This past week, I had the opportunity to visit with our friends at the Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort in Larchwood, Iowa. The Falls’ Director of Golf Jason Wagamon spent a few minutes visiting with me during a gorgeous fall October morning. From the outset, all signs boded well for the resort’s second season in golf operations.
As I walked up to the entrance of fthe golf shop, I took the sidewalk past the course’s 12th green and 10th tee box. Even for being some 7 days past the South Dakota pheasant opener (a.k.a, late golf season), the grass was still lush and finely manicured. It spoke to me, in only a few glimpses, the condition this facility was in throughout the season.
After spending a few minutes talking with Wagamon, the sound of football echoing in the background, he deferred all credit to the course superintendent, Chris Hickman.
“[Chris] had the course in great shape all season,” said Wagamon. “We were able to play the course however we wanted to. Firm and fast or a little more lush, we were able to do what we wanted this year.”
Hickman had been instrumental in the build of the resort course. After working alongside Rees Jones and the design team, he was entrusted with the responsibility of grooming the finished product. He has 155-acres of rolling Iowa farmland to patrol. And he’s done a wonderful job.
Hickman relies on his staff’s diligent hard work during the summer months, along with a state-of-the-art modernized three-row irrigation system to maintain the lush, green grasses that welcome so many. For those who don’t understand today’s standard of course maintenance (just like me), I’ll put it in layman’s terms. Hickman is able to hit practically every inch on the property with water, using a centralized controlling system. Areas that need water, get it. Areas that don’t need it, don’t.
And from my view of the golf course late-in-season, the philosophy and system worked.
In 2016, The Falls saw almost 13,000 total rounds. For a course in its second year in a highly competitive industry, those are numbers the staff was wholly pleased with.
Guests from throughout the Midwest region traveled to enjoy the resort’s 18 championship golf holes, luxurious spa treatments, and casino gaming.
“We get people up from Omaha, Sioux City, and from the Twin Cities,” stated Wagamon. “We still have a strong pull from Sioux Falls, but people are coming from all over to enjoy the resort.”
One Sioux Falls college hosted the “Battle at the Falls” Tjust before the fall started. The Augustana Vikings kicked off their fall season hosting a slew of collegiate athletes. A recap of the event can be found here.
Last summer the resort hosted the Culver’s Midwest Cup, one of the premier amateur conglomerations of golf talent in the Midwest. It was one of the highlight events. But this year’s highlight had nothing to do with competitive golf.
The Falls’ joined their partners in Iowa and launched the GIVE Foundation.
As you can see from the image above, GIVE stands for Golf for Injured Veterans Everywhere. It’s a program started at The Falls’ sister course in Iowa called Riverside. Through the program, they attempt to help war veterans rehabilitate through golf. With donated golf clubs and help from the VA Medical Center, military veterans are either introduced, or re-introduced, to a new pastime. The response is exceptional.
This summer at The Falls, Wagamon and his team initiated 4 sessions of golfers, each session representing 5 weeks of lessons. Each lesson was 2 hours a piece. The participation was fantastic.
All of the participants in the program are able to play golf for free (along with a guest) at both The Falls, and the other 19 facilities under the management umbrella. Most of the courses exist throughout Iowa.
The golfing abilities varied for the veterans involved. Some had a history with the game, while some had never held a club. Many veterans picked up a new hobby that they will enjoy the rest of their days. Through intentional instruction and quality time, they’re able to acquire a skill. Year One at The Falls was a success for the GIVE Foundation.
The story of Jim Dickerson is one to help understand the program.
If you want to help get involved in the program, contact Jason Wagamon. A great way is through donations of used golf clubs.
At USGolfTV, we’d like to congratulate the team at the Grand Falls Casino & Resort on a great season in 2016. Their team plans to keep The Falls open through the end of October. They will then access the weather patterns heading into November before covering the greens for the winter.
And when the snow falls—and the greens are covered—they will look back on the 2016 golf season with pride, looking forward to the exciting things to come in 2017. And there are exciting things to come.