Iowa Course Donated by Native Son

Otter Creek GC

Every American city should have a benefactor like Dennis Albaugh. The native of Ankeny, Iowa, a small city of 36,000 residents on the outskirts of Des Moines, Albaugh, a self-made agrochemical titan currently ranked No. 105 on Forbes list of "The 400 Richest People in America," recently built a new 18-hole course and donated it to the town.

Opened to the public on June 1, 2009, Otter Creek Golf Course replaces a previous course of the same name and brings an entirely new golf experience to the Des Moines metro area. Located 15 minutes north of Des Moines, the redesigned course offers players a fun, challenging test as well as a full-service practice facility. There's also a handsome new Arts and Crafts-style clubhouse at the facility.

Judd Duininck, a principal in Duininck Golf, the firm that built the new track, explained that Albaugh made a land trade with the city to acquire commercial acreage near the site of a future I-35 interchange while purchasing 190 acres to the north of the pre-existing course to provide an enlarged footprint for the new layout. He added that the new Otter Creek course was rerouted and expanded to accommodate 270 single-family homes as part of a 357-acre mixed-use development.

Kevin Beard, Otter Creek's director of golf, noted that that the city of Ankeny partnered with DRA Properties, a real estate development company founded by Albaugh to improve the city's quality of life.

"I grew up here, raised my family here, and now my daughters are raising their families in Ankeny," Albaugh stated. "My goal in real estate development has always been to create a lifestyle that all of Ankeny can enjoy and be proud of."

During Phase I of the $6 million redevelopment project, the construction team, headed by Duininck Golf, built eight new holes in 2007. The following year, the original Otter Creek course, a compact parkland-style test, was completely graded. During Phase II, the remaining 10 holes and a new practice facility were constructed.

The new Otter Creek Golf Course, with multiple sets of tees stretching from 5,453 yards to 6,881 yards (par 71), was designed by Paul Miller, a Minnesota-based golf designer. The gently rolling, prairie-style course features 44 bunkers and 17 water hazards. Large mounds and tall fescue grasses frame the well-groomed bluegrass fairways and smooth bentgrass greens. Otter Creek's new driving range and practice center has nearly two acres of hitting area on a double-ended range as well as a practice putting green and chipping green with a greenside bunker.

Miller noted that Duininck Golf headed up both phases of the construction process. "I've worked with Duininck Golf before, notably at The Meadows at Mystic Lake in Prior Lake, Minn., which was recognized by Golf Digest as one of the Best New courses of 2006," he said. "In my experience, they're an extremely good golf construction company. Because of their extensive experience in course shaping and drainage, they install the drainage first so that all construction work is properly drained during the earthmoving phase of a project."

Miller, who moved roughly 750,000 cubic yards of material to create the new 18-holer for Ankeny, noted that the south end of the property had more natural slope than the north end, a flat agricultural parcel that had to be shaped to create interest. He noted that the 17 water hazards on the course will facilitate the stormwater needs of the development's future homeowners.

"Stormwater runoff was designed to be routed through these ponds and then into Otter Creek," Miller said, adding that he's "not afraid to use water hazards on a course." Despite the numerous ponds and creeks, water only comes into play at roughly half the holes.

The road to completion was not smooth. Miller pointed out that Iowa had some of the wettest weather in recent memory in 2007, and heavy rains delayed the completion of Phase I. Despite the wash-outs, the construction team never deviated from its timetable for completion.

"Duininck Golf's diligence enabled Otter Creek to open on time despite the weather-related setbacks," Miller said. "Duininck's field supervisor, Don Lindblad, was able to keep everyone's spirits up during the tough times. In fact, Duininck Golf's ability to mentally stay with the project spelled the difference."

Tom Verrips, Otter Creek's long-time superintendent, remembers the adversities faced during Phase I of the project. "Every time we seeded a few holes, we got two to three inches of rain," he said. "Duininck Golf was very quick to repair erosion damage. If I had concerns, they were immediately addressed. It helped that Don Lindblad was a former superintendent-whether it was sodding or re-seeding, he and the entire Duininck Golf team was interested in pleasing us."

Miller put the Otter Creek makeover in a larger perspective. "The challenges of the two-phase project combined with multiple contractors on site led to stressful situations, especially when the weather turned bad," Miller continued. "It was one of those projects that required everyone to keep their cool and not get dismayed. It was all about hanging together in tough circumstances. Duininck Golf was able to keep the project on track no matter what."

Beard, who also serves as course manager, is very pleased with the end result. "We've got a great location - the championships will be back," he exclaimed. (The previous layout had hosted USGA Public Links qualifiers, high school state championships and the Iowa Open). "The new Otter Creek Golf Course is head and shoulders above the old one. It's a very playable, very enjoyable golf experience. The final product is very good, and people are really excited."

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