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CEDAR RAPIDS — Lisa Miller, golf operations manager for the Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation Department, is a PGA master professional and winner of several state awards during her tenure, including the 2008 and 2015 Iowa PGA Horton Smith Award for contributions to golf education.
Cedar Rapids’ four municipal golf courses have faced many challenges in recent years, from flooding to finances. Last year, it was announced that Jones Golf Course would be closing, which is expected to increase rounds at the city’s other three courses — Ellis, Twin Pines and Gardner Memorial.
Q: Are the rounds in Cedar Rapids going up, down or staying pretty flat?
A: A decline in golf rounds did occur between the year 2000 and 2010. Since then they have fluctuated. Most of the declines in golf rounds since 2010 have been directly related to Jones Golf Course not being available for play due to flood events.
Q: Is Cedar Rapids the only community having issues with the number of rounds, or is this a trend seen around the country?
A: The decline of golf rounds is a national trend and Eastern Iowa courses are experiencing the same trends. Golf still is a popular sport with more than 24 million players, but playing patterns have changed. Most area courses experienced higher rounds in 2012 because it was a perfect summer for outdoor activities. Since then, we have seen a fluctuation of rounds each year but golf rounds are holding steady.
Q: What do you think the problem is and what can be done to fix it?
A: Playing patterns have changed, families spend more time with their kids at sporting events and time to play the game is a factor. We have focused on bringing the families together to the golf course for an outing, engaging women golfers and offering nine holes, seven days a week, to shorten the time commitment. Additionally, we are looking at programming to entice more millennials to the golf courses. We are also offering quality customer services, so our current golfers want to spend more time with us.
Q: How will the closing of Jones affect the other courses in town?
A: Ellis, Gardner Memorial and Twin Pines golf courses will most likely experience added golf rounds from the closure of Jones Golf Course. We have a lot of golfers who played Jones that also play at Ellis and Gardner. Other public golf courses will undoubtedly experience additional rounds from the closure. With a reduction of area golf course inventory will come a new distribution of play.
Q: In recent years, improvements have been made at several municipal golf courses. Can golfers expect anything new in 2017?
A: Subtle changes may be noticed, though many of our “attention to details” on the golf courses are often missed. We strive for quality playing conditions while controlling costs and prioritizing land stewardship. We are moving toward creating specific “signatures” to Gardner Memorial and Ellis golf courses. Gardner will be participating in the 1,000 acres project, so many large no-mow areas will be planted this spring with prairie plants/pollinator species. This will add definition to hole designs and accentuate the country atmosphere of the course. Ellis Golf Course will return to the original designed rectangular tee box shapes and ornamental grasses planted as 150 yard markers. All in all, Ellis, Gardner Memorial and Twin Pines will provide exceptional greens and great tee surfaces, including the driving range tee decks.
Q: As a golfer and professional, do you have tips for golfers as they gear up for a new season?
A: It should be six to eight weeks until the 2017 golf season begins, so this is a perfect time to get prepared. I would suggest area golfers spend four days a week being active, doing your favorite aerobic activity. In addition, begin stretching. Some great videos on stretching are at the PGA.com website. Look at your equipment. Is it tired? Are your clubs in need of grips? Or maybe you’d like to make a club-fitting appointment and buy new clubs. Professionally fit golf equipment can improve your score and your fun factor. If you do buy new clubs in 2017, consider donating your old clubs to the G.I.V.E. program through the Iowa PGA Foundation. An Eastern Iowa veteran would appreciate your clubs while they learn the game of golf. Finally, get your golf swing active and work on your balance, by using the hitting nets at Jones clubhouse to get primed for a great golf year.