"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.