Beautiful Dominion Meadows course might be area’s best-kept golf

Beautiful Dominion Meadows course might be area’s best-kept golf

Steve Bergum The Spokesman-Review

Normally, design by committee doesn’t cut it.

Especially when it comes to golf-course design.

But when the good folks in Colville decided to expand their nine- hole course a couple of years ago, it seems that nearly every local resident with an interest in the game had some input.

And in this case, it worked.

In fact, Dominion Meadows Golf Course – formerly known as the Colville Elks Golf Club – might just be the best-kept secret in the region.

Nestled naturally in the shadow of Dominion Mountain, which serves as a scenic backdrop on many of the new holes, this 6,743-yard layout offers a golfing experience as unique as the proud people who had a hand in its creation.

The expanded version of the course boasts a nifty blend of old and new. The front nine, comprised primarily of holes that were part of the original design, is short, tight and traditional in character. The links-style back nine, which stretches to 3,474 yards from the back tees, features seven newly constructed holes and winds peacefully through rolling meadows and natural wetlands.

The original nine-hole course opened in July of 1948 and was managed by the local Elks Lodge for more than 50 years.

Today, the course is managed and operated by the Dominion Athletic Association, a non-profit organization that is governed by a volunteer board of directors. Many members of the Elks Lodge are also members of the Dominion Meadows men’s club, which numbers about 130. The women’s club has about 40 members.

The expansion project was financed by donations from the community and completed last July for the remarkably modest sum of $450,000.

“That’s real dollars,” said Tim Gray, chairman of the Dominion Meadows operations committee. “But we’ve also received untold dollars in donations of land, labor and machinery.”

Gray and fellow Colville resident Kent Brown are members of the two families that donated the land used for construction of the new holes. And George Bybee, president of Bybee Construction, donated the use of his heavy machinery – along with his much-needed resolve to get the project moving.

According to Andy Hite, who has served as head professional at the course for the past seven years, the expansion project was on hold when he first arrived.

“I really wanted to get it going when I got here,” Hite explained, “and George was the guy that ultimately made it happen. He and I were talking about it one day and all of sudden he said, `What if I went out there, fired up a Cat and started building it?’

“I thought he was kidding, but that’s exactly what he did. And that’s how the whole thing started.”

Hite has been amazed by the way the community has rallied behind the expansion project.

“The amazing part was that in order to do it all for $450,000 we had about 350 to 400 people in the community who all contributed, whether it was $10, $50,000 or time at the end of a shovel,” Hite added.

And now nearly every member of the men’s and women’s club shares in the upkeep of the course. Some plant and maintain flower beds. Others mow greens and fertilize. Some help repair equipment.

Hite cooks, buses tables in the clubhouse and, as I learned earlier this week while playing the course for the first time, “advises” on course design.

On several of the new holes, the stocky pro, who can hit a golf ball ridiculous distances, stopped to point out areas for proposed back tee boxes that could stretch the course to well more than 7,000 yards.

“We call those the `Andy tees,'” said Tom Leonard, head trustee of the Elks Lodge and a member of the course’s operations committee.

The nine new holes on the course loosely follow designs submitted a decade ago by Canadian architect Les Ferber and Montanan Carl Chussen.

“We got the general design from them, but we’ve tweaked most of the holes along the way,” said Ed Broadhurst, a former Californian who moved to Colville two years ago and now serves as vice president of the Dominion Meadows men’s club.

Most of the new holes featured forced carries over wetlands areas off the tee. The bentgrass greens are larger, smoother and faster than the poa putting surfaces on the front nine.

The idyllic setting is as peaceful as any in the region, with resident ospreys circling above the numerous ponds that dot the course.

Among the best holes are the 435-yard, par-4 12th that plays down a narrow fairway protected on the left side by wetlands, and the short par-3 16th that plays over a pond and affords dramatically different views from each of its four sets of tees.

The course is not without a few warts, however. Several of the greens were attacked by fungus last summer and have not completely recovered. And the mounds that were added to the front nine in order to blend it in, aesthetically, with the back, are fighting a losing battle against some very stubborn weeds.

“We’re still a couple or three years away from getting it exactly the we want it,” Gray said.

“We’re always tweaking things on the course, trying to make it better,” Broadhurst added. “But there is certainly nothing for anyone to apologize for.

“I come from California and I’ve played a lot of golf on a lot of courses that you play a helluva lot of money to play. And I haven’t played one yet that’s as much fun to play as this one. These people around here are a little shy. But they’ve done a helluva job building this.”

Regular greens fees are $19 for 18 holes, but the course is currently running coupon specials that include greens fees and a cart for $20.

“We’re marketing the course as just a short, 60-minute drive from Spokane,” Broadhurst said.

It’s a trip worth making.

In this era of high-end golf course design, when big-name architects are being handed blank checks to create outrageously expensive, grandiose layouts that cater almost exclusively to the rich and famous, it is refreshing to see that simple still cuts it in some golfing circles.

Copyright 2003 Cowles Publishing Company

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