Founded in 1904, Cedar Rapids Country Club appointed the prolific architect Tom Bendelow (said to have designed around six hundred courses in a 35-year career) to lay out a 9-hole course for the membership.
This original layout didn’t last long because Donald Ross was called in during 1914 to fully utilise the club’s 170-acre property, extending the course to eighteen holes. Cedar Rapids would turn out to be the only course that Ross ever built in the state of Iowa.
Ross kept the Bendelow 1st and 9th holes in his new 18-hole design, with the old 9th becoming the 18th in the Ross routing. He redirected and lengthened the 2nd, at the same time creating a new doglegged 3rd, converting Bendelow’s green on hole 2 to the new 3rd green.
The old hole 5 was reversed, becoming the new 14th and Indian Creek was also brought more into play, affecting the approach shot to the new holes on 6, 11 and 17.
To coincide with the centennial year of the Ross-designed course, Ron Prichard and his associate Tyler Rae were engaged to tackle drainage and playability issues because, according to club board member Vaughn Halyard, “floods, foliage and Father Time drove [the] need to make soil-based infrastructure changes”.
Three greens (on #6, #15 and #16) were rebuilt above the flood plain of the creek, many trees throughout the property were removed (resulting in 35% additional fairway width gained), and around 22,000 square feet of putting surface area was reclaimed during a stringent greens expansion program.
There's still some work to finish, but this project has already delivered a healthier, drier environment, exceeding all expectations. Fittingly, the club was honored to be chosen as host venue for the 2019 U.S. Senior Women's Amateur, won by Lara Tennant.
There’s a growing dialogue across the country that the state of Iowa is becoming a “must play” golfing destination. It’s been well documented in the past two years that the Ross layout was suffocated beyond recognition, to the extent that the golf course had lost its identity. Let us all celebrate brilliant golfing visionaries and leaders like Mr. Vaughn Halyard who took the bull by the horns and helped lead the charge with what can be described as the most significant golfing renaissance of any club. To say that life has been redeployed into the veins of this golf course is an understatement, and the resurgence of its beauty is a testament to the skills of Ron Prichard to deliver outstanding results.
The thousands of trees that up until recent years clogged the course’s ability to breathe and exist, have been removed so that today’s layout is essentially a brand-new golf course that FINALLY gets to celebrate the fruits of Ross’ genius. Prichard’s ability to restore Ross golf courses have brought layouts like Cedar Rapids and The Minikahda Club to levels never seen before. The freedom that the holes at Cedar Rapids now rightfully enjoy facilitates a truly wonderful walk. The flow from green to tee is effortless and allows golfers to connect with the natural surroundings from start to finish.
The view from the elevated first tee is one of the best in the game as the bunkers define the path up to the raised first green that gives golfers exposure to the ‘back to front’ pitched greens. Highlights on the front nine including the mighty par 4 2nd hole that plays uphill off the tee and then dog-legs steeply to the left making it certainly worthy of Index 1. Watch out for the new bunker that guards the front of the raised 3rd green and enjoy the energizing downhill par 3 8th fraught with danger. The views across the property are just as enjoyable as the pride that the membership has for its special canvas.
No two holes are remotely close to looking or feeling the same which makes the entire experience so memorable all the way to the famous Swinging Bridge which also serves as the iconic club logo.
The back nine has a variety of highlights including the 10th and 14th. The downhill 10th beautifully moves downhill from left to right challenging golfers to find the best angle into the green with the best bunker on the course awaiting you down the left-hand side. The 14th hole is one of the most unique green-sites on the entire planet that you must see it to believe it – a massive raised mound with a flag on top. On almost every hole at Cedar Rapids, you get a tingle of excitement knowing that something so much bigger than golf is going on here.
The turf in Iowa is among the best in the country for golf and it’s an honour to strike the ball in the Hawkeye State. The land is a celebration of the strength of the game in Iowa, and thanks to courage and determination of champions like Vaughn Halyard, this course is worthy of its lofty ranks above the radar.