August 22, 2017
|Brown Deer Golf Course - Diverse City|
By E. NolanIf Brown Deer Golf Course isn't the best city-operated course in Iowa, I don't know what is. That's no disrespect to any of Iowa's other great munis but, seriously, if there's one municipal course you MUST PLAY in the "Hawkeye State" (essentially in THE "Hawkeye City"), it's Brown Deer. Obviously, that's just my opinion. Or is it?
"Best course in the area!" one GolfAdvisor.com rater screams. Another rater, DBFairborn proclaims, "I would recommend it to anyone as a must play." And another voice, with an unusual name - u0004041393 (not sure how that's pronounced) says, "Wide variety of holes. I will (DEFINITELY) play this course again!" Overall, GolfAdvisor.com has the course rated 4.5 stars. Take whoever's word you'd like... seems like the consensus is that Brown Deer is a buck among fawns.
As a writer for Tee Times Magazine the past 7 years, I've made it a point to seek out the Midwest's hidden gems, and in stumbling upon Brown Deer last year, I knew we had to get the word out IMMEDIATELY on it. I told my publisher, Steve, that he had to contact management down there and show them what we could do. "Send this out to all 60,000 people on the email list," I said. "At the intersection of Interstate 80 and 380, near Iowa City, Brown Deer is worth driving to from all over... even from the Twin Cities." "Really?" He asked. "Is it REALLY that good?" "Better than I'd imagined," I replied honestly. There are some great courses around Coralville - a couple in Amana and Riverside, specifically - but Brown Deer just might be IOWA's Most DIVERSE 18-holes, and I'm a huge proponent of diversity in everything, from food to music, and DEFINITELY in my golf.
"Diverse" is oft a randomly thrown in adjective in golf pieces. It's a word writers use when they don't know how to better say "wow" or "where do I begin?" Brown Deer, for its part, begins with a crazy steep downhill Par 4 - a risk/reward stunner that has you holding your breath from the get-go. There's the river below you, the forest and that huge beach alongside the green... so many distractions, you couldn't possibly calculate your quantity of swing thoughts. My initial reaction was that they had to have the routing flipped... that they should have started with #10. (And then I saw #10... and #11... and #12... and... well, you get it.) They did the routing right. The risk/reward nature of the first hole continues on the pond-guarded 2nd and short Par 4, 3rd on the front. Hole after different hole you are challenged and taunted by various degrees of difficulty and fun, culminating in a great Par 3 over another hazard at 9. "Wow," I remember thinking. "That was something else."
And then I met the back, where the "daunting and amazing" hit a gear most "sub-$50" courses don't have. Dominated by more lakes and massive elevation changes, the back nine has (literally) as many as SEVEN signature holes. Three of the best holes play around a large lake (10, 17 and 18), and their greatness is supplemented by fantastic designs on #12 (Par 3 over water), #13 (STEEP uphill Par 4 with danger all over the place) and #14 (another great par 3, with a cool bridge backdrop). Though surrounded by a master planned community you scarcely notice the homes (another quality I appreciate in city courses).
I remember being awestruck at least a dozen times on the back nine, and maintaining that feeling as I walked off the 18th green, looking back over the lake at all the beautiful action. "Can we play it again," my 12-year-old son asked. "Oh yes," I said. "Just not today." (It was 7:20 p.m.) "Tomorrow?" he asked. "We'll be back, D." I said. "Don't worry." We made our way to Divots! Bar & Grill for Maple Hot BBQ Wings and a Cheeseburger Fry Wrap, salivating flavors to cap off a salivating round, and then hit the road, texting all our friends (including my editor) that Brown Deer was "totes legit." (Or however the kids say "gnarly" these days.)
I'm thrilled to be able to write this article a year after that experience... to be able to honestly tell all of you that I've played 7 awesome courses in Iowa (29 courses in all there so far) and that Brown Deer is definitely (and deservedly) one of those Top 7. The food and views at Divots! are as great (and diverse) as the golf on the course. It's no wonder this place is as popular as it is for weddings, banquets, and golf groups. So much space... so much great golf... so many reasons to keep coming back.
All of that diverse awesomeness... is Brown Deer Golf Club.
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