REUNION GOLF TOURNAMENT AT BLUE TOP RIDGE GOLF COURSE
July 2, 2022
Class members and guests who sign up for the July 2 golf event at the Class of 1981’s “40th + 1” Reunion will have a chance to enjoy what is regarded to be one of the top golf courses in Iowa, the Blue Top Ridge course at the Riverside Casino.
Two foursomes have already been formed for the event: One representing boys who went to Southeast Junior High, the other representing boys who went to Central Junior High. Registration, however, will remain open until June 10, so additional golfers are welcome to join in the fun. The first tee time for the nine-hole “best ball” golf event has been moved up to 1:30 p.m.; golfers should meet at the clubhouse at 1:15 p.m.
The Blue Top Ridge golf course was designed by Rees Jones, the son of legendary golf architect Robert Trent Jones and a past president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects. It opened in 2006, but four original holes laid out along the Iowa River were flooded in 2008, so Jones redesigned four new holes on available land. After the course reopened with those redesigned holes, Golf Digest magazine named Blue Top Ridge one of the top five best new public golf courses in the country in 2009.
Golf Digest continues to rank Blue Top Ridge as one of the top 10 golf courses in Iowa, and Golfweek magazine most recently ranked the course number 2 in Iowa in its listing of “best public courses you can play.” A Golfweek article declared, “In the best way, the course feels somewhat like a roller coaster ride.”
“We are 7,400-yards-plus – one of the longest courses in the state of Iowa,” agrees Mike McNamara, a PGA member who was recently named Blue Top Ridge Golf Director after starting work at the course 13 years ago. He notes that tops of hills on the course provide great views of Lone Tree and that you can see Iowa City and the town of Hills from certain locations. “It isn’t what you would consider to be a flat golf course.”
The 665-yard 16th hole is widely seen as one of the great holes on the course: It is the longest hole in the state and has a creek splitting two landing areas. McNamara also highlights the par-3 14th hole, which goes by a blue-topped corn crib from the farm that predated the golf course and gives the course its name. The corn crib has since been repurposed into a restroom for those who are in need in the middle of the back nine.
Many reviewers of the course suggest golfers do best by playing it safe at Blue Top Ridge. McNamara notes that the course has 80 sand hazards and that the prairie grass outside of the fairways will get knee high as the golf season progresses. He also suggests “playing to the front of the green areas” as the greens tend to be large and have undulations that can make them hard to play from behind.
“We’re very particular about flag locations,” McNamara says. “We change those daily.”
According to McNamara, the staff at Blue Top Ridge will “toughen it up” for big events like the Iowa Open, an annual event the course hosts that draws up-and-coming golf pros from around the country and features a $25,000 prize.
McNamara says, however, you do not need to be an aspiring pro to do well at Blue Top Ridge. There are five sets of tees: For those playing from the shortest red tees, the course plays at 5,208 yards. Most amateur men use the black tees, which play at 6,454 years.
Golfers also should not be discouraged from playing due to the possibility of rain in the days preceding their tee time. McNamara notes that course was designed after the development of golf course innovations that tend to drain courses quickly. There is also a paved cart path that lets people drive around the entire course even if there has been too much rain to let people take carts on the fairways.
For those who want to see the course but are not actually golfers, Blue Top Ridge does let people use the course for FlingGolf after 3:30 in the afternoon. In FlingGolf, people use a specialized throwing stick to hurl the ball from the tee to the hole. According to McNamara, people using the sticks can fling the ball from 100 to 200 yards. “It’s another way for them to get out on the golf course and enjoy the facility,” he says.
In addition to the course itself, Blue Top Ridge has a pro shop where golfers can buy clubs and clothes. The course does have a dress code that requires shirts with collars and no denim, although McNamara says they are less strict about the denim rule when temperatures are cold.
The course area also features the Clock Garden Café, a restaurant that serves alcohol and seats up to 75 people, and the Riverside Performance Studio, where golfers can get instruction in heated bays that operate all year long. “You can hit right out into the snow,” notes McNamara, who recommends that people interested in receiving instruction when the reunion is taking place set up appointments well in advance.
People receiving instruction at Blue Top Ridge now include injured U.S. Armed Forces veterans, whose lessons are sponsored by the GIVE Foundation. “GIVE” stands for “Golf for Injured Veterans Everywhere” and Blue Top Ridge works with the VA Iowa City Healthcare System to provide five weeks of lessons to a new class of veterans each year. The foundation provides participants with a free set of clubs and those graduating from the program receive cards that provide them discounts and other benefits at courses around the state. Blue Top Ridge itself provides graduates with complimentary rounds on Mondays through Thursdays when there are available tee times. “We want them to get back on the golf course and have some new contacts in their lives,” McNamara says.
The Blue Top Ridge golf course website is https://www.bluetopridge.com/