Otter Creek Golf Course – Otter This World Fun
By E. Nolan
2019 marks the 10 year anniversary of my first visit to Otter Creek – not anything for the world to celebrate, by any means, but something I marvel at, just as you might looking back on your own golf travel history. Head Golf Professional Curt Ingham welcomed me to “The OC” then just as he welcomes all the first-timers (and regulars) now. That warm reception isn’t any different today (and Curt hasn’t aged a day since then). But so much else has changed, especially in regards to the course.
The course has seen millions of dollars invested in it, in superbly executed renovations, rebuilds and additions (much praise to architect Paul Miller). Ten years ago there weren’t drone pictures on the website to show you their signature holes as there are now. Ten years ago their pizza was great, but it didn’t have the stellar regional reputation it’s earned by now. Ten years ago Otter Creek was a fantastic place to spend a day (and evening) hanging out with friends, eating, golfing and eating some more. Today, it’s even better.
Curt laughs when asked to think about the differences between then and now. “It’s pretty unbelievable. We’re pretty blessed.” It IS unbelievable and they ARE blessed. In a way it’s like watching a toddler become a teenager. They’re nowhere near the same and yet it’s still the same person.
I drove by Otter Creek dozens of times before I ever played it. I always thought it was private. It DOES sit next to a private course, but that cool-looking Par 3 that sits next to I-35… that’s on this course. That hole that taunts every driver on their commute… that’s a hole every golfer can play. This newer, remodeled course, is the course that was voted the “Iowa Golf Association 18-Hole Course of the Year” in 2016. That’s saying a lot for any course. It’s especially saying a lot for a municipal facility – which Otter Creek is – and the City of Ankeny does a fantastic job of operating and maintaining their highly lauded gem.
Truth be told, this is so much more than “just a golf course.” Otter Creek has a double-end driving range, GPS on all the golf carts, two practice greens and a chipping area with a bunker for short game work. They have golf instructors, the Tom Tays Performance Studio, and Junior Golf programs to keep the roots of the game strong. Inside the clubhouse, The Pinnacle Club Banquet Facility holds up to 250 guests, catering perfectly to golf groups of all sizes, banquets and weddings, and then there are the aromas you can’t escape emanating from the Tin Cup Bar and Grille. That’s where the famous pizzas are prepared and where the specialty sandwiches, high-definition TV’s, well-stocked bar and panoramic golf views keep the pleasure of the people at peak levels.
Spend a minute on their website and you’ll see the stellar aerial photography that draws people in today. Those holes are great, to be sure, but there’s even more fun out on the course. While technically there is water in play on six holes, I have yet to meet a golfer who hit all six water hazards in one round. The hazards (for the most part) are nothing to worry about. The rewards are all that matters. They have a great collection of Par 3’s on the property – from the 4th that forces a carry over water, to the signature “drop shot” 13th you see from I-35 and the other all-carry beauty at 15 (adjacent the clubhouse) that so many consider their favorite. Set on the outskirts of both Ames and Des Moines (only 200 miles straight south of the Twin Cities) this is a round that’s worth the drive – a round I describe as a “crescendo experience,” which is how I like my golf rounds to be.
The pace of play tends to be excellent here, facilitated by all the great scoring opportunities. The conditioning is consistent, superior to most of area competitors, and the walkability of the course means everyone can have their game their way. Easy to access, with an exit straight off I-35 to their front door, this is a high-quality place for 9 or 18 (or 36), for hosting golf events, hanging with friends, watching games and eating topnotch food. Pure lifestyle highs and links-style fun. That’s Otter Creek in a nutshell.