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Highland Golf Course assessment study recommends over $1 million in improvements

Gill Design, Inc. was retained by the City of Mason City, Iowa to complete an assessment of the Highland Park Golf Course presently being operated by the City of Mason City. The purpose of the assessment study was fourfold:

1. Investigate and suggest the opportunities to improve the playability and enjoyment of the golf course by all golfers of all abilities

2. Suggest strategies and solutions to utilize ground water and water capture as an irrigation water supply source to replace the current City potable water source

3. Suggest course changes to improve or enhance the management and control of the golf course from the clubhouse by starting hole 10 at clubhouse

4. Suggest course changes to create a viable practice range near the clubhouse area

The assessment study includes evaluation of the irrigation system, and general condition and status of the clubhouse area and maintenance facility area.

Garrett Gill, Jon Schmenk, Kelly Gibson and Brad White (Design Team) completed an on-site walk through of the Highland Park golf course site on October 13, 2009. The site walk through was documented with video and still digital imagery. Following the walkthrough the Design Team met with Mr. Trout in the clubhouse to discuss initial findings, project schedule and completion dates.

The current 18 hole golf facility was built initially as a nine hole course in 1956. The name of the original architect is not known. The 2nd nine or ‘new nine‘ as it is referred to was added in 1965 and was designed by David Gill, Golf Course Architect, St. Charles, Illinois. The course is sited on approximately 158 acres of former agricultural land within the city limits of Mason City Access to the course clubhouse and maintenance facility is from 17th Street NE.

The course plays approximately 30,000 to 35,000 rounds annually. Greens fees are $20.00 weekday / $25.00 weekend and holiday.

Site Findings

Drainage: Overall drainage of the course is excellent to good given underlying geology and loamy characteristics of the on-site soils. Much of the surface runoff is directed internally to the slough, once part of the Winnebago River which Gill Design, Inc., Golf Course Architects Highland Park Golf Course Assessment Study divides the ‘old’ course from the ‘new’ course. The course is not prone to seasonal flooding and quickly returns to playable status following rain events.

There is no major storm drainage piping in the course. Existing drainage is mostly small diameter (4”) older clay tile and corrugated plastic tubing used in limited sections for fairway drainage and in greens and bunker drainage. Wherever existing drainage is or to be disturbed, given its age, it should be replaced rather than repaired.

Soils: According to the Department of Agriculture Soil Survey the majority of the site is comprised of the Kenyon, Rockton, Saude and Sogn loam soil types. (Refer Appendix C) These types of soils are found overlying limestone bedrock. On selected areas of the “new” course the limestone bedrock becomes exposed. Typically the “old” course has a deeper topsoil depth resulting in greater moisture retention. Given the shallow topsoil depth and proximity to bedrock the “new” course is more droughty and will go dormant earlier in the summer without supplemental water.

Trees: The golf course has an abundance of mature and maturing hardwood and coniferous trees. Many of the trees trees are specimen quality and should be preserved and protected. Most trees have been neglected and are in need of arboreal pruning and thinning. In several situations the trees are too close to green and tee features and are negatively impacting the cultural management of these areas by inhibiting sun light, air movement and competing for moisture. In these instances the trees should be removed or aggressively trimmed. TIn addition to shading, the propensity of oaks near green and tee sites presents a litter problem of acorns.

Irrigation: The existing irrigation system is consists of a single row quick coupler system with manually controlled block valve system at the greens and tees. Potable water is supplied via a 6” City main line. At this time City water pressure is sufficient to irrigate the course. GDI agrees with the USGA Agronomist that the irrigation system should be replaced in its entirety with a new irrigation system. GDI recommends a combination single / double row valve-in-head (VIH) using high density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe (jointless) with an electric, decoder type, computer controlled system with radio interface. GDI disagrees with the USGA Agronomist’s assessment on the water source. Based on conversations with area well drillers and USGS hydrologists, quality ground water at sufficient volumes is available at depths of 60 to 80 feet.

At present, water volume and rate is limited by the 6” city source to 350 to 400 GPM. At this rate, watering times are excessive and would not allow sufficient irrigation during periods of drought. Using a ground water as a water source frees the course from being limited by the available supply in regards to volume and rate and saves the treated City water for domestic uses.

