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Government

Jones Golf Course back to full strength - for now

Back nine holes, affected by flooding, scheduled to open Monday

A maintenance worker mows the grass Friday on the back nine holes at the Jones Golf Course in southwest Cedar Rapids. While the front nine holes of the municipal course already been open this year, the back nine will open to the public Monday. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
A maintenance worker mows the grass Friday on the back nine holes at the Jones Golf Course in southwest Cedar Rapids. While the front nine holes of the municipal course already been open this year, the back nine will open to the public Monday. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — For the first time in nearly a year, Jones Golf Course will be back up to full strength — that is 18 holes — when the back nine opens Monday.

The front nine holes have been open since May 24, which was by far the latest opening date this season of the city’s four municipal courses, as well as other private courses. Crews had to reseed the grounds after flooding in fall 2018.

Officials had hoped to open the back nine, which suffers more extensive damage when water rises, in early June. But as is all too common for the course, the weather again played the foil.

“We did some repairs after the last flood on the front nine, and we were going to get in this spring for the damage from last fall’s flooding and get it repaired — and it flooded again,” said Scott Hock, Cedar Rapids parks and recreation director.

Tee times at Jones, 901 Fruitland Blvd SW, may be reserved at PlayCedarRapidsGolf.com. There is a ‘Fun in the Sun’ special from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday to Thursday, and foot golf is offered from 3 p.m. to dusk on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

The city invested about $20,000 to get Jones reopened, primarily on the back nine holes, although some money was directed to three problematic holes on the front nine, Hock said.

The back nine have been closed since Sept. 4, 2018.

For now, Cedar Rapids officials are hoping weather cooperates so they can make up for lost rounds. Fewer people come out to golf Jones when it is only nine holes instead of 18.

Jones saw 3,066 rounds this spring when nine holes were open, compared with 5,518 rounds the same time last spring when 18 holes were open, Hock said.

Jones annually has struggled to stay open because it is low lying and situated close to Prairie Creek. Since 2008, only one year hasn’t seen some sort of flooding at Jones, said Dave Roe, golf services interim manager.

Jones Park Golf Course opened for play in 1959 as a nine-hole course, then as an 18-hole course in May 2001.

The city’s golf department is considered an enterprise fund and is expected to cover its costs. However, the division routinely loses money, leaving taxpayers to annually cover six-figure losses. Nationally, interest is waning as golf as a sport, and locally the flooding has also taken a bite out of revenue.

In May, the City Council approved a fiscal 2019 budget amendment showing golf operations were on pace to be $236,000 in the red.

City staff had recommended closing Jones — which is seen as the most scenic course but the biggest culprit of the deficit — and converting it into a park in 2017. But the council rebuffed the plan under pressure from residents.

Elected officials also expressed an interest in 2017 in studying privatizing operations, but Jones remains publicly run.

Some residents, such as Jim Ickes, believe more factors need to be considered. First, as an enterprise fund, golf is assigned administrative costs from the city that drive up the operating costs, and secondly, development upstream in the Prairie Creek watershed could be contributing to the more frequent flooding, he said.

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“Perhaps, the city should revisit the issue of putting a levee in place on the golf course side on the back nine,” Ickes wrote in an email this spring. “I don’t think it is fair that the golf course floods due to this inflow of water from upstream on Prairie Creek and everyone just throws their hands up and nothing is done. Let’s look at some proactive approach that would minimize the amount of water being allowed to encroach on the golf course.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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