Here in Wisconsin, it’s popular to have a cabin on a lake “up north” or in Door County. My wife and I really liked the idea of the latter, especially, but with five kids to raise and get through college, it wasn’t meant to be. We decided that the back half of our property, about three acres of weeds and woods, could be made into our own “up north.” That was how the idea of The Pond came into being. Little did I know at the time that we’d end up building our very own par three course.
My background in construction helped with planning, design and DNR permitting. I also had a friend with a backhoe and dozer. After securing permits, we began excavation in Spring 2007.
As we dug the footprint of the pond, the soil we excavated was used to build the berms on the north and east sides of the pond. At that time, the only plan for golf was to shape a large boomerang green at the southeast corner to use for wedge shots from the west side. This eventually became our “Road” hole copy (complete with a path behind it), a pot bunker and two pin positions. We also put in a pea gravel beach on the west side, which has become a good spot for fishing and launching kayaks.
The pond began to fill with ground water from old farm tiles and rain. We built a bait fish structure out of two groups of pallets, and we dropped them in the pond. We installed a compressor with two air lines for aerators to help oxygenate the water, especially to combat plant decay during winter. We built a shed and had an electrician bring power to it from the house. On recommendation from a pond consultant, we planted sedges to help with bank erosion. Later we would regret this, when the sedges and cattails would soon proliferate and expand all around the perimeter! First lesson learned: it’s been an annual task to cut back and try to control them from taking over.
After the pond was full, our pond guy stocked it with 75 pounds of minnows, 100 bass, and 300 bluegills. We soon found out that humans aren’t the only ones who enjoy fishing: the herons and kingfishers got after the fish quickly. Our Labrador was also quite happy with his new swimming hole.
We had already completed all this work, but we weren’t close to being done. After final grading of the topsoil on the berms, the green, and the area west of the pond, a landscaper seeded everything with a bluegrass mix. Within a few months of seeding, our field of weeds transformed into a little glistening sanctuary surrounded by green grass and some wild overgrown woods on the south side. Then we found a woman with about a dozen goats and portable electric fencing. We asked her to come over and set up shop. In about a week, they had eaten every weed and branch that they could reach, so that we could walk through that wooded area. Over the years we have cleared out box elders, buckthorn, poplars, and dead ash trees, and we planted native grasses and flowers. It’s been quite the transformation.
The pond has attracted diverse wildlife, with over 15 different types of waterfowl, hawks, owls, kingfishers, hummingbirds, phoebes, red-winged blackbirds, four-legged critters, dragonflies, butterflies, frogs and more. Some mornings we’ll be admiring the sunrise and then notice a blue or green heron, a great white egret, or some bufflehead ducks bobbing in the water. We’ve enjoyed creating this habitat for them and for us.
It’s been a place where we’ve created new memories as a family. My wife is a gifted children’s author, and the fourth book in her Gwendolyn series (about the life of a little phoebe bird) takes place there; it’s called Gwendolyn Discovers the Pond. Several kids and one son-in-law caught their very first fish at the pond, which was quite exciting for them. One of our daughters got married at the pond, with a deer appearing during the ceremony; we had a fun reception outside, under a tent. Our youngest grandson got his first sled ride, down one of the berms this winter.
As my passion for golf grew, so did the pin positions at The Pond: we’ve gone from only two to five now. Since the holes range from 90 to 115 yards in length, we play with one club. When your ball is within a club length of the hole, we call that good, since all but one of the greens are not puttable.
In fall 2020 we made a considerable upgrade on the hole dubbed “Bermedan,” by planting bentgrass plugs from Kenosha Country Club and extending irrigation to it. We removed the bluegrass turf, mixed sand in the topsoil, and worked in the plugs. The green slopes from right to left off the north berm and provides fun options for bank shots off the slope or shots right at the pin. Though we usually play the OG layout of five holes crisscrossing the pond, it can also be played in reverse, or all over land in a linear fashion.
By summer 2021, the new green was ready for mowing, and a landscaping friend found us an old Toro reel mower. I’m lucky to have Kenosha CC so close for help on mower maintenance as well as advice on growing and nurturing bentgrass. So far crabgrass and ants have provided the biggest challenges that require regular attention. After a nice double-cut on the green, it feels so good to walk barefoot on it for some much needed grounding! It’s fun to have a puttable green now, and a place to hit chip shots. We hope to get the Stimpmeter reading up a bit this summer with more sanding and rolling!
The Pond has given us a way to create some great competitions. Seven years ago, we started our first fishing/golf tourney called “Bass, Bluegills, Beers and Bombers.” Prizes are awarded for biggest fish, low score and closest to the hole. In 2021, NewClub came to hang out after a round at Kenosha CC for some loops, beverages, food, and a bonfire. A new course record of one under par was set by Justin Shelman, who closed with two birdies for the win and closest to the hole. In 2021 Paul Seifert/WiscoGolfAddict and Patrick Koenig visited for a loop after KCC, and we’re delighted to have made their list of favorite par-three courses in Wisconsin.
We aren’t done yet. Our plans for 2022 include tearing out the bluegrass turf on the Road hole double green and planting bentgrass. We’ll add a small mound in the middle (our nod to Donald Ross) for more interesting approach shots and putts. We may also be a test project for my landscaping friend to try out some artificial turf at the northeast corner, where we can’t get water. The goal is to one day be able to putt on all the greens if it’s possible without breaking the bank.
I’m blessed to live here and have the support of my amazing wife for The Pond, and I’m grateful for her diligence as the most important member of the grounds crew! She spends hours each week mowing everything except for the bentgrass green on her Ferris 44-inch deck riding mower. She also created The Pond logo based on an idea I had for a fishing pole flagstick, along with our scorecard. Together we enjoy our little nature sanctuary, the wildlife, family and friends’ gatherings, sunrises, bonfires, fishing and golf.
As Ty Webb said to Carl Spackler, “The Pond is good for you!” We’ve found it suits us just fine.