Marsh renovation at Minnehaha


Sean Dudley

The historic Minnehaha Country Club in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, will reopen this spring after a major makeover made necessary by flood prevention work carried out by city authorities.

Due to the potential for flooding, the city raised and widened an existing levee, appropriating four acres of land on the golf course for the civil engineering project. The elevation of the diversion channel along the river directly affected three golf holes. The city’s earthworks had a ripple effect on the entire layout, prompting the club to bring in Graham Marsh Golf Design to revamp the course. Australia-based Marsh has a presence in Sioux Falls as a result of its work on the Sutton Bay course a few years ago.

Founded in 1905, Minnehaha’s current course was designed by William Langford and Theodore Moreau in 1922. Mark Amundson, director of operations and marketing for Graham Marsh Golf Design in the US, explained that the impact of the dike’s expansion mandated that holes directly along the levee be changed. “Those holes – the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth – needed to be massaged and redone in order to serve as good golf holes,” he said. He added the club’s decision to enhance the overall quality of the golf course resulted in major changes to more than half the holes to create a uniform look.

“It’s essentially a renovation,” Amundson said. “We took one hole out of play (the fourth) and built one new hole, the 158-yard eighth, which gave the club something it didn’t have, a par three that runs east. We added 50 yards and created a subtle dogleg at the previously straightaway par five fifth. We also shortened the fifteenth to create a risk-reward, drivable par four. Except for the eighth, all the holes remain in the same corridors as before. We tried to create consistency in the landforms and bunkering styles. We added ten bunkers to defend driving zones, renovated an additional 24 bunkers, and built 16 new tee decks.” The revised greens, he added, “reflect the shape and style of what was already there.”  

Superintendent David Swift said course construction began in September 2010. “We worked for nine weeks and will have some minor follow-up work to do this spring,” he said, noting that most of the fairways were turfed rather than seeded., Minnesota-based contractor Duininck Golf handled the construction, and, Swift says, did an excellent job. “They’re very experienced,” he added. “The crew brought their experience to bear on every facet of the renovation,” notably at the fourteenth hole, which was prone to flooding and where the construction team raised the level of the fairway four feet to mitigate the problem.