road. There were also a lot more parking spaces. This made a big difference to our plan. So back to the drawing board I went. We had several ideas but if we were going to open in 1997, we had to get to number one tee which is currently number 2 as a fairway and green were needed. I said they would not want to walk far (300 yards) but if they could play they would not mind. In April the number one fairway was tiled, leveled and seeded. There was a temporary green to start in the spring of 1997 as there was no time to build the permanent number one green. There was a lot of work to be done due to several washouts from the last fall rain that had to be filled. The greens had a lot of weeds in them and had to be taken out with a small shovel or knife. The grass was growing and greens were being cut but there was no end to the amount of work Don decided he had to set a day and open.
On June 20, 1997, we had the opening of the course, which consisted of three par 4 holes and seven par 3 holes. Green fees – ten holes for $10.00, 20 holes for $15.00 and carts for $8.00 per round. There was a minimum amount of work done on the clubhouse. I made the counter, which is still in use, for display and a cash register to sit on. I also made a few tables and Don got a few chairs, a refrigerator, microwave oven and a coffee maker. The bathrooms that were in the house were used. The deck was in need of new boards. It was repaired and a railing installed with seats around it. I made tables for the deck. This worked well for the first summer. The crowds were not great until they played and realized that it was a very scenic and challenging, crossing the creek two times. There were a few tournaments and that helped a lot with getting more players.
In the winter of 1996 and 1997 Don purchased a tree spade. They built a trailer for it and he tried it out in the summer moving a spruce tree for his yard at home. He got the tree moved, a spruce on the number 1 fairway opposite to 7 green is where the tree lived and it is still there. The tree mover was not built strong enough so it had to be made stronger and it is still moving trees after all these years.
The big complaint was that you had to walk from number 10 green (now number 7) back to the club house. So we started planning for another green but it had to tie in with the 18 hole plan. So more planning looking ahead for the other holes, then the 11th hole (now number 9) was in plan for the future. When we built the number two tee next to the road it was not possible to see number two green from the white tee blocks. I built a periscope on number two tee deck so that you could see the green. It worked well and it still in use.
On September 5, 1997 Forgraves Financial and Salt Creek had a complimentary golf and BBQ to show our appreciation for the community’s business. This was a big success and helped get more people playing. In the winter of ’97 and ’98 that Don took a small turf course for one month. We took the inside wall out of the house and had another bathroom installed.
We opened for our second season on April 2, 1998. During this time, we seeded the #11 fairway and green to make it 11 holes for 1999. In the fall of 1998, it became clear that 11 holes could not accommodate the number of players that were coming to golf. Don made a decision to go to 18 holes, so he asked me to go back to planning. Don purchased another tree mover, this one much bigger. In designing the last eight holes it was a challenge to get everything in.
In the spring of 1998 Dorothy and I went to Virginia as we often did for a holiday. I played several courses this time to see the different layouts. One course I played while there was 27 holes on a fairly small amount of land. They managed this by planting trees and hedges. I came back and could see where there was room for #10 green and #18 tee using a hedge to separate them. It took some convincing for Don to see that it would work. I persuaded him and it has worked out quite well. We had a problem with getting across the creek without taking anything away from #16 as we did not want to shorten it. Don came up with #12 hole which worked well as it is very challenging and scenic, and became one of the most photographed holes on the course.
The second season closed on November 1, 1998. With our design completed, they started moving trees from Don’s other farm to the golf course to divide the fairways. Ed drove the big truck and Marvin the tractor. There were two men driving stakes and wiring the trees so they would not blow over. I cut stakes nearly every day to keep them supplied. The holes that trees were to go in had to be filled with water as well. They moved trees from the first of November to Christmas before the ground froze, moving about 3,000 trees in all. It is hard to imagine how much they have grown. Most of the trees were 15 to 20 feet high when they were planted.