GDI completed a water use / cost summary (refer table below) which identifies the amount of water needed to properly irrigate the golf course and the approximate cost using City water at its published commercial landscape and industrial rates. We have no data on the actual amount of water used on the golf course by staff.

General Course Conditions & Suggestions:

• Greens — The greens were constructed with on-site materials and local sands. In general the greens are appropriately sized and shaped. Sub-surface drainage of the ‘old 9’ greens is non-existent. Subsurface drainage on the ‘new 9’ is imperfect and is no longer functioning to capacity due to age. Many of the greens are shaded and lack sufficient air circulation. Tree removal, pruning, thinning and root pruning are needed in these areas.

• Tees — The majority of the teeing surfaces need leveling and many need expanding to accommodate wear, compaction, and iron play. Forward trees are needed on several holes and there are several opportunities to lengthen existing holes by adding back tees. Similar to the greens, many tees are shaded and lack sufficient air circulation. Tree removal, pruning, thinning and root pruning are needed in these areas.

• Bunkers — We identified numerous bunkers that could be eliminated for various reasons. The bunkers to be eliminated are either misplaced with respect to technology, not in play, or impede ingress or egress to /from the cart path or next tee. Existing bunkers to remain should be rebuilt, in some cases relocated, and will need new sub-surface drainage and new sand.

• Fairways/immediate roughs — The biggest complaint, is the lack of sufficient irrigation and overall poor turf quality due to shallow topsoil on the back 9 and thin turf due to over shading on the front 9. This is best addressed with new double row irrigation and an ongoing forestry program to remove, thin or open up densely shaded areas adjacent to the fairway areas.

• Out of play areas — Several areas of the course could be designated as low or minimum maintenance areas in an effort to create a more natural look and to direct associated maintenance costs to greater needs area. Ultimately the limit of these areas would be identified by player habits.

• Cart paths — The majority of golf cart paths are in reasonable repair and location. New path construction will be needed if any of the holes are changed. We recommend considering concrete over asphalt cart paths for longevity. Due to high oil costs, construction costs are now very comparable.

Hole by Hole Assessment:

The following is a summary of improvements on a hole by hole basis. A graphic representation of these suggestive improvements can be found in the back of this report.

Hole 1:
1. Rebuild & expand main tee
2. Add forward tee
3. Eliminate shared bunker with hole 9
4. Relocate green-side bunker to front of green
5. Thin and prune trees around green to improve air circulation and sun exposure
6. Root prune tree roots around green

Hole 2:
1. Thin and prune trees around tee to improve air circulation and sun exposure
2. Root prune tree roots around tee Rebuild and expand main tee
3. Add forward tee
4. Create naturalized area left side of tee

Hole 3:
1. Add forward tee
2. Rebuild green, add bunkers

Hole 4:
5. Rebuild and expand main tee
6. Add forward tee
7. Create naturalized area right side of fairway
8. Rebuild bunkers at green
9. Eliminate back left bunker
10. Thin and prune trees around green to improve air circulation and sun exposure
11. Root prune tree roots around green

Hole 5:
1. Relocate main and forward tee to straighten hole
2. Create naturalized area right side of fairway in abandon practice area

Hole 6:
1. Remove timber walls, rebuild and expand main tee
2. Add forward tee
3. Eliminate shared fairway bunker with hole 1
4. Selectively remove trees and trim overhanging branches from approach area
5. Add plantings to screen irrigation controller
6. Relocate bunker to right front of green
7. Thin and prune trees around green to improve air circulation and sun exposure
8. Root prune tree roots around green

Hole 7:
1. Thin and prune trees around tee to improve air circulation and sun exposure
2. Root prune tree roots around tee
3. Add forward tee
4. Rebuild green with bunkers
5. Exposed natural rock outcropping for visual interest

Hole 8:
1. Remove timber walls and rebuild tees
2. Exposed natural rock outcroppings for visual interest
3. Add optional forward tee at top of hill
4. Relocate bunker to right front of green
5. Thin and prune trees around green to improve air circulation and sun exposure
6. Root prune tree roots around green

Hole 9:
1. Add safety fence or guardrail at steep drop off along cart pathj
2. Rebuild green, move forward
3. Relocate bunker to front of green
4. Add mounds behind green

