HICKSON, N.D. - Take a peak over the eastern-most levee that protects the Oxbow and Bakke subdivisions and the process of returning nine golf holes to nature has already begun. The greens are shaggy, and turning to a different, more natural shade of grass.
Turn around, and before you is a modern, sleek-looking golf course that is the new Oxbow Country Club. For the first time since a major renovation began in 2014, the course is business as usual.
Smiles are everywhere, from head professional Corey Herlickson to the members that have had to navigate makeshift holes and out-of-the-way hole configurations. Perhaps the biggest grins are with the maintenance staff, which doesn’t have to take care of 27 holes anymore.
“You have a maintenance team that has an 18-hole amount of team members trying to take care of 27 holes,” Herlickson said. “It was just really stressful for them.”
The new look recently opened with lead architect Bruce Charlton and master architect Robert Trent Jones Jr., being part of the festivities. It concluded a process that morphed the course with the levee.
“It’s been a long time, 2014 to now,” Herlickson said, “but you always want to play the long game on everything and the long game was let’s wait until it’s right.”
Mainly, that consisted of letting the grass grow to an acceptable density this summer. What golfers who haven’t played it yet will find are concrete cart paths through the entire course, plenty of bunkers and water.
It’s not the most walkable of courses with a lot of space between a couple of the holes. Phone apps that have golf-course GPS have yet to document the course, so figuring yardage can be a challenge.
And then there is the wind, which when blowing across the links-style course can be a bear.
There are still remnants of the old course. Holes 3 and 4 follow the same path as the old 10 and 11. Hole No. 7, a par-3 mostly over water, is essentially the same as old No. 15.
The old Oxbow, which got its name using the u-shaped body of water in front of the old clubhouse that required two shots over water, did not totally go away. The new No. 18 also requires two shots over water, a finishing hole that can wreck the best of rounds.
A bunker in the middle of the fairway makes driver off the tee risky. The approach is to a narrow green just a few feet from water, with bunkers behind the green guarding a player from using too much club.
The new holes that opened aren’t as demanding as the renovated holes that opened two years ago.
“You’re going to see a good variety of shot selection in regards to the second shots you’re going to hit,” Herlickson said. “The greens are more subtle over there. They look as undulating as the south holes but the breaks aren’t as much.”
Each hole has five tee boxes, so choosing the right distance for your handicap is paramount. The tips measure 7,323 yards and the front tees 5,134. There are also mixed options using a couple different of the middle tees.
“The feedback from guests and members has been phenomenal,” Herlickson said. “Everyone has been waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting to play this course, so it’s exciting for us and a lot of fun.”