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Golf course plowed under; players teed off

This news story was published on January 25, 2012.
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By Joe Buttweiler –

ROCKFORD — Claude Nash enjoyed playing golf at the Rockford golf course for 44 years.

He would often play a quick nine after work before his wife got home, and was looking forward to playing more when he retires someday.

So it was more than a little hard to see the course plowed under this past fall after the owner, Jim Dow, said it wasn’t economically feasible to keep the course open.

Dow’s hoping to sell the property to someone who will be able to make it work as cropland.

But the asking price of $695,000, which is several times more than he paid for the property in 2005, has a lot of Rockford area residents teed off, feeling victimized by an opportunistic owner.

Dozens of mature trees at the former award-winning course – it was named the top nine-hole course in the state in 1997 – were cut down last fall. Concrete pavement was removed and the entire course was plowed under shortly afterward, bringing an end to a course that opened in 1964.

Dow said “there just wasn’t enough” revenue to keep the course open. The business was losing $25,000 to $30,000 a year, he said. Memberships had dropped from 87 in 2010 to 50 last year, and the poor economy was also a factor, he said.

Some in the Rockford area thought Dow should have waited to find a buyer who would keep the course open, and have speculated that Dow turned down at least one such offer because it wasn’t high enough.

(PHOTO: Broken concrete lines the road to the former Rockford Public Golf Course.)

Dow said he never had an offer since listing the property for sale in June. The asking price is $695,000, according to online listing information.

According to Floyd County property records, Dow bought the roughly 75-acre property for $120,000 on Dec. 22, 2005, from Rockford Golf and Country Club Inc. The 2011 assessed value was $259,510, including $166,760 for the building and $92,750 for the land. The assessed value was $314,940 in 2007 through 2009, according to Floyd County records — $185,810 for the building and $129,130 for the land.

Taxes on the property were $8,074 last year, down from $8,234 in each of the prior three years.

Nash, a former member of the Rockford Golf and Country Club board of directors, said the board cut Dow a good deal on the price for the course because members wanted to ensure its sustainability.

“We were looking for someone who would take care of it,” he said.

However, upkeep of the course deteriorated after the sale, as did the atmosphere, Nash said. A couples tournament was dropped and many of the former members didn’t feel as welcome as they had in the past, he said.

Nash acknowledged the nonprofit board he served on was struggling to make the course profitable, and that there was some bank debt. So Dow was given “a really good deal so he could make a go of it and keep it a golf course.”

Dennis Dingel, who served as financial secretary for the nonprofit for 10 years before the course was sold, confirmed that the course “was not making enough money to survive.”

Nash doubts the ground will be very productive as cropland because it has a lot of clay and limestone.  Some in the community have said the land was used for golf because it was never good for crops.

(PHOTO: Remains of trees that once framed the former award-winning course await disposal.)

Nash said he feared the course was doomed when he went to play a round in October and arrived to find someone had torn up greens and some tee boxes by “cranking donuts” on them in a vehicle.

He said he’d never heard of vandalism at the course before then.

Dow said he had an idea who was responsible, and that no one was charged in connection with the vandalism.

He said if the land doesn’t sell by spring, he’ll have to plant it himself.

Meanwhile, Nash and other avid golfers in the area will have to travel to courses in Nora Springs, Greene, Rockwell or Charles City, all of which are within about 15 miles.

(PHOTO: Clubhouse.)

No doubt there will be some grumbling along the way.

“There are a lot of people I talked to who never even golfed there who are upset about it,” Nash said of the course’s demise.

In a day when communities are doing all they can to attract residents and visitors, it’s hard to lose such a nice amenity.

Rockford Mayor Harry White said he knows a lot of people are upset about the loss of the golf course. “But I guess, if you’re not making enough profit to cover expenses, you don’t have much choice.”

He said the city wasn’t in a position to buy the course, nor was it even suggested.

Dow said the clubhouse and farmland are listed by Jane Fischer at Century 21 Preferred and could be sold as separate properties or together.

(PHOTO: Golf enthusiasts in and around Rockford, Iowa, seen in the background, are upset that the golf course was plowed under last fall to be used as cropland.)




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22 Responses to Golf course plowed under; players teed off

  1. Avatar

    terribly disappointed Reply Report comment

    January 30, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Such a shame that a once great golf course is gone. What upsets me the most is that someone is given a great opportunity to run a business at such a low price tag and tries to capitalize on a super inflated sell price. Dow says he wanted it to stay as a golf course. If that was the case then sell it for what you have in it instead of putting a sell price on it that’s absurd. That would have been the right thing to do. Somebody would have taken it at a reasonable cost. However greed got in the way.

  2. Avatar

    I live in Rockford Reply Report comment

    January 30, 2012 at 10:43 am

    Not only the members of the board of the golf course, but over all the town has lost it’s steam to do anything for for the better. I had alot of memories at that golf course. It would be nice if one picture was posted of it before it was plowed under so we can remember how nice it once was. Farmland is valuable, but so are places that give us great memories.

  3. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 28, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Let me say that I know Jim put a lot of work into the golf course. He did a lot with it and made several improvements. I know he didn’t keep up tournaments, which I’m sure hurt him, and gave up on a few other things that could have brought in business, so I believe he did not manage it well. I guess I can’t blame him for giving it up if he was tired of putting the work in and tired of trying to bring people in. It is a bad time for golf courses, the economy isn’t great. BUT. If he agreed when he bought it to keep it a golf course, I believe he should have honored that. If he could not do it himself, then he should have sold it as a golf course, especially if he was offered fair money to do so. Everyone wants to make money, but sometimes there are things more important. The golf course was part of Rockford history and tradition, and I am sorry to see it destroyed.

