As you might expect, four of the top five golf courses in Iowa are in the Des Moines area. It is interesting that the Iowa side of the Quad-Cities (Davenport & Bettendorf) do not have any courses listed in the top ten. It is surprising that the #2 rated club is located in Rhodes, a town of 293 people located an hour’s drive northeast of Des Moines. I have previously played at the Harvester Golf Club a couple of times, but decided to make it my Iowa destination since Julie’s sister lives nearby, if you consider a distance of 50-miles as “nearby”. We drove to Joni & Tom Samp’s home on Sunday afternoon.
Tom is a veterinarian and Joni is a retired school teacher. Their home in Eldora sits in a wooded cul-de-sac on the east side of town. I was testing the navigation system on a new BMW so I followed the instructions provided, in spite of knowing quite well the road to their house. I reverted back to self-guidance after the navigation system lead us into a dead-end road.
The gate was locked to prevent people from driving down the road.
The road looks passable in dry weather.
The deer really like their yard.
Tom and I arrived early for our 10:00 AM tee time the next day. We pulled into an empty parking lot; we became the 4th vehicle in the lot. The driving range was empty, we teed off ahead of schedule after warming up. There were a few other players within sight on the course, but none close enough to impact our pace of play.
Location: Rhodes, IA
Golf Digest Best-In-State Rank: #2
Date: 14 May, tee off at 9:20 AM
Conditions: sunny skies, 1 MPH wind, 64 degrees
Lost balls: 3
Lost balls: 3
Score: 85 on a par 72
One of the more memorable holes at Harvester is #6; a par 5 downhill that requires a lay-up 2nd shot followed by a pitch shot over a small pond to reach the green. The wind was gusting into our face making the 3rd shot a little tricky (in other words, my ball landed in the pond!).
515-yard par 5 hole #6
View of the approach shot from the #6 fairway
View from the #6 green looking back up the fairway
Tom told me he recalled playing hole #7 after his chip shot rolled off of the green and came to a stop 60-feet down the hill. He had the same experience once before when he played at Harvester, but he set a new record this time after watching his ball roll back to him on 4 successive attempts to hold the green with a chip shot. At least he did not have far to walk between shots!
350-yard par 4 hole #7
View from the rough on hole #7
Tom hitting a chip shot to the #7 green
The lake does come into play on several holes. The wind did not seem to be a factor when my tee shot landed in the fairway on hole #9. I can not say the same thing about holes #17 and #18 where a southwesterly wind seemed to push my tee shots into the water on both holes.
410-yard par 4 hole #9
155-yard par 3 hole #17
525-yard par 5 hole #18 (green is at far right edge of the picture)
View from the #18 green back across the lake toward the tee box
We completed the round of golf shortly after 12:00 PM. Julie & Joni told us we were on our own for food, so we stopped for lunch in the clubhouse. Our green fee was good for unlimited golf so we headed back out for a 2nd round. There was one foursome putting on the #18 green when we walked up to the tee box on our first round. I thought we might be slowed down by playing behind them but they had called it quits after only 18-holes. We began the 2nd round with no players in sight on the front nine.
145-yard par 3 hole #3
300-yard par 4 hole #5
165-yard par 3 hole #8
With the temperature warming into the 70’s, we decided to add start drinking beer at the turn. Perhaps I should have started drinking earlier as I managed to avoid the lake on hole #18 on the 2nd time around round (although I still hit the water on hole #17). The beer might have also also impacted our judgment; we decided a 3rd round of golf sounded like a good idea after walking off of the #18 green for the 2nd time. We did stop by the clubhouse to re-stock the beer cooler. At this point in the afternoon, the beer was being consumed for medicinal purposes only along with a few ibuprofen tablets.
340-yard par 4 hole #11
We began the 3rd round in a slightly different format. Tom & I had been playing from the white tee boxes, which made the course 6,430-yards long. For the 3rd round we pulled a numbered golf ball out of a hat to determine the tee box we would play from. The course plays 7,365-yards from the black tees, 6,840-yards from the blue tees and 5,120-yards from the red tees. My tee shots do not travel far enough to make the black tees playable; the red tees are normally referred to as the women’s tees due to the shorter distance the ball must travel from tee to green.
Although a random drawing seemed like a good idea at the time, the law of statistical averages let us down. We played from either the blue or the white tee box for the first 8 holes before drawing the black tee box on hole #9. We did not draw a red tee box until hole #12, which turned out to be the only time we played from the shorter tee boxes. As luck would have it, the next 5 draws each sent us to the black tee boxes starting on hole #13. It was impossible to reach some of the greens in regulation (2-strokes on par 4’s; 3-strokes on par 5’s), especially when hitting a shot into the wind.
380-yard par 4 hole #12 (played 120-yards shorter from the red tees)
550-yards par 5 hole #15 (played 100-yards longer from the black tees)
435-yards par 4 hole #16 (played 95-yards longer from the black tees)
The absence of players enabled us to place an interesting wager on who would buy dinner that evening (remember, we were still on our own for food!). The tee box on hole #14 sits above the #18 fairway. We decided that the person who could hit the longest ball into the #18 fairway from the #14 tee box would get a free dinner. Tom teed off first and hit his ball into the lake. I hit my shot into the fairway, but it did not stop until it rolled into the rough. On the 2nd attempt, Tom hit into the lake again and I rolled into the rough for the 2nd time. Luckily, my 3rd attempt stayed in the fairway after Tom landed in the lake for the 3rd time. We were starting to run a little low on golf balls!
195-yards par 3 hole #14
Tom standing in front of the #14 tee box looking out over the lake and #18 fairway
We completed our 3rd and final round of golf at 7:15 PM. After 54-holes of golf in 10-hours, we drove into Marshalltown where Tom picked up the check at a Mexican restaurant.
After doing some crazy things together over the past 42-years, playing 54-holes of golf together in one day seemed kind of normal! However, neither of us felt like playing any more golf when we awoke on Tuesday morning. Age is creeping up on us - - - but we will never admit it.