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Craguns 2017

Travel Club
July 22, 2017

Tournament Club of Iowa - King Corn
Tournament Club of Iowa #17
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Tournament Club of Iowa #17
Tournament Club of Iowa #7 Photo Courtesy of Peter Wong Photography
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Tournament Club of Iowa #7 Photo Courtesy of Peter Wong Photography
By E. Nolan

What do Kapalua, Turtle Bay, Deacon's Lodge, Bay Hill and the Tournament Club of Iowa have in common? No, they're not all in Hawaii... but yes... they're all golf courses. More specifically, they're all public access Arnold Palmer golf courses, and each has one of Arnold's "Favorite 18" holes that he's designed.

You'll see Rory win the Bay Hill Invitational in Orlando in a few weeks. That is perhaps Arnold's most famous design and, interestingly enough, he only redesigned it. (Credit belongs largely to Ed Seay.) Bay Hill is special, but (design-wise) not in the same league as Deacon's Lodge and the Tournament Club of Iowa. It just gets more "location, location, location" love by being in the Sunshine State.

If you think I'm off my rocker I don't own one. If you think I've lost my marbles I haven't had any of those since I was a kid. To put this all in perspective - in absolute honesty- Tralee (in Ireland) may be Palmer's best golf design in the world, but I assure you TCI and Deacon's are NOT far behind. You've got to have a credible resume to be believed for claims like these. I'll give you mine and let you decide.

This is my 778th article as a golf writer in the past 8 years - for five publications - covering 288 different championship courses (including 22 of Palmer's). My favorite Palmer designs are Deacon's Lodge and his Reunion design (also in Orlando - with Bay Hill), but if traveling the world is not in your budget or job description, I assure you his gem in Polk City, Iowa is among his very best... and well worth the drive from any neighboring state. If Deacon's Lodge is the Midwest's Spyglass, then TCI is our Pine Valley. If you know golf at all... you know what that's implying.

I keep bringing up Deacon's Lodge because it would likely be the one most of you are familiar with - a Top 5 Minnesota course... if not even Top 3. It's also the closest topographical comparable to the Tournament Club of Iowa. The wild elevation changes, abundance of marsh and water features, awesome greens and stunning natural beauty - all those characteristics are shared between the properties. You can see how they were designed by the same mastermind. GM Tony Hoyles describes TCI this way, "It's a family of holes... 18 individuals with the same DNA - but there are no twins."

If you're familiar with the Iowa golf scene you may be wondering how it stacks up to The Harvester and/or Spirit Hollow in Burlington - widely considered the state's top duo. Put it this way (having played all three)... five years ago I wouldn't have put them in the same book, and nowhere near the same article. Today, after all the work former GM Josh Kuha and his phenomenal team put in, and with a rock star team currently assembled (led by Tony Hoyles) to take the TCI deep into the future... today... it not only belongs in the same paragraph... The Tournament Club of Iowa belongs in the same sentence.

Mind you that's not to suggest they care. Sure, they'd love for everyone to consider them Iowa's best. But - as a perfect example to all golfers - they don't measure the significance and stature of their game against any other "player." They stack it against their own potential. That... is keeping things in proper perspective. That... is truly the only way to record progress. And there has been progress a plenty.

I met Tony Hoyles years ago, on one of my first visits to TCI (when he was the Head Golf Professional there). We had great discussions - he, Josh and I - about the potential of the course... particularly about its "destination value." It was easy to see they each wanted it to enlist in the Army - to "Be All It Could Be." They've since added a hotel on-site (the Boulder Inn & Suites), they've made the course remarkably more playable, the course conditions are better than they've ever been, and under Tony's passionate and attentive leadership the restaurant is currently being groomed for stardom with Chef Brian Johnson laying out specials like his famed Bacon Brisket Wrap. #holymother...

I've played the Tournament Club of Iowa course five times in the past five years, and every time the experience has been better than the last. That's saying something. It's actually saying a lot. It's certainly my testimony that they know what they're doing. You want more reasons to go there... to drive down just 15 miles north of Des Moines and check it out? How about this... Palmer left Florida for Iowa to build it.

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