  4. Avatar

    anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 27, 2012 at 11:59 am

    There is NO way you can tell me that Dow put in “16” hours a day out there. You clearly were not a member.

  5. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 27, 2012 at 10:38 am

    The business can not support the town. The town must support the business. This isn’t the first person to close their doors at Rockford.

  6. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 27, 2012 at 7:05 am

    No one must remember what it was like before dow got it? Run down s#*t hole long grass dirty clubhouse and junk equipment! There were changes that not every one liked but for the most part people were happy. The last year it maybe didn’t get the best care but how long will you go to work knowing your going to loose money. About the time he put in no one must remember when dow was putting in 16 hours a day everyday trying to keep things done?

  7. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 26, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    I think that that the board did a excelent job in the 1990’s being named the top golf course in Iowa is a HUGE honor. The board memebers during this time deserve all the credit. It’s to bad they have to vote and be greedy to get this. I remeber planting a lot of the trees on the course and taking care of the greenes, its a shame our hardwork is now turned into meaningless farm ground.
    Thanks Dow

    Board Member 1995………

  8. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 26, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    He (Dow) spent more time and money ripping the course up, then he did taking care of it!!! As a former member and board member, Jim never made you feel welcome! It was hard over the last few years watching it go down!! Last year, it seemed the club house was never open and that ment no BATHROOMS!! Don’t you have to mow a golf course?

  9. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 26, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    The mayor and the city council probably felt like the C.Club membership that this problem would take care and work its self out.All those years the city council was unrelated to the activities out at the coarse–why should it be there responsibility to bail them out now? Its own members set on there hands and voted to sell You Know Who You ARE.

  10. Avatar

    FORMER Rockford Golfer Reply Report comment

    January 26, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    @Jean Oimoen – I don’t think people need to get over it. This is a ridiculous act that really hurt the city of Rockford and all of its citzens. Members like Claude Nash that have supported the course for many years were the ones that were out there planting those trees by hand. And now they have to drive by and see them all torn up!? What a slap in the face. Dow does not know how to run a business and it showed clearly.

    @Garrett – You’re 100 percent correct.
    Good luck on your “farm” Dow. No one is going to buy that chunk of clay. All you did was piss off the city and made yourself look like a fool.

  11. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 26, 2012 at 11:59 am

    For over forty years my family enjoyed all activities at the RGCC. It was sickning to set in the last annual meeting, among nearly 100 members and watched as ninety of those 100 voted to close & list for sale our beatiful golf coasre. The fact that raising the dues somewhat per year and regenerate the volanter help program would have bailed out this golf coarse. If your going to dance you will have to pay the band.I look at the 90 that voted sell and realize that the member effort or comunity effort had lost its steam.It was a mistake to spend $ for the recent watering installation. Lets face it the community or membership by not pulling together got what they deserved-no volanteers-no increased dues =no coarse now spend your money driveing to swim,eat,golf,fellowship,party,dance,banquets,meetings,and belly ache-blame your selfell -yes over priced for a new buyer but should’nt have gotten this far anyway. 44 years down the drain where is your support NOW –Ticked

  12. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 26, 2012 at 8:31 am

    People are still talking about it because the golf course was very important to our small community! We are trying to grow and bring residents in, not regress. Did any of you read the article? 2011 assessed value: $259,510. Listing price in June 2011: $695,000. Who is the selfish one there? How can anyone even have a chance to purchase the property with a price tag like that? Dow should be ashamed of himself.

  13. Avatar

    Jean Oimoen Reply Report comment

    January 25, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    Why are you all still talking about the course closing? No amount of debating over who is at fault will change a thing. Get over it!!!

  14. Avatar

    anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 25, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    If a non profit couldn’t make a go of it how could you expect someone to make a living running it. Either buy it and try it yourself or quit whining.

  15. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 25, 2012 at 7:54 pm


  16. Avatar

    Selfish Reply Report comment

    January 25, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    He never tried to make it a go. Always chasing people away and never doing anything with tournaments. His family never played golf and he had no intention of ever leaving it a golf course. I am ashamed to be associated with a town that let this happen. The town of Rockford was a cute little town at one time. They city government and its residents should be ashamed of how they have let their “town on two rivers” go down the drain. Lazy and non-appreciative.

  17. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 25, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Time for a new Mayor, This should of never happened if the Mayor was on top of the concerns of the town.
    Should of been discussion by the town council on what could be done by the town, and who could make this course a viable community business. And who ever that person might have been,which then should of been approached by the Mayor. After exhaustive measures to save the course and community legacy should it have come to where it stands now. Shame on Rockford City Council and Shame on Rockford Country Club Board. But now you can’t blame a man for trying to make a buck.

  18. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 25, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    There weren’t hardly any tournaments at the course which is usually a money maker for most courses. I agree that mismanagement was a large part of the downfall. You have to be passionate about the game of golf and be aware of what you can do to make the patrons happy.

  19. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 25, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    If you want to control what happens on a piece of property, you need to buy it. I hear this kind of whining from people all the time in my work. They buy a piece of property and then get upset with what happens next door, especially when it is vacant ground. Call the whambulance folks.

  20. Avatar

    Anonymous Reply Report comment

    January 25, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    If he didn’t want to put in the time to make it work then he should have never bought it. Dow had a different idea the whole time. Best 9 hole course in the area ruined.

  21. Avatar

    Garrett Christeson Reply Report comment

    January 25, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    People are selfish? Really? Did you read the article? He ran the course into the ground because of poor management and course upkeep. He never had the intentions of selling it as a golf course. People have made offers on the course. Dow is the most hated man in North Iowa and rightly so.

  22. Avatar

    Can't blame him Reply Report comment

    January 25, 2012 at 11:38 am

    Why should his guy give his life up so a few people can play a round of golf? People are selfish.