Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Golf in Omaha

This past weekend, I played in a 2-man scramble  at Pacific Springs Golf Course with one of my co-workers.  While the weather was chilly and overcast, it wasn't too terrible concidering we were golfing in Nebraska in the middle of November.

It was a shot-gun start tourney, with our first hole being a short par-4, hole number 7.  With the first swing of the day (the course doesn't have a driving range), I belted a good drive down the middle of the fairway.  Come to find out, I drove the green.  We had a nice, but long, eagle putt which both of us missed.  We kicked in the birdie putt and started out the day one under par.

We parred the next hole, a par three, and then birdied hole number 9, a par 5, when I stuck our approach shot to 15 feet and made the putt.  We were 2 under par after three holes.

We proceed to string together 11 pars and 2 bogies in the next 14 holes, putting us even par through 16 holes.  At the long par 3 5th hole, I struck a nice 7 iron to within 20 feet of the pin.  My playing partner sank the putt, putting us back under par.

Our finishing hole was a par-5.  I hit a nice drive just off the fairway.  We both duffed our 2nd shot, and we were 100 yards out on our approach.  I scooped my lob wedge short of the green and my partner pushed his approach left of the green.  After our fourth shot, we settled over a 20 foot par putt, which I sank to keep us under par.

Now this is where the golf gods showed us their evil, ironic sense of humor.  The winning group in the first flight shot 6 under par, with second and third place tying with scores of 5 under par.  The second flight winners tied for first, second, and third place with scores of even par (with the victor being decided by a scorecard playoff).  Had my partner missed the birdie putt, or had I missed the par save on the last two holes, we would have at worst been third place in the second flight.  Instead, our heroic putts on the last two holes made us good enough to be in the first flight, but in dead last place.  If we would have played a stroke worse, we would have won money.  Instead, we got to go home with the knowledge that we played the best we could have that day. 


But, I have to admit that this has been one of the greatest years in my golf life.  I played in three tournaments, two of which were scrambles, and the other was an individual stroke play format.  I worked my handicap down to a 12.8, which is the lowest its been for years.  I golfed at least once every week from April through November, and most of the rounds I played were free.  All in all, I couldn't be a happier golfer, and I can't wait to dust off the clubs next spring.

And here is a breakdown of the golf scene in and around Omaha (including the price I paid, to the best of my memory) which I started a few weeks ago, but never got around to finishing:

Quarry Oaks, Ashland, NE, Public ($55, twilight rate)
Ranked number 55 on the list of top 100 public courses in the U.S. (and number 7 on the most reasonably priced public courses) according to Golf Digest, this course does not disappoint.  While the back-nine was a bit blurry (thanks to my cousin Miah and a case of brewskies), this course is in the top 5 courses I've played.  This tree-lined course wanders along the Platte River.  It contains many elevation changes and every fairway and green is unique and challenging.

Champions Run, Omaha, NE, Private (free)
The home to the only professional golf tournament in Nebraska, the Cox Classic, this course is a classic risk/reward course.  There are a handful of reachable par 4's, and all of the par 5's are reachable in two, so long as you can find the fairway from the tee box.  The greens and fairways are impeccably cared for and it was almost a pleasure to play from the sandtraps.
What made this course even more amazing was the fact that I played it every Monday this spring and summer, FOR FREE!!!  One of my co-worker's cousins is on the grounds crew and every Monday, the grounds crew is allowed to play the course.  It was an amazing opportunity that I was more than happy to take advantage. 

Pacific Springs, Omaha, Public, ($35)
Excellent layout in central western Omaha.  When I first started my current job, one of my days off was Mondays, and I enjoyed getting to the course for the first tee time of the day and taking in this fine course before any of the other hackers got a chance.

Tregaron, Bellevue, NE, Public, ($25-30)
While the front side of this course is fairly benign (I played the front side twice in a row one evening this summer and was only 7 strokes over par), the back side of the course may be my favorite consecutive 9 holes in town.

Eagle Hills, Papillion, NE, Public, ($20)
This spring, I played this course at least once a week after they sent our office a booklet of "Buy One, Get One Free" coupons.  Similar to Tregaron, this course's front side meanders through a housing development and doesn't have much character.  The back side, however, is much more challenging and full of character.  I also love that this course has large GPS screens attached to the golf carts, which I believe helps with the speed of play (so long as they haven't over booked, which happens often here on weekends, but you take the good with the bad).

