- Associated Press - Monday, September 22, 2014

WASHBURN, N.D. (AP) - Bully Pulpit, The Links of North Dakota and Hawktree.

Those are the three premier courses the avid golfer thinks about when playing 18 holes in Western North Dakota.

It’s not far-fetched to think that Painted Woods Golf Course in Washburn could eventually be thrown into the mix, The Bismarck Tribune reported (https://bit.ly/1BNi5mQ ).

Painted Woods always carried a strong reputation for being one of the nicest nine-hole courses in the state.

The course’s board of directors and members hope their name will come up along with Western North Dakota’s “big three” when 18-hole courses are being discussed. Painted Woods unveiled its expansion last week and is now an 18-hole course.

It carries an upscale feel in a small town, featuring GPS golf carts.

The course plays with some difficulty. It features sand traps for the first time and 50-feet elevation changes on some holes. And Painted Woods creek becomes a factor on 12 holes. But it doesn’t play so difficult that average golfers would want to throw their clubs in the creek and never return.

Its perfectly manicured greens and fairways are still nestled amid the same beautiful scenery as the nine-hole course with wildlife like deer, rabbits and snapping turtles near by.

Getting the course finished and open to the public has been a huge relief for the board of directors and president Trevor Leidy.

“The biggest relief is hearing the response of the golfers saying they really like it and it was an awesome addition to the golf course, and how we changed some of the existing holes,” Leidy said. “We are relieved to see that we are open and are creating some cash flow.”

The idea to expand the course came to mind about 15 years ago. Painted Woods, which was originally built in 1979, was under construction last summer with 11 holes and 12 greens open for play.

The project was completed with the volunteer help of several people, mostly from the Washburn and Wilton communities. Several donations, including material or machines to help build the course, helped cut costs.

Randy Workman of Dallas shaped the course.

Seven of the original holes remain but all have undergone some type of updating.

Leidy is hoping that once word gets out about the course golfers will want to play it - and return.

“It’s pretty spectacular,” he said. “We had a good reputation for a nine-hole golf course. We’re trying to take it to another level. We’re trying to create little better conditions because that’s what people expect in an 18-hole golf course.”

The par 71 course can be played on four sets of tees stretching from 4,964 to 6,976 yards.

The expansion has created more playing room for golfers, reducing concerns that somebody might get plunked by a poorly-hit ball.

“Before, you were beside everybody else hitting balls,” Leidy said. “Now you can be out by yourself or with a friend and have a good experience without a big crowd. You’ll never have to hear anybody yelling, ‘Fore.’”

Leidy is hoping the expansion will attract new golfers and members. Painted Woods is currently home to 160 members. Family memberships are $495. A round of golf for non-members costs $40.

“We hope that the Bismarck membership will climb,” Leidy said. “We are only 30 miles from Bismarck, and north Bismarck is growing.”

Ryan Otto has come on as the superintendent of the grounds crew with almost a decade of experience.

“He did a magnificent job in getting the grass to grow on new holes and getting our greens to look like greens that have been around for five or six years.”

Leidy said the expansion will allow the course to accommodate bigger outings, and he’s hoping people around the area will consider Painted Woods. Leidy said the course can accommodate 144 people per outing, compared to 70 when it was nine holes.

Painted Woods’ signature hole is No. 15, a par 4 with a sharp dog leg to the right. Painted Woods creek, which runs along the right-hand side, forms the dog leg.

Hole No. 7 is unique in the fact that it plays two greens, depending on the golfer’s level of difficulty.

Of course the project didn’t get under way without some concerns from its members or frequent players. With the course operating at full steam, Leidy is hoping some of those concerns can be put to rest.

A rise in cost was one of the biggest concerns Leidy heard from community members.

“They like their small course and the fact that they can come out here and get on at any time,” he said. “We are not trying to be Hawktree or Bully Pulpit. We are trying to be a great small town golf course that has a reputation for good conditions and great holes to come out and play.”

The nine-hole course was fairly easy to play, and Leidy said there were some concerns over the degree of difficulty. Leidy hopes to put those concerns to sleep, as well.

“There’s not a lot of difficulty other than the water,” he said. “We tried to make it as playable as we could. We have some of the best and most unique holes in North Dakota. We have a great variety of holes that people should come out and see.”

The course also features a walking path for those who like to ride bicycle or take strolls.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, https://www.bismarcktribune.com

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