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Craguns 2017

Travel Club
July 22, 2017

Otter Creek - Otter Roll
By Eric N. Hart

After years of slowing down (and infuriating many a finger waving driver) on I-35 near Ankeny, Iowa, to check out the attractive course to the West, I'd finally had it. I watched player after player tee off, day after day, on that gorgeous par 3 (#13) by the interstate, flail and miserably fail to hit that huge wide-open green. COME ON PEOPLE! It's not that hard. It can't be! The scenic course, of course, was Otter Creek. I just always naively thought it was private. It isn't. It looks like it should be, but it is an equal opportunity temptation, and I bit. Twice in the last two years. And failed to hit that green myself both times. #$%@! (Translation: Nuts!) Next time!

I can't believe it took me so long to try it. I'd have taken many more attempts since my last one, last year, if I only lived closer, but now I live several hours away. Fortunately, my own personal loss is the gain of many, as hundreds of people weekly more than make up for my absence. It's as popular a golf attraction as there is in the Des Moines area. And there's no doubt, on my next Des Moines trip, I'll spend the 200 miles prior looking forward to that thousand yard stretch of Otter Creek that I enjoyed glimpsing for so many years. I'll drive by and shake my head at that hole and wish I had a few extra hours to play a course whose high quality extends far beyond #13. And then I'll stop wishing and make time. I simply have to.

Operated by the City of Ankeny and managed flawlessly by the most humble of GM's, Kevin Beard, it has to be the best municipal course in the state. I guarantee you Des Moines residents wish they could move it a half hour South. Instead Ames commuters get to similarly share in my own joy and misery in passing it by each late afternoon or evening, wishing they could take their own elevated tee shots on that haunting par 3... wishing for more time. Well people... Make the time! You simply have to!

Once 25 years old, Otter Creek is now instead only barely years new, having closed in 2007 for major full-course renovations. TWO LONG YEARS OF WORK LATER, the Paul Miller design reopened for public play to great anticipation and rave reviews, featuring over 40 new bunkers, 17 ponds, beautiful fescue lined fairways, rebuilt rolling greens, and manufactured elevation changes in the form of raised tee boxes, re-routings and mounding throughout. The clubhouse now includes a modernized banquet facility, an efficiently stocked golf shop and the ever-popular (and populated) host of many a post-round party, the Tin Cup Bar & Grille. As the community of single-family homes around it continues to grow and thrive, more and more of us will come to envy those residents.

The front nine contains several thrilling rides, and a few pitfalls for those unwilling to play the "smart shot." The 3rd and 5th holes, both par 5's, have ponds that most golfers will flirt with on each approach... both right of their respective narrow fairways. Short of the green is dangerous. But long isn't any less so. (Don't say you weren't warned.) The old 16th hole is now the new 7th and, as it was before, it remains a beast. Popularly referred to as a par 4.5 it is probably the most frustrating on the course. Suggestion: Get over it. Every neighborhood has a bully. This is Ankeny's. While most of the holes on the entire design are straight and straightforward to play, nine varies in that it doglegs you right, downhill, and back to the clubhouse. Fuel up. The best is yet to come, specifically the gorgeous three hole stretch 13 to the beautiful, over the water, par 3 15th, adjacent the clubhouse. Let us know if your 13th tee shot hits the green. (And not by ricocheting off a car on the interstate.) The tee shot on 14 is perhaps the design's most beautiful, and precarious, until 15 that is. The breathtaking water carry on 15 will no doubt be your most memorable. You'll either love it or lose it. (Smile)

The advantage, here, is definitely to the straight shooters, and best-paced putters. Length isn't necessary. (A ball retriever may be.) No matter how you approach it, the current variety is an extensive improvement on a design that was already greatly appreciated. Always great, now it's every bit the better. Always loved, now it's loved even more. And it's really hard to miss. The thousand yard living billboard dares you not to look, not to dream, and not to stop in. You couldn't buy better advertising than that. Not even with us.

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