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Travel Club
July 22, 2017

Bos Landen Golf Club - Time, Love & Tenderness
Bos Landen #14
+ click to enlarge
Bos Landen #14
Bos Landen from the 3rd tee.
+ click to enlarge
Bos Landen from the 3rd tee.
By E. Nolan

Bos Landen has a history. So does anything that "is" you might say. But the Bos's history, as a golf course, is more significant than most in the state of Iowa. Why? Because for four straight years, from 1997 through 2001, Bos Landen was considered Iowa's best golf course. Not merely Top 10. Not just Top 5. #1.

The Bos still belongs in the conversation with the current greats: Harvester, TCI, the Preserve, and Spirit Hollow, because we all know a course doesn't lose its design. It's still that same course in there somewhere. No, when courses fail it's typically because they lose their aura, they're taken for granted, mismanaged, or under marketed.

It happens all over the United States. People often don't know what they've got until it's gone. And when it's gone, in most golf course cases, it's too late to bring it back. There are however success stories of doing just that. Take Reflection Bay in Las Vegas for example, a former nationally ranked 5-Star course. It closed completely and took years to bring it back. But it's once again alive and thriving - better than ever now - because of the local people. Yes, it takes a strong community of passionate leaders (see the Tournament Club of Iowa for another great example) to find a lost course... to reenergize a fan base.

Apparently the populous of Pella were paying attention to their Polk City brethren. The city jumped in last year and - together with the California based Warrior Golf - saved the abandoned Bos Landen property. They unified in the offseason, established a plan, and jumped on it immediately. They're stepping up this year by (basically) building a new clubhouse, restaurant and cart barn... and they'll be rolling out the maps next fall to keep the course upgrades going.

Michael Bolton would tell you that anything you value requires "Time, Love and Tenderness." Now while - twenty years ago - I'd have punched you in the face if you'd told me I'd use Michael Bolton in a golf story... there's a lot of applicable truth to those wise words of his. Bos Landen has taken time to bring back. The previous owners committed significant financial resources to clearing out the brush, cleaning up the ponds and making the course infinitely more playable. They brought in architects and reviewers who gave their suggestions and they started to make the necessary differences. But the community believed the course would always be there whenever they needed it, whether they played it or not. They didn't have a personal stake in the fire. They do now. This is a course that deserved to be saved - a course that they believe can once again receive national recognition. I've seen it at its best and I've seen it at the very worst. At its best there aren't a handful of courses around that can beat it for frills, thrills and quality golf. And that's what I hope it gets back to. Read the online reviews and you'll find plenty of regular golfers who agree. This place can be quite impressive!

Pella, outside of golf, is a city steeped in Dutch tradition. Plan a visit here for the first weekend of May - for the spectacular Tulip Festival - and you'll see what I mean. These people can really pull together for greatness. And Midwesterners come from all over to witness exactly that at the Tulip Festival. They come from all over for ONE WEEK. Imagine if those travelers - golfers specifically - had something they loved here as much as that festival... but had it for six to eight months! Once upon a time they did. There's no reason - with similar cohesive efforts and Warrior's national prestige - that they can't again.

The course itself is a wild ride. Holes 2, 3, and 4 are one heck of a start to a round loaded with elevation changes. Most great courses have that one special "love/hate relationship" hole (if not a few of them). Photographers love it. Golfers are not as unanimously in favor. At Bos Landen it's the 4th hole. Precision is required on a challenging tee shot to a narrow fairway from where you'll have another daunting approach over a magnetic creek to a bunker guarded green. Like I said... it's beautiful, but it can be quite mean.

Most of my favorites though are on the back, where links meets mountains (Iowa mountains anyway) in a blend of architectural ingenuity. Fourteen is another one of those photogenic holes that demands prudence from the golfer. There's so much to love out here when it's good, and even more when it's great.

With five sets of tees playing anywhere from 5,100 to 7,000 yards, you'll find a game you love here. You just have to believe in it as much as the people of Pella do.

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