Owned and operated by Iowa State University, the Veenker Memorial Golf Course is a Perry Maxwell design dating back to the late 1930s, when it was constructed by the Works Progress Administration under the American New Deal agency which provided work for young unemployed men.
Author Christopher Clouser chronicles the course development in his book, The Midwest Associate: The Life and Work of Perry Duke Maxwell, from which this edited extract is taken:
“After selection of the North Woods as the location was finalized, the college hired Perry Maxwell to come in and design the course. After the final costs were calculated the college would end up paying approximately $30,000 according to the early estimates, due to the significant funding from the WPA.
The largest part of the early work involved cutting and removing trees, moving hills, filling holes, making ditches and piling dirt for fairways and greens. R.R. Rothacker and J. David Armstrong were two of the landscape architecture professors at the university and they were overseeing the largest portion of the construction.
The college nurseries contributed numerous trees and the grass that was seeded on the course, colonial bent. Opening of the course was delayed until the arrival of irrigation pipes and the moving of manpower to other projects. A final reseeding was needed due to drainage issues and the course opened in the summer of 1938.
In 1972, the City of Ames underwent a street expansion project that directly affected the Veenker course. 13th street was to go directly through the course and this would eliminate three holes from the original design. A second redesign occurred in 1982. With this work four more holes were eliminated or altered significantly. Today, just over half of Perry Maxwell’s course remains.”
This 1930s Perry Maxwell design in Ames, Iowa on the campus of my undergrad alma mater of Iowa State University is a great course in my mind and will always be considered my home course. I have enjoyed (almost) every round I've ever played there. Golf can be demoralizing sometimes when you lose too many balls. lol
This course certainly can lead to one of those days if you aren't on your game. The rough is usually pretty long, and in autumn it's made more difficult by the fallen leaves. That's the first place you can lose balls. The second is the woods/trees. The "top section" of course (holes 2-7 and 11-13) is especially tight and wooded with the added difficulty of holes 7 and 11 having very penalizing water hazards that tend to collect a ton of missed shots. Water also comes into play on holes 5, 15, 16 and the short par 3 17th if you really push your luck off to the right or choose to play from the not-maintained (nor in the yardage book) super black tees on the pen-ultimate hole.
The "lower section" of the course is more forgiving, though not much easier as length certainly becomes a factor on 1, 9, 10, 14, 16 and 18. The 15th presents a tough challenge in its own right where a layup off the tee needs to be calculated correctly or your ball is too long and in the river, or too short for a more lofted club on your approach.
This course really makes you think your way around. It's not target golf by any stretch, but you'll certainly want to think about your second shot and third shots before you tee it up. Bring the straightest driver you've got, as errant tee-shots will have you playing a provisional frequently. If you think it's iffy, it's probably gone. There's nowhere to hide on this course. Except for maybe the greens.
The greens are big and pretty forgiving. The lone exception being the 2nd hole. A smallish target on the top of a steep hill with a lot of back to front break.
I'm giving this course a 4 rather than a 3.5 because it's got a special place in my heart which I think is worth half a point, and if you're in the area you should certainly check it out. There are other courses in the area, but this is among the best and there's no reason to skip it in favor of Honey Creek in Boone, or Tournament Club of Iowa in Polk City. Any of these are a good choice, but you really ought to stick around for a couple of days and play all three!