New Iowa Course Gets National Attention

The Preserve on Rathbun Lake, a state park course in Moravia, Iowa, has been selected as the runner-up in the final judging for the "U.S. Courses" category of Golf Inc.'s 2009 Development of the Year Awards. Club representatives will be honored at an awards ceremony at the Spring Golf Inc. Conference April 12-14 at Amelia Island Plantation in Amelia Island, Fla.

4th Hole at The Preserve (Photo by Peter Wong)

In addition, the nation's two largest and most reputable golf publications have also recognized The Preserve as one of the finest new public courses to open in 2009.

In its January, 2010 issue, Golf Magazine named The Preserve on Rathbun Lake to its Honorable Mentions list in its 'Best New Courses of 2009' feature. Similarly, Golf Digest has listed The Preserve on its roster of the top 10 'Best New Public' courses opened between May 1, 2008 and April 30, 2009. The story, authored by Senior Editor/Architecture Ron Whitten, appears in the publication's January 2010 edition.

5th Hole at The Preserve (Photo by Peter Wong)

A 6,987-yard, par-72 course designed by Kevin Norby and built by Duininck Golf, The Preserve placed ahead of many higher-profile, better-financed facilities.

According to Darin L. Fisher, the facility's director of golf operations, "We're very honored to be recognized as one of the finest new courses to open in 2009. Being selected as a runner-up in the Development of the Year Awards by Golf Inc. is particularly impressive because it emphasizes the dedication of so many individuals. Everyone, including Duininck Golf, Herfort Norby Golf Architects and the entire staff at The Preserve, worked hard to put together a phenomenal facility with incredible potential. We feel our facility is well on its way to becoming one of the premier destination courses in the Midwest.

11th Hole at The Preserve (Photo by Peter Wong)

"People are beginning to acknowledge how special this course really is," Fisher continued. "Despite some adverse weather early in the year, we've seen a steady growth in rounds played and a great deal of excitement around the state. The national accolades will only add to that excitement."

Not bad for a course that almost floated away during the construction phase due to record-setting rains.

Situated within Honey Creek State Park, an 859-acre multi-use enclave located in south-central Iowa 90 miles from Des Moines, The Preserve was built under extremely difficult conditions.

Dave Munkvold, General Manager of Duininck Golf, said the firm's crews worked nonstop from April through September in 2007 to complete the task, essentially finishing the job in the span of one Midwest construction season.

"During the grassing of the course in 2007, we received over 10 inches of rain in an eight-hour period," Munkvold remembers, adding that the region was hammered by heavy rains and ravaged by record floods two years ago. Bridges and bunkers were washed out, while turfgrass in low-lying areas remained underwater for weeks when the lake rose 14 feet above the norm.

In addition to assisting with repairs to flood-damaged areas on the course, Judd Duininck, a principal in Duininck Golf, noted that the construction team improved the fledgling layout's erosion control. The company's experience working in states like California, Minnesota and others with stringent erosion control standards enabled it to keep the Honey Creek State Park project in compliance with Iowa DNR regulations.

Mike Broderick, engineering project manager for the Iowa DNR, credited Duininck Golf with "doing whatever was required to stabilize water-damaged areas on the course and avoid an unsightly mess." As a state agency tasked with protecting the environment, Broderick said the DNR was greatly assisted by Duininck Golf. "They're conscientious folks," he said of the construction firm. "Despite the significant challenges posed by the above-average rainfall, they worked very well with our erosion control experts. It took the heat off us knowing Duininck Golf had the situation under control."

The course, which traces the ridgelines of a forested peninsula on the north side of the lake, fits its setting hand-in-glove. Grading was minimal. Fewer than 200,000 cubic yards of dirt was moved to build the course, and much of that material was excavated to the left side of the 14th hole to create an irrigation pond.

For his part, Kevin Norby, a Minnesota-based golf architect, said he's worked with Duininck Golf on previous projects and was "happy the Iowa DNR hired them because of their long experience and proven capabilities as a contractor. Duininck Golf's on-site construction team knows how to sequence a project and how to coordinate the various tasks to be completed, from shaping to drainage. They're also large enough to bring in additional equipment if you fall behind schedule for weather reasons." Norby believes Duininck Golf did an excellent job of answering the call during the periods of unprecedented rainfall in 2007. "They quickly focused their efforts in higher elevation areas to preserve topsoil and minimize erosion," he said.

Superintendent Erik Hansen, who was brought in during the time the course was seeded in August, 2007, also chimed in. "Duininck Golf crew went above and beyond in every department to get the job done in tough conditions," he said. "They clearly wanted the finished product to reflect their company."

Unusual for a state park golf course, The Preserve on Rathbun Lake was built to very high standards. The layout has a minimum of five sets of tees per hole as well as bentgrass tees, greens and fairways.

The layout features 24 acres of restored native short-grass prairie, tall fescues in the secondary rough, dramatic elevation changes and great views of the lake. With no housing to intrude on the golf experience, the course, a candidate for Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program certification, offers a lovely natural setting for the game.

In the end, the state of Iowa's goal was to build a fun but challenging course that sits lightly on the land in one of its prettiest parks. Duininck Golf, which thrives in adverse conditions, achieved that goal - despite the uncooperative weather.

For more information about the course, visit For more information about Duininck Golf, visit