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July 22, 2017

Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort - The Grand Canvas
The Falls at Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort #9
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The Falls at Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort #9
The Falls at Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort #18
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The Falls at Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort #18
By E. Nolan


In 2016, Iowa is celebrating the 5-year anniversary of their newest casino resort and the 1-year anniversary of their newest golf resort. The interesting thing is, they share the same property - both resorts are one and the same. Grand Falls Casino debuted in northwest Iowa in June of 2011, just twenty minutes from Sioux Falls and less than an hour and a half from Sioux City. Like when the Field of Dreams opened to the public, hyped-up word of mouth and curiosity brought lines of headlights streaming in from the south and northwest to see what the big deal was. Kehl Management Company built it... and the people came.

It was a great Vegas-inspired casino to be sure - worthy of the hype for those seeking a luxurious hotel beyond city limits... an escape with a relaxing spa and first-class dining. The gaming tables and event center were loaded with modern entertainment and attractions (all of which I'll get to later), and the pools... well... they're awesome. But it was missing something to spread the acclaim across state lines and throughout the country. It needed a golf course. And not just any golf course.

Last May, the legendary Rees Jones completed construction on a stunning sequence of golf holes, on-site, and opened The Falls Course to be scrutinized by national golf writers, and his signature waterfall to be inspected by the Guinness Book of World Records Team. There's nothing else like it in Iowa, I assure you. Golfers love trying something new, especially when it's by one of the industry's premier architects, and so they too lined up and came over. What did they find? Well... just for the sake of magnificent comparison, Rees was the architect of two other proximal "Top 10 in their respective state" golf courses - Riverside Resort's Blue Top Ridge in central Iowa and Jackpot Junction's Dacotah Ridge in southwest Minnesota. What he did with those two properties is nothing short of amazing. And this course at Grand Falls... well... let's just say the "Open Doctor" is masterful at taking feature-filled-farmland and turning it into phenomenal.

Director of Golf, Jason Wagamon, is one of the most congenial operational managers in the industry. (And what that guy can do with a golf ball is almost unfair.) What he can do when teamed up with a sensational head pro like Tim Sheridan (and their staff), to make sure every golfer is 100% taken care of, is equally as impressive. Both gentlemen know that a glossy new amenity like The Falls is going to draw world's of scrutiny - and they want to make sure everyone appreciates what they've got there. "You understand that every course takes a while to grow in," Jason says. "Not everyone gets that. But seriously, look at this place... isn't it amazing how far it's already come?" It really is. I've played the course four times this past year and it's been in better shape on each visit. Not that it's really even needed to be. Rees set it up for the horticultural success it's been having under the green thumb of "grass genius" (superintendent) Chris Hickman. It looks like the course has been here five years already... but it hasn't. If it had, a whole lot more people would know about it and be talking about it. That's where writers with first-hand experience come in.

Before I focus on the formidable features of the golf course, I'd like to elaborate a little on the rest of the resort's amenities. To really appreciate a place like Grand Falls you need to explore it a little - stay for more than just a few hours. The resort offers high-value invitations in their Stay & Play packages that include lodging, golf and a breakfast buffet for two people (not per person) in the neighborhood of only $250 in PEAK season. (Check their website monthly for updated offers.) Considering you can add on extra rounds and even massages at steep discounts, you can build your own escape around whatever perks you please. The Spa at Grand Falls (closed on Mondays) has an expansive menu of treatments and services, with a whirlpool, steam room, infrared sauna and vichy-style showers for ultimate stress-relief. Beyond the spa, there is an indoor/outdoor hot tub and two large pools (one zero-entry with an island) and a state-of-the-art fitness center.

While on the subject of luxuries I need to focus on the hotel rooms. Guests can select from Deluxe King and Double-Queens, Grandview Rooms with balconies, Grandview Mini-Suites with two rooms, and the all-wow-factor (almost always booked) Grand Master Suite with incredible top-floor panoramic views of the golf course and waterfalls (see Mobilegolfer's two photos) and interior design comforts most of us don't even have at home. The rooms are clean, bright and spacious, with thick carpet and sleep-til-noon beds. Exactly what you're looking for on an away-date. (Pet friendly options and an RV Park are also available.)

You can't walk through the main lobby without smelling the food. Ruthie's Steak and Seafood has a feature-filled dinner menu (check out their Taste of Winter on February 25th) and Robert's Buffet is a best-of-all-worlds bonanza (with Crab Fest on Wednesday nights). Then there's the Big Drop Café. With apologies to the other two tasty eateries - beyond the Breakfast Buffet at Robert's - I can't pull myself away from Big Drop. Their onion rings and Reaper wings, BBQ pulled pork sandwich, pizzas and BYO-Burgers are mouth-watering lick-kickers, and their dessert menu assures that most of my money is spent here.

Grand Falls Casino has quite the active main floor, with nearly 1,000 modern-titled slots and a plethora of poker, craps, roulette and blackjack tables to boot. They have a Feature Lounge with 20 TV's, VIP and High-Limit areas and a Show Lounge that combines with their 1,120-seat Event Center to bring in a wide variety of local, regional and even national entertainers. (Check out their on-line Events Calendar for the most recent comedic, musical, culinary and entertainment additions.)

But, back to the golf course. You're out in the open country, so wind can be a factor, but mostly you'll be distracted by the beauty of the horizons - the stark contrasts in the fairway and fescue fields before you. There are three stunning holes that play around the centerpiece lake and waterfall feature, and two of those holes duke it out for "the" signature of the property. It's hard to take away from the mammoth aquatic cascade on the 3-par 18th, but the wraparound 9th that plays up to the hotel - water all the way down the left - is one of those risk/reward holes that will stick with you (and perhaps even induce a mulligan). Mr. Jones really magnified the elevation changes in this routing and defined your path to scorecard success by strategically placing bunkers and marshland patches in your way. It's a fun, fast romp around a pure-Iowan landscape.

Grand Falls Resort deserved this course. And now you deserve to play it.






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