The major renovation is moving all 18 holes of the La Crosse, Wis., golf course to the east side of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe train tracks that cut between the clubhouse and course. The project, which is estimated to cost $1 million, is a couple months from completion.
The golf season has begun, and a major renovation at Forest Hills Golf Course in La Crosse, Wis., is a couple months from completion, the La Crosse Tribune reported.
The club began a redesign of its 115-year-old course last summer with the idea of locating all 18 holes on the east side of the new Burlington Northern Santa Fe train tracks that cut between the clubhouse and the course. The reconfiguration forced the closure of four holes on the back nine—Nos. 12, 13, 14 and 15. Those holes were closed Aug. 10, 2015, and work began shortly thereafter, the Tribune reported.
Construction of the new course—which flips the first and 10th holes, and includes new No. 13, No. 14 and No. 15 holes that combined of the old course’s No. 14 and No. 15 holes—is completed, but General Manager Keith Stoll said he’s waiting for the seeded grass on the new holes to be playable before opening them, the Tribune reported.
The city-owned golf course is currently open for play on the front nine and the five remaining holes of the back nine, so players can choose between playing nine, 14 or 18 holes. The new 18-hole course is on track to be ready in July, but Stoll said he hopes to have some type of 18-hole option available by June, the Tribune reported.
While trying to create a better course, Stoll said he and his staff kept their eyes on the history of the location. “We wanted to keep in the tradition of the 115-year-old golf course we’re starting with,” Stoll said. “The green sizes of the new holes are very similar and they’ll play like our (existing) holes.”
Construction of the new holes began last August. Because the hillside land was used for the new holes, Forest Hills was considered a neutral site, which saved a significant amount on the renovation costs, Stoll said. All told, the project will cost about $1 million, according to Jay Odegaard, superintendent of recreation and park facilities for the La Crosse Parks, Recreation & Forestry Dept. Original estimates last summer put the project at $1.1 million, the Tribune reported.
The new No. 13 and 14 holes cut farther into Hixon Forest than the original course, so a part of the new construction cost involved clearing of trees. The new No. 13 hole will be a par 4 of about 390 yards from the back tees. The tee box is slightly elevated, and the fairway has a bit of a dogleg left to the hole. The green is 30 feet uphill from the fairway, and the hole will be the only one on the course without a greenside sand bunker, the Tribune reported.
Due to its spot in a lower part of the course, the old 13th green had drainage issues and would take longer to get ready for play than other holes. The new No. 13 will be able to avoid these issues, Stoll said.
Coming back down the valley, the par-4 14th hole will be 345 yards from the back tees and is a straightforward hole with a slightly elevated tee box and a sand bunker that rides the right side of the green. But Stoll warned that it might not be as easy as it sounds to post a good score on No. 14, the Tribune reported.
“It’s a little bit narrow. Players are going to have to be accurate there off the tee,” Stoll said.
The longest hole on the course—and one of the longest in the area—will be the new No. 15, which is a par 5 checking in at 570 yards from the back tees. It features a wide fairway and a slight right curve from fairway to green. A small pond sits between the largest part of the fairway and the green, the Tribune reported.
“That hole isn’t too difficult aside from the distance,” Stoll said. “But yeah, that’s a long hole.”
Hole distance was a consideration for Stoll in the new design, and all told about 200 yards was added to the course with the new holes. Building longer holes was spurred on by the evolution of the sport. “Beauty is that the game today with the technology, people are tending to hit it farther than before,” Stoll said. “So we added 200 yards, and maybe (the course) plays a little more difficult, but that’s good because the holes are a little more challenging than what they replaced.”
For now, players still finish the 18th hole on the west side of the train tracks, but that area will be converted to a short-game training area once the new holes are ready, the Tribune reported.
“From a safety standpoint it’s great to get people away from the tracks altogether,” Stoll said. “We have trains stopping and that would stop play, so that won’t happen anymore.
“The golf course only got better with these changes,” Stoll said.