Government

Jones Golf Course in Cedar Rapids still in the rough

Wet spring likely delays opening until Memorial Day

Golf maintenance worker Dwayne Hensch clears debris Tuesday at Jones Golf Course in southwest Cedar Rapids. While other Cedar Rapids municipal courses have opened, a wet spring still is being felt at Jones, where some areas remain under water. The city-owned course is not likely to reopen its front nine holes for the season until about Memorial Day. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Golf maintenance worker Dwayne Hensch clears debris Tuesday at Jones Golf Course in southwest Cedar Rapids. While other Cedar Rapids municipal courses have opened, a wet spring still is being felt at Jones, where some areas remain under water. The city-owned course is not likely to reopen its front nine holes for the season until about Memorial Day. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Golfers will likely need to wait several weeks to tee off at the municipal Jones Golf Course.

Cedar Rapids’ three other city-owned courses — Gardner, Twin Pines and Ellis — already have opened for the year, as have many of the privately-owned courses in the area including Airport National Public Golf and the St. Andrews Golf Club.

But with effects of the wet spring still prevalent at Jones, city officials hope the front nine holes there can be reopened about May 27 — Memorial Day — and the full 18 holes in early June.

“We are putting back control boxes, cleaning up cart paths and picking up sticks and debris, but we still have some standing water in low areas — swales where water still is sitting,” said Dave Roe, Cedar Rapids golf services interim manager.

The ground temperature needs to rise so crews can plant rye seeds around holes No. 1 and 7. Then it takes seven to 10 days for the seed to germinate, Roe said. The back nine also needs reseeding — rye and Blue Grass — but the timeline is behind that of the front nine, he said.

Reseeding was done after flooding there last fall in hopes of getting a jump start on preparing the course for spring. But the water rose again in March. necessitating the additional work. Reseeding is not typically needed as part of spring preparations at the other city courses, Roe said.

The late start to the 2019 season at Jones is the latest installment in its ongoing battle with Mother Nature. With the southwest Cedar Rapids course situated by Prairie Creek, closures of the back nine or the entire course due to flooding are regular occurrences.

While repair costs add up, the bigger financial hit is from the revenue lost from being closed, officials have said.

Reseeding and fertilizer costs for the two front nine holes and all back nine holes at Jones total $16,364 for last fall and this spring. But it’s difficult to estimate revenue loss given other factors, including the daily weather and the possibility that golfers deterred from Jones instead go to a different municipal course, according to Roe and Scott Hock, Cedar Rapids parks and recreation director.

The city golf department is an enterprise fund, which means the operation is supposed to cover all its costs. But six-figure annual losses have become routine, with Jones having been the chief culprit. The taxpayer-backed general fund covers the losses.

The city staff had been moving forward with a plan to close Jones and turn it into a park in 2017, but the City Council blocked the transition after getting pushback.

Hock said that despite the recurrence of flooding this spring, the thinking on Jones has not changed and the city still plans to move forward with the four courses.

He and Roe noted the courses each serve a different market. Twin Pines is flatter than the others and is a favorite of those who enjoy walking, seniors and newcomers to the sport. Ellis is longer and the most challenging. Gardner has easier access for those coming in from outside of Cedar Rapids. Jones is the shortest course and the most scenic.

The main thing residents can do to help Jones, Roe said, is to use it. “When this does reopen, come back and support it,” he said.

Bill Unger is a member of the Parks and Waterway Commission, which advises the city Parks and Recreation Department, and is an avid golfer. He said that while he likes the Jones course, he doesn’t understand the rationale to keep it open given repeated flooding and the declining interest nationally in golfing.

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“I like Jones, don’t get me wrong; it has a great layout,” Unger said. “But it is going to keep flooding. As a taxpayer and a golfer, don’t see investing resources to keep it open.”

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

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