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Jeff Kolpack, Published July 09 2013

Oxbow Country Club to move six-lowest holes in favor of ring dike

FARGO – The actual crescent-shaped body of water that defines the golf course would be a memory, but plans are underway to keep Oxbow (N.D.) Country Club above water should the proposed Red River diversion come to fruition. It’s yet another piece of positive news to an area that once looked doomed to extinction.

The six-lowest holes of the course – holes No. 1 through No. 6 – would go away to make room for a ring dike around the Oxbow development. That would include the Oxbow pond that was the vision of the course founders when it opened in the early 1970s. But it’s time to move on, officials say.

“We’re certainly in the early stages of planning,” said Oxbow general manager Joel Livingood.

Those early stages include building six new holes on farm land located south of the course. A new clubhouse and pool would be built, also paid for as part of a buyout process typical of any homeowner, Livingood said.

“I think at this point any step forward is light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “Homeowners out here need a solution, too. Not being able to sell your home is a tough spot to be in.”

Surveys completed last winter indicated most homeowners were against a ring dike.

The Oxbow City Council supported the concept and it appears Oxbow, in general, is on board with the levy. The rink dike would include the communities of Oxbow, Hickson and Bakke.

Oxbow Mayor Jim Nyhof said Tuesday a mail-in ballot that was released at an Oxbow-only meeting Monday night indicated 75 percent support for the ring dike – and a revised flood-free 18-hole layout.

“We’ve taken some steps forward,” Livingood said.

The key in designing six new holes will be to somehow replicate the charm of the six holes slated to be gone, officials say. Those holes have large mature trees and elevation change, characteristics that could seemingly be hard to replicate on flat, barren farm land. But the firm that designed the course – Robert Trent Jones II from Palo Alto, Calif., – is already involved in that process.

Bruce Charlton, president and chief design officer for the company, has already made a visit to the proposed new six-hole site, a one-day stop that had Livingood and Nyhof optimistic for the future of the course. It’s possible the ring dike could be part of the design, perhaps similar to what Moorhead Country Club is doing with levees being constructed to protect its course.

RTJII showed Oxbow leaders completed projects it has done in the past that incorporated golf holes with levees. Nyhof said they were so well done it was hard to tell there was even a levy there.

It’s possible a new Oxbow-like pond could be part of the new arrangement, meaning the 18th hole could still maintain its signature status.

“They can build anything these days,” Livingood said, referring to modern golf course architecture. “They have the ability now to move dirt and create elevation changes … and he’s confident he can create a course that our members would enjoy.”

The new clubhouse would most likely sit somewhere near Highway 81, which Nyhof points out would make for easier access for events like weddings. The current winding road into the clubhouse includes two areas where golfers have to cross between holes.

“When something changes in life, you have to move on,” Nyhof said. “This would bring a strong future.”

Not all of the past may go away, either. Although the six lower holes would not be part of the new 18, that land is still protected to 33 feet flood stage thanks to recent protection measures. One thought is to put a par-3 course in that area capable of dealing with water problems should they arise.

“We were once down to just have a nine-hole course,” said Nyhof, referring to initial flood diversion talk. “Nobody moved out here to live on a nine-hole course. This is a huge opportunity for further development.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia