By Adam Couzens, Special to the Times
Golfers will encounter a range of new features and fresh faces on and off the courses at Central Minnesota clubs in 2013.
TERRITORY GOLF CLUB is returning global positioning system technology to its carts and has added a set of tee boxes to shorten the course for some players, according to director of golf and marketing Mike Stang.
The 18-hole, par-72 championship course is about six miles east of downtown St. Cloud on 55th Avenue Southeast and is heading into its 13th season of operation.
Stang says the new tees have been designed specifically to create a layout that is more fun for shorter-hitting players.
The initiative shares the philosophy of the PGA’s Tee It Forward program, which promotes golfers “playing from a set of tees best-suited to their abilities,” according to the PGA website.
Stang says the club now boasts five sets of tees ranging in total 18-hole distances from 7,000 to 4,700 yards.
GPS is back at Territory after an absence of two years following requests for it by local members.
Stang said the club had chosen not to replace a previous system after it had become outdated and troublesome. But he says the new system is state of the art.
Territory also will continue to employ Chad Seim as a roving instructor and equipment specialist.
WAPICADA GOLF CLUB in Sauk Rapids also has embraced the “Tee It Forward” concept, according to longtime club professional Jason Rieder.
Rieder, who noted he is entering his 29th year at Wapicada, says the club plans to build two additional forward tee boxes in 2013 after adding five last season.
“They loved it,” Rieder said about the response of club golfers to the forward tees last season. “Golf is a hard sport: Anything that can shorten the course up for them, players like.”
Yardages at the 18-hole Wapicada layout range from 6,689 from the championship tees to 5,313 at the forward marks.
Also this season, Wapicada plans to add 2,000 square feet of practice putting surface by combining its two present greens into one super surface.
“It will now be a total of around 14,000 square feet,” says new Wapicada golf course superintendent Scot Milstroh, who replaced the retiring Mike Kasner. “The new area of the practice putting green will be open around mid-June.”
Sales and marketing director Joel Vogel says EAGLE TRACE GOLF AND EVENT CENTER in Clearwater also added forward tees in recent years, and ground crews routinely spend time during the winter doing selective tree and branch removal to create “additional openings to play through” and allow “for better light and air movement for improved turf quality.”
“We continually strive to make improvements,” he said.
The presence of a new head golf professional, Chad Gustafson, will be the most significant change made at ST. CLOUD COUNTRY CLUB in 2013, according to club general manager Tom Olson.
Olson said the club had been impressed with Gustafson’s instructional programs at the golf facility at White Bear Yacht Club in Dellwood, about 80 miles southeast of St. Cloud.
And Gustafson said offering a “Golf 101” program covering all facets of the game, from technique to etiquette, would be a priority in his service of members at the country club.
BLACKBERRY RIDGE GOLF COURSE AND EVENT CENTER, off 35th Street in Sartell, also has a new golf professional: Brock Swanson.
Swanson has lived in Sartell since 2005 and returns to work as a teaching professional after spending several years as a sales rep with Callaway.
“I’ve been working at a golf course since sixth grade, so I’ve always done it,” he said. “I’m truly excited to get back to teaching golf, whether it is for a beginner or a scratch golfer.”
Starting in May, Blackberry Ridge will run a “Family Fun Night,” open to the public, starting at 4:30 p.m. on Sundays.
Families will be able to play up to nine holes for $20 and can rent a cart for $5 extra.
Shorter “family golf tees” will be set up to make play more enjoyable, Swanson said.
“We’re just trying to make it as attractive and easy as we can for people to say, ‘Yeah, I want to play the game of golf,’ ” he said.
The club also will host group golf lessons for the first time and offer video analysis as part of individual lessons. Blackberry Ridge CEO Linda Fenlason says Wednesdays will be dedicated as women’s day at the course.
PINE RIDGE GOLF COURSE plans to introduce a Thursday evening mixed league this season at the nine-hole, 3,100-yard Sartell layout off Pinecone Road, according to head pro Frank Guska.
Guska says the league will be open teams of two, comprising women or men, and will be scored on a handicap basis. He hopes to start the competition by the end of May.
Meanwhile, golfers will taste a difference this season at OAK HILL GOLF CLUB, off U.S. Highway 10, in Rice.
“We’ve remodeled upstairs (in the clubhouse) to include a kitchen,” general manager Roger Petersen said.
He said the new facility will serve fresh-cooked burgers and other “sports bar and grill” fare.