VALLEY CITY (NewsDakota.com)--In one of North Dakota's small towns, known as the "Central City", a golfing gem is being uncovered.
The excavation of that gem has been rapid the past two seasons.
There's nothing small-town about Carrington's Crossroads Golf Course, and the state's golf community has noticed. The 18-hole, par 72, 6,855 yard course has drawn the attention of golfers that spend almost all of their time at the biggest names in golf courses the state has to offer.
In 2011 alone, the course has hosted a full Eastern Dakota Conference (EDC) boys meet, been named as a possible neutral site for future EDC regional meets, and hosted the Class "A" East-West crossover that involved 15 of the state's 19 Class "A" teams.
This past weekend, Crossroads hosted the North Dakota Golf Association's (NDGA) Three-Man Best Ball event, inviting some of the top golfers from all over the state for a season finale to the NDGA's schedule.
Course manager Renee Johnson heard the same feedback the course received after many of the other big-town events it has hosted. "They were surprised that a small town could have such a quality golf course, and that we can maintain it," she reflects about the weekend.
This coming Sunday and Monday the course will again welcome an out-of-the-ordinary event, as Jamestown College will host it's Jimmie Invitational at Crossroads. The event had to be moved from the Jamestown Country Club, due to flood damage from the swelling James River during the late summer.
All of this for a course that has yet to celebrate it's 10th birthday.
The course began as a nine-hole loop with a make-shift shack that functioned as a clubhouse in 2003. A year later, the course added it's back nine holes, a wide-open section of holes where a spectator can see at least six holes at once. A full-service clubhouse, larger than many even comparable or even larger-sized towns, also opened in 2004.
Located at the intersections of U.S. Highways 52 and 281 and North Dakota Highway 200, three main thoroughfares to and through the state's central region, Crossroads had an ideal location for success, 125 miles from Bismarck, 128 miles from Minot, 135 miles from Grand Forks, and 141 miles from Fargo.
A commitment to hospitality seems to have sealed the deal.
"We feature the food that groups want, we make sure we have the staff to host them. We are there to greet them when they arrive. We just enjoy the people that come here, and they are so respectful," explains Johnson.
Approaching the business from a hospitality standpoint was key for Crossroads. The course is open to the public, and receives no taxpayer support in it's funding, making the course totally funded through memberships and greens fees.
Crossroads' board of directors chose to practice reciprocity to attract members, granting large discounts to golfers that choose to add a membership at Crossroads to one they maintain at home.
"We have picked up members from a wide area, all the way to the Mayville and Finley areas, as well as our area, due to our discounts. Members at other courses pay $200 for a single and $300 for a family here," says Johnson
The successful run really got a boost starting in June of last season. The course played host to the Class "B" state meet. As the state's best small-town high school golfers found a challenging course and an inviting atmosphere over two beautiful weather days, the word began to slip out of the city limits.
Last spring, EDC coaches moved a full conference regular-season meet to Crossroads. When they met at the regional meet at Kings Walk in Grand Forks this past June, the coaches voted to accept the course, along with Dakota Winds near Hankinson, as two neutral-site courses that could host the EDC meet.
"The players found a great challenge when they were there, and the hospitality was terrific," explained Fargo Davies head coach Steve Kennedy, referring to the regular season meet that was held at Crossroads.
While the EDC coaches are hoping for a two-day conference meet in the future, a format that would keep them on an EDC course, a large majority of the coaches agreed that Crossroads would be a quality host for a one-day meet, which would have to be held at a neutral site.
Carrington again played host to the State "B" boys meet this summer. Class "A" girls teams then followed suit, hosting their East-West crossover on August 20th.
In terms of a challenge, the course measured up, with Fargo Davies, the champion of the Class "A" crossover, finishing just three shots lower at Crossroads than their score at Rose Creek 11 days later, and five shots better higher than their appearance at Devils Lake Town and Country Club two days later.
Hosting the NDGA event this past weekend topped off a truly impressive year for a course in the town of 2,065 residents, and according to groundskeeper Dale Eggers, the course got all the attention at a fortunate time.
"The fairways have been remarkable. The greens have been nice and fast. The course has really stayed in great shape this year. We've heard nothing negative at all," says Eggers.
The word-of-mouth from golfing circles led Crossroads' next event to Carrington, as it was the first course Jamestown College head coach Tyler Bormann heard about when he began looking for an alternative for this weekend's meet.
"Ryan Opdahl, the pro shop manager at Jamestown Country Club, told me to take a look at Crossroads. He said Ranee does a great job and the course was a good challenge," says Bormann.
Even before the event, Bormann has joined the chorus singing the courses praises as the 2011 season draws to a conclusion.
"They have been very hospitable," says Bormann. "I'm very impressed with how organized they are. They've done a terrific job."
Johnson says the success of the course has been a total team effort. “Our board of directors are very helpful, whether it’s planting flowers, working inside the clubhouse, planting or cleaning trees, and they volunteer their services,” says Johnson.
Truly a small-town recipe for success, now with big-city attention