VAN HORNE — When you pay a green free at Tara Hills golf course in Van Horne, a 20-minute drive from downtown Cedar Rapids, you can play all day.
The nine-hole course was built in 1985, privately, with the idea of being a family-friendly (par 36) course option. The course was leased for many years before the membership purchased the course in the late 1990s.
While the course is open to the public from April 1 through the end of October, Tara Hills operates as a membership course to this day.
Memberships are available at a variety of levels — student, family, single — and include discounts for first-time members and members under 30, explained Tim Touro, president of the board president, which operates Tara Hills.
While a small course, Tara Hills offers a full lineup on amenities. It has cart rental — including season-long rental — a driving range, putting green and cart shed slots available for rental for members and visitors alike.
Members enjoy all the privileges and amenities at Tara Hills all year long.
“We never shut down to our members,” said Brett Pace, course superintendent. “They can play here every month of the year and we’ve been able to do that the last few years.”
He noted the course has league play several nights a week as well as outings and tournaments. They offer a children’s golf camp in the summer that has grown to be a popular option.
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“It can be hard to find family time,” Pace added, “but bringing the whole family out to golf here is great. This is a reasonable course to play and people come out here to have fun, so we don’t want to create a lot of frustration on the course.”
“The course itself has been very well-maintained,” Touro said.
“These greens are as good as you’ll find anywhere in Iowa,” added Pace, who has worked at Tara Hills for 28 years.
“We had one mower and one tractor when I got here and they mowed it all one length. I started mowing the fairways and the members really thought that was neat.”
Pace said the club has upgrade its fleet of equipment, built a second pond on the property to provide necessary irrigation and planted new trees.
Their pride in the course is evident and has gained some recognition. Tara Hills was named the 2018 Nine-Hole Course of the Year by the Iowa Golf Association.
“We think we have done some great things in a difficult time for the golf industry,” Touro said.
A large reinvestment — more than $100,000 — back into the business and paying off debt not only has helped keep the course profitable for the past four years, but also has increased engagement and the satisfaction of those who visit Tara Hills for events or to play golf.
“Like many other courses in Eastern Iowa, and across the state of Iowa, it has been hard to make a profit,” he said. “We have been able to maintain or increase our membership numbers year over year, which is a success story in a struggling industry.”
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Touro said they remodeled their bathrooms and kitchen, put in new windows, painted the clubhouse inside and out, have planted numerous trees and purchased a new fairway mower, rough mower, tee box mower and greens mower.
“Jaimie and Brett are the core of what makes the clubhouse and course a fun place to be, along with a great membership,” Touro said.
Tara Hills has a base of volunteers who chip in where needed — from course clean-up days to helping with events.
Clubhouse Manager Jaimie Kahle noted the facility also can host meetings, weddings, graduation parties and other events.
“We have six weddings booked this year already and many more events,” she said.
The building itself is a restored barn — which was moved to its current location from a spot across the street — that includes a large banquet hall, a full, newly remodeled catering kitchen and a bar and grill.
“The environment in the clubhouse make it a good place to hang out after you are done golfing,” Kahle said.
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At a glance
• Board president: Tim Touro
• Clubhouse manager: Jaimie Kahle
• Course superintendent: Brett Pace
• Company: Tara Hills Country Club
• Address: 1846 70th St., Van Horne
• Phone: (319) 228-8771
• Website: tarahillscountryclub.com