The Gillette Golf Club finally broke ground Wednesday to add four holes to the course after years of discussion, hard work and fundraising.
The project began about six years ago when the golf course was approved to use a portion of land from the Energy Capital Sports Complex to add onto the existing property with an ultimate goal to add another nine holes for a full 18-hole course.
Teams and organizations from all over Gillette applied to use a portion of the Field of Dream’s land. However, it was Keith Chrans, president of the Gillette Golf Club, who provided the best case for a possible use — expanding the nine-hole golf course.
Since then, the golf club has been doing everything in its power to raise money for the project. It took the combined efforts of member donations and fundraisers, along with the city of Gillette matching funds each year. Now the golf club has raised enough money to move forward with construction this summer.
“It’s amazing. Everyone we’ve talked to says, ‘Wow, I can’t believe it’s finally happening,’” Chrans said.
Chrans has been involved with the push for expansion for 12-15 years and said that Steve Crow, vice president and chairman of the Back Nine Committee, has been involved at least that long. However, this particular effort to make it happen didn’t start until the Field of Dreams was being built in 2013.
“We’ve had members in the past that have wanted this to happen for 20 years, 20 years plus,” Chrans said. “To actually see some dirt get moved, to see the layout get contoured and the greens get built, it is absolutely amazing.”
The estimated cost for the project is about $650,000 Chrans said, which will require almost all of the money raised.
Crow said a chunk of money was saved during construction, thanks to Kurt Betcher of Melgaard Construction donating all the mapping, permitting and planning.
There’s still no concrete completion date and best-case scenario is the expansion won’t be ready for use until next summer.
“Potentially, 12 months from now we might be able to play some golf on it, but in reality, it would open in the 2021-22 season.” Chrans said.
The new features include the four holes, a chipping green, putting green and relocated driving range that will be available for use at the sports complex. The range will be long enough to hit balls both ways, so visitors to the complex won’t even have to come onto the golf course premises for access.
The expansion course will be designed by Tom Schroeder, who also laid out the highly touted Powder Horn Golf Club in Sheridan. That portion of the project had been in place for the past decade, because that’s when Crow approached Schroeder at a golf tournament and asked if he’d be interested in designing the back nine in Gillette.
Chrans said Schroeder had already done some work at the Gillette Golf Club, a lot of it for free, and he was more than happy to accept Crow’s invitation. Twelve years later, he was still on board and now is designing the four-hole expansion.
Josh Schlomer, head pro at the course, said the new holes will share the overall personality — tight fairways, small greens — as the original nine holes, but will also have new features.
“I think the four that we’re building have a lot of character to them — very distinctively different holes,” Schlomer said. “The existing nine holes are very flat, what they call parkland-style golf, where (the expansion) will have more contours. … You’ll be able to hit more types of shots.”
The new holes will include a long par 5, a short but challenging par 3 and two “neat” par 4’s, Schlomer said. It will take time to get trees to grow, but as for the course’s defense, Chrans said there will be more native grass off the fairways.
The plan is still to add the other five holes, but that will depend on how fast money can be raised. With the four holes and practice facility requiring most of the golf club’s money raised so far, it basically has to start the fundraising process again.
For now, the course is looking at a lucky 13 holes and Chrans said there are several ways to make that the experience enjoyable. For example, players could play all 13 and finish the other five on the existing holes or the club might decide to split them up another way.
“What’s nice about our golf course is we already have a six-hole and three-hole (layout). It kind of splits in the middle when you come across the top to the clubhouse,” Chrans said. “Really, we have a three-hole, a six-hole and now a four-hole, so lots of things could happen.”
This expansion has been in the works since before the turn of the century and now it’s finally underway.
“A lot of folks have asked me, ‘Why are you guys doing this? What is in it for the Gillette Golf Club?’” Charns said. “We get to give the public and the community more holes of golf to play. Now, hopefully, we’ll (eventually) have two 18-hole golf courses (in Gillette, along with Bell Nob), so during our four-month heavy golf season people get a chance to play when they want to play.”