Hole 10:
1. Add middle and forward tees
2. Grade fairway to improve visibility, use spoils to create mounds left side of fairway
3. Rebuild bunker at green

Hole 11:
1. Expand main tee
2. Trim overhanging branches on left side of fairway
3. Expose rock outcroppings
4. Relocate cart path
5. Rebuild bunkers

Hole 12:
Gill Design, Inc., Golf Course Architects
Highland Park Golf Course Assessment Study
1. Expand and rebuild main tee
2. Add mounds and fairway bunker on left
3. Rebuild fairway bunker
4. Relocate left fairway bunker to left front of green

Hole 13:
1. Add forward tee
2. Add fairway bunker left side of fairway
3. Widen fairway on right side to encourage heroic carry on bunker

Hole 14:
1. Rebuild and expand main tee
2. Trim overhanging branches from left side of tee
3. Soften existing mound to improve visibility and playability
4. Rebuild right side green bunker to improve visibility

Hole 15:
1. Rebuild main tee
2. Add back tee
3. Relocate forward tee
4. Make fairway continuous to the green

Hole 16:
1. Rebuild main tee
2. Add forward tee
3. Create naturalized area right side of tee adjacent to hole 15
4. Remove trees right side of fairway to improve playability
5. Add mound left side of fairway
6. Add fairway bunker left side
7. Rebuild right side green bunker

Hole 17:
1. Add back tee
2. Add forward tee
3. Eliminate bunker left side of green

Hole 18:
1. Expand main tee
2. Add forward tee
3. Remove tree left side at landing area
4. Thin and prune trees at green to improve air circulation and sun exposure
5. Root prune trees at green

Practice Range & Other Course Improvements:

Highland Park has always sought a viable practice range usable from the existing clubhouse and parking lot location.

The existing range located on the ‘new nine’ in proximity of the once proposed new clubhouse site is not easily accessible and can not be properly monitored. Highland Park has also sought to better control and monitoring of play from the 10th tee.

To respond, a full length 15 station practice range with a 20 station teaching tee is proposed in the current 5 fairway area.

The existing No. 5 green would become the practice putting green. Play would be rerouted. Golfers playing existing 4 would be directed to play existing 7 as new 5, then directed to play existing holes 13 & 14 as new holes 6 & 7. New hole 6 (existing 14) would be lengthen top play as a par 5. After playing new 7, also lengthen, golfers would then be directed across the slough to complete the round playing existing holes 8 and 9.

On the back 9 nine, existing hole 6 becomes new 10 with a new green to play as a par 4. Golfers would be directed across a new maintenance/cart path to play existing holes 10, 11, and 12 as new holes 11, 12 and 13. A new par 3, 14th hole would be added, then play would finished playing existing holes 5, 16, 17 and 18. Hole 18 is proposed to be
lengthen to play as a par 5.

Lastly to meet irrigation needs and to remove the golf course from municipal water use a 2 acre pond is proposed to be dredged from the slough area separating the two nines. This pond will would recharged from ground water and runoff and would be supplemented as needed from a new 500 GPM ground water well. Reports from area well drillers and consultation with the area hydrologist from the US Geologic Service indicates there is ample ground water at depths of 40 to 60 feet.

In the Range Option plan it is proposed the pond would become a design feature of the lengthen 18th hole. A 1,000 to 1,200 GPM pump station and building would be constructed on the north end of the pond and the proposed 500 GPM ground water well would be drilled on the south side. This scenario provides better water quality and gives the well water a chance to mix and warm before being distributed. In checking with the Iowa DNR, this work requires a permit but it would be a permitted activity.

Cost Estimate:

Costs have been calculated for the proposed Assessment Plan improvements as well as the Range Option and other related improvements. Cost are based on 2012 estimates and include a contingency for design, engineering and construction.

Total Cost: $1,155,600


These assessments are presented as a starting point to assist the City of Mason City and the golf advisory board in recognizing and prioritizing the site improvement work necessary to enhance the quality, enjoyment, and playability of Highland Park Golf Course for the foreseeable future. The findings and summary presented are preliminary and subject to change based on continued discussions and refinement between Gill Design, Inc. and the City of Mason City.

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