MALVERN - The overhaul of the former Fairview Country Club is almost complete.
In just over a month, Mills County golfers will get their first opportunity to play a round of their favorite sport on Malvern's new Fairview Hills golf course. The course is projected to open June 1.
Malvern banker and golfer Jay Burdic said the nine-hole, par 35 Fairview Hills is more than a renovation of the community's 83-year-old course, located south of the Mills County Fairgrounds. It's a whole new golfing experience.
“It’s a brand new golf course,” Burdic said. “If somebody's played this course a hundred times, they're still not going to recognize it.”
No more of those famous sand or synthetic “Field Turf” greens the Malvern course has been known for over the years. Every hole has a standardized grass green. Five of the holes have been completely reconstructed with changes in both direction and elevation. There’s a picturesque water hazard on the No. 9 hole, a concrete cart path to get from the clubhouse to the No. 1 tee box and an expanded outdoor patio area overlooking the pond and water fountain on No. 9. The old course had eight Par 4 holes and one Par 3. The new course will have six Par 4s, two Par 3s and a 400-yard Par 5 hole that goes uphill into the south breeze.
“It’s the coolest layout we could have possibly come up with,” Burdic said. “You can make the argument for a lot of the holes being the signature hole of the course. It’s a harder course now, but we're trying to make this playable for everybody.”
The $200,000-plus reconstruction project began with closure of the course last July. From there, consultant and retired golf course builder Allen Scott went to work. The rural Glenwood resident spent 20 years building golf courses with Lincoln, Neb. - based Landscapes Unlimited, one of the premiere golf course construction firms in the world. Pinehurst in North Carolina and Torrey Pines in California are two of several noteworthy courses Scott has worked on. Scott’s son, who’s also involved in golf course design and construction, came up from Atlanta to offer his input.
“Without Allen's expertise, this wouldn't take place,” Burdic said. “It was an amazing project to watch. Working with those guys is like working with a Rembrandt. They start moving piles of dirt around and you wonder to yourself, ‘What are they doing?’ But, they have a vision of how something will look and when you come back to see the completed work, you're just amazed.”
Most of the course redesign was done in July and August. Greens were seeded in September, just as southwest Iowa was about to experience an unusually warm and dry spell of fall weather.
“After we seeded them, it literally didn't rain from like Sept. 15 to the end of October,” Burdic recalls. “We were watering the heck out of this thing, taking all of our well water. We were coming out and doing it by hand, trying to keep those greens going.”
The new grass eventually took off and an unusually warm March helped accelerate the maturation of the entire course. The course can now be irrigated from the water in the pond on the No. 9 hole.
One of the major goals behind the reconstruction project, Burdic said, is to bring more golfers to Malvern and to increase interest in the sport, particularly among young people.
“We just want golf participation to increase,” Burdic said. “We need to get high school kids, junior high kids and elementary kids to play golf. It’s the greatest game in the world because it teaches you a lot of things in life you need to be taught - honesty and integrity. We’re trying to make this place as family friendly as we can.”
Burdic said the course’s board of directors is committed to keeping rates at the course affordable, bolstering membership and league participation numbers and enticing golfers from throughout the region to play the course. Burdic said accomplishing all those goals is a challenge all small-town golf courses are confronted with.
“You want all your members to have a lot of chances to play as much as they want, but you also need people from the outside to come in and play,” Burdic said. “There’s a fine line. We want the course to become a destination for southwest Iowa golfers.”
Yearly membership fees will range from $370 for a single person to $520 for a family, Burdic said. Cart stall rental is $80 annually, while daily green fees, for 18 holes of golf with cart rental, are projected at $20 - $25.