"WHY DID WE BUILD A GOLF COURSE?" The Ross family are not golfers. Butjust as Ross innkeepers did back in the early 1830’s, when the public staying atthe Ross hotel wanted a ferry, the Ross’ built one. In the middle 1980’s, thepublic wanted to golf as well as fish on vacation, so the Ross’ built one. It wasalso as the DNR were getting more stringent on regulations, and the future ofan old "fishing camp" cabin resort seemed to lead down a new path.
"WHY DID WE BUILD A GOLF COURSE?" The Ross family are not golfers. But just as Ross innkeepers did back in the early 1830’s, when the public staying at the Ross hotel wanted a ferry, the Ross’ built one. In the middle 1980’s, the public wanted to golf as well as fish on vacation, so the Ross’ built one. It was also as the DNR were getting more stringent on regulations, and the future of an old "fishing camp" cabin resort seemed to lead down a new path.As the need for true relaxation seemed to be increasingly evident but relaxation seemed to be increasingly elusive, such phrases as "north of the tension zone" swirled through Ross’ marketing – but people were walking less and less and the wonderful woods that backed up the resort were the playground of only a very few brave souls. Yet more people were taking the whole day away from the lake while vacationing at the lake – to go play golf! Mowed and manicured fairways seemed a world away from Teal Lake.
The early ‘90’s had seen acquisition of several pieces of land adjacent to the Lodge, (each a coincidence: divorce, fire, death), until the total sum was about 220 acres: it was time to move into a new field! The first move was to buy a lot of books that included the new 1989 book on design by Jack Nicklaus. It was soon highlighted, book marked and underlined and became the beacon: Nicklaus set a standard of "… such an eye to naturalness that ideal designs should appear "as if they’ve been there forever."" Nothing was closer to the Ross’ heart. One of the nation’s best shapers flew in to see us – Jim Holmes had worked with the best designers, recently retired, but decided to take on one more job because it was so different. The shaper is the person who actually builds the greens – the man who runs the little bulldozer while the others run the big bulldozers on the future fairways. Jim gave his blessing, promised to live here for two years, to build the greens himself to flow with the land without diagrams, and forecast a truly famous course one day! Another comment from the Nicklaus book said "A good course is one that serves its intended purpose" and the Ross’ had the resort in their heart and resort golf course in mind, a course for all ages and abilities. And so it all began: the layout was done with love of the woods and swamps and the guidance of a "committee" of golfers each protecting their own interests: the superintendent who needed to grow the grass, the scratch golfer, the lady golfer, the older golfer, the beginner golfer, and the Ross family who decided where the natural environment could be removed, and what could not be disturbed. A lot of heated arguments over lunch, and a lot of diagrams on paper napkins, saw the gem blossom into the glorious course we have today. Many of our guests toured the course during those couple of years, marveling at the ability to visualize "Phoenix" growing out of those parts of the forest that were cut, and sometimes literally out of the ashes as stumps and brush were cut, buried or burned. Visitors were marveling, too, at the exactitude of the colored tree ribbons that directed the machines what to cut and remove, and what to avoid at risk of the ire of those who wanted something left undisturbed! The U.S. Forest Service folk were beside us all the way, advising us that any tree to remain must have 50% of its roots that never saw any machine! Between orange ribbon to the next orange ribbon meant "Do not ever, EVER let a machine cross this line!" We were building a forest course, cut out of the woods, not an Iowa farm field course. Our woods are still as pristine as the day before the machines came to Teal Lake.This all made for a tough course. We have been very conscious of the word "TOUGH," sometimes used with sweat, and sometimes used with anger. Yet, when the choices of cutting more trees were discussed, the answer was usually "each tree is a separate decision." Teal Wing G.C. also has its distinctive tree hazard, like the Eisenhower tree at Augusta National; while many have begged for its removal, the Mother Maple remains on #9, too grand to be removed to make it easier for someone. Not until 10 years later, was the toughness of these decisions rewarded by Golf Digest (March 2007) listing Teal Wing amid the ranks of "America’s 50 Toughest" – a rating well deserved, and proudly born. But only half the story. For the other half, checkout the design description under "5 tees." Our shaper, Jim, chuckled as he bulldozed in and built five tees for every hole.