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Golf plus: Osgood course to provide golf without the frustration

For now Osgood Golf Course is a field in southwest Fargo, bare and flat, sometimes puddles and slop, sometimes swirling dirt. It takes some imagination to picture that same pasture in the spring of 2005: a manicured facility wrought with menacing...

For now Osgood Golf Course is a field in southwest Fargo, bare and flat, sometimes puddles and slop, sometimes swirling dirt.

It takes some imagination to picture that same pasture in the spring of 2005: a manicured facility wrought with menacing feskew, protruding berms and deep ponds, a links-style challenge unlike any presented by Fargo's four existing municipal courses.

Except it's an illusion.

Osgood is not destined to become a snarling ogre but an exotic kitten, the deceptively friendly vision of 31-year-old designer Kevin Atkinson.

He wants you to see the hazards, enjoy their beauty, and keep walking. They're placed peripherally to catch the eye, not impede a lie.

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At its heart, Osgood will be a 12-hole teaching course disguised as a ball-swiping executive.

The hope is it will be both.

"It's a lot easier to make a hard golf hole than it is to make an easy golf hole," said Atkinson, an architect for Phelps Golf Course Design of Evergreen, Colo. "It's easy to put 15 bunkers on a hole, a pond over here and narrow tees that make you fly over 200 yards of native grass. You go up to the tee and say, 'Whoa, look at that.' That's tough, but how much fun is it?

"It's hard to make easy, playable golf holes that still add the visual appearance of challenge and also the beauty of it."

This week, just three and a half months after Atkinson was assigned the $2.8 million project, some six months short of typical time requirements, Landscapes Unlimited LLC of Lincoln, Neb., will begin course construction at 45th Street and 40th Avenue South. By the end of the year, more than 350,000 cubic yards of dirt -- only slightly less than was shifted in crafting 18 holes at Rose Creek Golf Course, another Phelps design -- will have been spread across 104 acres.

According to Atkinson, its capabilities as a learning center will make the course "different on a nationwide scale."

If all goes as planned, the completed Osgood will intrigue the father but won't scare the son.

"Kevin is young and aggressive," said Fargo Parks Superintendent Roger Gress, who noted that 2004 will serve as a "grow-in year" for the course. "And he's really fought for the design. He didn't want to give up anything, and thankfully the bids came in so well we didn't have to redesign it."

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That's the second twist: once completed, Osgood is still versatile:

E A behemoth practice range, complete with five bent-grass greens flanked by bunkers, can be partitioned off for private lessons or used as a chip-and-putt course.

E A loop designated for junior play can rotate to include any seven combinations of three holes.

E Each individual hole can host up to five concurrent group lessons focused on various golf skills.

E Four sets of bent-grass tees, most on separate and separated boxes, allow each hole to be played at disparagingly different lengths, ranging from 60 to 500 yards.

E The default par-33 course layout presents an almost 900-yard difference from the red tees (1,961 yards) to the blacks (2,820).

That's not to mention the constants: an acre-and-half short game range, bluegrass fairways that are 50-percent wider that typical municipals and few adjacent holes.

It's unconventional, inventive and anything but stuffy. It's exactly what Atkinson was going for: an anti-establishment facility.

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He calls it cross-country golf.

"Kids often can get bored with golf, especially in the structured environment it is," said Atkinson, who has completed nearly 20 projects. His Devil's Thumb design in Delta, Colo., recently was named second best new course of the year by Golf Digest.

"There's only so much the young can take before they start to rebel," Atkinson said. "We all did it. Let's be honest. This is the sport where they get bored in a structured environment. They can play different points and be as creative as they want to be and make up as many golf holes as their mind will allow them to.

"And to me that's the gem."

Even the Park District is thinking outside the box.

Gress envisions Osgood as a home to a burgeoning youth program (1,000 strong), as a channel to relieve traffic from gridlocked Prairiewood Golf Course and as a carrot to attract homebuyers to the area.

The functional flexibility seems endless. It just takes some imagination.

"Our board said we want something different," Gress said. "Not another Prairiewood, not another Rose Creek. Edgewood is Edgewood. They wanted it friendly, they wanted it different."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Terry Vandrovec at (701) 241-5548

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