Situated between Saylorville Lake and Big Creek State Park, the course at the Tournament Club of Iowa is an Arnold Palmer layout that brings water into play at more than half the holes on the card.
Erik Larsen, Vice President of the Palmer Course Design Company was the architect in charge of the project for Tradition Golf and Knapp Properties, with Enebak Construction building the course, moving an estimated half a million cubic yards of earth in the process.
The property extends to around 500 acres which are spread across three inter-connected valleys below the Big Creek Dam, with the flowing waters of Big Creek and a handful of significant man-made lakes also incorporated into the design.
The site topography is characterised by high bluffs and ravines, along with heavily wooded areas containing mature oaks, maples and lindens. Tees, fairways and greens are all turfed with bent grass and rough areas comprise multiple varieties of bluegrass and fescue.
“The Tournament Club of Iowa is an exciting course with many unique features. A good mix of uphill and downhill shots and carries over deep ravines will produce a challenging and fun round of golf for every player,” said Larsen.
I was in Des Moines with some time to kill, and so I texted my buddy from the area: "I have time for one round. Where do I play here?" He answered within seconds: "TCI". To say I was pleasantly surprised with Tournament Club of Iowa, an Arnold Palmer design with many elevation changes, is an understatement. I'm originally from the Twin Cities in Minnesota, and I would put this course up any against other public in that metro area. Talking about the course, there are a few really good stretches: eight through 10 was awesome, culminating in a short dogleg right protected by trees on the left and water on the right.17 and 18 are an excellent finishing two holes with a pond between them. The greens, though well conditioned, and layout can be a little unpredictable if you've never played TCI. There's a miniature par four that, if you step on the tee without looking at the scorecard, might cause you to say: "Wow, this is a long par three!" There's another hole that's downhill that might make you cry out: "Where do I aim?" Tournament Club of Iowa is worth the risk and a fun Palmer track. It's most certainly a top 10 course in the Hawkeye State and cannot imagine there is a better public option in Des Moines.
Yes, there is water in Iowa. Man-made but there all the same and it adds a dramatic character change to a course that has multiple forced carries, some elevation changes, mature trees and a great staff.
Had the opportunity to enjoy this venue during a rare morning that was calm and the maintenance crews had just finished. Everything is in top notch condition for a public course and the course itself is as much of a challenge as you can find in Iowa.