Oxbow Country Club, near Fargo, North Dakota, has reopened this month following a comprehensive rebuild overseen by Robert Trent Jones II Golf Course Architects (RTJ II).
The course was originally designed by Jones and built in 1975 near the Red River — it hugs the river’s U-shaped ‘oxbow’ bends from which it took its name.
A five-year project was instigated to address flooding issues; the Red River would typically flood whenever the winter snow melted, putting the course and 42 nearby homes at risk.
The cities of Fargo and Moorhead formed a diversion authority that proposed flood protection for the entire region, including Oxbow. The first phase of the project involved building a levee around the Oxbow community. However, the levee bisected the existing course, necessitating the relocation of the clubhouse and more than half the golf holes.
Land for new holes came from a farm field south of the existing layout. “It was as flat as a pancake,” said Bruce Charlton, president and chief design officer at RTJ II. “But we were able to fit in all the new homes and the relocated homes. It sounds a little like a jigsaw puzzle, but it was fun to figure out, tying existing holes with the new ones and giving them the same characteristics.”
Eight of the new holes now play against the levee, which rises 14-20 feet above the landscape. With the relocation, the course was losing its original river oxbow, so the RTJ II team created a new oxbow of connected lakes, using the excavated material to create further contour and definition.
The wind – “the invisible hazard,” in Jones’s words – comes into play on many golf holes. The RTJ II team made sure the fairways were wide enough to play in all winds.
“Having such accomplished golf course architects as Robert Trent Jones Jr and Bruce Charlton work on a project of this magnitude and complexity was instrumental to Oxbow, ensuring that the club’s tradition of having the finest golf course in the region was maintained and, in this case, enhanced,” said Sedi Halvorson, general manager at Oxbow Country Club. “Many course architects would consider having to build a golf course within a levee structure a hindrance. Not only did the RTJ II team view it as a positive, they used it in such a creative way to bring wonderful elevations to the course, creating beautiful tee shots and overall course contours and views not commonly found in the plains. It is truly a work of art.”
“We’re really proud, in today’s age of natural disasters, that the people there took a proactive approach,” said Charlton. “Knowing they get flooding, they did what they could to make their lives better. The course is a key component of the club and the city.
“The city jumped on the bandwagon early to making the levee a big part of what they’re going to have into the twenty-first century, and we applaud them for their foresight.”
There are five different tees with the longest ones playing over 7,400 yards. Oxbow serves as the home course to the North Dakota State Champion Kindred High School boys’ and girls’ golf teams.