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Badlands golf a wild ride

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TIPTON -- I first played Cedar Valley Golf "The Badlands" five years ago. It was a wild ride then and it's a wild ride now.

A tight design woven into rolling hills, woods and ponds south of Tipton, the Badlands is a unique, fun test. Nos. 3 through 6 might be the toughest stretch of four holes in our area. We're talking accurate drives, shotmaker's approaches and greens you can rappel.

The course is rated on Pasturegolf.com, which lists courses "that have the distinction of not being excessively manicured but which are fun and affordable to play."

The Badlands isn't "excessively manicured," but it's no pasture, either. The greens and tee boxes were a little long, but not to the point of a turnoff. One look around and you know you're in farm country -- the Guernseys in the field to the right of No. 15 fairway are sort of a giveaway. So it's not Turnberry or your local country club.

"We're day-to-day, but we work hard on it," superintendent Mark Burns said. "We buy a lot of our equipment at auctions. We do what we can do with whatever we get."

But that doesn't take away from the design. The place is wicked with enough elevation and water for the mountain goat in you.

Yes, No. 3 is a short par 3 at 124 yards that runs downhill from the tee (from the white tees). A miss left will land you in the woods or a pond left of the green. Right, you'll find the cart path. A chain-link fence runs a little farther to the right.

As with more than a few shots at The Badlands -- which has a record membership of 85 this season -- there is no bailout.

Next is a wilderness hike to the No. 4 tee box, a lookout over a valley that includes the pond, woods and cart path. The hole, a 336-yard par 4, runs uphill and doglegs to the right, with the green hidden beyond a peninsula of trees. Left is dead into the woods and right is beyond a wire fence (I might have hit it and stayed on the good side).

The last obstacle is a green that slopes severely left to right. It's one of those greens where you can feel the inertia build as you cross it.

No. 5 is hilarious. The tee shot on this 340-yard par 4 is doable, downhill with enough room to accommodate even my fade/slice. From there, it's red alert.

The perfectly round green sits atop a bluff with maybe 2 or 3 feet of rough cut around it. Fence surrounds the rough because it's a bit of a drop-off all around. The only bailout to this back-to-front sloped green is short, and a pot bunker sits just right. If your wedge game is dialed in, it's a birdie possibility. If not, it's LB (my affectionate term for "lost ball").

This bluffy stretch ends with No. 6, a 332-yard par 4. You have an elevated tee box with a valley that leads up to a narrow fairway with woods on both sides (mounds on the right and a drop-off left). Another valley leads up to a green with no bailout.

The Badlands is a fun challenge and a wild and woolly ride.

If you play

  • What: Cedar Valley Golf, "The Badlands"
  • Where: 1465 265th St., Tipton
  • Tee times: Preferred for weekend play but walk-ins accepted, (563) 886-0218
  • Green fees: $10 for 9 and $14 for 18 weekdays, $12 and $16 weekends and l holidays. Cart rental is $8 for 9 and $14 for 18 per person. Junior and senior rates available
  • Online: No Web site

The lowdown on Cedar Valley Golf

Toughest hole- I thoroughly botched No, 10, a 440-yard par 4. The tee box drops off and then quickly rises. You want to be somewhere on top of the hill. There's a lesser valley to the green, which bends to the right and is guarded by a bunker. My drive was horrid, a short slicer, and from there I whacked a 3-wood between two greens. I thought I wanted the one on the left, but, no, it was the one on the right as my playing partner pointed out. The lost drive hurt. The third shot also drifted right of the green. It was an ugly double-bogey 6 on a the No. 1 handicapped hole.

Easiest hole-  No. 8 is a fairly unassuming 320-yard par 4. The tough part is teeing into a valley and then facing an uphill approach. Oh yeah, there is a pond on the right and it can come into play. As I've found this week, uphill approaches aren't the end of the world. Airport National has plenty. Belle Plaine Country Club has its share. The Badlands' No. 8 is certainly deep enough to hold a well-struck approach. Too bad I didn't keep up my part. My drive narrowly avoided the water and settled on a side-hill lie in the rough. I should have taken the second or so to pick a landmark for aim. I bladed a pitching wedge well left of the green and two-putted for bogey.

Overall impression- With water on 15 of the 18 holes, acres of woods and native grasses and gently rolling terrain, The Badlands has a rugged, rustic feel. Risk and reward is stamped on nearly every shot and nearly every hole. Cedar Valley Golf "The Badlands" packs on the drama and yet retains playability. Not an easy balance, but this 7-year-old course pulls it off. I was ecstatic to escape with an 87, including a pair of birdies. Afterward, I was just as happy to sit in the wonderful clubhouse and enjoy soda and refuge from the 90-degree, 90-percent humidity.

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