In the spring and summer of 1999, I cultivated between the trees and the stakes made it difficult to avoid damaging them. I had a big tractor with a 22 foot cultivator behind with which I cultivated every ten days to keep weeds from growing. I only damaged one tree and it broke right off. My record was so good that I had the job for the summer. Throughout that summer they built seven greens and tees and put in irrigation. After the irrigation system was in place, I had to be very careful cultivating so as not to hit the sprinklers. Thankfully I did not hit any. In mid August, Don said it was the best time to sow grass seed on the new holes. The greens were mapped out by flags so I had to plant around them while I was seeding fairways. It was very dry and it was hard to see because of the dust. I remember seeding #10 fairway and the dust was covering all the cars in the parking lot, especially a convertible that was left with the top down.
After seeding, it started to rain nice gentle showers throughout the fall and the grass came up very fast. By October it was nice and green with no washouts, very different from my first seeding in 1996. We were very fortunate to have that kind of rain at the same time they seeded the greens and had good grass on them. There were more trees moved that fall to enhance the look of the course.
In the spring of 2000, the grass came through the winter and the greens looked good but needed to thicken up a little before opening the back nine holes. The first 11 holes opened for the season on March 21. We opened all eighteen holes with a members day on June 12, 2000 to a very large crowd. The grand opening was on August 3. As a special opening day, there was unlimited golf all day long for only 18 dollar and there were lots of prizes to give away, as well as complimentary food and refreshments. For the cutting of the ribbon at noon we had the oldest player in his nineties and the youngest player at age five. It was a very successful day with a good crowd. I remember going down in the evening to see if I could be of help. When I got there I saw that all of the hot dogs were gone and there were cooking up frozen hamburgers from the freezer, which were also almost out. One man came and asked for a hamburger and Don said that he would have to get one from the freezer. The man’s wife said never mind, he had already had 3 and didn’t need anymore.
The course now has eighteen holes: one par 5, nine par 4s and eight par 3s – 4,089 yards and a total par of 65. The course crosses the creek five times with some hills and lots of challenges. With a very successful summer, the course closed for the season on November 20, 2000. We continued to plant trees to fill in the woods on no.11 fairway.
The winter of 2000 and 2001 had lots of snow, but the grass came through nicely. We opened for the season of 2001 on April 20th. They used silo slabs from old silos to make a path around #12 green and up the hill to #13 tee. They enlarged the deck and built trusses to hold a cover for the patio. We closed for the season on December 14, 2001.
In 2002 the course opened for the season on April 2nd. A cover was installed over the patio deck and I made six new tables and chairs to go out on the deck. A pathway was made on the 17th hole with more of the silo slabs and they continued to move more trees every fall and spring.
We opened for the season in 2003 on April 14th. More paths were built in the course and the green was extended on hole three, as well as building a new tee on that hole. A new Polaris Ranger was also purchased and used as a beer cart. We closed for the season on November 27th.
On March 29th, we opened for the 2004 season. That year we made improvements to the 7th tee and put in a new rail fence on #1 fairway next to the road. A new wire fence also went in on the number two fairway. We closed for the season on December 9th.
In 2005, we opened on April 5th but there had been a lot of winter kill on the fairways. Don bought a new seeder for seeding the fairways without disturbing the grass that was there. It worked very well and soon the grass was thick and green. In the summer of 2005, the green on #14 was constructed on the south end of the fairway in order to make it larger and to get more sun on it. The pond was added to the west side of the new green and looks really nice. Rocks were placed among the trees to add to the hole. A tee was constructed for #14 where the green used to be. A pathway was also built around #13 up to #14.
In 2006, we opened for the season on March 17th. Rocks were placed around the entrance. The new green on #14 opened in July and it is now quite good. In the fall, Don put in computerized sprinklers so he would not be up all night irrigating.
As he prepare for our 10th year celebration, I reflected on some things that have taken place over the last 14 years. I remember in construction in 1996 when Brent and Mac were digging out prickly ash and bringing them to the brush pile. Also Mac picking roots from the woods on #14. He would get them picked up and then I would come in with the cultivator and dig up more.
I could never have imagined that looking over the land from the big pine in 1994 that it would be anything like we have today, with large fairways, excellent greens, tall trees and Salt Creek winding its way through the course. We will have pictures at the club house to compare the course when it was first built to how it is now. I remember the many evenings that Dorothy and I spent driving around the course in a golf cart, pausing on the hill to look around, then going through the woods to see flowers in season and stopping at the club house to get ice cream bars to take home to the grandchildren.