Crispy grass next to the fairway: A drought’s impact on a small-town golf course

KELOLAND.com Original

EUREKA, S.D. (KELO) — When Ryan Grenz misses a fairway at the Eureka Golf Course, his ball doesn’t stop rolling. 

Sometimes that works to Grenz’s advantage on the tree-filled, nine-hole course located just north of Highway 10 in the north-central South Dakota town. The combination of a winter with very little snow, an aging irrigation system and, most recently, the driest June in South Dakota’s history has members of the Eureka Golf Course hosting weekly fundraisers to raise money for more than $150,000 in upgrades to keep the longtime golf course looking green. 

“It’s been brought up for years that we need to do something with our sprinkler system. This was the year to take the leap,” said Grenz, who along with his wife, Ashley, helps run a weekly Queen of Hearts drawing. “We knew we weren’t going to be able to do it without a big fundraising effort.” 

Grounds crew manager Rick Weisbeck said he’s helped manage the golf course for more than 30 years and noted some of the course’s irrigation system is from 50 years ago, when elevated grass greens were first installed.

“It has pretty much run its course,” Weisbeck said about the currently irrigation system. “We’re having difficulty with a lot of water breaks and different issues.” 

The pump station and timers for the system can remain the same, but Weisbeck said all new wires, piping and sprinkler heads will need to be installed. 

“Where we’ve been able to keep water it’s been good. Where we haven’t, you can see it’s obviously brown,” Wiesbeck said. You can view the stark difference from watered grass compared to areas that only get water when it rains in the two photos below.

On the left is the green grass of the first tee box, while the right is the brown, dry grass of the rough next to the Hole 1 fairway at the Eureka Golf Course. The course is holding multiple fundraisers to pay for $150,000 in irrigation upgrades.

“It started over the winter. The open winter was bad for us,” Weisbeck said. “We’ve had damage to several greens and typically that takes a long time to get them all healed up.” 

After some more recent rains in the past few weeks, many tee boxes and greens in good shape.

“We got an inch of rain a little while back and you could really tell the difference just from that,” Weisbeck said. 

‘A staple in the community’

The golf course has been serving Eureka and the surrounding community since 1926. And during the summer months, the game of golf helps bring out players of all ages. Both Grenz and Weisbeck said the golf course has been busy this year.

Grenz called the Eureka Golf Course “one of the nicest nine-hole courses in the area.” He noted there’s been high participation in the men’s, women’s and kids leagues this summer. 

During an all-class reunion tournament over the Fourth of July weekend, more than a hundred golfers turned out, Weisbeck noted. 

“It’s a big social gathering place,” Grenz said. “Most of our Friday nights are packed out here.” 

Different families contribute to help make meals on Friday nights and the golf course has filled a void as a place area families can grab a meal on the weekends. 

“You look at how many different businesses have come and gone through Eureka, the golf course has been around for a long time,” Grenz said. “It’s essentially a staple of the community. People know it’s going to be here.” 

In an attempt to get a portion of the $150,000 irrigation replacement costs covered this year, the golf course is hosting a Queen of Hearts drawing where people can buy tickets each week to win a raffle. The total pot has grown to $5,100 for this week, if the winning card is drawn on Friday night. If the queen of hearts is not picked, the winner gets $100 and the pot continues to grow. 

To get involved in the game, all you need to do is follow along on the Eureka Golf Course Facebook page. You don’t have to be present to play along.

Along with social tournaments throughout the golf season, Weisbeck thanked all the support the golf course has seen. 

“The community has really stepped forward,” Weisbeck said. “We can’t thank the community enough. I think they realize the golf course has been pretty vital to the community for a lot of years.”

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