Golf Courses I have Known, Part 3

This is the third of a multi-part post on various golf courses that I have played over my 50 years of playing golf.

Follow the links to Google Maps to see what these courses look like now. Be sure to look at them in Satellite view.

Rock Island Golf Club

My Dad was transferred to Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois in 1965. The arsenal sits on Rock Island in the middle of the Mississippi River between Davenport, Iowa and Rock Island Illinois. At that point the Mississippi River flows from east to west.

The arsenal is a very old Army post which was established to protect the west in the early 19th century. It predates Davenport. It was the site of a Confederate army hospital during the Civil War and has both a Confederate cemetery and National military cemetery.

Despite containing a huge factory, most of the Island is a protected wildlife sanctuary. The island is populated by European black squirrels. A pair of squirrels was given to local famous-son David Palmer, who invented chiropractic medicine, on a visit to Europe. He didn’t know what do with them and let them loose on the island. They thrived in the protected environment.

Large stone mansions built as senior officers’ quarters during the 1840’s line the north side of the island facing the river and next to Rock Island Golf Course.

When we lived there from 1965 to 1968, Rock Island Golf Club was an exclusive private club with a long lease from the Army. Officers and high ranking Department of Army Civilians working at the Arsenal could play the course “as” members. I think that the private membership was probably under 100 families; there were less than 40 officers assigned to the arsenal, and probably less than 100 civilians qualified to play it. The clubhouse was as old as the course with limited dining hours and no bar. All the members had private lockers in which they stored their liquor.

The club was very traditional with strict dress rules and restrictions on women playing  on weekends. Women were not allowed on the course until 3 PM on Saturday and Noon on Sunday. I played with a regular foresome of women at the club and we had a standing tee time of Noon on Sunday.

The course was designed with an outward-bound 9 and an inward-bound 9. The tenth tee was as far away as you could get from the 1st tee. Going out several holes bordered on the river levee–the first hole was very narrow with the river on the left and the mansions on the right. The course was very flat with a minor elevation change. It was easy to walk. Most holes were straight but some holes on the inward 9 were dog-legs and heavily wooded.

We moved to Rock Island in the fall, just after a century-level flood on the Mississippi. Much of the outward nine which had been under water for a month was closed for repairs.

After I had finished all my course work at Grinnell College a semester early, I worked as a GS-7 at the arsenal to pay for grad school. Fortunately I had really good working hours, starting at 7:30 in the morning. (The army staggered working hours to get 5,000 civilians on and off the island with only two two-lane access roads.) Starting in the spring, I got off work at 3:30, walked the mile or so home and went out to play a 9 holes, starting in the middle of the 15th fairway next to our quarters.

I feel extremely lucky that my dad was transferred to the Arsenal. I played a lot of golf on a good golf course that was free. We had moved from blue-collar golf in suburban KC to something out of Caddy Shack.

Times have changed–the arsenal became a semi-private club in 2010 and is now open to public. If you’ve got $30 and appropriate attire you can play at what was one of the most exclusive clubs in the Quad Cities.

Broadmoor Golf Club

The Broadmoor Golf Club is at the Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs, Colorado and sits at the base of Cheyenne Mountain. The resort has three courses: the old East course that was originally designed by Donald Ross, the newer west course which was designed by Robert Trent Jones, and the newest Mountain course which was originally designed by Ed Seay and Arnold Palmer and updated by Jack Nicklaus. Several USGA sponsored tournaments have been held at the Broadmoor and the Women’s Open will be held there this year. At an elevation of about 6400′, the Broadmoor is the highest venue for any USGA tournament.

The Broadmoor used to host the Broadmoor Invitational which was a one of the most prestigious amateur womens’ tournament in the US. I played in that invitational for about 10 years starting when I was 16.

I didn’t get my invitation because I was a well-known amateur golfer. I got my invitation because my Dad told to a fellow Army aviator stationed at Fort Carson that I was a pretty good junior golfer and that guy happened to be a member of the golf club. He secured my first invitation. The first time I attended it, I took an overnight train from Kansas City to Colorado Springs and he met me at railroad station in a 1951 Ford coupe that all the pilots used as a taxi when they flew into Fort Carson. There was a gallon of motor oil in the trunk and he told me to check the oil level on a daily basis and fill as needed. He also found me a place to stay.

I qualified in the championship flight and made it to the quarter-finals where I was beaten 3&2 by the reigning US amateur champion, Barbara McIntire. From then on I continued to get a invitation every year until I skipped it 5 years in a row.

We usually played on the east course. Playing in the mountains is a bit tricky. The course is basically on a slant but it’s so visually subtle you barely notice it and are distracted by the surrounding terrain. The rule of thumb at the Broadmoor is that everything breaks away from the Will Rogers memorial 1/3 of the way up the mountain. The memorial used to feature a carillon which chimed on the quarter hour, half hour, and tolled on the hour. The carillon had been replaced by a big speaker and it’s sound was heard all over town.

The east course was mostly parkland style, with big sculpted greens and pine roughs. There is nothing more soothing than listening to the wind blowing through the pine on a cool summer morning. Most greens are elevated and it is difficult to run a ball onto a green. Fairways are very wide, roll is minimal because it rains every afternoon at 3 in the summer.

The Invitational was moved to the South course (now known as the Mountain Course) which was being prepped for an upcoming US Women’s Open. It was just up the hill from the east course and a shuttle would get us back and forth from the parking lot at the hotel. I hated the South course. It had been cut out of scrub and poison oak and hung on the side of the mountain. The roughs were staked as lateral hazards and you were strongly discouraged from entering it to find your ball. It was the least popular course at the Broadmoor for members and guests. I suspect that the redesign by Nicklaus and the renaming was done to entice more people to play it.

I never played the west course.

The Invitational is no more. When the resort was sold by the founding owners, new management decided that since most invitees didn’t stay at the hotel, there was no sense in spending the money to hold the tournament and close the course to guests and members for a week.

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About ViAnn

Progressive retired geek who loves to play golf
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One Response to Golf Courses I have Known, Part 3

  1. It’s good to know you played with the “big” girls! Nice story.

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