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New season at Star City Golf Course already underway

RYAN LADIKA/MDN

As the weather forces blood-red mercury farther up the thermometer with each passing week, the return of perhaps the only sport to be relatively unimpacted by the COVID-19 pandemic last spring is upon us once again.

Golf courses and country clubs, and those who operate them, continued to benefit from the natural outdoor social-distancing the sport is built upon when other sports and society as a whole, crumbled around them. One of those courses that was able to keep its doors open was Star City Golf Course in Velva.

Course President J.P. Lohnes expressed his relief that his crew did not have to cease operations altogether last year, and only needed to add minor tweaks to everyday life at the course to make it safe for patrons and members in accordance with North Dakota’s COVID-19 safety measures and guidelines.

“As far as the course, the course opened as normal,” Lohnes recalled. “Of course we had COVID precautions out. We didn’t touch the flag sticks, so you were able to just bump your ball into the stick. Wiping down the carts after every use, and same with inside the restaurant area and spacing. We followed North Dakota guidelines and everything seemed to be fine.”

The nine-hole, par-72 course enjoyed a busy season amid the chaos last year, profiting off the lack of other sports and activities usually available to those who live in the area.

“There were a lot of people who wanted to get outside,” Lohnes said. “This was the one avenue where people could do their social spacing. We didn’t have as many tournaments or events as we’d like to have during the year, but overall the turnout was pretty good.”

Lohnes is optimistic that many of the events Velva residents have participated in over the years can be held once again this season, signaling a full return to normalcy. He is expecting high school tournaments to begin starting later this month, which will go into May.

The course’s two-man scramble tournament will commence at the tail-end of April, and a fire department tournament will be held in June for the first responders who have worked so tirelessly through the last year.

Before the pandemic, the course’s men’s night was reliably the biggest night of the week. Every Wednesday, Lohnes and his staff would see between 80 to 100 people come out and tee off. Women’s night takes place on Thursdays, and Lohnes also noted his excitement about the growth he’s seen the last few years for that event. On the average day, though, with any kind of nice weather, the course usually sees around 75 people come through to play.

With all that traffic, Lohnes and his grounds crew ensure they remain on top of the upkeep of the course to maintain its pristine look and high quality of the playing surface for their guests, especially considering the fact that metal spikes are permitted to be worn on the course, a rarity in the Minot area. The staff has projects specifically geared toward irrigation well underway to improve the watering capabilities of the campus.

“We did a water project last year, which has helped tremendously for bringing river water up here,” Lohnes said. “We used to really watch our water usage with our wells that we had, and now that we’ve brought river water up we’ve been able to water more than we have in the past. It’s been keeping up really nice.”

The project is just another way Lohnes and his staff demonstrate forward-thinking in order to put out the best product possible for their guests. People give rave reviews for the course’s restaurant, and express their pleasure with the quality of the campus when attending non-golf events hosted by the course as well.

This season, Lohnes is excited to return to a pre-pandemic state and will be fine-tuning the smaller issues that arise throughout the year as the course welcomes its guests backs to the greens.

“The big goals this year are just continuing with the minor improvements,” he said. “We do have some updating, some upkeep that needs to be done this year. But it’s going to be really nice to have a little bit more of a normalcy compared to last year due to COVID. It’ll be nice just to get back to a normal year.”

Area Golf Courses

Souris Valley Golf Course:

· 18 holes

· 6,429 yards

· Tee Time reservations: Guests call one day in advance

· NO Metal spikes

· Upkeep is good, just need moisture like everybody else

Minot Country Club:

· 18 holes

· 6,870 yards

· Private Country Club, members can make reservations on member website

· NO Metal spikes

· No issues with the playing surface, upkeep is good

Vardon Golf Club:

· 18 holes

· 6,500 yards

· General public can make tee times two days ahead of time

· NO Metal spikes

· The playing conditions are “one of the best in the area” and that’s their “drawing card”

Wildwood Country Club:

· 18 hole, since the flood they only have 12 open, hope to be back to an 18-hole course by June

· 5,329 yards

· Guests can call in and book a tee time or they can go online through the website and book

· NO Metal spikes

· Normally the playing field is good, just waiting on the last six holes

· That will be good to spread out the players a little more, currently they only charge for nine holes, but they get to do 12 because they only have three of the back nine open

Minot AFB

· 9 holes

· 3,124 yards

· Guests can call the clubhouse for reservations

· NO Metal spikes

· The course is in “the best shape that it’s been in in 10 years”

Apple Grove

· 9 holes executive course, that means 5 par-4s, and 4 par-3s

· Approximately 2,000 yards

· Can call in or go online for tee time reservations

· NO Metal spikes

· Course is kept well

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