Golfers enjoy recreation and socialization
By Candi Helseth
When Skip Espeseth says it takes an hour for a golf ball in the air to reach the green on his favorite course, it might be easy to assume Espeseth exaggerates - unless you are familiar with Gateway Cities Golf course east of Portal, ND. Gateway's signature hole, #9, has its tee box in Canada and the green in the United States.
"Although the hole is only 129 yards long, it takes your ball one hour to reach the green because North Dakota is on daylight savings time and Saskatchewan is not," explained Espeseth, Gateway's Club President. "Our course is even listed in Ripley's Believe It or Not for our famous #9 hole."
Gateway is among six 9-hole golf courses in Burke Divide Electric Cooperative territory. Others are located near Bowbells, Columbus, Crosby, Kenmare and Powers Lake. Course spokesmen say their courses also make good day trips for area golfers.
Bowbells has a well-designed course with lots of trees, according to President Hal Ross. On four holes, golfers shoot over Stoney Creek. On #9, golfers finish their game with a challenging 500-yard Par 5 hole.
While most 9-hole courses traditionally have two Par 3 holes, Columbus has five Par 3 holes with longer yardages that present more challenge, said President Mitch Strom. Artificial greens add another element that golfers don't commonly encounter.
Long Creek runs through Crosby's course, adding water features to six holes. Golfers cross the creek twice on two holes. On #7, which Board Member Grant Haugland calls the best looking hole from the tee box, trees border the left and water runs along the right.
A member of the North Dakota Golf Association, Kenmare Country Club course sits on the edge of the Des Lac’s National Wildlife Refuge. President Shane Harris says their scenery is second to none in the state. Course challenges include three Par 3 holes in a row - two over 200 yards long and one that requires a blind shot.
"We plan to have a new addition this year," Harris noted. "We recently purchased 8-inch wide cups. Standard cups are 4 inches wide. We think that these 8-inch holes will offer a fun, new dimension to golf that will allow people to shoot lower scores and play faster. We are going to incorporate them into some of our tournaments and our men’s and ladies nights events too."
Overlooking the lake, Powers Lake's course has rolling hills with a valley running through its center. President Brad Streifel said a golfer's challenge is hitting the ball high and hard enough to clear the valley on three of the holes. This is the only course that relies on the honor system for payment.
"The course really brings people from the community together," Streifel commented. "We have a large group of senior citizens that participate in men's and women's nights. They often gather in the clubhouse to eat or play cards too."
All the courses offer various combinations of league nights, social events and tournaments. This year, Gateway marks its 27th year sponsoring the Labor Day weekend Border Classic Charity Golf Tournament, which draws golfers from three states and three Canadian provinces. The Lignite Oilmen's Tournament, held on the Columbus course, also marks its 27th year. Kenmare sponsors three annual tournaments: Oilmen’s in June, Farmers' Appreciation in July and Goosefest in August.
Harris calls Kenmare's club "an important asset to the community that adds to the quality of life of our citizens."
"Small towns are more limited on what we can offer but having our course available is really a benefit," Haugland commented. "It's good for the entire community. Golf is something almost anyone of any age can do."
Volunteerism is essential. Gateway's singular grass green in the middle of the course is thanks to volunteers, Espeseth said. "We had talked for 30 years about getting watered fairways and grass greens but it hadn't happened. So two of the guys put in a couple hundred hours and built this one real grass green on #5. They keep it maintained too."
Bowbells area volunteers have planted trees regularly for many years, improving course design and adding windbreaks. When Powers Lake area volunteers decided to reopen their course, they rebuilt three holes a year for three years.
Community business support is also essential, Haugland said. "Burke Divide Electric Cooperative (BDEC) has been a strong partner. They have helped us with electrical work and been there right away when we needed them. They also have assisted with equipment purchases and been sponsors for our events. "
When Columbus converted to artificial greens in the 1990s, Strom said BDEC donated funding and loaned them equipment. BDEC also sponsors and donates prizes for Columbus's annual kids' golf tournament. Harris noted that BDEC assisted with rewiring the Kenmare Country Club.
These golf courses demonstrate what most small town residents will tell you about small towns in general. People stick together. Businesses support one another. Volunteers are the glue that holds everything together.
Golf options in Burke-Divide Electric's service area
Bowbells Country Club Golf Course:
Columbus Golf Course:
Crosby Country Club:
Gateway Cities Golf Club, Portal, ND, and North Portal, Saskatchewan:
Kenmare Country Club:
Lake View Public Golf Course at Powers Lake: