A new look: $3.5 million revamp will improve course conditions

Construction is underway on the new putting green below the clubhouse at Tiara Rado Golf Course. The green will be expanded and leveled out and a new teebox will be built. The majority of the course is undergoing a facelift, which city officials expect to be finished by mid April.

Rob Stong thought he’d never live to see a renovation of Tiara Rado Golf Course.

Doug Jones wondered if he’d ever have enough water to keep the course in good shape.

Both are getting their wish.

Despite snow covering the course, Tiara Rado is undergoing a $3.5 million renovation that started out with a plan to develop an irrigation system. From there came the decision to go ahead with a master plan that had been in the “maybe someday” drawer for a few years.

Stong, the director of golf at Tiara Rado and Lincoln Park, and Jones, the superintendent for the city courses, can’t wait to see the end result.

On the front nine, several holes will have additional championship tee boxes, many of the tee boxes will be rebuilt, leveled, widened or realigned, and the putting green has been leveled and enlarged.

The biggest change, though, is on the wide-open back nine, starting with what has been the signature hole, No. 10.

“This is the area of controversy,” Stong said, “because everybody liked teeing off on top.”

Yep, the elevated tee box will be reserved for low-handicap golfers. The blue, white and yellow tee boxes will be on the lower level.

That’s not the only change on No. 10, though — what was once the lush, green landing area is now a big, blue lake. The tee boxes will be next to the water that will be the main source of irrigation for the course.

The dogleg left to the green is now a dogleg right, with the new No. 10 green located where the old No. 11 green once was.

A new housing subdivision, Fairway Villas, is being built near where the old No. 10 green was, one of the reasons for the drastic change in the hole.

“It’ll keep me from getting a lot of phone calls,” Stong said, envisioning how many new houses would be targets for wayward golf balls.

Low-handicap golfers will have to carry 225 yards of water on No. 10 if they tee off up top.

Carter Mathies is one of those golfers. A one handicap, Mathies, 53, has been playing Tiara Rado since the 1980s, even though he’s only lived in Grand Junction three years.

“I started playing there in 1980 in the Rocky Mountain Open,” he said. “The improvements they’re making are going to result in a quality of conditions I don’t think we’ve ever seen.”

What was No. 12 will become No. 11, playing back toward the center of the course, and No. 12 will be the par-3 over the water (the old No. 13), but the lake will be bigger and will run back toward the tee box. The rock wall in front of the green will be removed and the hole will be raised 8-10 feet.

No. 13 becomes a par 5, and a new 14th hole, a par-3, will be built behind the No. 16 green, near the current lightning shelter.

The rest of the holes remain mainly the same, although there will be a new creek that curves in front of the No. 15 green — and there’s another new lake between the 13th and 16th tee boxes.

The other major change is the fairway on No. 18 will be raised about eight feet, making for a less drastic approach shot onto the elevated 18 green.

Stong plans to have the course open for play in mid-April, but the new configuration won’t be ready until July, once the new greens that will be seeded take hold.

The biggest payoff golfers will see on the new layout is the irrigation system, which will replace and modernize a 40-year-old watering system.

Jones will no longer have to wait until the irrigation water arrives in mid-April to start preparing the course, and the course can be watered later in the season, so the fairways and greens won’t get rock-hard.

Jones said he’ll have a 7-day supply of water instead of one, and watering the entire course will take seven hours instead of 12. There will be no need to drag hoses across fairways and set up sprinklers to reach problem areas.

The renovation is the first major work on the course in three years, when the No. 17 green and No. 18 tee boxes were rebuilt.

“Holy mackerel, it was 15 years ago when they rebuilt 12 green,” Stong said. “Other than that, nothing major has been done on the back except rebuilding No. 17 green and 18 tee, and that was three years ago.

“That was the last major renovation and the Phelps group (Phelps-Atkinson Golf Course Design of Denver) did a master plan for the course.”

A company out of California that specializes in golf course irrigation had the low bid for that part of the project, but the other two companies are Western Slope businesses.

Stonefly Earthworks of Montrose is doing the course construction, with M.A. Concrete doing the civil construction, including building new cart paths.

A loan was secured to finance the project.

“It’s a loan, it’s not taxpayer dollars. We’re a stand-alone enterprise fund, where we generate revenue,” Stong said. “We’re retiring the debt we had for the driving range land this year and that’s one of the reasons we have the extra money to take on more. The clubhouse debt in the next year or two will be retired.”

Mathies said it will be money well spent.

“I’m sort of a traditionalist and I hate to see changes with golf courses,” he said. “They’re unique and special but these are not only cosmetic changes, they’re safety changes, management changes with the water and control of the maintanence. It’s truly a modernization that will make the golf course more competitive.

“I’m tickled to death, all the work they’re getting done for the money.

“I’m pretty excited. I like the golf course a lot and I’m going to like it even more when they get finished with the changes.”


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