Dodge Riverside, Council Bluffs, IA, public ($30)
This course is beside Harrah's Casino in Council Bluffs, across the Missouri River from Omaha.  This course is fairly flat, but is a nice place to play.  It is a classic "city park" layout, with trees seperating the fairways from each other.
(3.5 STARS)

Shoreline, Carter Lake, IA, public ($25-30)
This course was the first course I played when we got out to Omaha, so it has a special place in my golf heart.  I also like this course a lot because it was the first course in which I shot par for 9-holes.  Even though this course isn't too difficult and is fairly short, the greens can be quite tricky.  However, it does appear to be the perfect course for a 3 or 4 person scramble, so hopefully I'll be able to wrangle up a team to take it on.
(3.5 STARS)

Stone Creek, Omaha, NE, public, ($30)
A nice 27-hole course that I played after they sent me a discount coupon.  It had well placed bunkers, which I found often on the front side of the 18-holes I played.  It is a very open course, with few trees, and receptive greens.  This is the type of course that I play well on, but not worth much more than the $30 I paid with an end of the season coupon.
(3.0 STARS)

Tiburon, Gretna, NE, public ($40)
This is a decent course.  It has 27-holes, which means allows for a different look each time it is played.  Each of the 9-holes has one or two tricky holes, but the rest of the holes are fairly plain.
(3.5 STARS)

Platteview, Bellevue, NE, Private ($110 for a two-day tournament)
This was the course I played a tournament at this summer.  The course was built in the 1960s, so it is fairly short compared to modern courses.  But what it lacks in length, it makes up in trees.  This course was challenging, and did not set up well for my game.

Tara Hills-- The sister course to Eagle hills, this course is older and not nearly as difficult.  (2.5 STARS)

The Knolls-- An average course in the middle of a housing development.  Nothing too spectacular, but they usually have decent rates that keep me coming back.  (2.5 STARS)

Benson-- this course is near my house, but I've only played it once because they're a bit pricey.

Bonus points to anyone who has read this far.  You are a true golf fan, or really bored at work.  Either way, thanks.

Warren Swigart -- ($10 for 9-holes)  This par-3 course is just a hop, skip, and a jump from our house, and I've enjoyed taking the wife to this course, which she's enjoyed greatly.  It is a nice little executive course, with decent greens, and a nice price tag.

Bent Tree Golf Club, Council Bluffs IA, semi-public -- I've heard good things about this links-style course.

Shadow Valley Golf Course, Woodbine, IA, public, 9-hole. -- Looks like an interesting course in an hour away from Omaha.  

Shadow Ridge Country Club, Omaha, NE, private--just need to find someone who's a member.

Happy Hallow Club, Omaha, NE, private -- just need to find someone who's a member.

Ironwood Golf and Country Club, Omaha, NE, private -- just need to find someone who's a member.

Woodland Hills Golf Club, Eagle, NE -- apparently received high praise from "Golf Digest" in the late 1990s.  I'm going to have to play this one while they have cheep winter rates.

The Club at Indian Creek, Omaha, NE, public-- another of the 27-hole monsters in western Omaha.  I'm going to try to get out there while they have winter rates.

Arbor Links Golf Course, Nebraska City, NE, private -- An Arnold Palmer designed course that looks amazing.  

Wild Horse Golf Club, Gothenburg, NE, public -- This course was the host of the regional finals when I was in Junior College and it was love at first sight.  It was the first course I ever played that had no trees or water hazards, and it was one of the most challenging.  The fairways were wide, and the rough was really tough (hip high prairie grass).  Gothenburg is located on the plains of central Nebraska about 3 hours from Omaha, and I am going to play it again before we leave.

So if you know of anyone who is a member of these private courses, give them my name and let them know I'm always available to fill out a foursome.  And I'm begining to think that Omaha is the perfect place for future weekend golf escapes after we move back to Colorado, especially with the casinos across the river in Council Bluffs, IA, providing evening entertainment.


  1. Bonus points! Putting off studying for my test tomorrow.