Improvements bring 40 per cent round increase at South Dakota course


Improvements bring 40 per cent round increase at South Dakota course
Sean Dudley
By Adam Lawrence

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is a strong market for golf. The city, whose population is around 150,000, has two private golf clubs, two city courses and a number of other golf facilities.

 So when architect Kevin Norby was hired to help renovate the Bakker Crossing course, creating some differentiation from other courses in the area was high on the priority list.

Norby, who has been working at Bakker Crossing for four years, said: “We started with a master plan geared towards improving revenue, increasing rounds and finding Bakker Crossing’s niche in the market. It had a nice routing and at 6,900 yards the course was a pretty good test of golf for the low handicap player.”

But, according to Norby, the site was very flat with only about 12 feet of elevation change. The contractor who built the course back in 2002 excavated numerous shallow ponds to facilitate drainage and to generate soil to construct greens, tees and other features. As a result the course had a lot of forced carries and 16 of the 18 holes had water hazards. That made the fairways look very narrow and far too intimidating for the average golfer.

Following the master plan, the third, seventh, tenth and twelfth holes were rebuilt to eliminate forced carries and to reposition the landing areas. The third hole was rebuilt with a split fairway and a centreline bunker. “We consolidated ponds, repositioned bunkers and changed the angles of approach to challenge the better golfer while at the same time making the course more fun and more playable for the average golfer,” said Norby.

In 2014 the bunkers were reconstructed using a timber facing. Norby said: “This is such a flat site that it’s hard to see the sand without flashing it up – and that creates maintenance concerns. It seems like the wind blows all the time at Bakker Crossing so the timber facing allowed us to keep the sand flat while at the same time allowing the golfer to see the hazards”. The other thing this did was to create a distinctive look that, combined with the other improvements, made a bold statement about the quality of golf at Bakker Crossing.

And the results have been impressive. Course owner Donn Hill said: “The master plan changes have been a huge success for us. Our course is unique and is much more fun to play. Rounds are up 40 per cent from 2011, and we are seeing a lot of new golfers.”