Briggs Woods Golf Course – The Course In the Middle Of Everywhere
By E. Nolan
“We had the biggest influx of Minnesota golfers last year, of any year. You could call it overflow, given how close we are to the state line, and how packed the courses up north were, but there’s also something to be said for the ‘escape factor’ we provide. We were a sweet, high-value escape for an awful lot of you (Minnesotan golfers).”
These are the words of Trent Rolffs, the jack-of-all-trades golf director at Briggs Woods Golf Course – the northern gateway to Iowa golf. And that “sweet escape” trend figures to only increase now that the Stay & Play packages are back. Briggs Woods offers daily public play but also stay-cations with their seven cabins: one 8-person cabin with lake and forest views, two 13-and-15-person cabins for bigger groups and four popular 4-person cabins. “With only seven cabins to take care of they’re easy to keep clean… that’s a huge selling point. But, we also have great relationships and deals with the local hotels, and almost all of our packages include unlimited golf for less than what you’d pay for just the golf at a comparable course in the Twin Cities. For years we marketed ourselves as Iowa’s Greatest Golf Value and that hasn’t changed. What has changed is that we don’t have to market it anymore.”
Trent is right, Briggs Woods is a popular getaway from Minnesota, but that’s not implying the locals leave a lot of open tee times. People drive from all over to play here because it’s so easy to get to (only two miles south of Webster City and 12 miles off I35). A straight shot east of Sioux City, west from Waterloo-Cedar Falls, north from Ames and Des Moines, and south from Albert Lea and Mason City, those cities draw a busy circle around the course. “We pull well from all of them,” Trent acknowledges, “for the golf, but also for all of our incredible recreational areas.” There are 22 public recreation areas in Hamilton County managed by the Conservation Board. That’s tons of wide-open water and landscapes, wildlife sanctuaries and river access – 6,600 acres of gorgeous Boone River beauty.
That surrounding beauty explodes onto the 6,500-yard, Par 72, golf course as well. “You want to stay on the good side of the trees,” Trent teases. “And accuracy rewards more than distance.” The front nine is far more open than the back, letting golfers get off to a good start scoring-wise. Take a deep breath at the clubhouse as you make the turn and drop down then weave around the lakes and wander through the narrows of the forest – up and down – until you break out into the clearings again. No one is going to tell you that back nine is easy (I once referred to it as “the valleys of shadow and death”) but everyone agrees it’s quite stunning. “I’ve often come out of that back nine with more golf balls than I went in with,” Trent says with a smile, “so I’ve always considered it a ‘positive experience.’”
I appreciate his sense of humor and his optimism, especially today. With so much stressing so many out, it’s comforting visiting a place so hopeful and encouraging. “Kids and families love our front nine,” Trent says, when asked about accessibility for Juniors. “Last year we couldn’t run the camps we wanted to. So many people wanting to get into golf and we want to help. Plan on there being camps here of some sort this year!”
Trent was the former assistant pro at the luxurious Des Moines Country Club, and his expertise covers a pretty broad spectrum. “I wouldn’t call it expertise,” Trent pans, “but I sure love what I do, and I learned in Des Moines a lot about running camps and golf groups. We’ll take care of you here, I promise you that. Bring your friends, your groups and your events. We have a state-of-the-art event center (banquet facility), a superb and active staff, a great course and everything you need to pull off a successful outing.”
A little research reveals the Briggs Woods Conference Center can easily accommodate 400 people. It sits adjacent the golf course, has easy access to a full kitchen, and offers a great patio for spreading and chilling out. The golf course itself has been around for decades, but every year a hundred or so new people stumble in awestruck. “How have I never heard of this place?”
“I hear that a lot,” Trent admits. “And that’s fine. It’s great. I’d just tell you to check out our website for more details on the course and cabins, then come check us out in person.” The sly smile comes back. “We’re so much better in person.” True story.