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Craguns 2017

Travel Club
June 22, 2017

Tournament Club of Iowa - More Than Words
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Tournament Club of Iowa #6 Photo Courtesy Peter Wong Photography
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Tournament Club of Iowa #6 Photo Courtesy Peter Wong Photography
By E. Nolan


There's no question Arnold Palmer was a better man than he was a golfer, and a better golfer than he was an architect, but playing his courses gives you plenty of glimpses into his general and overall greatness. I became a "patch-wielding" member of "Arnie's Army" 30 years ago, following every step of Mr. Palmer's illustrious career and trying to play as many of the courses he's designed in the decades since. It's an absolutely joy to see what he saw with that beautiful mind, and courses like the Tournament Club of Iowa speak volumes to The King's passions, imagination and architectural skill. Mark my words: As the only Palmer Signature course in Iowa, TCI is (by default of legacy) one of the state's "Five Must Plays."

A Golfweek colleague recently asked me to compare TCI to my favorite Palmer course in America - Deacon's Lodge. I couldn't. There is NO comparison. Deacon's was built on a perfect piece of golf land. TCI probably never should have been built where it is - incidentally, something that's been said about MANY of the greatest golf properties on earth. It took a remarkable vision and application process to fit 18 championship holes into the nooks, crannies, bluffs, and crevices of this Polk City land parcel. The beauty and topography is more mountainous than you'd imagine for central Iowa, and the many lakes, rivers and marsh carries make the Tournament Club of Iowa unlike any and every other course in the entire state.

If Tournament Club of Iowa is anything, it's too pretty - too distracting - there's so much to take in. You need to compose yourself on each tee box - use your wits and wisdom to maneuver your way around the beauty of this course. TCI is the perfect platform for Best Ball Events; (something event coordinators clearly know) it is an idyllic challenge for single-digit handicappers, and a super fun track for those of us that don't take our skills (or lack of skills) too seriously. I join the many reviewers on GolfAdvisor, and elsewhere, that appreciate the diversity of challenges presented - especially on the back - and the fact that there are safe, good, great and perfect positions for every single golf shot.

Director of Golf, Eddie Dennis, is enjoying his first year operating the Tournament Club of Iowa. It amounts to a dream job for him, in a picturesque, semi-rural setting (20 miles from the heart of both Ames and Des Moines) and I asked for his initial impressions of the clubhouse and Palmer track. "Ummm..." he shrugged. "Wow?!" (Yes...I can relate to that description!) "The locals here are so friendly and passionate about this course," he says. "There's so much pride in the ownership. It's a blessing to come work here every day, and that view..." He points out the clubhouse window, at the two finishing holes looping around the lake. (Yes... that view is pretty, spectacular!)

Twenty of our Tee Times readers took a trip down to the Tournament Club of Iowa last Spring Break. They did the Stay & Play with the fabulous Boulders Inn & Suites (just a few steps off the course) and their coordinator emailed to thank me for making such a big deal about the course. "No," I said. "Thank you. Thank you for understanding that I don't make this stuff up. I'm glad TCI was everything I told you it was."

"And more," he replied. "Much more." Agreed. (Now... if only I could figure out how to put that "more" into words!) Both nines are loaded with "Signatures" - photo-worthy holes that are mostly beauty, but still part beast. My favorite hole on the front is the Par-4 sixth, a twisting left dogleg along the river, but each of the three Par-3s on the front is memorable (and worth a look - and picture - from the tips). If score is important to you, the three-hole stretch from 10 to 12 should be played without a driver. The back-to-back Par-3s at 15 and 16 are breathtaking in different ways, and that finishing duo that you can see from the pro shop and Copper Oak Restaurant are daunting, but darn fun to play!

Copper Oak is open year-round, with seasonal menus, and Executive Chef Adam Gillaspey always cooking something you can't walk away from. (Trust me, I've tried.) TCI is a spectacular host for golf and social events of every kind and size, and the 44-room Boulders Inn & Suites next door makes this suburban destination one of Iowa's best week or weekend getaways.






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