Teeing it up at the Big River

Despite the foggy, cold weather, Russ Krussow tees off at Big River Golf Course in Umatilla. The owners have been working on building new tee boxes and edging sand traps, among other improvements. Townhouses are planned between holes 14 and 15.

By Karen Hutchinson-Talaski

Staff writer

UMATILLA — Big River Golf Course has big plans for the future — development of homes in the middle of the golf course being just one item on the list of improvements.

Ron Hosek, one of the owners of the course, says having townhouses in the middle of a golf course is not unusual. The plans are to have the homes — between 1,600 to 2,100 square feet, two-story townhouses — built between the huge parcel of land between holes 14 and 15.

Houses aren't the only additions or changes being made on the course.

New tee boxes are being built on select holes. The elevated boxes will be 50 percent longer than the current boxes.

At hole No. 8, the tee box was rounded and domed, Hosek explained, and needed to be replaced.

"There was no flat place to put the ball and stand," he said. "We tore it out and are rebuilding a new one."

Women's tees are being built, as well. Currently, the women's tees are close to the men's tees.

Where the scoreboard is, the dirt has been dug up and soon a new place for people to stand for scores during tournaments will be built. Hosek says puncture vines had taken over the spot where people stand to visit while waiting for scores to be posted.

"We might add picnic tables during tournament time," he said.

Something golfers will appreciate is the bunkers are now free of grass. The bunkers have been cleaned and edged. Grass apparently had been allowed to grow into the bunkers.

Aprons have been cut in front of the holes to allow for a better bounce onto the greens, as well. Some of the greens — holes 2, 3 and 9 — will be made smaller and closer to what they were originally when the course was built.

There are many trees on the course, some which have caused problems for golfers with their low hanging branches.

Fir trees have been trimmed of their lower branches, saving golfers from trouble when their golf balls fly into the lower boughs.

A trio of firs on hole six has been trimmed and plans have been made to remove the middle tree to allow golfers a clearer shot to the hole.

"It's a tough hole because of the tree in the middle of the fairway," Hosek said. The hole will also be lengthened 30 yards to make it a longer par 4 hole. "It's a pretty short par 4," Hosek added.

Hiatt's Pond will be scraped out and the silt which has been accumulating for years will be taken out. The course grounds crew has been attempting to burn the reeds that have grown in the pond. However, with the wet weather, the work has been slow.

"We are thinking about a water feature, but not settled on anything yet," Hosek said.

Membership is growing, says Hosek.

"We've got a larger membership base than, to my knowledge, this course has ever had," Hosek told members of the Umatilla Chamber of

Commerce last week. "We've tried to make being a member feel like something special" without being exclusive.

"We have quite a few members from the Tri-Cities," Hosek said. "People who live more than 30 miles away can get a discount for joining out here."

Karen Hutchinson-Talaski can be reached at ktalaski@hermistonherald.com.

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