Golf Course Bunker 1

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Article and Photo courtesy of Marc Morehouse -The Cedar Rapids Gazette

GRANGER – For me, Jester Park Golf Course was always the voice at the other end of the phone.

For years, Jester has played host to high school state golf championships. In my earlier sports writing life, I covered prep golf. Every year, a team from my coverage area would do something interesting at Jester and I would end up calling the course, trying to track down the sophomore from somewhere who put a medal around the neck.

I decided to get face to face with Jester this year. I’m glad I did.

Jester is a muni that’s run by the Polk County Conservation Board. The course is a roomy and parkland style, measuring a hefty 6,856 from the back tees. If the course weren’t 18 holes of doglegs, trees and surprisingly tricky greens, it’d be a county park. That defines parkland golf.

The piece of ground isn’t spectacular, but designer Dick Phelps made the most of the trees and elevations when he did the routing.

Phelps, an Iowa State grad (’61), has designed eight courses in Iowa, from Fox Run Golf Club in Council Bluffs to Waverly Golf Course (a nine-hole addition in 1965).

The Polk County Conservation Board helped, too, at Jester Park, planting 418 trees around the course.

On most holes, it’s trees and not forest. You hit a tree, you can find your ball. You land in the forest, you let the squirrels have it.

The land doesn’t have the topographical fireworks Bos Landen in Pella (another Phelps’ design) has. Jester makes up for it in doglegs, turns, curves, low rolls, the classic golf course fare you’d expect in a 38-year-old course.

It doesn’t have the shaping, mounding or bunkering you’ll see at Bos Landen or Hunters Ridge or, really, any course built in the ’90s.

Jester does its tricks old school, like the boomerang that is No.-17, a 423-yard par-4 that is all dogleg and trees.

It also has the big, mean water you’d expect from older courses. No.-2 is a beauty, a monstrous 625-yard par-5 with a big pond just waiting for you to SCUBA on the right. Those who hit it straight have no worries about carry. Those who fade/slice need to know it’s 230 yards to carry the water on the right.

Very few holes can be called “wide open.” Mother Nature chipped in with a few trees, too. Trees make you think twice when lining up at the tee box on No.-3, a 411-yard par-4. This is almost an “L” shaped dogleg left, with a sizable bunker where you might land if you try to cut the hole in half.

I got sloppy with the fade and put my drive in the elbow of the “L.” From there, it was too long a poke with a 7-iron for me.

The par 4s stood out. They’re sneaky long. Seven of the 10 par-4s are 391 yards or longer, topping out at 423 on No.-17.

The flagsticks can be tucked close to bunkers or on slopes. Jester’s greens had tons of undulation. It felt like they might have been redone, sort of an update for an old-school course without all the bunkering and mounding.

You could easily see a tricky pin placement set to test the mettle of a prep with state title hopes. But every green can be accessed on at least one side on the ground, giving the high handicappers (ahem, me) some relief.

I definitely have a new respect for the kids who walk away from Jester with medals around their necks.

The lowdown on Jester Park

Toughest hole– I loved the look of No.-17, a 423-yard dogleg left. But I hated the result. From the tee box, the fairway slopes down and then up to an elevated landing area. You have two options: try to cut the dogleg, doable, or just hit the landing area. I went for the landing area and sliced it into the trees on the right. This is not where you want to be. The trees are a headache, but so is the high 200 yards I had for a blind, downhill approach. I schlubbed one from the rough about 100 yards short and into more rough. My putting saved a double-bogey 6. Saved a double-bogey, yeah, put that on a resume. No.-11 deserves consideration. Ponds to the front right and far left force a 250-yard carry or a 175-yard 6-iron to the landing area. I went with the 6. From there, I needed to clear the second pond and land it on the fairway. The green sits a decent uphill 150 or 160 yarder. I was short with a 9-iron and bogeyed. Very fun hole.

Easiest hole– There’s not a lot to No.-4, a 157-yard par-3. There’s sand on the right and left of the green, but the front opens a mile wide, so if you’re not too wild or strong, you’re good here. I slashed an 8-iron and landed about 10 yards short. I hit a bump-and-run 8-iron to 2 feet and made par.

Overall impression– A maturing course that will always have a decent degree of difficulty because of the length and design. In some spots, it’s a target course, forcing you to make good choices and hit landing areas. In others, the fairway is open, but the approach will include a tree or two. Jester is a good blend of old and new design. There’s also a nine-hole par-3 course and a separate practice facility that’s way more than just a driving range with bunkers and chipping and putting greens. The Polk County Conservation Board runs a beautiful course.


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