July 22, 2017
|The Preserve at Honey Creek Resort Game Preserve|
By Eric N. HartLet's get one thing straight. There never should have been a golf course here. We hear of state parks all the time, but state golf courses? Never. Scratch that. Alabama has an entire trail of courses built by the state. But that's Alabama. We don't do things like that up here. Au contraire mon frÃ-re! (Translation: Yeah huh!) We do now!
That's right, The Preserve on Rathbun Lake is the brainchild of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. (How did Iowa think of that before Minnesota?) Lest you think a natural resource department building a golf course is a complete paradox, I assure you that every stone, brick, and scoop of dirt on the resort's 240+ acre property was accounted for by the most nature friendly of processes. Energy efficient, Audubon compliant, free of intrusive domiciles and naturalist friendly, those shrewd Iowegians couldn't have done more to make everyone happy. They no doubt heard the naysayers, (can't avoid "em) "It's too remote, it will use too much valuable property, it will draw too many Minnesotans, etc." They saw the heads shake and eyes roll. They understood the gamble all along. Frankly I applaud them. At least they didn't do something insane... like, say, elect a mouthpiece former fake-wrestling egomaniac as governor. Now THAT would be crazy. But things like that don't happen up here... wait...
I digress... The adjacent resort, on the shores of gorgeous Rathbun Lake, as serene an oasis as southern Iowa can provide... that part was no gamble at all; common sense, in fact. But a golf course, in particular one like this... well, it's too good to build so far away from all the metro areas. Isn't it? Yes. Orrrr... No.
Now, let's get two more things straight. Honey Creek Resort is not all that far from the Des Moines metro, (less than 70 miles) and you certainly won't mind the scenic drive down. Besides, if you want to get away from city life do you go to another city? Sleep in a "remodeled" Motel 6? Wade in their kiddie pool? Maybe. But you shouldn't. You should come here, to their amazing expansive waterpark, (complete with slides, lazy river, pools, etc.) cozy plush cushioned sleeping accommodations, incredible sunrise and sunset views of the lake, patios to kick back on, trails to kick rocks on, beaches and food... more specifically, fine wine and dining. You don't just come to a place like this. You WANT to come to a place like this.
The Kevin Norby designed golf gem opened in 2008 and has since won several regional and national awards. Most recently, The Preserve was named Golf Magazines #5 best public golf course in Iowa in 2012. Ever modest, he insists he did very little to make the course fit so perfectly on the picturesque lakeside landscape. Trust me, its hard work building a course that not only leaves its natural surrounding undisturbed, but in many instances makes it even more natural. The par 72 layout sprawls to nearly 7,000 yards, providing the golfer with every form of imaginable shot... uphill, downhill, over the river, through the woods, you name it. It does, after all, share the property with one of Iowa's largest, most popular, state parks, defined by its connection to the state's largest man-made lake. People bring their families (and corporate events) here by the milli-van (think thousand not thousandth), and those fortunate enough to be golfers are treated to a series of memorable moments as they meander around the links-style (okay prairie-style) course.
The front nine is considered the tougher of the two, and the first two holes; both par 5's don't exactly roll out the red carpet for you. The Biarritz 2nd green is a test in and of itself. My "High 5" holes begin with the deer-friendly downhill par 3, 3rd (short and sweet) over the creek. (Beautiful hole early in the AM!) That tee shot is one-upped two holes later on the dramatic, panoramic 5th, again over a hazardous creek, and again edged by a magnetic tree line. And then there's the front end-cap 9th, another awesome downhill par 3 (with distant lake views).
The back nine is no less stunning, (better views in fact) but somewhat easier on the scorecard. The view backwards off the 13th tee is almost as impressive as the forward view on yet another Kodak worthy par 3 (again over a creek). And my "High 5" wraps with the monster par 4, 16th. Uphill, split fairway, there are just so many things about this hole that make it memorable. It is a unique design that is apt to throw you off your game just enough to make you look back on the hole and say "Whoa!" Yeah dude. Whoa!
That's actually a good word to sum up the entirely unexpected (very much a pleasant surprise) experience here at the Preserve on Rathbun Lake. "Whoa!" And you don't just come back to a place like this. You WANT to come back to a place like this.
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